The following article was published on the saiconnections blog page. You can read the original article here.
Elon Musk shared this photo recently. Mars has blue sunsets and sunrises! How different from Earth. 20 years ago nobody would have believed the red planet has blue sunrises. The adage, ‘things are not always what they seem,’ comes to mind.
A lot has changed in the world of autism too – since the past 20 years. It’s much more prevalent and knowledge about it has increased. However, it still continues to carry social stigma.
Over the years, my perspective about autism has changed. I’d like to share my thoughts with you.
Shivansh is a 7 year old and on the autism spectrum. He learns differently. He’s hyperlexic. He could read before he could talk. He speaks, but it’s difficult for him to express his emotions. We chanced upon the fact that he could type effortlessly. When he types, he sounds out letters perfectly. It’s as if typing elicits words from him. His mother reports he learns quickly from observation. She showed him how to type upper case letters by pressing the shift key. He got it in a few minutes. Shivansh displays some odd body movements at times. But beneath that is a beautiful mind that learns differently.
If we learn to look beyond the externals, we tap into pure beauty and deep intelligence.
Mohit (my son) talks through his paintings. He created a beautiful painting last week. It had a brilliant background in mesmerizing shades of blue and green. After a couple days, he chose to complete the painting. He picked up a dark green (almost black) and squeezed it onto the brilliant blue. ‘He’s ruining the painting.’ I thought. I countered that with , ‘he’s the artist, he knows’. Just then he glanced at me. I felt naked in front of his x-ray vision.
And then he picked an awesome gold shade and created a masterpiece with bold strokes. I was blown away by the work.
This is what you see. But the painting spoke to an experience I was undergoing. Mohit’s my bestest friend. There are no secrets between us. A few days prior, I had spoken to him about how low and crappy I felt about a certain situation in my life.
His personal message to me through his painting was, ‘through this darkness will emerge brilliance.’ ‘You are being purified, you will shine like gold.’
Tears streamed down my cheeks. I could have an emotional dialogue with my son – without words. Beyond the rough exterior lies an incredibly beautiful mind.
Vishal’s a masterchef. He’s been cooking over the past few years. I have worked with him and his mother Viji for the past 10 years. Recently, he enrolled for a pilot diploma course through the Veruschka Foundation.
5 years ago, Vishal had gone through a phase of severe meltdowns that could be triggered at the drop of a hat. Once we got past that barrier – beauty in it’s truest form emerged. His love affair and giftedness with cooking became apparent.Though Vishal speaks clearly, we thought we’d enhance emotional sharing communication via typing. He was exposed to letters and numbers when he was in Kindergarten – 18 years ago. While I worked with him on the keyboard, it seemed like he remembered letters. Yet another instance of a mind that learns differently – a brilliant mind.
These autistic folks are 7, 28 and 21 years old respectively. Each of them learns in unconventional ways. And all of them are brilliant.
I know the difficulties you go through with your child. I’m not underplaying these difficulties. But I am stating unequivocally- there is much more than meets the eye.
I look at autism differently now. Are they brilliant or are they disabled? For me, they’re brilliant. We consider them disabled because we can’t see beyond ‘normal’ and ‘conventional’. We find it difficult to think out of the box. We focus so much on the ‘box’ or a ‘certain way of being’ that we look at everything else as ‘abnormal.’
It’s time to let go of preconceived notions. Let it go – so you can see a different reality. Your child’s inviting you to build a bond with him to see his true colors. Are you ready?
Mars has blue sunsets and sunrises. The color of autism is blue. Maybe Mars is sending out a message.
Kamini Lakhani is a, RDI® program consultant and the Director of SAI School (ABA Center) and SAI Connections (RDI Center). She has over 19 years of experience working with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and currently serves as the director of our RDI Professional Training Center in Mumbai. She is the Director of SAI School (ABA Center) and SAI Connections (RDI Center).