This was passed along to me by another therapist from the Internet. I found it very interesting. -- Julie Loe
The Land of Autism
I remember being eight or nine and wanting to visit Paris, France, It seemed like the very center of the world, so sophisticated and grown-up. I wanted to grow up and be an artist or a writer and have adventures. I wanted to create beautiful and unusual things.
At ten I planned my life. I had big dreams. First I would venture off to the mountains of Peru. I would live among the native people and try on another culture like other try on new clothes. Somewhere along the line my plans changed. I exchanged my dreams for a husband and children. I had two daughters, bright and pretty, and a handsome brown-eyed son.
I gave up Paris and Peru. But I have been able to experience a different culture. And I have made things both beautiful and unusual. Somehow I gave birth to a son from the land of "Autism".
A native, he acts as a representative, an ambassador of sorts. The American Heritage Dictionary identifies an ambassador as "an authorized messenger". Isaac performs his duties beautifully. He has all the cultural nuances that people of "Autism" are famous for. He knows that Autism etiquette demands that you never quite look your companion in the eye; that you be unpredictable but demand predictability; and that you never be the first one to say hello.
Living with an ambassador requires diplomacy, true effort to understand differences and be open minded. That makes me an ambassador of "Normal". To the best of my ability I try to show Isaac the "whys" and the "hows" of my life and culture. In return he tries to share his knowledge of his culture with me. But Isaacs everyday behavior, so different from that of "Normal," is often puzzling and seemingly bizarre. Like many foreigners he stumbles over our difficult language.
He often repeats words in an effort to make sense of our syntax. Many times he uses phrases to stand for a variety of meanings in order to communicate. More often than not he is confused by our table manners and does not understand why we sit to eat, or why he must use utensils. In his country the majority seem to prefer finger foods. Like many people of dissimilar backgrounds who unexpectedly find themselves flung together, we have our battles. I want him to respect my ways, to compromise.
We experience the stress and tension of frequent misunderstandings. We do our best to communicate. I offer walks and bicycle riding, reading and swimming. He offers jumping, giggling and squinting. Isaac has taught me that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. I now see signs and logos differently. I now point out postal logos and metal objects and electric generators to him.
Dining out is passé. Intimate in-home dining is the "Autistic" thing to do, although McDonalds is acceptable. I have had to rethink many of my "Normal" practices and decisions about converting or staying true to my beliefs. I also feel that, as a good host it is important to impart some of our teachings.
Many of Isaacs people participate in activities previously unknown to you or me. They have introduced creative new hobbies such as tint collecting, hand flapping, string twiriing and pace walking, which is similar to race walking, but with an extremely limited distance. Physical activities such as running, jumping and bouncing are all very popular. Dancing is typically seen as a solitary art.
The majority of people of Autism tend to be introverted and not very verbal. Many do not speak at all. Marriages and children are very rare, but not completely unheard of. Like people of all races and creeds, there are the few who live outside the mainstream and may pursue relationships and choose to procreate. They are the minority.
My native, who is still very young, is more typical. He prefers solitary dancing and pace walking without conversation. He likes mailboxes and can openers as well as Pepsi and chips and riding in cars. I have had some influence. But I do not think he wilt marry or have children. He is totally dedicated to his mission. He is here to teach and to share his message. His message is one of understanding and acceptance. So I will continue to interpret and try to understand. Perhaps one day the people of "Normal" and the people of "Autism" will learn to live together without conflict or difficulty. We can work together and hope.
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