AUTISM: more than behaviour

For those living or working with autistic people, autistic behaviour can be quite puzzling and baffling. People with autism can do or say things that are out of the box of the common interpretations of human behaviour. Or their behaviour can be quite challenging for the people around them. Care takers, teachers, parents, therapists can scratch their head when confronted with situations where people with autism refuse to do things that are within their abilities, show a lack of cooperation, behave in socially or otherwise inappropriate ways, say things that don’t seem to make sense, adhere to certain routines, objects or details that are seen as less relevant… The only way to escape the perplexity caused by autism is to try to understand where the typical and sometimes challenging behaviours of people with autism come from. And, as for any other human being, the answer lies in the way a person with autism experiences the world. Being empathetic towards people with autism means nothing more or less than trying to see the world through their eyes, listening with their ears, feeling with their heart… Because that’s where autism’s core is: the different way of seeing, experiencing, understanding, in short: processing information. Autism is all about brains processing information in a different way, and these differences are invisible. What we see, the behaviour of people with autism, is not autism, but the consequence of autism. Or, using a metaphor that was introduced by the people from TEACCH (North Carolina) long time ago: we only see the tip of the iceberg. Anyone wanting to be autism friendly needs to dive into the autistic cognition and try to see what’s underwater.