Thursday 7 May 2015

Me and my autism

 There is more and more research about autism available to read and to gain a better understanding of what autism is like.
Yesterday I linked up this post from Nursery World "How children with autism see the world"
as someone who has autism myself this makes so much sense... it has never been about just seeing details... even though detail has been clear... the problem has always been filtering out stuff...

I often think of Alison Gopnik when she wrote/said 

" Well if we want to think about a way of getting a taste of that kind of baby consciousness as adults, I think the best thing is think about cases where we're put in a new situation that we've never been in before -- when we fall in love with someone new, or when we're in a new city for the first time. And what happens then is not that our consciousness contracts, it expands, so that those three days in Paris seem to be more full of consciousness and experience than all the months of being a walking, talking, faculty meeting-attending zombie back home. And by the way, that coffee, that wonderful coffee you've been drinking downstairs, actually mimics the effect of those baby neurotransmitters. So what's it like to be a baby? It's like being in love in Paris for the first time after you've had three double-espressos. (Laughter) That's a fantastic way to be, but it does tend to leave you waking up crying at three o'clock in the morning. "

Alison Gopnik, TedTalk. How babies Think

It IS a great way to see the world... I see so much, feel so much all the time... and I have an ability to make the links between ideas... but it IS exhausting...

This is why rest time, being in small groups, often, even alone time fairly often, is important to recharge batteries. For the children I work with (whether or not they have autism) and also for myself.

My son with autism and ADHD shows this too... when school asked him to draw his home he could draw not only what was in our windows in our apartment building but also what was in everyone elses windows (along with extra crocodiles and lizards roaming the garden... imagination and reality have always gone hand in hand... as they have for me).

It wasn't until last summer that I made the connection that I had autism, but as soon as I did everything started making sense. Before I could never understand why when group decisions were made not everyone followed them - in some places I have worked I ended up being the only one following... I could never understand why people would agree to stuff they could not/would not do.
I could never understand why my husband could be so easy talking about things in the past... until I realised that when he remembered stuff he did not experience the same emotions as before... now this comes in handy as a preschool teacher, as I remember my childhood I experience the emotions I had then... it allows me to really understand children as a child with adult understanding - it really does not help when remembering stuff with negative emotions as reliving them is not always so fun. Big social dinners are awful because focussing on one dialogue when I can hear all of them is a nightmare... I actually have to work hard at listening... and I am exhausted by the end of it. It doesn't mean that I don't enjoy big social events... it just means I know I have to relax afterwards.

There is lots more I could write about as to why I realised I have autism... but I feel I don't want to really to go into detail here... but I will say it was like being freed when I found out... it was not so much a key to understand myself, but a key to understand everyone else... not so much my brain is wired differently (ie that I feel different), but that other people's brains are wired differently from mine (ie that they are different).

I feel I was lucky, I loved school, I could find my groove there... my son does not love school and, as yet, has not found the learning rhythm for him there.
I do remember that my teenage years were hard, trying to make sense of the social world, but I didn't know, then, that was what the problem was. I do have huge blanks between 15 and 21 where I don't remember events or people as a way of managing all the input.

Many people think that autistic children don't have empathy. It is certainly not the case for me, or my son... the problem tends to be there is too much empathy and to be able to "survive" sometimes you have to switch it off before you explode - or avoid certain situations. The older I get, though, the easier all of this is to manage. I remember my dad saying, when I was a child, that "The older we get the further we see" - and being able to see further has enabled me to have control over the now... many young children do not have control over the now (or feel worry over it) because they cannot see further down the line as to how it could be.

I feel the way my brain is wired is a gift. It allows me to be creative. It allows me to listen to children as both a child and an adult. it allows me to see the big picture... in great detail - and the support I have had in my life means I am able to put all of this to my advantage - to make connections. And support means I have always been given time... as a child I spent hours and hours daydreaming alone... and now as an adult I get regular child-free time at home to be on my own and recharge.

The purpose of this post?
Well, to share that autism is not a problem... it is everyone else that has the problem. Thinking differently is a gift to the world... it opens up possibilities, it allows us to see new perspectives. What people with autism need is the space and understanding to get on with their thinking... and that expecting them to always adapt and not everyone else adapting is not an inclusive world and means great wonders could be missed.

I have always been able to adapt... I feel lucky in that - and it is why I feel great sadness that my son is not finding it as easy to adapt... BUT I do know that things will turn out great for him when he his released from having to think in a specific way in school and allowed to use the full potential of his wonderful autistic mind.

1 comment:

  1. Your comment about people not following rules they have expressly agreed to intrigues me. I wonder how often this is true for me, and why it happens. So interesting to know what others see when they look out at the world with their eyes...

    (Comment below kept getting lost in attempt to post so I originally posted on facebook. Reposted here when I remembered my own promise to myself to reply to blogs directly whenever possible).

    So I've said since I met you that you have a way of seeing that is remarkably clear. I didn't know to what extent you identified with your boy and his way of seeing the world, but it is something I admit had crossed my mind... That your gift, your precise and raw way of being incredibly present, reminded me of a tulku. That the other time I've known such a presence was a person who'd dedicated their entire life to mindfullness/awareness practice... (A Tibetan Rinpoche who made me feel as though I was naked, that all artifice fell away under her attention) means to me it is a gift, that most of us would have to work hard to get even a small measure of the clarity. I'm even struggling with this metaphor of light... Vision, clarity, insight... To describe what I mean.
    When my son struggled through early years of school, my husband and I not only learned about his needs and gifts, but our own. To recognize my own anxiety as an adult was illuminating (there's that metaphor again. Did you know that English has more words for quality of light than any other? Hmm). I think it's helped me relate to students, students who didn't feel they belonged at school or anywhere else amongst their peers. I remember it well and it helped me to talk to my son without sounding false... Saying "it does get better".
    I'm rambling, sorry. I just wanted to say I am grateful for you, faraway though you may be.