I just do my best to smile and empathize with the child and what he has to endure everyday. Once in a while, though, the fiery teacher in me snaps and loses his diplomacy!
I am transported back to 34 years ago hearing the sounds amplified a thousand fold greater than what everyone else around me in a classroom. I struggle with the idea of turning around a 100 or so times over the span of an hour thinking there was a bee around me only to realize that it was the buzzing of the fluorescent light above me. But somehow the repetition of physically turning around was soothing. It was my coping mechanism formed over the years.
Back then making it through the day in school was exhausting as it took tremendous amount of energy to control myself–while trying not to seem too different from everyone else.
Attracting attention was like wearing the scarlet letter. The “Aspergers” letter. Then, there was the adventure of having to decipher the teacher’s words, that was more like a muffled sound, and actually “learn” something.
I taught myself mathematics, filling in the gaps of what I missed in class. One could argue that was my path to becoming book smart!
I had a few very close friends while moving 13 times in my life, attending 7 different schools because of family challenges, war and immigration did not make it any easier. It did teach me one thing, focus. In fact, it was the recognition of that gift–my strength– through self-awareness and repetition that saved me.
It was not a phase.
Today, I still hear the humming sound of an air conditioner, the shuffling of a body next to me, a cough, slurping of a drink through a straw in a world class continuing education class and it is still so loud that it is painful. The lecturer’s words are muffled and I still have to fill in the gaps with notes and handouts and audio files from the lectures purchased afterwards.
I love technology today. And, I also dislike it. It multiplies the processing times while deciphering multiple sensory messages from several sources and decoding implied language, emotion and tone in person or in the digital world.
And that’s just the sounds. The visual stimuli and smells are even more of a challenge. And of course taste and touch round off the sensory spectrum in a rather bumpy fashion! Maybe, I will reserve those for another post.
So, how can an Aspie (an individual who is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome–well, to be more accurate, the more “functional” end of the Autism spectrum) actually function, even thrive in today’s world?
I can probably write a very long book about this and there have been many great ones written already. Yet, the short answer is: practice one’s focus, embrace and use this “super” power of heightened senses as a strength not a disability, surround oneself with like-minded people, excise those who feel that world revolves around them, advocate for those who can not for themselves speak (that’s a big one and I am crazy-passionate about it) and finally not to give a rat’s rear about others’ judgments and words in pursuing what makes one feel alive and filled with joy.
How about emotions? Aspies feel emotions and often more intensely than the Neurotypicals (the “normal people”) but may not be able to show them in a typical way. The word normal does not exist in my vocabulary! Typical, yes. But not normal. Because it is a measure of standard deviation. In my book deviation is a good thing. But, in society we all need to fall in line! Innovation needs deviation!
Simply, that this is not a phase that one grows out of, it is a process– Just as every individual (neurotypical or Aspie alike) goes through one’s own journey of self-discovery. The information has to enter through a sensory organ and journey through the process that is unique for oneself. Often, much more draining than it is for a neurotypical individual.
The positive is that Aspies are hyper-focused on what they like and they are damned good at it… So good that they sometimes forget to eat, unless they are really good at eating (and making the food)! And that’s not because they are going through a phase, it is simply how they are wired!
To understand them, one must understand their process. To communicate with them one must mimic their unique interest and full-heartedly embrace it.
Ironically, they also have a sense of humor that is multi-layered and one may have to look up the references and connect the dots and learn to hear, see, touch and taste unlikely patterns. Then the brilliance is discovered well after the awkward moment has passed. More like a few hours later!
So, the next time I hear “It’s just a phase.” I will kindly invite her or anyone like her to live a day in my or that child’s head and summon the energy to heal other people, draw cartoons, write two separate blogs, work on writing two books, be a coach, a father of very active kids , a husband (doing his absolute best) and run 3 businesses while keeping a genuine smile…… Because helping others sure keeps the buzzing seem as ordinary as the sun rising in the morning.
Remember to “Light it up Blue” on April 2nd for World Autism Awareness Day!
With unconditional love,
#liub for #international #Autism #awareness #day spread the word, practice sympathy, #unconditional #love #IranianAmericanCartoonist #KavehAdel #Kaveh #Adel