Thursday, May 28, 2009

What Do You Want to Teach?

It is the nature of autism, to experience too much and too little. My autism is example of just one genre. Ask me to describe my experience and you are asking for a very long story. Autism is not static. It changes over time. We change and grow just as a normal person does. Where I started is not where I am now. I began with nothing. I presently have my hearing, some sight, and some tactile to work with. Developing my sense of body awareness is where all my effort is currently focused.

I learn via a different process. To learn you have to experience meaningful input. To experience meaningful input you have to isolate. Putting the thing you want us to learn alone is what translates the information correctly. Known information can be used to train sensory processing. Good senses can be used to teach new information. In the end you teach us how to learn by using and expanding the systems we have.

My mom frequently talks about isolating variables. Each thing that is to be learned can be broken down into its parts, both skill and sensory. My part description would surpass the normal person. Things your body just does automatically, mine doesn't. Movement is a good example. To move you need to first reference your starting point. You need to be able to continue referencing yourself in relation to other objects throughout the movement. You need to be able to start and stop the movement. You need to be able to plan and sequence the steps in the movement. Reading this, I'm amazed I learned to move at all. I have no point of reference as a start point; my body is an extention of whatever I touch. To move becomes a complicated explanation of gauging distance and end points, how far to this or that object. Often I move by seeking to go past an object, and then reach it as a stop. When little, I couldn't stop. Once I was in motion I was gone. You had to command me to do another motor activity like "sit" or “turn around” to get me to stop. To just "stop", I couldn't do it. How many times did I count out objects past the desired number simply because I couldn't stop the motion. Sometimes it wasn't the stopping but starting that was the problem. I call it "frozen in space". To want something and not be able to move, it is a horrible thing.

My stim saved me. It kept movement manageable. It grounded me in its own way. Our stims have purpose, just not to you. You need to let us use them at least until another coping mechanism can be developed. You need to understand that I am not you. My body behaves differently. To try to second guess and judge the value of my stim adaptations is wrong. Instead you should focus on alleviating the need for them; use their presence as a measure of your success or failure. To simply demand I stop doing it whatever it is, only forces me to create a new adaptation, a new stim, to accommodate for whatever was missing in the first place.

It may even work against you relative to your goal. For example, to force me to "look" at you when looking at you makes it impossible for me to process something else impedes my learning. How many hours have been wasted on such nonsense? What does it matter if I look at you if it means I can’t understand you? "Look at me" is one of the stupidest things anyone ever tried to teach me. Relative to our systems there are multiple good reasons for not looking and more likely what you will teach us is our first lesson in deception. You need only vistit once and look up eye contact to know we are looking anywhere but your eyes. So what do you want to teach? It is your first question. It is a big question.

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