I think that something that is lost in the translation to people who do not deal with Autism, is that yes, Autistic people have less communication skills, less social skills, less ability to understand non-literal speech and on and on…. but that does not mean that there is less to the person. In fact, it could be argued that there is so much more!
What most people fail to realize is that a person with Autism does not miss details, they get it all. All the sights, sounds, smells.. everything. When you walk into a grocery store, your mind filters out the white noise… the buzzing, humming, mumbling, background music, stuff being moved around, people walking, doors opening and closing… on and on. An Autistic person can’t. And that’s just sound. Next you take the harsh lighting, things moving everywhere, glints of light off things, flashing lights, labels on everything, colours everywhere, people constantly doing something with something… there’s a lot to see. We say excuse me to the person in front of us and look for items on our list or that’s on sale. And Autistic person can’t do that.
And then there’s the smells… I’ll spare you the gory details on that one.
Now, on top of the sensory issues, you also have to take in the fact that the computers in their heads are working a mile a minute as they process every conversation, work out the math on all the numbers in the place, study the geometry of the fruit… all of this is happening faster than any science fiction computer you’ve ever seen.
What happens is, and is to be expected, a mental break down where even the best and brightest on the planet would agree that it’s simply too much to bare. We’ve all heard of that fun little torture technique where you poke someone in the forehead long enough it drives them crazy, or there’s a high pitched sound you can’t get out of your head? That’s one… one thing that happens for a matter of minutes… and it drives you crazy. Now imagine a thousand things… for an hour… for a day… forever??
If you are not touched by Autism, then it’s hard to understand… even harder still to understand why we parents and friends are so vocal and fight so hard for our loved ones… and why we hate you oh so ever much more than you hate us while you stare at us because our child screams in line at the cashier.
And if you are touched by Autism, your child, relative, friend… always try to remember that if it seems like they’re behaving irrationally, there’s likely a very good reason for it. Have more patience than you thought you could as you take a deep breath, slow things down a bit and have a look and listen around. You may find that they’re dealing with a lot more than you ever thought someone should have to.
It’s not their fault… it does not make them less… it makes them different.