April is Autism Awareness Month, and as a parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I am compelled to do what I can to share what I have learned and to help spread awareness.
You’re driving at night, it’s dark out, you’re on a road with no streetlights. Suddenly, a beam of light emerges from the horizon and it’s bright and it begins burrowing a hole into your retinas. It’s as if the light wants to make a home inside your brain and it wants to be the only thing you ever pay attention to. Maybe the oncoming car is using some sort of newly discovered technology that obliterates all things in its path by emitting light that is ten times the brightness of the sun, thus ensuring THAT drivers safety. Just as you think you’re about to ascend, the car passes. As the shooting pain in your eye starts to subside, you begin to remember who you are again and start to wonder how long that blotch in your vision will stick around for. I’m sure I am not the only one who has ever found themselves in this situation.
The point I’m getting to isn’t about the annoying driver or way-too-bright-light technology, but about just how distracting that kind of thing can be to your senses and awareness. It can become extremely hard to concentrate in those situations.
The scenario that I just described can be likened to the experience that thousands of men, women and children experience every day.
For those with ASD sensory input can be unpredictable and suddenly very overwhelming not just visually, but in other aspects as well. Auditory, visual and sensory input can sometimes get suddenly heightened or lowered making seemingly simple tasks challenging.
Since last year there has been some encouraging strides forward in autism awareness.
Toy’s r Us, Target and Chuck-e-Cheese have started offering sensory friendly hours, where lights are dimmed, music is silenced and the environment is effectively less stimulating. Sesame street has recently introduced Julia, the first ever Muppet with autism and Netflix has produced the first original series starring a character with ASD.
On April 2nd monuments all over the world will light up in blue for World Autism Awareness Day. Becoming more aware of any person’s sensitivity would be of benefit to us all, not just those with ASD.
Maybe we could even get that driver to turn down their high beams.
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