Imagine Yourself as Someone Else

 

Autism is a puzzle with more curves, corners and pieces than any of us know.

One of the hardest things for people with AS  is empathy. Coupled with the inability to appropriately initiate social interactions, children with AS have little understanding of how their actions and words affect others. Most neuro-typical children struggle with it, but can be easily taught to imagine how someone else feels. AS kids can’t imagine that.

On the other hand, all relationships are reciprocal. So, those of us who interact with someone that has AS need to also be able to empathize with how THEY are feeling or seeing or why they are behaving the way they are behaving. Only, we can’t. We can’t imagine that.

Imagine that sounds are painful. The vacuum cleaner sounds like a fire alarm. The fire alarm sounds like a jet plane. The water gurgling through the radiator stops you from wanting to play in your room alone.

Imagine that being in a crowded room or restaurant makes you want to spin in circles and hide under the table. If someone strange sits near you, you won’t be able to finish the meal. You’d rather just make loud silly noises to make yourself feel better.

Imagine that only six or seven foods taste good to you. Maybe it’s not the taste…but they feel and smell safe, so you’ll eat them. Imagine that you could not try new foods, even if they are pretty ones, because you don’t know them.

Imagine that you can’t understand what people’s faces are saying. They get all twisted up, twitching, smiling, frowning all the time they are talking. They want you to look them in the eye, but if you do that you won’t be able to concentrate on what they are saying. It hurts to look someone in the eye. Sometimes you can’t hear the words because you are too busy trying to figure out the look on their face.

Imagine that collars, tags and zipper pockets make your skin itch. Your Mom bought PJs and the “out parts” of the sleeves are too tight on your wrists. Makes it hard to fall asleep.

Imagine that you couldn’t tell when someone didn’t want you to touch them anymore. You like touching people’s clothes or licking them or blowing on them or just getting as close as possible. Why won’t they let you do that? It’s how you tell someone you like them a lot. How else are you supposed to do it?

Imagine that you can’t answer open-ended questions without anxiety. So instead, it feels better to just say “AAAHHHH!!!!” Why does everyone want to know if I “like school” anyway? I don’t know.

Imagine that making changes or transitions from one thing to another is really, really hard for you. All you need is a little warning that something else is going to happen next…but most people won’t do that. Imagine that taking an alternate route home to avoid traffic would make your world spin out of orbit for a while and you’d cry a lot about it.

We could all use a little empathy.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. embracingspirit
    Dec 09, 2009 @ 22:39:25

    This needs to be printed and given to all teachers—regular education as well as special. Beautifully written and exactly as how I ‘imagine’ for my daughter and others…thanks for sharing your thoughts…S

    Reply

  2. Shivon
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 18:56:01

    THIS IS BRILLIANT!! This is what gets me through some of our hardest days. I just try to think if it is a hard day for me, imagine how hard it is for him. Thank you for writing this 🙂

    Reply

  3. divinescribble
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 20:18:49

    Thanks for reading. I hope it helps make sense of this to others!

    Reply

  4. Corrie
    Dec 11, 2009 @ 13:39:24

    I think you did a wonderful job of articulating what a lot of these kids cannot. Kudos. I’ve been think of putting together a page at Squiddo from posts on autism, Asperger’s Syndrome. I’d love to repost this there.

    In the meantime, two things. First my name is linked to a different blog besides my blog about my son with Asperger’s which is at http://justbecausemypickletalks.blogspot.com.

    This is important because I’m sending you a blog award today.

    Reply

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