Autism is only for people

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Living in your own world

Depending on their severity, autistic people sometimes or permanently live in a world to which other people cannot access. It is not easy to get the severely affected out of isolation. For some autistic people, withdrawal in itself is a protective measure from the environment and the people they do not understand.

Perceive people

Those affected show little or no interest in the environment, people are not noticed. Slightly autistic people only withdraw in certain situations (for example in a strange environment). They isolate themselves, see and hear nothing anymore. In the case of a severe disorder, the person affected is not at all able to come into contact with other people. That is, a person will - if at all! - not perceived as a person, but as "something" that happens to be in the same room.

Axel Brauns, who has written several books about his own disability, describes people as "colored shadows". One of his books is entitled "Colorful shadows and bats". Colorful shadows! Very clearly formulated from the point of view of a person concerned. Another person is a faceless shadow to an autistic person. The clothes are colorful, although they are perceived, but nobody is supposed to be in them.

Eye contact

If a person is not noticed, there is also no eye contact. Slightly autistic people shy away from looking directly into the eyes of the other person and instead fixate their forehead, nose or mouth, for example. Others look sideways past the head of the other person. When there is eye contact, it is only fleeting. Some can either look at someone or speak, both of which do not work together. People who are more severely affected do not make eye contact at all. But there are also autistic people who have no problem looking at other people.

Feelings, facial expressions, facial expressions, gestures

Autistic people find it difficult to show feelings such as joy, sadness and the like. That doesn't mean they don't have feelings. You just don't look at someone's feelings because the expression on their face is meaningless. Autistic people also find it difficult to correctly classify another person's feelings. The same goes for gestures. But autistic people can learn. You need a lot more time to do this than others and you have to study a person's facial expressions. Comics are a good source of learning because they show character traits in a very exaggerated way. The drawn figures are mostly animals with human abilities, they don't move and you can look at them for a long time. And what is most important: the figures have nothing in common visually with people and therefore do not pose a threat.

Assess other people's feelings

The ability to put yourself in other people's shoes could also be described as knowledge of human nature. Autistic disabled people do not have this ability or only partially. Here is an example: A girl around the age of 10-11 saw her aunt standing by her grandfather's closed coffin. The aunt twisted her mouth into a grin and said goodbye to the deceased. The girl imitated the aunt's facial expressions and also grinned. The aunt's red-teared eyes and her sniffling should actually have shown the girl that the aunt was not grinning, but deeply sad. It was good that no one noticed the grinning girl, otherwise she would have been reprimanded, which would have led to the girl withdrawing into her own world, not understanding what she had already done wrong again.

Out of sight out of mind

There are autistic children who do not recognize their parents. It is indifferent to these children whether they are from their own mother or not

to be taken care of by a complete stranger. For example, if the caregiver has to say goodbye to the child for a longer stay in hospital, there is no recognition on return, no "stretching out hands", no joy, just absolute indifference. Such behavior is extremely difficult for parents to endure.

Other autistic children know who their parents are, but are unable to recognize them after a long separation. Still other children do not recognize yesterday's mother because the mother wears different clothes than the day before. Another group knows the man who sits at the breakfast table every morning as his father, but when he is in the living room, he is no longer recognized as a father.

An example from the adult world: a young man, let's call him Markus, works as a car mechanic. He only has a mild autistic disability and is considered eccentric and quirky among colleagues. One day, while shopping in the supermarket, Markus is called by an older man. As much as Markus tries, he cannot classify the older man. Is he a distant relative, a neighbor? Markus just doesn't want to think of it. It wasn't until the next day that Markus found out that the older man was his colleague from the car workshop. The only reason Markus did not recognize this gentleman was that he had not expected his colleague in the supermarket and that the colleague was also not wearing work clothes.

Assess the actions of other people

Just as autistic people misjudge the feelings of other people, they also sometimes interpret their actions completely differently than normal people would. In almost all cultures, shaking your head is synonymous with "no" and nodding your head means "yes". As far as we know, it is exactly the opposite in Asia. How would a European feel if an Asian answered the request for help with a smiling head shake? If we transfer such differently perceived actions to a communication between a normal person and an autistic disabled person, unimagined difficulties arise. Neither side understands the other and neither reacts the way the other side expects.

Foresee actions of others

"What happened if...?" or "What happens then?" - Let's say you insult another person. Now can you imagine this person's reactions (feelings)? Yes? Congratulation! Autistic people cannot do it, rarely or not very well. To continue telling a story that has already started proves to be difficult, if not hopeless.

Further communication difficulties

In the case of actions that require an understanding of language, texts and symbols, those affected also fail to understand them correctly. This includes, for example, idioms that are understood literally. For example, if someone claims that they will not allow themselves to be taken out of their hands, such a statement confuses an autistic person. He looks for the booklet, which of course is only to be understood as a symbol. To explain: The phrase quoted means that you do not want to be taken away from the lead (in a negotiation, a speech, etc.) or do not want to be interrupted in a conversation.

Sarcasm and irony are also incomprehensible to autistic disabled people. Here is an example: A boy is standing in line with his mother at the checkout of a supermarket and, like many other children, would like an ice cream, a toy car or something similar. Since the mother refuses the request, the boy gets louder until he finally yells. The mother looks at her son sternly and says only: "You have to shout louder so that I understand you!" Since the boy literally understands this request, he yells even louder than before. He assumes that he will then get what he wants. Instead, his mother hits him in the face and pulls him out of the supermarket. - This scene never happened, but it shows that autistic people literally understand what they are hearing. While children eventually learn to deal properly with irony and sarcasm, it will always be difficult for people with autistic disabilities to distinguish between what they hear and what these words mean.

Role play

In the game, normal children like to slip into the role of their favorite characters. They are then spacemen, princesses and the like. Here, too, a difference can be seen to children with autistic disabilities, who do not understand such games or only understand them with difficulty because they cannot transfer their own feelings, wishes and longings, etc. to the character. But there are autistic people who are capable of this.

contact

Many autistic people do not know how to address other people. They do not understand that talking about the weather is a possible form of contact. Why should you mention that it is raining? Anyone who is outside in the rain or looks out of the window can see and feel that! So why mention something that's so obvious?

Many an autistic child stands very close to another and just looks at that child. Not more! Others wave their hands in front of the other child's face or give them a nudge. Ideally, such actions only arouse amazement in the other person, but are certainly not interpreted as an invitation to play. Fixing an object, for example when visiting a supermarket, should tell the mother to take this object with her, there is no verbal prompt to do so.

Courtesies

At some point everyone learns that you have to shake hands with someone to say hello or to say goodbye, without asking why. We take on a lot because it is exemplified for us and promotes polite cooperation. At some point a child learns to say thank you for a gift that is not so nice. An autistic child wouldn't do that.

Autistic people are true justice fanatics and will tell the truth at all costs, even if it is hurtful. In a cafe there is a loud alert to the very strong lady at the next table. "Psst, you don't say that!" the mother rebukes. "But the woman is fat!" comes the boy's answer. "You don't say it because ..." the mother tries to explain. "But what if it's true?" the boy won't let up. In his eyes he has described the lady aptly. It doesn't get thinner just because you can't say it.

Body contact

Those affected often refuse to make physical contact. While some allow contact with certain parts of the body, others refuse body contact completely. One is often tempted to stroke a child's head. Such an act or even just the attempt is acknowledged, for example, with a strong kick in the front of the shin.

Aggression, aggressiveness

In our experience, biting, kicking, hitting and other forms of aggression always occur when a person is cornered. In the eyes of an autistic person, these can be impossible requirements such as asking for body contact (hugging, shaking hands, etc.), answering a question, any other verbal request, a rule violation and the like. While children at some point learn that one can also defend themselves verbally, this insight is little or no present in people with autistic disabilities. The only thing that works well is the physical action.

Rituals, rules

We meet rules everywhere: in the family, at work, in clubs, in sport and leisure. There are unwritten rules and whole sets of rules (e.g. law books). Rules are accepted and broken just as often. Autistic people do not break rules, but even demand compliance with them, also to their own disadvantage. An extremely commendable quality. But just as they demand rules, they also insist on observing sometimes nonsensical rituals.

Rituals can be as different as there are people. A girl never goes to bed without her favorite teddy, a boy always leaves the house with some toy in his pocket. Other rituals are, for example, insisting on the same place at the kitchen table or the same coffee mug that is drunk from. If the usual space in the subway is already occupied, the next subway is waited for. A housewife almost goes mad because her husband has not put the coffee cups in the right place in the cupboard, sometimes with the handle to the left, sometimes to the right.

If rituals are not observed, people roll on the ground, kick, hit or withdraw into their own world.

But rituals and rules provide security. Something new can be tried out within clearly defined limits. An autistic person is much more willing to engage in communication or new situations, especially within the limits that they have set themselves. If rituals and rules are allowed and accepted, a change in behavior can even be brought about. The rituals naturally also include habits such as always choosing the same route to the bakery, to work, to school. And woe if - for whatever reason - it has to be a different way.

Repetitions

Almost the same applies to repetitions as to rituals and rules. The constant repetition gives a person concerned security. What was correct yesterday is also correct today and will also be so tomorrow. Repetitions can be: playing the same card game over and over, washing your hands constantly (but this could also be an obligation to wash), performing arithmetic tasks several times, etc.

Motivation, own drive

"What should I do now?" a child asks its mother. "What do I have to do next?" asks an employee. It's nice when such questions are asked, it is not "normal" for autistic people. People prefer to remain inactive, although the work can definitely be seen. The necessary drive is missing. A teacher has to constantly ask the autistic handicapped school child to do the schoolwork, while in the afternoon the mother also has to constantly check whether the homework is being done.

But if you know that autistic people need rules and rituals (described above), you can use them specifically for motivation. But first of all: it is a long and rocky road, accompanied by setbacks, frustration and tears from the caregivers (mother, father) on the one hand and the person affected on the other. Nonsensical or even bizarre rituals can be replaced by other, better ones with patience and perseverance.

See unimportant things, dwell on details

If a normal person looks at a radio set, he will perceive it as a whole. Instead, an autistic person only sees the large rotary knob that he would like to try out, or the cassette compartment or perhaps just the color of the device. But he doesn't see the device as such. Autistic people have to tap into the radio in small bites. At the same time, this means that it needs more time to record optical information. Time that he does not have, especially in traffic. By the time someone concerned registers the approaching car, he has long passed the street.

Clinging to details can also happen during a conversation. Just now they were talking about the preparation of strawberry jam when one hears from the mouth of an affected child: "Dad will go swimming with me tomorrow!" Here the red color of the strawberries is the detail that the child is concerned with and no longer follows the further conversation. The child thinks about what is still red and then comes across daddy's red car. And tomorrow the child will get into this red car and drive to the swimming pool with dad.

Fear, fears

Everyone knows fears, be it of mice or spiders, be it of exams and (public) appearances. Autistic people can be afraid of everyday, harmless things such as round or square objects, a wall and similar things. You can continue to fear situations that are in no way frightening. On the other hand, some of those affected have no fear at all, especially not of real sources of danger such as a hot stove. A person affected can balance on a high wall without realizing that they can fall and seriously injure themselves in the process.

Simple sensation and perception

Some people prefer to perceive some things through touch or through taste and smell. That means: people are touched, they are smelled and - which is most incomprehensible for most people - the tongue is licked. The same applies of course to objects of all kinds. Even if we repeat ourselves, such behavior does not apply to all autistic disabled people.

Overall mechanical behavior

Have you ever noticed a robot-like gait in another person or a mechanical arm movement? - Provided that someone has other strange abnormalities, it could be autistic.