Review – What Did You Say? What Do You Mean?

What Did You Say? What Do You Mean? – Jude Welton

What did you say

A book for autistic children and teenagers explaining what people actually mean when they use metaphors.

So it probably won’t be much of a problem (for neurotypical people) if someone says “Come on, pull your socks up, get cracking!” or “Keep it under your hat”, or even “She was over the moon”. But all of this is so much more difficult for a child with Asperger’s or Autism, who desperately tries to interpret what he hears in a rigid and literal way, maybe protesting angrily “Don’t say it wrong!”, when he can’t make head or tail (WHAT did you say?) of what his parents and teachers mean.

As you can imagine, if you are prone to taking things literally then there are a number of instances where you can be teased, belittled or even get in trouble (For example an autistic child who physically bends down and pulls their socks up at a teacher’s request). Limiting the use of metaphors and misleading language can be incredibly helpful when talking to an autistic child who does take things very literally, but you cannot guarantee that the child will never have to deal with metaphors. That’s where this book comes in, and this book is a great guide to the most common metaphors.

Each page has the same format:

  • The metaphor e.g “To be on the ball”
  • An illustration of the literal interpretation of the words e.g a person standing on a ball
  • An explantion e.g “To be on the ball means to be able to understand and deal with things well”
  • Why does it mean this? (this isn’t present for all metaphors) e.g “In this saing, the “ball” refers to a football. A player who is ‘on the ball’, or in other words has the ball by his or her feet, is in control of what’s happening
  • Example e.g “My grandad is nearly 90, but he’s still on the ball. He does the crossword quicker than Mum or Dad can!”

The book covers 100 of the most common metaphors and includes blank templates for additional metaphors to be illustrated and written about. There is also some advice on activities and further information to help autistic children and teenagers understand metaphors if they find them difficult to understand.

To spill the beans

  • What does this mean? To spill the beans means to give someone information, particularly information that is meant to be secret.
  • Why does it mean this? This expression may come from the time when the Ancient Greeks used to vote at elections by putting beans into a jar. The number of “yes” and “no” votes was kept secret until the beans were “spilled” out of the jar.
  • Example – “I’ve hidden his present in the shed. You mustn’t spill the beans and tell him where it is!”

Having access to this book, the metaphors and the advice inside could help make conversations and socialising a bit easier for autistic children and teenagers, and help inform adults who work with them why they react the way they do to metaphors and sarcasm. It’s clearly laid out, the language used is straight-forward without being condescending, and is easy to access by having the same format for each 100 metaphors.

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