It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that my synesthesia was unusual.
I enjoyed the rare opportunities to meet other synesthetes, marveling at how our synesthesia manifested differently in each one of us.
One day I mentioned at a meeting that I could remember dates because of their colors, and a colleague at the table admitted he had synesthesia, too.
We compared notes after the meeting, and he confessed that he had never disclosed his synesthesia before because he found the definition for it in an “abnormal psychology” book and did not want others to think he was weird.
It made me sad that he considered this unique and amazing part of himself as something embarrassing.
At the time, I suggested that since what we were experiencing was essentially crossed sensory wires in the brain, instead of being “abnormal,” it was an evolution.
“After all,” I laughed. “Isn’t more efficient to gather data and analyze it through multiple sensory inputs at the same time?”
Of course, my layperson theory might have been ridiculous, but it planted the seed of the idea of seeing a neurological difference as a positive, rather than a negative.
Which brings us to this infographic
Offered by the Ed Wiley Autism Acceptance Lending Library, the infographic takes behaviors identified as signs of autism, traditionally listed as deficits, and presents them as positives.
Instead of highlighting autistic playing with toys as unusual or doing strange things with them, the infographic changes the narrative to “plays with toys in ingenious & creative ways.”
It presents the comfort of routine as a way of thriving, rather than categorizing resistance to change in routine as a negative.
The infographic made me take the idea I jokingly offered my colleague, and turn it into a serious examination of how we think about and describe autism.
I started thinking of how I might redefine my son’s autistic characteristics as positives instead of negatives.
What if, for example, my son’s “sensory sensitivity” was reframed as superior senses of touch and hearing? Yes, he would still need accommodations for his superior senses, but those accommodations would no longer be for a perceived deficit.
Or what if his finite number of spoons was actually considered to be evidence of heightened processing of information, and his required downtime treated as a normal result?
How much embarrassment and feeling “different” could be eliminated if autism was defined in positive terms? When differences are defined through a positive instead of negative lens, there would be no need hide or be embarassed by them, like my colleague with synesthesia.
Autism, simply defined, is behavior different from the “norm,” and that basis of diagnosis would not change.
But what a powerful revolution it would be if professionals framed those behavioral differences as positives rather than negatives.
Imagine what it would feel like if therapists, teachers, and others talked about autistic characteristics in positive terms.
Parents would begin to talk about autism in the same way, along with their families and friends. Autism characteristics defined positively would influence social media, and then enter the mainstream media autism lexicon.
Incredibly important and valuable culture change would happen, and our entire human community would benefit.
Ready? Begin …
For more infographics like this visit:
The downloads are available for free and the library is happy to accept donations to continue its work.
Published with review and approval from the Navigator
Also published on Medium.