ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Literally Speaking

Updated on November 16, 2014

Literally Speaking

Many children with various learning disabilities, such as APDD Atypical Pervasive Developmental Disorder and High Functioning Autism, literally take everything literally.  When others around them are able to decipher a joke or common phrase, these children become confused, perplexed and frustrated.

When my son was around aged 7, he got very upset while listening to the radio.  He darted out the front door and up to the end of the street.  He stopped at the corner and looked one direction and the next.  I had no idea what he was doing or whatever possessed him to act in such a manner.    He ran back to the house and was obviously quite upset.  He went over to the radio and started to yell at it. 

He yelled “He lied. He lied.”

 He was referring to the radio announcer.  Of course I asked him what he was talking about and this was his reply.

“The man on the radio said Halloween is just around the corner.   Well I ran up and looked around the corner and Halloween wasn’t there. “

I realized he had taken the phrase literally.  After calming him down, I sat down with him and tried to explain what the announcer meant. 

This may sound funny to some, but for many children with learning difficulties, it is a reality, a part of their everyday life.  Expressions must be explained to them and taught to them.  Put yourself in their shoes (oops another figure of speech) and imagine yourself not understanding that the man meant Halloween would soon be here.  This happens time and time again with children ending up anxious, angry and embarrassed by their lack of understanding phrases and sayings.

Here are a few examples of spoken word that he could not comprehend until taught or shown.

-          Go fly a kite.

-          Pull up your socks.

-          Keep an eye on your sister (to that one he responded that he wasn’t able to do that, it was impossible for him to take his eye out and put it on his sister.)  Think about it that is the way we say it and that is the way they hear it, and that is the way they comprehend it.

It reminds me, in a way, of learning a foreign language and how complex and difficult that is.   There are always phrases and grammar that is frustrating and the only way you can learn what it means is to just learn what it means.  Keep this in mind when dealing with children who constantly struggle with this. 

I am reminded of one New Years Eve.  I told my son that we would have a toast at midnight.  He was happy to be able to stay up that late and when midnight came and I went to make a toast with our glasses, he looked stunned.  He said “I thought we were going to have toast at midnight”.  He was disappointed as he had been looking forward to that. 

Take a moment to pause and think what it would be like to have these issues.  It’s not a laughing matter but rather a part of their day to day lives. 

Understanding is the beginning to accepting.  Accepting is the beginning to recognizing.  Recognizing leads to compassion and this leads to helping the child involved. 

Be proactive.  Explain things as they come up along the way.   Be patient, be fair, and be kind. 

One disapproving look can damage a child for a long time, whereas a genuine smile can make their day.  Enjoy the moment.  Enjoy your child – literally speaking. 




Can you relate to this story?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • westernangel profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Canada

      TMinut - Thanks for stopping by and commenting. How old is your son? I know it's very difficult. My son that I was referring to in the article is now almost 30. We have foster children and some of them have the same difficulties. Keep doing what you are doing and encouraging him.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Much of that happens normally when kids are little and it's so funny - cute and part of what is enjoyable about little ones. The problem is it isn't so funny when they're older and still don't get it. I'm still trying to find out how to help my son, just tonight he told me he'd happily give away half of his math and science abilities and scores if he could "just be normal in those other things" (language and social skills). He's almost always confused, barely a conversation happens where he doesn't take something wrong. He'd prefer a world where people used calculators instead of cell phones and never had to meet face to face.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)