What is Autism?
I could give a lot of answers to that one but I’m guessing that the neurotypical amongst us don’t understand it, and being human beings and innately curious, we just have to find out what causes it. That’s all well and good but whilst we’re spending our time and money trying to work out the ‘why’ and ‘how’, we’re not working with those who find our neurotypical world baffling, in order to help make their lives work more efficiently.
In my experience, having lived my entire life with people on the spectrum and having raised 6 children with the condition, these gems are predominantly underestimated with regard to their abilities and positive attributes. Their struggles come about mostly due to having to cope with a world that doesn’t operate in a calm, logical way.
I sympathise with them. We’re constantly bombarded with an array of startling sensory overload, bright lights, loud music, strong smells from restaurants, massive buildings…..I could go on and on. I suspect that we all subconsciously struggle with all of this, as every brand on the market goes to ever increasingly alarming lengths to get our attention in a world where everyone is vying for it at the same time.
Is it really any wonder that those amongst us that have heightened sensory issues sometimes can’t cope and hold their heads screaming with anguish. Can we truly understand the agonising pain that Osborn, my son, experiences when someone starts clicking their tongue near him? Or that my daughter Pippa starts to gag on the texture of a courgette?
Do we really comprehend just how every scenario they have to face is played out in their minds in order to help them cope with the reality, only to have the plans change which sends their brain spiralling into total meltdown? Do we genuinely comprehend how the sights, sounds, smells, jostling crowds and piped music of a shopping centre invade their over sensitive sensory systems?
As researchers everywhere search for a cure or a drug that will dumb down their brains to the level of us ‘normal(?)’ humans, instead, shouldn’t we be looking for a way to harness their incredible abilities. In my experience, even Autists who are virtually non-verbal have a lot of very interesting things to say once we find a route via which they can communicate. Look up Carly Fleischmann if you want to see what can happen and how profound the thinking of people on the spectrum can be. Reading her thoughts will also give you an insight into how our kids are feeling when they can’t express themselves verbally. In brief, she talks a lot of sense!
I’m all for understanding Autism better, but let’s make life easier for those who are here as well. It wouldn’t take a lot of money to have quiet areas in shopping centres or allow children at school to have a ‘fiddle’ toy if it helps them to concentrate. They see the world in a different way, and that’s a valuable asset to mankind that should be neither underestimated or ignored and I will champion the greatness of these people until the day I die….will you?