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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

Saturday, January 21, 2006

 

CONNECTION ALERT!

An eight year old boy wanders in the room with toys and then beelines towards Cranium.

"Would you like me to play that with you?" asks the therapist.

"I most certainly would," replies the boy unpacking the box on an opposite table to her. His hair is cut in a kind-of mohawk, sticking up at the crown like ostrich plume. His face is changing, even I can tell...he is slowly losing his cherub cheeks and soon he will look like a teenager. Our eyes meet for an instant. I sit furtively, pretending to read my book.

"First, we're going to talk about our engines."

"Okay...I'm with you," he replies sprightly.

"Can you please come over here and sit in the chair?" He sits on a tricycle next to the chair.

"I need you to sit here in the chair." After some shuffling, he sits.

"How are you feeling about Cranium?"

"Excited."

"Right, excited. And how fast is your engine running, too fast or too slow?"

"Too fast."

"But that's okay because you are excited."

"Right."

"Tell me something that makes you feel sad."

"CONNECTION ALERT!" he blurts.

"Can you show me something that makes you sad?" The therpaist has the boy enact a number of scenarios that arouse different emotional states in him. When he doesn't quite know an answer (I am guessing here), when something doesn't make sense to him, or if something makes all too much sense -- perhaps too arousing to mention -- he blurts "CONNECTION ALERT!"

What a strategy! I am thinking of all the times that I get stumped, confused, over-emotional and I try to cover it up and be cool. How many of us do things we don't really want to do, particularly in the social realm, or act one way when we feel another? If I could yell "CONNECTION ALERT!" every time I stumbled inside, maybe people would understand me and leave well enough alone.

The therapist, for the purposes of teaching emotional/self regulation and emotion recognition in tandem with pretend scenarious (brilliantly taught, I might add),didn't acknowledge his connection alerts, but rather, kept probing him on how he was feeling in that moment to get him to recognize himself. By recognizing our emotional states, we can self-regulate. Further, we can become self-aware.

Emotional/self regulation is one of the challenges in autism. Michael Moon, a musician/composer/presenter/astrologist with autism, presented at The Muki Baum Centre last Thursday night in Toronto. Michael is 38 years old and notes that it wasn't until he learned he had autism that he could begin to become self-aware and in control of his future. For the purposes of not wanting to label him, his mother, who was present, eshewed the system (i.e.; believing that he could do anything) and didn't tell Michael of his autism. But he states that his learning about it enabled him to understand himself and overcome the obstacles that confronted him in life.

It seems to me that the people I've read and met with autism get really good at understanding what makes us all tick. If you had a challenge in an area and were compelled to learn everything about it, then you would likely become so proficient at it. This is how I'm feeling about everyone I've mentioned in my blog thus far. People with autism can, in fact, understand what it means to be human perhaps better than "the rest" of us.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mom to Mr. Handsome said...

That really is an interesting thought. I agree with you in reguards to being Autistic and still being able to understand the complexity that comes with understanding ourselves and the people around us. It does take some practice, for everyone.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Kristina Chew said...

Great metaphor! Thanks for informing us about Michael Moon--am going to look up his work.

12:44 PM  

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