I have found a few sources that discuss how the sensory disorders that are so often associated with autism are inseparable from the biology in the brain and the diversity of autistics. Then I found this website and it describes a theory of autism that explains both the sensory disorders, and the diversity, so nicely. It makes total sense to me, and I find it remarkable.
The Intense World Theory states that autism is the consequence of a supercharged brain that makes the world painfully intense and that the symptoms are largely because autistics are forced to develop strategies to actively avoid the intensity and pain. Autistics see, hear, feel, think, and remember too much, too deep, and process information too completely. The theory predicts that the autistic child is retreating into a controllable and predictable bubble to protect themselves from the intensity and pain.… It is a unifying theory because it takes into account and explains the many different results and interpretations from a spectrum of studies on autism.
What this quotation describes is exactly what I have noticed in Jake. He reacts when he is overstimulated. I can see how different people would find different ways to cope, and this would account for all of the different kinds of autism we see.
I read about how many autistic people can’t see the forest for the trees. They are often so focused on details that they can’t see the big picture. Often this can be quite literal, as in not being able to cope in a group of people because they are processing each individual person and thing in the room so completely.
Today, Jake couldn’t go to school. He was just an emotional, overloaded, sobbing mess. I have no idea what was wrong. There was no fever, no runny nose, nothing obvious. I eventually gave him some ibuprofen hoping that if something was hurting him, it would ease. And ease it did. The change was dramatic.
One minute he was gripping me and screaming that he wanted to go to the library RIGHT NOW to get a Lego Star Wars book, and the next he was calmly showing Penny his collection of cars. It was about 20 minutes after the medicine was given. Something was really bothering him. I may never know what. I hope that as he gets older he will be able to tell me so I can help him. It could be anything-a smell, lights, sounds, a headache? I can only speculate. Kids with autism often find the smell of cleaning solutions to be too much to handle. I have noticed that Jake has torn off his socks his whole life. I think that the elastic tightness on his feet bothers him. I ran through what he ate the night before, wondering if there was something different or particularly agitating. I came up with nothing.
He was reacting to a pain, though, and it was coming out in tears, punches, pinches, and yelling, this morning. I guess I am becoming more understanding.
I did have to leave the room once, to calm myself and remind myself that this is what was going on. It isn’t easy to stay in the moment and keep my knowledge in front of my emotions. I sure wanted to yell at him, give him a time-out, and send his weeping butt to school so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. I’m glad I didn’t though.
We ended up having a great day. He stayed home all day. We played Lego. We watched TV, we played on the iPod. I made a lunch I knew he’d like, and sure enough he ate joyfully. By the time my husband came home from work the house was calm and happy, and I actually went out for coffee with a friend. I came home to find the three kids all playing peacefully and dinner was started. I may never know what it was this morning.
Overall, knowing that the world is sometimes just too much to bear is very helpful for me. It gives perspective and understanding. From there I can try to find appropriate consequences for the violence and work on being patient with the tears.