Monday, November 18, 2013
Written by Summer O.
I posted this on Autistics Speaking Day. I thought about making a new blog, but I think this is the best one, and I modified it.
Earlier this week, Suzanne Wright posted a call to action she called “This is Autism,” and this flashblog is posted to discuss what autism really is. Now, I understand that the only way to really know what autism is like is to be autistic. I also understand that not everyone with autism is alike and may not experience things the way I do. However, if NTs really want to simulate autism so that you can have real empathy, I have some suggestions to try.
--Spend the day daydreaming. Really, don't turn your brain off. Keep it engaged somehow. Perhaps read or listen to music (preferably instrumental), and try to picture a scenario with it. Whatever you choose, do whatever you can to keep your imagination going.
--Interact with your environment. Amanda Baggs says in her video "In My Language" that some of the things she does that are perceived by others as socially unacceptable, she does to communicate and interact with the world around her. Find some way to do that. Do something you haven't done since you were a child that gave you so much wonder that you had to do it again and again. Spin around and around in a desk chair and stop to get over the dizziness. Speak into a fan. Run your hands under water. Flap your hands in front of your eyes and watch as fingers appear and disappear. Capture that wonder again.
--Find a stim. Do some kind of repetitive behavior over and over and see how it feels. Twiddle your thumbs. Tap your fingers. If you have jewelry on, like a necklace, keep fiddling it. Here's one of my favorites--get a gum wrapper with aluminum foil and peel off the foil. Whatever it is, don't do it just a couple of times; try to do it most of the day.
--Delve into your favorite topic. If you like a TV show, go to Wikipedia and IMBD and find out all the information you can on the actors and the crew. If you like sports, learn all the stats of every player on your favorite team (that shouldn't be too hard for some of you). Or you can just pick another subject and google it, clinking on every link you see. Take notes if you want and see how much you can remember by the end of the day.
--Try to notice the details. Look for patterns in wallpaper or the bathroom tile. Get up close if you have to. Listen for sounds you don't normally hear, like the hum of the lights above your head, and ask yourself if it's calming or irritating.
Even this barely scratches the surface. This doesn't get into social interaction or resistance to change. There are some things that go on with me that I don't want to talk about. (There are difficulties, but they haven’t stopped me from getting a PhD.) But as far as I’m concerned, this is all autism. This could help you empathize more. I know some of these might not be practical to do in public or when you're at work. If you want to wait until you're alone at home, that's your decision, but remember we have to face this 24/7, public, private, whatever.
Oh, and one more challenge--if you decide to do these things next afterwards write down why you still think autism should be cured. Write down how autism how autism means despair, fear, exhaustion, a burden, and a national emergency. My guess is after this exercise, you’ll see things differently.