The journey began in 2001, when my son was two years old. When he digressed from a talkative and happy toddler to a reserved and virtually silent boy almost overnight I had absolutely no idea where to turn or what to expect. Over the next seven years I helped him to talk again and to write his first stories. He helped me to see what Autism really looks like. He helped me to see that autism wasn’t something to be afraid of. My 3rd book, titled The Journey Home from Autism, was released on January 1, 2010. It is available, 2 for the price of 1, here: http://AutismWithRhonda.com
Inside the front flap of this book I wrote the following descriptions. As you read them, I think that you might view Autism in a different way, too.
What Does Autism REALLY Look Like?
Honest by nature.
It’s just not logical to lie.
Memories like an elephant.
Intense focusing abilities contribute.
Accept others unconditionally.
Fashion and fame: unimpressive.
Clear understanding of ‘live for the moment.’
Gratification comes quickly.
Egos are not worn on their sleeve.
Functional and logical: the answer.
Often dedicated to unique passions.
It’s interesting to them—any more questions?
Profound visionaries—it comes naturally.
Your agenda could impede their progress.
Not afraid to play alone.
Game rules: a personal interpretation.
Acuity and keenness that very few understand.
Colors around them aren’t seen—they’re felt.
Won’t mess up your day—at least not deliberately.
Hidden agendas are a considered a waste of time.
Insightful perspective on life.
“People should be more like animals. That way, when they’re having a bad day, they could just hide behind their tails.” From Tanner, age five.
Honest by nature—people with Autism don’t typically waste their time embellishing the truth because there is no point. It isn’t logical to lie. Although they may see things differently, the picture they are describing is reality to them. When ‘outsiders’ are allowed in to their world of imagination, the experience is often a magical one.
Memories like an elephant—good or bad, their experiences are never forgotten. Sights and sounds leave a lasting impression. Lessons learned—if learned in a logical way—aren’t soon forgotten. Learning to understand the neuro-typical way of thinking is often illogical and confusing and learning strange rules can take time.
Accept others unconditionally—how it is that children with Autism are always able to see beyond cosmetic and personality challenges? They have an intrinsic ability to accept people unconditionally. Dedicated love is often clearly demonstrated by people with Autism, downs syndrome and many other diagnosed conditions.
Clear understanding of ‘live for the moment’—if you’ve ever seen a child with Autism who was just given a ticket to ride a merry-go-round or offered an ice cream cone you have surly witnessed pure, unadulterated bliss. They don’t sit around and wait for ‘just the right moment’ because they enjoy every moment as it comes along.
Egos are not worn on their sleeve—so what if they didn’t run the fastest or win a blue ribbon? They had fun and fun was the main focus. Receiving accolades for a job well done isn’t always necessary. They know they did their best and that is what counts. What other people think about them or their performance doesn’t have that much merit to them anyway.
Often dedicated to unique passions—if airplanes are their true passion you can bet that they will learn enough to give a dissertation about them. No matter what their passion is—it is very real to them and nothing can sway their minds from this dedication. The best route, in my opinion, is to help them to become an expert in their field or fields.
Profound visionaries—it comes naturally, like Albert Einstein and countless others who were able to see beyond the average person’s limited scope. Visionaries are responsible for seeing and later developing electricity, airplanes, trains, transportation and running water. Without visionaries our world would not progress to the level it has and certainly not at the pace we enjoy.
Not afraid to play alone—a child with Autism isn’t dependent on a social structure in order to enjoy playtime. A child with Autism is often perfectly happy to play completely alone—sometimes even when his or her best friend is nearby! Like-minded friends are often attracted to each other and seem to enjoy the reduced pressure to behave in an expected fashion.
Acuity and keenness that very few understand—most people have the identified set of senses: site, smell, touch, taste and hearing. I believe that people with Autism have an adding sense: the ability to ‘feel’ color. Only a person who has this ability is able to fully describe it. I completely believe this feat to be true, however and describe their keenness to the statement, “Catch the wind.” Of course, anyone knows that you can’t catch the wind; on one can even see the wind. But, like a person with Autism being able to feel colors, I can feel the strength of the wind.
Won’t mess up your day—at least not deliberately—it isn’t commonly the goal of a person with Autism to disrupt a classroom or a sermon at church. They say and do what comes to mind with very little thought or concern for others. They don’t mean to be self-centered; it’s just a part of their inherent nature.
Insightful perspective on life—When my son said, “People should be more like animals. That way, when they’re having a bad day, they could just hide behind their tails,” at five years old it was considered cute at the moment. The more that I’ve thought about it over the years, the more meaning his words of advice have taken on.
As an adult I tend to fall into the trap of feeling that everything has to run according to plan and or something catastrophic will happen . . . what that something is almost never materializes but it doesn’t stop the worry and the stress. It inhibits the ability to live for the moment and severely impedes creativity.
As the mother of a child with Autism I have been given an opportunity to feel colors, catch the wind and understand how it would be to have a tail—albeit, these possibilities are viewed through anothers eyes and only the glimpses are shared with me.
What does Autism REALLY look like? Autism REALLY looks like a lost child—somewhere in between understanding nothing yet seeing everything. Autism REALLY looks like a successful adult—understanding everything yet seeing nothing.
By learning to understand a person with Autism we learn to understand ourselves. When we learn to see colors like a person with Autism can the entire world will be a brighter place—REALLY.
Rhonda Spellman is an award winning author, professional speaker, autism advocate and coach. A published author at 17, she has since worked in many areas of the writing / publishing / media field. When a form of autism took her son’s voice in 2001 and threatened to take his ability to live a normal life, she began to search for better answers. Rhonda self-published her first children’s book – an EVVY award winner, in 2003, a short two months before her first son was diagnosed with autism. Her second book, based on small emperor penguin who gives children a message, “You don’t have to BE big to DO big things” was picked up by a major publisher in 2008. Rhonda’s third book, “The Journey Home from Autism“, is based on over 7,000 logged hours of research was released on January 1, 2010. It has won a 1st place INDIE Excellence award and an EVVY award. In January, 2013, she published her 10-year-old son’s first book, “Asperger’s Rhymes with Bass Burgers“. Her programs for children and adults, her website and her column “Beyond the Spectrum” are designed to educate and enrich life ~ in all of our many shapes, colors and forms. Her online sites include: AutismWithRhonda.com, Linkedin.com/in/RhondaSpellman, Facebook.com/RhondaSpellman, http://www.youtube.com/artospress, She can be reached at Rhonda@RhondaSpellman.com