My autistic son struggles with those very many idioms that people so effortlessly and often use. Where other children might learn the sayings through repeated usage, or not understand the sayings but find them nevertheless amusing, my son had a tendency to find them confusing and even upsetting. Literal language didn’t come easy for him; figurative language is that much harder.
There are lots of methods to try to teach our children how to confront these challenges. We can use computers and apps, verbal explanation, visuals, demonstration, etc. The book “Super Silly Sayings That Are Over Your head, ” by Catherine Snodgrass, is one method to try to teach the idea and examples of idioms.
We bought it for our son many months ago, and it continues to be one of his much-loved books. So in the spirit of sharing our solutions to common problems experienced by autistic children – and then in turn faced by their parents – I’m going to tell you a little about this resource.
The book contains 42 idioms, 3 to a page. Each idiom is accompanied by the intended meaning and by two illustrations: One illustration of the literal meaning, and one of the intended meaning.
Because the literal meanings of idioms are quite farcical, the pictures of those literal meanings can be quite amusing for the kids (my son very much enjoyed them). I think this served to release some of the tension and confusion around the very idea of idioms for him; taking something that he’s found stressful and confusing in the past, and making light of it through silly pictures.
There were many idioms in the book that are in very regular use around my son, and there were some common ones that didn’t make it into the book. But because the book teaches the idea of an idiom through so many examples, it makes it easier to try to explain previously un-encountered idioms, by referencing back to the idea taught through those examples.
My son even takes it upon himself sometimes to choose to use the idioms he’s learnt through the book, which always makes him smile as he’s reminded of how silly the literal meaning is. He gets real joy from knowing the intended meaning, and showing us that he knows how to use idioms. It brings his language more closely into normal language use too; so much of his language is unusual and highly literal, it’s good to have a smattering of idioms in there to loosen it up a bit, to make his language issues less obvious in the process.
We used this book with our son from the age of six, which felt appropriate. I can see it being useful for children older and younger too. (It’s hard to suggest a strict age guideline for a book that is partly intended for those with developmental delays.)
I would recommend it for those who notice their children struggling with this issue, and I can imagine it being an enjoyable resource for those who don’t too, because of the educational and amusing nature of the book, and the at times quite delightful illustrations.
Don’t let idioms get you all bent out of shape. I’m sure the book will leave you tickled pink and maybe even knock your socks off. It won’t cost you an arm and a leg either. If you’ve got alternative solutions to this challenge, or have your own views on this book, I’m all ears, no need to button your lip. All of which are idioms included in the book. If you’d like to know if a particular idiom is covered, just ask, I’m happy to lend you a hand 🙂