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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Monday, October 24, 2005

 
I am organizing an exhibition of Jonathan Lerman's work at The Lonsdale Gallery in Toronto. Jonathan is a 17 year old autistic young man. It will run from December 1st-20th. What struck me about Jonathan's work are his faces. So far, in my study of art executed by autistics, the execution of faces isn't typical. Maybe doll-like faces like Henry Darger, but not the kind of faces that show such depth of perception of his subject's character. They may be primitive and Picasso-like, but the type of observation that is beneath the surface is evident. Simon Baron-Cohen, in his speculations about the absence of Theory of Mind in autistic people can now be debated. (Theory of Mind suggests that autistic people are not capable of empathy or recognizing expression because they are mind-blind, in other words, not aware that other people have their own point of view separate from the autistic person).

On some occasions, and even today, when a child cries in Adam's class, Adam will go to that child and hug them. He will get jealous when other kids pay attention to his shadows at school. If Adam is "incapable" of understanding others, then how is he capable of these actions? Obviously, the theory is somewhat flawed.

Other HFA/AS (High-Functioning Autistics/Aspergers)who have verbal skills, eloquently express that they can understand body language and have emotion, understand emotion, etc., but what makes social interaction difficult is understanding all of this in real time. Because body language is so fast and fluid and cooincides with speech -- the processing of all of this at the same time can be difficult for some autistic people.

Just when others don't think an autistic person isn't paying attention, beware. I have a theory that their way of observing may not be entirely typical, but in fact, over sensitive in many cases. Either through peripheral vision, sensitive hearing, everything is getting in -- if even in an overwhelming way. I never doubt that Adam is exceptional in many ways. I never doubt that he is listening and understanding. I have learned that sometimes he just needs a little extra time to process things.

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