I have now read the autobiographies of three people with autism/Asperger Syndrome: Luke Jackson, Jeanette Purkis, and Donna Williams. I devoured all books but perhaps the last author most touched and fascinated me.
Tomorrow I'm taking my "key client", with Down's Syndrome, to the Buddhist centre. He is interested in taking a meditation class to help him with his anxiety and sleep, and a meditation teacher from the centre is willing to give classes just for him. We shall see how it goes. Focusing on one's breath is very simple and doesn't require any intellectual capacity, yet, the teacher will have to see how to pierce his "deficient" mind, to get through to his heart. She'll have to see how to best explain the practice so that it gets to him, somehow. I am very excited about this.
People with learning difficulties are amazing. Their mind within may be deficient, but the mind/heart structure, without, is the same as everybody else's. The structure mind/heart is universal, I believe. Hence, I believe, they can meditate. Everyone can meditate. They need not understand the content of their minds and their thoughts and their suffering if they can let it go, by transcending that mind/heart structure.
It's the same with autistic people. They may have incredibly painful emotions they cannot deal with. Physical contact may be horrendously painful to them. Their senses may be hyper sensitive so that environmental stimuli are painful/near to impossible to them to deal with. But all three autistic people I've read have mentioned meditation and/or eastern disciplines having helped them. I am convinced of the benefits of meditation for any autistic person. Their behaviours may appear ever so bizarre to us, by accepting that they are, that their hand flapping or rocking or any "strange" behaviour are sensical to them, by paying attention and with patience, I am convinced that it is, even if it might take years and years, possible to get through to their world.
At the end of the day, it seems to me that autistic people are like everyone of us: they want to be happy and loved. They may appear "opaque" because we don't have the sensitivity, at first, to understand. If we look at them with our own eyes, of course they are bizarre and nonsensical. But if we realise that in their own world they make sense, if we stop judging and start learning, they start making sense. But then, it's the same with anybody. It's just that most "anybodies" are closer to us on the "normality" continuum. But again, the form may be different, the structure is the same for anybody. The "form" of autistic people are just extremely different to ours, so they take more time, challenge, learning, adaptation for us to get to. But it's the same mechanism that we need using as with anybody: it just takes more time, we have to keep at it.
I feel meditation helps me understand autistic people, because I am sometimes so engrossed into my activity in the present moment that i can forget everything and everyone around me.
I feel meditation and yoga help me understand autistic people, because their repetitive humming or singing or sound-making reminds me of the repetition of mantras; how it may soothe them and help them calm down the same way.
I feel meditation and yoga help me understand autistic people, just how autism has so much to do with their senses, and in yoga - and ayurveda - so much is said on the senses and the appropriate use of the senses, too.
I feel meditation helps me understand autistic people, because it has made me a very detached person, and so I may appear that I don't care about people when I actually love them unconditionally.
I feel meditation helps me understand autistic people, because the more I grow, the slower my life becomes and the more sensitive my senses become. The outside, materialistic world is more and more difficult for me to make sense of and find interest into - noise, violence, aggressive messages and stimili everywhere - so that I have to withdraw from my senses, look through things and not at things, to deal with it. Thus I can understand autistic people for having such difficulty dealing with the outside world.
I feel meditation helps me understand autistic people, because the more I grow, the more I become atuned to my inner self, the louder my inner world becomes compared to the outer world.
I have always looked at individuality more than normality. I think "normal" people have the capacity to adapt to society so that they can easily become alienated, conditioned by it, to cope. They are lucky in a way, but tragically so in another. As I see it, I believe autistic people's inner self is so acute, or perhaps their "self awareness" is so acute or strong - even though they can't understand or express it in intellectual terms, that they would not survive by conditioning themselves to society's norm. It's more or less the same for any people with learning difficulties, and old people with dementia. and I think I feel the same in some ways, because I have always priviledged my own senses or intuition to society's norms and judgement. I have never wanted to conform because my heart is so loud and clear to me. I always look at things for myself before adopting "what society would accept or do".
People with autism fascinate me. When I read their stories, they almost make more sense than "normal" people to me. After all, it so seems to me that people with autism, and any learning difficulties, they may not realise it intellectually, but they just, with honesty, live a lot more in the here and now. And this makes them very real...
A note on my three blogs
A note on my blogs
(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...
(2) vio; sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!
(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.