We assume that we all know. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. This is a condition and there’s not cure for a condition. Most of the education guidelines are designed by Neurotypical people to make the effort to include ASD in society and live on the same standard. However, that is an impossible target to accomplish if we are talking about two different worlds.
In an ASD person, the "wiring" of the brain works differently to a Neurotypical one. It’s almost the same but doesn't react as we think it should do.
The high sensitivity means that a lot of input at the same time results in overload. When the brain is overloaded, in most cases trigger a meltdown.
This could be by sensitivity to light, noise, smell, the arrangement of a room and many other thing really - difficult to count or tell.
This hyper-sensitivity when triggered in a negative way becomes the priority to be sorted out in an ASD person's brain. When the solution doesn't come right away the brain starts to be overloaded desperately trying to fix the problem. Because the solution is not reachable, the meltdown is triggered and as result could be self-harming, make loud noises, cry, rocking movement, fainting and more reactions difficult to tell or count.
All these patterns are very visible in some ASD person but difficult in others.
As an example, a neurotypical person displaying these behaviours could be considered arrogant, selfish, impolite, rude, senseless, etc. When these behaviours are shown in small degree by a person with Asperger or ASD.
Let me attempt to explain really vaguely what is inside of ASD person brain. This is purely my words and ideas as 52 year-old ASD person.
Understand the bond
Every ASD person has an interpreter and this interpreter must be chosen by the autistic person only, it can't be imposed or forced. You will start to notice who the person is by the degree of close up of the autistic with her or him: the tone of noises, the grab to be close, the positive excitement and other probes of acceptance less extreme. Be aware of this because is really important. It could be a member of the family, it could be a carer, a neighbour, it could be the most unexpected person you imagine. It is what it is and in some degree it is like love.
This person is of incalculable value and help to the autistic and neurotypicals because is going to be the vehicle to communicate with the rest of the world.
The rest, family, friends, please, do not be offended: it is how the thing works in our brain. We don't care about contact with the rest of the word: we are " practical people" and we sadly we don't have spare emotion to care with the rest.
Once you have identified this interpreter, the level of progress in education and quality of life will speed up considerably. This person will need to collect information and develop as much of a bond as possible, reading the signs of the autistic and translating to the rest of the world as any other interpreter do when they work for a neurotypical client. They not only translate words, but must also consider, customs, situation, tone of voice and other aspects to fully do their job. The interpreter will be the connection and the trust of the autistic we other people. They will explain what the autistic feels and try in some cases to communicate. They are bridge needed to leave isolation. Or at least what everybody else calls isolation… because we autistic don't feel like that.
This slow but gratifying process supplies a strong base to work in the education and enrichment of future knowledge for an autistic to get to a level of independence. To reach the interpreter for specific cases is the ultimate goal.
Let’s begin with education
People with ASD require a tailor-made approach to education. The individual should mark the speed of "progress" and priorities. Sometimes the educator may get confused about what the learner with ASD should learn; and they miss what they really need to learn because education sometimes starts with the wrong assumption.
Are we really assessing needs or filling a curriculum? How and who assesses these needs? What kind of scales are chosen? Have the ASD people had the opportunity to give some pointers?
At the same time, how often is education willing to modify its guidelines because advances in communication and new strategies come out?
What I see is a highly motivated professional eager to learn in conjunction with their students. What I would like to see is more ASD involve in education and research, more of teaching about ASD in "normal” Schools and “centres of education" and less people uncomfortable because they are close to a ASD person by their lack of knowledge.
About the author
Jesus Lopez Rodriguez was born in Granada, Spain and moved to England in 2003 with his wife and son. When Jesus was born, autism spectrum disorder had little research and was typically handled as a challenge for the family. After a life of struggle in school, society and in life with unanswered questions, he was diagnosed Asperger as adult. Since then, Jesus had worked since is to find new ways to improve the quality of life of the ASD people and all around them.