Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Inside the Autistic Mind

Several weeks ago I started working with autistic children. Let me tell you, they have the biggest, most beautiful eyes, which always makes me wonder whether they can see spirits. Isn’t that sort of a rule of thumb for psychics—to have big, beautiful eyes? Hmm, that would make a great novel. Stop! My mind is wandering! Anyway, what I really want to address in today’s Conundrum Corner is my curiosity when it comes to the autistic children’s stimming. Stimming is a self-stimulatory behavior pattern like flapping hands, twirling hair, sticking a hand in front of the face, drumming on a solid surface, making sounds like tiki-tiki-tiki, or other repetitive motions and sounds. I always figured that the senses of these children are elevated to a level in which everything seems louder, brighter, has a stronger scent, and so on. Often, when I think of writing a story (like I did just a few seconds ago), I want to get into the head of an autistic child and feel as they feel, see as they see, hear as they hear...to make my story as genuine as possible. I had the “luck” to get into such a situation this weekend.
My migraine was at its full swing, and during the four days of elevated sensory intakes I was ready to crash and make a dark, silent cave out of my home for the weekend. I, however, granted a wish to my husband, who decided that he wanted to try out Burgers and Beer in La Quinta. Thinking that the place would be quiet and almost empty since no big games were going on, I agreed to have a quick dinner under the condition that he would leave me alone (if you know what I mean) for the next two days.
Burgers and Beer offered nothing of what I had hoped for. TV screens were hanging from the ceiling and the walls; we even had a TV attached to our table, on which my children decided that they must watch the Cartoon Network. In front and around me lights flashed and flickered as baseball players scored home-runs, hockey players knocked their teeth out, football players patted each others asses, golfers attempted the hole-in-one, while behind me basketball players screeched their shoes on the floor, extreme sportsmen grinded their skateboards on the metal pipe, and someone at the bar kept yelling for no particular reason. The lights, the noise, the smell of various meals, the people walking back and forth as if they were on speed...it was the most horrible experience. I felt like I’d just walked into an autistic child’s nightmare. My hands were cupped over my ears, eyes tightly shut, and I began to feel my body sway in a dizzying motion, the same one that seems to sooth one of my students. I was so relieved when I finally got out of there; and I guarantee that I’m never going back! That place is safe only for people with ADD. I’d like to keep my sanity, thank you very much.

And to conclude today’s conundrum: Be careful what you wish for!

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