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Down South to Dixie!

The Shape of Autism.

Many times I have been told: "Oh, you don't look like you are autistic!" or "My nephew/cousin is autistic and you're not like him/her!".


These are two phrases that really annoy me. Often I have wanted to ask people what they think autism actually "looks" like, short of giving them a pen and paper and asking them to draw it!


To give people something to picture in their mind, I use this analogy to explain...

The picture above shows a lump of clay. Material-wise it is just that - a lump of clay - cold, damp, a dull brown-grey in colour and anything but pretty! At first glance it may seem impossible to do anything with...


But if you open your mind at this point and allow yourself to think of what that "lump" could become - it has the potential to become something beautiful, be it a simple pot, a vase, or a magnificent work of art.


Of course it is not easy to make it into something beautiful. It takes a lot of patience and dedication. There will be failures. There will be times when you feel like you just can't do it. But if you stick with it you will be rewarded.


A skilled potter can turn that "lump" into anything he or she wants it to be.


Remember that once you have made your "lump of clay" into something beautiful it is still very fragile and easily damaged. Weeks or months of hard work can be destroyed in a split second! You will need to look after it. You will also need to protect it from damage from others.

Autism can seem very much like that lump of clay - rigid, challenging, unloving, cold, difficult to do anything with...


But, if you have the right attitude and belief that it CAN be turned into something beautiful, you have taken your first step.


Remember that autism is a lifelong disability, not something that is anybody's fault or choice. Nor is the person behaving in that way to deliberately get at you! Also, being in denial and trying to hide from the diagnosis does not help.


Just like learning to be a skilled potter though, it is not going to be particularly easy.

It is going to take a LOT of PRACTICE, HARD WORK and DEVOTION. There will be many failures along the way, but do not give up. If something does not work one way, try something different.


You will also have to come out of your own comfort-zone and take a few steps into the world of Autism. It will feel very strange and uncomfortable but use this to compare how strange and uncomfortable your world is to someone with autism! With practice, you will become used to it and you are likely to be rewarded for it.


For example, if your child or client has a special interest or object USE IT to connect with them.


Remember that this may be your ONLY KEY to their world and may unlock the ONLY bridge between you and them.


And remember too that, like a vase or bowl, we are very fragile and can break very easily. If you have built up trust with your child/client, this can be destroyed in an instant with often disastrous results.

Personal Experience Tip


NEVER take away or refuse someone

their special object just to discipline them.


Although this might seem like the right thing to do in the first instance, it may be doing damage to the person that you cannot see.


Someone with autism may confide in that object or communicate with it in a way that they can't with you. So you are not just depriving them of the object itself, but also of their opportunity to offload their distress and to talk about their problems.


This is something that I wish I could have gotten through to my own family! The damage caused by taking that comfort away from me when I needed it most has left me with nothing but hatred and mistrust for those concerned.