"Never do I ever want to hear another word. There isn't one I haven't heard."
Eliza in My Fair Lady isn't autistic, but in this song she expresses two of the most important things to remember when communicating with those of us who are:
1. Words are often overwhelming and ineffective.
2. If you want us to understand something, you have to show us.
So many kids would have a better day if their teachers would take these words to heart:
Don't talk of June,
Don't talk of fall.
Don't talk at all.
And so many of our relationships would go better if nobody said anything like what Freddie says:
Well, you know how I feel. I've written you two and three times a day telling you. Sheets and sheets!
But that could come from either side-- from a hyperverbal aspie or from someone trying to get through to an autistic person. Sheets and sheets are never a good idea. We need to edit ourselves. Brevity isn't just the soul of wit-- it's the heart of effective communication.
"Show Me" from My Fair Lady, performed by Julie Andrews.
One of the highpoints of AASCEND's conference Saturday was a showing of parts of Too Sane for This World, a documentary about twelve adults with autism. Friday night, I got to eat pizza with Ari Ne'eman and a bunch of other cool people, including thAutcaster Max and some of the people in the movie. Then director William Davenport gave us a personal introduction, and we got to watch the whole film.
I hope you will have the chance to see Too Sane for This World, too. It brings together a wider range of adults on the spectrum than I have ever seen in one documentary before, several of them, like my friend Jacob, members of AASCEND. There are people like Andrew, who struggles with words but communicates vividly through his art. And there are also Robyn Steward and Rudy Simone, who are remarkably articulate about the less visible problems autism causes for them.
The tone of the movie is unusual, too. It's neither inspirational nor horrifying. It does not minimize the problems of autistic adults by pretending that autism has not made life difficult and painful for most of us. But it does not over-dramatize our problems to try to get you to feel sorry for us or to give somebody money. Davenport and Sean Sullivan don't present us as a tragic puzzle or a sophisticated freak show.
They show us as people.
Way down deep I'm demure.
This is the kind of shy I am: the loud obnoxious kind.
I am not the only one in my autism community for whom this is true.
I love us.
This is Carol Burnett in the first TV version of the musical Once Upon a Mattress. You can see her in the second, and inferior, color version here.
The cure to autism
Corina Becker's darkly humorous video about how to cure autism.
Do autistic people have empathy? Yes.
Note: This piece has been on the site for a few months, but it's one of my favorites. I was going to write something new to go with these images that I posted to my Facebook last week, but finally decided that is still the best I can do with the topic.
It's well known that most people with autism have difficult emotional lives, but the nature of those difficulties is profoundly misunderstood. They are usually described as "a lack of empathy" or "difficulty reading social cues." In other words, the discussion usually focuses on the problems we have understanding the feelings of other people. But those problems arise first from how hard it is to understand our own emotions.
"How are you?"
"How do you feel?"
For me, these are not easy questions to answer. I have intense difficulty both identifying my own emotions and understanding why I have them. I think the reasons for that have to do both with my neurology and my experience.
In the first part of this series, I explained my belief that autism is at root a tendency for the brain to make connections, and therefore to develop, in unusual ways. There seems to be at times almost no connection at all between the parts of my brain that feel things and the parts of my brain that are supposed to analyze those feelings.