Going To the Depths of Autism

There’s nothing special about two 16 year olds baking a cake together, right? But trust me, this pair is different.

 

Rohan attends regular school. He comes to volunteer at the center every week. He watches out for Piyush like a hawk!

 

Right from handing him the flour, to helping him with the sieve and mixing the batter, Rohan supports Piyush. Reading out the recipe, he adjusts the temperature and timing and finally helps Piyush to put the cake tin in the oven.

 

They exchange meaningful smiles. Mission accomplished!

 

It warms my heart to see the camaraderie between these two. After all, how often do you see 2 people with autism interacting like this?

 

Both these young folks have autism. Rohan talks, he reads, he understands everything.

 

To understand what autism is, we’ve got to first understand what it’s not.

 

1. Autism is not about speech

 

It is about communication. There are many people on the autism spectrum who use speech fluently.

 

Then there are others who are non vocal.

 

Many non vocal individuals use other forms of communication such as gestures and signs, Picture Exchange, Augmentative communication devices, keyboards, letter boards and so on.

 

In the story above, Rohan is a fluent speaker. Piyush uses signs and gestures to communicate. At present, he is learning to use the AVAZ communication app on a tablet.

 

2. Autism is not about behavior

 

All people on the Spectrum do not engage in sensory stimulatory behaviors, or stimming. Nor do they all display self injurious or aggressive behaviors.

 

Autism is not about ‘fix the behavior to fix the child.’

 

3. Autism is not about the kind of school the child attends

 

Some people on the Spectrum go to regular school. Some go to special schools or learning centers.

 

Rohan goes to regular school. Piyush, on the other hand, comes to SAI Connections.

 

4. Autism is not about intelligence

 

Many people on the autism spectrum have genius-level IQ. Others seem to have Intellectual Disabilities.

 

I use the word ‘seem’ as it is difficult to measure the intelligence of those who are non vocal.

 

According to the latest findings, 60% of people on the spectrum have normal to high IQ scores.

 

5. Autism is not about difficulties with fine or gross motor skills

 

Some people on the spectrum clearly have difficulties with skills, while others don’t. The skills levels of some people on the spectrum may be just like another neuro typical person.

 

Aahan rides his bike through the crowded streets of Pune. He’s proficient with cricket. Plus he reads and writes reasonably well too.

 

That’s a lot of diversity, right?

 

This is because Autism is Spectrum Condition. People on the spectrum (including those with Asperger’s Syndrome) share certain common conditions. These are the core deficits of Autism.

 

In addition, they could face other challenges which include learning disabilities, epilepsy, sleep problems, gut issues.

 

No two people on the Spectrum are exactly alike. Each individual has a unique combination of characteristics and so may seem quite different.

 
 

Irrespective of where each one of them is on the Autism Spectrum, they face a few common difficulties.

 

1. They find it difficult to share experiences

 

I see this commonly in assessments. They share dates and the names of places they’ve visited, but they find it difficult to share their feelings and experiences.

 

Or they may identify or name objects or people, but they do not share feelings that they’ve experienced.

 

2. They find it difficult to understand and borrow different perspectives

 

People with autism find it difficult to understand another’s perspective. They say or do things, but they don’t understand how this may impact others around them.

 

One of my students asked a relative how it felt to have a son who was a stay-at-home dad! The old man was clearly uncomfortable, but this youngster failed to take the discomfort and facial expressions into account. He persisted in continuing this conversation.

 

3. They find it difficult to learn from the past and apply it to the future

 

You and I use a negative experience as a learning to avoid negative consequences in the future.

 

But people on the spectrum may have a difficulty with this. A common complaint that I hear from mothers is, “But why doesn’t he listen to me, even when I shout at him so many times?”

 

Clearly, at this point, they’re not learning from being scolded.

 

4. They find it difficult to go with the flow

 

Life is about changes. A plan can change out of the blue.

 

It is difficult for a person on the spectrum to handle changes. Many times meltdowns may result because of a person not being able to take a sudden change in plans.

 

5. They find it difficult to understand their role in a dynamic situation

 

Unless specifically stated or instructed, they may not know how to respond in a situation.

 

It’s easy for us to observe a situation and figure out what we’re supposed to do – without it being explicitly stated. People on the spectrum mostly need help with this.

 
 

The good news is that these core deficits can be remediated and people on the Autism Spectrum can live meaningful, happy lives.

 

So what do they want to tell you?

 

 

 

 

Lyrics to this beautiful song are penned by Dr Parasuram Ramamoorthi. The music and arrangement is by Sammy- an individual on the Autism Spectrum

 

I believe that they challenge us to step out of our boundaries. They urge us to move out of the space of right and wrong into the space of love and acceptance.

 

Here’s something for you to think about:

 

What is the autistic state of mind and way of viewing the world represents, not a defect that we must correct, but an evolutionary step up?

 

What if millions of autistic individuals are here to show us neuro-typicals a different way?

Lori Shayew

courtesy: Lori Shayew

 
 
 

Individuals on the spectrum march to a different band, and dance to a different tune. I believe that they can dance through our world and make it a better place.

 

The question is – are you willing to make a shift within you?

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do leave a comment below for us all to discuss further.

 

4 COMMENTS

  • annamma says:

    Thank you for explaining Autism very well .Im mother of Sammy Or Samuel ashish marcus ,you can find him on youtube samuelashihm , He is running a music school called shirvad school of Music , ,visit his page Ashirwad school of Music , I help him in the background keeping the data of students , fixing the individuals class timings .Prof.Parasuram rama moorthis is amentor to him and us parents .

    • How lovely to hear from you, Annamma!
      Sammy’s story is truly inspirational. I’m sure it’s due to your hard work and effort too.
      I will be looking him up on youtube- thanks for sharing.
      I wish you all the very best. Thanks for dropping by.

  • Crystal says:

    I have wished there was more aspergers awareness in my state because no one asks anything really If you’re “different”…you are watched from afar and judged.. I wish someone could have understood about functioning in other ways, or having sensory issues. Most of the places here Have felt set up for the social type but wonder where the rest were..

    I feel like the “man who read at 40″ sometimes because of having learning difficulties and feel like screaming I don’t” read like you” all the time.lol. I like joking around and sarcasm but agree that we don’t always have to tear things down so much…instead of condemning, helping someone find a place? i think that environment really matters

    I have wished there was more aspergers awareness in my state because no one asked anything really If someomes “different”…youre just watched from afar… can feel judged.. I wish someone could have understood about functioning in other ways, or having sensory issues. Life can feel set up for the social type but wonder where the rest of the “quirky” type were..it is good there are places that can actually look deeper and see the person there. As i got older i realized how drawn i was to expression, and needed someone to walk through emotion..it was hard to explain like you said experiences. I love faces, vocals, and sounds and spent years on Facebook posting this.he that were hard to say in person…it’s sometimes how I communicated. My family is lowkey and i had to work hard to try and communicate, but we still don’t talk well

    Wondering if those on the spectrum are latebloomers…I feel like the “man who read at 40″ sometimes because of having learning difficulties and feel like screaming I don’t” read like you” all the time.lol. I like joking around and sarcasm but that we don’t have to tear things down so much…it would be nice to hear more from people on the spectrum, the stories.. I have an interest in environment..feel like it matters and how well someone functions..really enjoyed the article as its been a struggle and good to hear this. Thank you for posting

    • Thank you for sharing this, Crystal.
      Yes, sharing experiences, emotions, understanding perspectives are hurdles that need to be addressed and worked on.
      We all need to have a better understanding of autism.
      I wish you all the very best.

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