Autistics have sensory processing difficulties, and this means that a seemingly everyday task such as getting dressed, can become a challenge. Materials that feels soft to some, can be interpreted by the autistic brain as rough. And the intensity of these sensations can change without warning, improve over time or even worsen.
Until my mid twenties I couldn’t shake hands with people, no matter how gently my hand was held I experienced pain akin to sharp tingles, like ‘pins and needles’, and other times it felt hot as though I had been burned. I would recoil in pain.
Sound is another sense that I process differently. For certain sounds my hearing is so acute that it hurts. I can hear the buzz of electricity in a plug; the spark of a charge as a light turns on and yet I can miss an entire conversation happening right beside me.
However, there is a flip side of being negatively overwhelmed by these heightened, sometimes ‘wonky’ senses and that is something I am learning to embrace and enjoy.
I can see minute detail, the capillary on a leaf, and individual segments of seemingly smooth skin.
I can see every whorl of my finger prints, each twitch of my cats whiskers.
I enjoy a deeper level of taste which brings flavour to even the blandest of foods.
The experiences of brushing my hand across the back of my cat, of running my fingers over the textured pattern of the screen of our ancient LED television, or the bumps and grooves of my tangle stim-toy is amazing.
I am bathed in a wash of sensation and before it becomes too much – and it always becomes too much – I stand in the precipice, a step beyond the limit of ordinary, and it is wonderful.
And it is here that I find my deepest faith.
When you are in touch with the world in a way that few can even understand, your interpretations and experiences of a place are enhanced, and it is in those experiences that I see the majesty of the world. It is there that I find gratitude and peace. It is there that I do not feel disabled, I do not feel broken or wrong. I feel blessed.
Imagine, if you will, that moment in the ‘Wizard of Oz’ when Dorothy’s world turns from greyscale into full Technicolor and you have barely brushed the surface.
A very good friend described it like this:
I think it was more of a perspective thing for me (…) [I] Admire more of the small stuff around me.
They have always been there. I have just been too scared, to actually enjoy the things around me.
It is this duality to these unusual, and intense, sensory experiences that allows me to say that I am grateful to be Autistic.
Yes, there are times when I am so overwhelmed it is hard to function but on the other side of that is a glorious rainbow of experience that a neurotypical brain would never be able to connect with.
From this day forward, I want to use that connection as my drive and my passion; I want to create and share those experiences in my own limited way.
I want to glorify the gifts that they afford me.
I am autistic, God made me that way. And it is wonderful!