What Autism feels like…

This is a great video that a friend posted on Facebook. Wow. Just wow.   Check it out HERE

I feel like I have even been guilty of talking to my students or my patients at the hospital as if their speech output is an indication at all of their comprehension/understanding. It must be maddening to walk around every day feeling trapped inside their body. Not only do some people struggle to communicate, but sometimes they feel dramatic changes in sensory experiences, too. Like fire running down your side… ants crawling on my back… pricks on the back of my arms. I have heard all of these before. Can you even imagine? I’d scream and “meltdown” if I felt this way too. We should be comforting during behavior meltdowns, not punishing…. Help them learn how to redirect or calm their sensory needs.

It definitely takes a second for us to realize what it must be like to be living with a disability. Some people, like my brother (who has Down Syndrome), maybe aren’t as aware they are even different in the first place. He is unaware and insanely HAPPY. He loves his life exactly how it is. He sees everyone as being on the same playing field, doesn’t discriminate because he doesn’t even know how, trusts people before he judges them… We could all learn from him and others like him.

But then there are those who DO know they are different. They know it and struggle with it every morning they wake up. They want to be just like everyone else. No matter how hard they try and work at it, their bodies or their minds remain what society deems “different”. It’s an uphill battle and it’s their battle to fight every day. I can’t even imagine.

I used to work with a young boy who was hit by a drunk driver. He lived, but sustained a traumatic brain injury, physical impairments, and speech difficulties. He is now in a wheelchair, struggles to communicate, and will forever be “different”. I always think of him and the person who hit him. I hope it is was worth the “buzz” that night… When you ask this kid what frustrates him the most is that “just because I’m in a wheelchair and it takes me a long time to communicate, people think I’m useless. Stupid. Unable to have a conversation.” He has so much to say, but can’t say it. How frustrating!

I just feel like we aught to stop and think more about others around us. How to make those who are different feel less different. And there’s a difference between “different” and “special”…. feeling different means feeling excluded, feeling unwanted, feeling left out. Special means having a new or unique way to BE included. It’s society’s job to do their part. To take the time. Let them FINISH what they’re saying– we can’t assume we already know. Don’t talk to an 18 year old who is nonverbal as if they were a toddler. Don’t rush someone at the checkout who takes longer to get around.  Smile more at those who are special instead of staring.  TEACH your kids about disabilities and how to react and how to include them. We need to encourage disability awareness training in our schools and in our homes!

My brother is the biggest gift our family could have asked for, and we wouldn’t have wanted him ANY other way. He has Down syndrome. He might not have the sensory difficulties that people with autism have, but he does have trouble communicating, will never get married or have kids, makes WAY less than minimum wage because he is “different”…. but in my eyes, He IS PERFECT. He is loving, kind, trust worthy, dependable and someone of the highest character. Take a minute to stop and learn from those who we think are not “teachable”. You’ll be amazed. 🙂

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