What is Autism?
According to the National Library of Medicine, autism is defined as a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.
Sometimes these definitions really suck the life out what they represent. Sterilized beyond the point of recognition because somehow it seems to lessen the blow for some fucking marketing representative to sell drugs. Like when veterans come home from war and have PTSD. It’s so much easier to just say PTSD, instead of shell-shock or battle fatigue.
I first learned about autism in 2000 sitting my friends New York City apartment. We were talking about books we both “needed” to read because they were so fabulous. She mentioned THINKING IN PICTURES, which is an autobiographic book by Temple Grandin. My friend described all the nuances of how Temple could rewind, play back and control her mental vision, like a VCR. I actually thought it sounded like a super power straight out the comic books. It seemed so untouchable by my brain to even have the remotest capacity to see life as pictures, diagrams, or even like the movies with multiple camera angles.
My relationship with autism grew slowly, with reading materials and meeting children with special needs through work. Now my interaction is pretty much daily. My next door neighbor’s daughter has autism. As a sprouting five year old, she communicates mostly through hand signals and repeated sounds. I brought my little puppy outside to show her and she was so excited by the dog, she yelled “DOG!” and pointed. Her grandmother was thrilled by her communication and praised her immediately.
As neighbors, we maintain vigilance over the little girl. My brother and I removed every stump in our back yard for fear of her tripping over them. I’ve tried to kill (repeatedly) thorny bushes that were planted years before I had even moved back to Massachusetts. I imagine there is nothing easy about keeping her safe and yet her eyes seem care free.
This is my definition of Autism. Our small communities five year old little girl, with her big glassy brown eyes running around our conjoined yards sing-songing syllables for all to hear.
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