Understanding Autism: Seeing the Spectrum from the Rainbow Itself

Understanding Autism: Seeing the Spectrum from the Rainbow Itself

2023-04-30T13:30:19+00:00April 30th, 2023|

Understanding somebody’s situation might require us to think how it is like to be in their shoe. Oftentimes, instead of putting ourselves into their shoe, we tend to fix the shoe first and redirect these into our own standards of  dos and don’ts. And unknowingly, we tend to approach individuals with Autism like that.

But how is it really like to be in the spectrum? The world has invested massive studies on Autism Spectrum Disorder and thankfully, we have been more educated about it. More intervention strategies have been developed too, thus, services for individuals with ASD has been more efficient as well.

 

In addition to the studies spent, some individuals with ASD has shown themselves conquering norms and achieving in life. One of the great examples would be in the person of Temple Grandin.

 

Experiencing the world through a different set of senses…

Temple Grandin is a renowned advocate for people with autism and has spoken extensively about her own experiences as someone with autism. According to her, autism is like experiencing the world through a different set of senses and processing information differently than neurotypical individuals.

Thinking in pictures…

She has described her own experience of autism as being like a “different operating system,” where her brain works in a more visual way than a verbal one. All her thinking is visual. When she thinks about abstract concepts such as getting along with people, she uses visual images such as the sliding glass door. Relationships must be approached carefully otherwise the sliding door could be shattered. At later times, she doesn’t use the glass door illustration to understand personal relationships anymore, however she must relate a particular relationship to something that she has read. Her memories relate to visual images or specific event. As a designer of livestock facility, her strengths get maximised and her weaknesses get minimised. Nonetheless, comprehending lengthy verbal instructions remains problematic for her. Statistics are also challenging for her because she is unable to hold one piece of information in her mind while doing the next step..

Speech and frustrations…

Grandin further explained too on how not being able to speak was utter frustration. If adults spoke directly to her she could understand everything they said, but she could not get her words out. It was like a big stutter. If she was placed in a slight stress situation, words would sometimes overcome the barrier and come out. Her speech therapist knew how to intrude into her world. She would hold her by the chin and made her look in her eyes and say “ball.” At age 3, “ball” came out “bah,” said with great stress. If the therapist pushed too hard she threw a tantrum, and if she did not intrude far enough no progress was made. She added, “My mother and teachers wondered why I screamed. Screaming was the only way I could communicate. Often I would logically think to myself, ‘I am going to scream now because I want to tell somebody I don’t want to do something’.”

Regulating sensory experiences…

In her work as an animal behaviourist, she has noted her keen eye for detail, which proves advantageous. Nevertheless, it can be challenging to disregard sensory input in chaotic surroundings.

Furthermore, Grandin has stressed the significance of acknowledging and addressing diverse sensory requirements of individuals with autism, including light, sound, and touch sensitivity. She has advocated incorporating aids such as noise-cancelling headphones and weighted blankets to assist with sensory regulation among those with autism.

Fixations to motivators..

She has a successful career designing livestock equipment because one of her teachers used her fixation on cattle chutes to motivate her to study psychology and science. Many of her fixations initially had a sensory basis. In the fourth grade, she was attracted to election posters because she liked the feeling of wearing the posters like a sandwich man. Automatic glass sliding doors were another one of her fixations.  Initially she was attracted to the doors because she liked the sensation of seeing its back and forth movement. Then gradually, the doors took on other meanings. In a high-functioning adolescent, interest in sliding doors could be used to stimulate science interests. Fixations can be redirected as great motivators. Instead of trying to eliminate fixations, teachers should utilize them as a means of motivation. A limited and concentrated interest should be expanded into constructive pursuits.

Temple Grandin has emphasized on the importance of early intervention. She started getting intervention at the age of 2 ½ to help her maximize her potential.  Throughout stages in her life, she had the right people to support and accept her.

Photo source: Dr. Temple Grandin (Facebook Page)

Awareness births acceptance and understanding, Then, it leads to empathy and empathy extends a helping hand. Grandin’s perspective on autism highlights the need to understand and respect the different ways in which people with autism experience the world and process information. As we have been equipped with loads of information about individuals with autism, may we have a more open mind to perceive who they are. Let’s see them beyond the label. Yes, they will always be different…but never less.

 



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 (65) 6909 2170

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 (65) 6909 2170

 sharewithus@bridgingthegap.com.sg



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