Monday, August 29, 2011

Autism Simulation (2010 contribution)

(Summer 0 has graciously allowed us to post her entry for ASDay 2010, so that we can show you an example of a contribution and how we are setting up posts.  We ask that every participant submitting an contribution post tell us whether we have permission to repost it here, with links to the original post.  If we do have permission, we'll post it with the appropriate label tags.  If something is considered to contain Triggering material, we will do a short summary of the post, with the Triggering topics, put the entry under a "Read More" cut, as well as a link to the original post.

This entry is trigger-free.

Summer originally posted this on her Facebook. Only changes that have been made are some minor editing of paragraphs for easier readability.) 

As some of you may know, two events have been scheduled worldwide for today, November 1--Communication Shutdown and Autistics Speaking Day. The former is a movement from certain charities encouraging people to stay off of Twitter, Facebook, and other networking sites in order to experience the lack of communication many autistic people experience. The latter is a counter-movement to demonstrate that autistic people do have a voice by sharing their experiences while NTs (neurotypicals, or non-autistic people) remain silent. Both events are trying to get neurotypicals to understand what autism is like. In some ways, they both do, but really they barely scratch the surface.

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 you NTs really want to simulate autism so that you can have real empathy, I have some suggestions to try perhaps for next year.

--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 dizzyness. 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 repetative 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 yourelf 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. But at least this gives you some ideas of things to try while you're not on Facebook and/or listening to autistics speaking. This could help you empathize more. I know some of these might not be pratical 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 November 1, on November 2, write down why you still think autism should be cured.

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