I asked Natalie to tell me her favorite animals. I ask her things like this when she's bathing. I call it therapy, and wave my arms in the air, saying that it helps her prioritize into lists.
I never say the real reason, which is that it's god awfully boring to hang around an autistic little girl who has no interest in having a conversation. So you fill in the gaps with questions.
"Tell me your three favorite animals," I said to her.
She thought about with great concentration, as she lay her head back in the bath and let the water seep into her mouth.
"Cawbus, horbuses, aband pibigs," she said, water gurgling from her mouth.
"Spit out the water," I told her.
She spit. "Cows, horses, and pigs."
She thought a bit more. "And ducks."
"That's awfully strange," I replied. "I don't think you've ever even seen a cow in real life. What about dogs? What about cats?"
"Fine," she groaned. "Dogs, cats, cows, horses and pigs. And ducks."
"That's a long-"
"And rats," she added.
"So you'd really have a cow over a horse?"
"Cows make milk."
"What are the animals that you don't like the most? Can you think of any?"
"Yes," she said. "Monsters."
"I mean, can you name real animals you don't like? Not just the pretend ones."
"Dogs," she said.
"You just said you liked dogs."
"Dogs dressed like monsters."
"I don't believe that's technically a real animal."
"Cats dressed like monsters."
"I'm sensing a pattern."
"Dressed like monsters, right?"
"Just dads," she said again.
"What about moms?"
"What about them?"
"Never mind. I'm not liking this game any more."
And she lay back in the tub and let the water spill into her open mouth.