Last night, I met a remarkable man who has autism and took the time to explain how the world feels from his point of view. He explained that for him to go acting “neuro-typical” required hours of rest and parsing his personality into one he calls Mr. Spock (that is an old Star Trek reference for those too young to know). He talked about how the sensory events of life were overwhelming to him – he can hear the whine of computers, lights and even snow falling. He also shed some light on an issue I have had in my family. My son would be fine until we approached the checkout counter at wherever we were. When we stopped moving, the lack of motion set him off. I never realized that the act of movement was soothing to some people with autism. Really, it should not have been surprising, since many people who are “neuro-typical” gesture with their hands, pace or seek the release of tension through dance and exercise. I have a small trampoline in my home, so that my son can use it to bounce off energy. It has helped. I like it too – who doesn’t enjoy the brief weightlessness of jumping?
Another thing I do is have a loud ticking clock in the hallway off the bedrooms. It helps my older son go to sleep. I found out this is called a metronome response – another would be rocking back and forth – that soothes the person. I am so thankful for this man’s willingness to share his story with our small group. If I can help my sons in any way, that will be a bonus.
Autism is a part of my family. My nephew has it and both of my sons. For those of you who don’t know, this is a spectrum disorder, meaning some people are more affected than others. Some great places to find out more information is the Autism Society. Our local chapter has a monthly support group meeting and it really does help.