While this blog focuses on Sol and his superpower, dyspraxia, there are events and interactions in Sol’s daily life that also make me think about what it means to be human on a wider scale.
After a wonderful month in Bali, resting and connecting with my kids for their summer break, I observed the following scenario multiple times.
SOL to fellow human of indiscriminate age: “Hello!”
Fellow Human to Sol: …………………….. (that’s silence, as in no response – no hello, no hi, just a stare)
Fellow Human turns away.
I’ve paused from writing here for a moment to collect my emotions on what I’ve just written because despite the fact this was a few weeks back, thinking about it leaves me with a mash up of feeling. And my key questions are:
When did we stop saying HELLO to one another?
If another stranger (child or adult) said HELLO to you, do you say HELLO back?
Are your initial thoughts “That’s weird! A complete stranger just said HELLO to me?
So in the context of Sol’s dyspraxia, he hasn’t mastered “reading” human emotions or body language or “learnt” to be shy and not to interact with strangers. (Note to self, need to talk to him about “stranger danger”). He completely understands when someone is displeased or angry and seems to experience strong emotion from this. The paradox of a highly sensitive child who struggles to master the social “norms”.
Sol will enter an environment and assume that everyone is good and they are waiting to see him/play with him. He will walk up to any child and say “Hello!”, not “Hi!, a confident boisterous “Hello!”. Nine out of ten children from the age of 5 years and above will ignore Sol or walk away. And the one child that responds positively ends up playing with him for hours. Eight out of ten adults will also not respond to Sol’s greeting.
When did we stop saying “Hello”? I only have my personal thoughts on this and I’m assuming that there is a certain level of inappropriateness to starting up a conversation with a complete stranger. So here is when I think I might not say “Hello” to another human:
- Walking in a dark alley and man approaches me.
- Sitting in a bar waiting for my friend and man sits next to me.
- Standing in the mosh pit at a concert with sweaty humans pushed up against me.
In the interests of actually finishing this blog post, I have to move on as I found it really hard to think of anymore, but if you know of some examples, please leave comments!
Here are some examples of me initiating conversation with strangers EVERY DAY
- Every time I teach a fitness class, I will walk up to the new person in the class and say “Hello”.
- I say Hello to every service person – cafe, petrol pump human, receptionist, immigration officer – everyone.
Instead of blaming Sol’s friendliness on his inability to conform with social norms, I’m going to blame it on genetics – he got it from me! And I also don’t care when fellow humans don’t respond back. I don’t start thinking “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t they like me?”. I carry on with my day, as happy as Larry – yeah, who is Larry anyway?
And I search Sol’s face to see if he is sad or hurt by the lack of response and NOPE, he moves on! Searching out the next human that will connect with him and inevitably end up having a great conversation or some decent adventure in the playground.
To give more transparency to how dyspraxia DOES in fact affect social interaction within what we consider normal, here are the examples:
- Dislikes playing sports with other kids. Dyspraxia is primarily a motor co-ordination issue and therefore physical activity and coordinating the body to learn new skills is more challenging for people with dyspraxia. Sol has been very active and in physical therapy since he was a baby so he’s doing pretty well here and right now, he doesn’t shy away from sports with kids.
- Struggle to pay attention to the point of being diagnosed with ADHD. Dyspraxia affects “processing” – ordering your thoughts. This affects someone with dyspraxia when they need to remember the order of events or tasks. This can be managed by making lists, notes and lots of preparation.
- Difficult to understand – as dyspraxia affects the coordination of the mouth, words sometimes sound muffled or unclear. For children, this sets them up for ridicule as they “sound” different. Sol has had speech therapy for 4 years and while his pronunciation can occasionally be challenged, he’s doing pretty well. Volume and pitch can also be affected.
- Seems immature – children with dyspraxia tend to lag behind on developing appropriate social “norms” (I fucking hate that word now). But it all works out in the wash. Either they become more normal……..or they go on to be the next Harry Potter!
- Is often anxious – as they need to make more decisions, this can raise their levels of anxiety. I’m not seeing this in Sol at all and I believe this might be in part to having him home schooled for a year.
- Dyspraxia is NOT an intellectual disability.
I appreciate that the world has Extroverts and Introverts and that I have a higher chance of a naturally Extroverted person responding than an Introverted person. I can accept this. But I had noticed that more and more, we are using our phones to “hide” and therefore shut down any chance of connecting with another human. While we are “connected”, we are not. While I’m connected to searching for the latest trend on Spanx on my handheld device, I’m disconnected from the humans sitting across from me, walking past me, from making any eye contact, from starting a conversation, from potentially having a life changing moment with another human.
So my challenge to you, in the interests of connecting with another human that you don’t already know, is to say “Hello” to a complete random stranger. I recommend that you smile at the same time so they know it’s them you are greeting. The world needs more “HELLO” givers. Truly!