Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The up side of autism

I enjoy thinking of ways that people within the autistic spectrum help humans evolve. I know it's not your usual perspective but with the increasing numbers of children identified, you know they will have an influence on life. What are the good parts?

My experience with children who have ASD shows me that there are many sensory issues that negatively affect them such as noises that are too loud, transitions that are too sudden and textures that are too rough. I suspect that many of these same issues negatively affect us all but we have learned to ignore them. Ignoring them is not validating their existence. They still have their effect on us.

How else to explain our ability to live, for example among the noise pollution of a big city. The honking cars, screeching sirens, noisy jackhammers are all tolerated on one level but add to our unease and irritability on a more unconscious level.

Children within the Spectrum won't tolerate or ignore and might have a meltdown if the situation isn't changed. For example, we might go to a crowded restaurant and be slightly uncomfortable with the lack of elbow room or continual chatter. Instead of realizing the sensory source of our discomfort, we might, instead, see faults with the waiter or get annoyed with some aspect of the conversation when, really, the main issue is that we, too, are in sensory overload. Spectrum children will instead insist on leaving or just "lose it" until taken outside. They will eventually need to learn methods to help them cope such as wearing headphone or purposely choosing quieter environments.

The lesson is that we all would benefit from learning what our individual unique sensitivities are. Do we need more time in nature than we are getting? Would we be more comfortable in our bodies if our clothing were softer to the touch? Would we do better in a noisy crowd if we had on an ipod with comforting music? Do we need more time to ease into our day?

People within the Spectrum are learning to understand and honor their sensitivities and limits. Perhaps one of their contributions is that they are showing us that we need to do the same thing.

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