By 6 months they are wired to tell when you are focused on them (and when your not)
At 10 months they begin using a 3 point gazy shift. Look at mommy, look at what mommy's looking at (a diaper) and look back and mommy following the attention so well they can predict another person's actions (she's gonna change my diaper)
By a year they're able to use non-verbal bids (point, grunt, gaze) to get others joint attention and ask for what they want, understanding that that someone else has separate thoughts then their own, thus realizing the role of communication.
People with Autism struggle with Theory of mind: the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own (wikkipedia) Difficulties with theory of mind along with lack of imitation and eventual social skills involving sympathy and empathy may be linked to mirror neurons , that fire whether we are the one experiencing someone or if we are watching someone else have an experience.
These are gifts our neurology gives us. Social developments we all but take for granted, despite their complexity.
I love that Aaron's neurological differences make me take nothing for granted.
That when I come through the door after 3 days away to discover Leiv's said his first word: "up"
it humbles me. Because it is nothing short of a miracle.
A miracle that happens every day as little typical toddlers just magically and fairly effortlessly acquire language, picking up vocabulary like spilt cheerios off the floor, happily tucking them away for a life of expression, explaining telling, describing, understanding and above all sharing.
Maybe if I had a blind son, I would marvel at our ability to see, maybe if I had a daughter in a wheel chair I would experience with each step sober gratitude.
For me, I am stunned by the humans race's ability to share minds, to weave our experience together through imagination and language. How incomprehensible that someone reading my blog could attempt to understand what I feel like within this realm that is my own experience...what sacred access we are granted, however imperfect. How we neglect our capacities to feel empathy. How we take for granted the nuances of our social natures and the power and distinction that language offers our kind.
Eustacia Cutler, Temple Grandin's mother, who was the key note at the conference described watching her little grandson in his high chair. Seeing a cookie. Wanting a cookie and realizing that he had to get the idea of that in someone else's mind. So he said "cookie."
"His neurology just gave it to him. It cost him nothing" she explained.
"Temple didn't get anything for free."
"it will be years before Temple tells me about the faces,"she wrote, " how she couldn't read them then, can't always read them even today, she's missing that particular sliver of life... then slowly, not knowing by instinct what emotion was suppose to feel like conscious intelligence her only guide and even then not sure she had to teach herself to imitate what she thinks in the appropriate face, like T S Eliot, "teach yourself to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet"....
"how bright, how brave of her to decide consciously to direct her life focus in our direction armed with such a flimpsy home-made mask. Temple my darling it is your courage most of all that I cherish. In this strange game of being human you have surmounted the odds and gone on to surprise us all..."
I'm grateful for Aaron, my darling, who courageously communicates his love so clearly to us, even with so many less tools than the rest of us. I'm glad he hasn't yet had to make himself a mask to meet the world, that when I see Aaron I see him...his pure, authentic, uninhibited, hidden by nothing.
And I'm also grateful for my other sons, and how I can relish the ease of their socialness, the effortless way they catch my eye, the subtlety of those eyes slightly smiling at me letting me know ...everything. Letting me know I' am special in their world.
Okay, sometimes maybe sometimes not so subtle...