Sunday, February 20, 2005

On raising a child with disabilites, part 2: Dyssemia, or “my son, the ‘space’ invader”

Have you ever been annoyed and/or embarrassed by someone who consistently talked or laughed too loudly? (That’d be me.)

Have you ever avoided someone because, despite having been raised in an environment in which the practices of bathing and using deodorant daily were common, the person just didn’t “get it,” and, well . . .

Have you ever known someone who consistently misunderstood your tone of voice, or misinterpreted your facial expression?

Have you ever known someone who made others uncomfortable by consistently standing too close? Meet my son, the “space” invader.

Welcome to the world of persons with dyssemia, defined as “a difficulty in using and understanding nonverbal signs and signals.”

I recommend that parents of children with social difficulites read Helping the Child Who Doesn’t Fit In: Clinical Psychologists Stephen Nowicki, Jr., Ph.D, and Marshall P. Duke, Ph.D., Decipher the Hidden Dimensions of Social Rejection (1992: Peachtree Publishers, Ltd., , Atlanta, GA). It’s available at both Barnes and and

I used to tell my son that, if he continued to get right up in people’s faces and make nervous gestures with his hands, someone would “take his lights out” (punch him in the eye) because they would interpret this behavior as a threat. I’m happy to report that, whether this is one of the issues with with which his school helped him, or whether he just figured it out on his own, my son seems to have “gotten it.”



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