For those of us who are neurotypical, how can we understand what people who have autism experience on a daily basis?
Are there things that irritate you? Does the smell of coffee in the morning make you nauseous? Imagine if it were 10 times worse. When you are trying to watch the news, does it irritate you when the neighbor’s dog is barking and you cannot hear the TV easily?
It might be 10 times more distracting if you are on the spectrum. Does it upset you when there is lots of commotion around you and you are trying to concentrate? Now imagine these circumstances 10 times worse.
People with a social disability deserve a deep respect and compassion because living in their world requires a great deal of effort—constant and concerted effort. On a regular basis, they must force themselves to participate in painful social contact to survive in our culture. That is like the rest of us asking ourselves to willingly work in an office where the fire alarm sounds every day, all day long. (Click here to read more about The Steel Trap Syndrome.)
A Factor Of 10
If our world is not easy, their world is not easy by a factor of 10. The times 10 factor is a great rule of thumb, a quick trick, if you will, to put yourself in the shoes of someone with ASD and get a sense of their experience. Anything that is hard for you is 10 times harder for someone on the spectrum. If it is hard for you to approach someone in a social situation, it is 10 times harder for someone on the spectrum to do it. If you get agitated driving in traffic, someone on the spectrum will be 10 times more agitated. If a situation is confusing to you and you feel awkward and uncomfortable about it, it is going to be 10 times more confusing, more awkward and more uncomfortable for someone on the autism spectrum. (Click here to read more about how to understand Autism As A Social Disability.)
It’s About Perspective
Plus, they never let up! There is no respite—ever. That is life on the autism spectrum, and getting our head totally wrapped around that concept changes the way we feel about the behavior we don’t like. Think back and remember how you acted the last time you had a really, really bad day. Did you snap at someone, swear, or perhaps even throw something? Imagine how hard life would be if every day were like that day and your anger, frustration, anxiety, and fear compounded daily. That viewpoint puts their behavior in perspective, doesn’t it? Is it any wonder why they might want to be left alone? Why they might want to be alone in their room where it is dark and quiet and where they can control the environment and avoid social contact? Any wonder why autism is considered a social disability? Any wonder why new situations, circumstances and interactions are daunting to face? (Click here to read more about The Time for Autism Awareness is Past; The Time for Autism Appreciation is Now!)