Ingrid Robeyns at Crooked Timber wrote some wonderful posts about autism this week. (It's autism awareness month, and I really should be writing more about this topic.)
One of the posts that has gotten the most attention is her discussion about attending an autism simulation, which gives neurotypicals a feels of what it is like to have autism.
I visited the Headquarter in 2010, and I still recall coming out of the Headquarter and feeling completely flabbergasted. Literally. That world that was presented to me was not only very hard to follow and understand, but it suck my energy being in there, trying to understand what people on these television screens were trying to tell me. And realising that this is how people with autism, including my son, have to cope with the world, was hard. Visiting the Headquarter was disturbing, but also directly useful, since it helped us in improving our parenting. For example, we realized much better that we had to look for strategies to protect him from begin bombarded by sounds, and that we had to intensify our efforts at communicating as clearly as possible.
Most parents of autistic children have a huge learning curve in understanding how to protect their kids. When the kids turn two, they suddenly start screaming about loud noises, bright lights, big crowds. They aren't understanding you like other kids. They don't turn their heads when you call them. It is incredibly frustrating.
Steve and I weren't sure if we should protect Ian from these sounds and smells or take a sterner approach. Others told us that he should be punished. Ultimately, we figured out that he needed protection, big time, and we took babysteps in getting over the sounds and smells.
But there is more to autism than just the sensory and communication problems. One of the best parts of the HBO Temple Grandin movie was that it showed her visual mind. She thinks in pictures first and then her brain has to locate the right word for the image. That visual map is definitely part of the picture. So is the need to find patterns and meaning in things that have no meaning.
Ingrid said that autism simulation center was in danger of closing. It's too bad. It would have been very helpful for us, when we first started down this path of autism.