I used the phrase “behavior is communication” in my last post, and since then I’ve been thinking about it. It’s a phrase I see rather often in blogs and articles talking about autism, and I am realizing that I find it rather dismaying. Not the message itself – that is fabulous. No, I am dismayed that the message needs to be sent in the first place. That people need to be reminded of this fact. Of COURSE behavior is communication!
People really like to parrot around that blah-de-blah percent of communication is via body language. What does that mean? It means that behavior communicates more than words. I talked about my horseback riding, and how my behavior is communication with the horse. Anyone who rides horses knows that behavior is communication. When I train my cats, I train via my own behavior far more than I train via words. In fact, any words I use to train them, I first have to train them to respond to in the first place. Anyone who trains animals knows that a) you communicate best by your behavior and b) they communicate right back with their behavior. I’m sure I could come up with plenty more examples, but I’m writing this a bit off the cuff.
In any case, there is really no good reason for a person to not realize that behavior is communication. So why is it that this lesson seems to get lost when it comes to those with autism (and possibly other developmental disabilities)? Is it because the behavior cannot be easily understood immediately? People with ASD think and feel differently from most people, so often our reactions are confusing to others. Yet anyone with a pet often encounters the same thing.
I am happy to join the “behavior is communication” chorus in my little corner of the world. While I do it, though, I will keep circling back to wondering why it is necessary in the first place. I find it very sad.