Imagine your being in a football match and not understanding the rules! You want to be part of what is going on because you are a human being and that is native to you as a human being but you have no idea what people are trying to do and what the arbitrary rules are (dont pick up the ball unless you are the goalie). That is how people with autism must feel. We must put out our hand to them and say, ‘Alex! It’s OK!’
I think the main thing which characterises everybody with autism is having the social awareness brain reduced to one lane traffic instead of four lane. It is not surprising when you think about it because we have SO many customs based on such convoluted thinking. For example, on the beach we expect to see most people almost completely naked but the same people would be horrified to be seen half naked on a bus or in the office at work. Alex simply doesn’t understand that, at all. Now apply that to all our other perceptions about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate behaviour.
OK that is extreme but we all know how subtle greetings are. Get greetings just slightly wrong and the other person can be deeply offended. As tribal animals we have specially large brains to deal with these social relationships…but it is this part of the brain which seems to be so weakened in people with autism.
I think that IS a characteristic in common but after that we should really stress that it is a spectrum and there are as many ways of having autism as not having it.
The film, ‘Rainman’, drew attention to autism which is good. The bad thing is that it introduced the idea that people with autism are freaks. A few people with autism have an extraordinary ability to use their brain, usually in a very specific way. Alex can give you the day for any date you give here in a 600 year period. We havent gone beyond that because the site I used only went from 1800 to 2400. This is truly remarkable. On the other hand most people with autism do not have an extraordinary ability like this and they are just as delightful and lovable and deserving of our care and support.
I will find some sites for you to check out more information on autism.