An excerpt from Nonna's blog for World Autism Awareness Day (which was yesterday):
When someone has diabetes – everyone has a basic understanding of what that means… at least they know that a diabetic can’t eat a lot of sugar. But there are many more children with autism now than with diabetes, and they require a lot more one on one “work”… there are doctor visits, therapy visits, education options – the day in and day out living “needs” are so intense… I don’t quite understand why the average person doesn’t really understand what it means when someone is autistic. I understand that it can be confusing because while struggles overlap, they aren’t all the same… however there are basic things that everyone should be able to grasp. So many situations would be easier if there was just more understanding in society at large.
First off… the major cause of most “meltdowns” or confusion for autistics tends to result from sensory overload and miscommunications. Sensory overload is a HUGE issue. The human brain takes in an immense amount of information every moment, but a “neuro-typical mind” will automatically sort through all that information and filter out everything that is unimportant to the situation at hand… whether it’s driving a car, reading a book, or having a conversation with someone. The “autistic mind” doesn’t have this filter. I want you to stop and think about what that means. I mean really think about it. You’re trying to talk with someone (and communication is a problem anyway because you don’t think with words – you think with pictures – so you basically have to translate everything someone is saying to you from words to images you can actually understand), and every background noise, all the lights, all the colors, everything else that is going on at the moment is all just as present to you as what this person is saying. There is no such thing as a “background” anything – everything is in the foreground screaming at your brain to compute it and make sense of it all. It really is like living in a totally different world from the one everyone else lives in. Now, these brains are brilliant… with time they just learn to process it all faster (you’ll be amazed at how much they can memorize, and how much they just know because nothing gets filtered out) – but you can’t make the normal “filter” appear — you can’t “strengthen” something that just isn’t there. And no matter how fast you learn to process it all – at some point the brain will become overwhelmed… and usually this is where the “odd” or “disturbing” behavior begins. If you were being constantly “attacked” by your environment like this – you’d end up behaving strangely too… you have to compensate somehow… have to release all the pent up tension and adrenaline that builds up as the brain becomes more and more stressed.Nonna has two sons who have autism spectrum disorders so she is well-placed to see the ins and outs of autism.This post was very illuminating for me. I encourage you to read the whole thing.