From: Dr. Chun Wong
Every time I watch the scene from Rain Man when Dustin Hoffmann’s Autistic character, Raymond has a meltdown, I cannot help but to feel sorry for his new-found brother and caretaker, Charlie (played by Tom Cruise). As Charlie stands by and watches his brother have a meltdown in a crowded airport, he looks helpless, confused and scared.
We often sympathize with the parents and guardians of autistic children and people because its difficult to imagine being in the overwhelming position of caretaker. We put focus on advocates of Autism, giving them thanks for raising awareness and funding for the cause. We praise the doctors and researchers who are studying this neurological disorder in hopes to find new causes, links and treatments that can help us to better understand Autism. We often wonder how all of these life-changing individuals get through each and every stressful day.
Parents. Caregivers. Advocates. Doctors. Researchers.
We’re forgetting someone. Actually, we’re forgetting thousands of people; those who are living with Autism. Of course, I say this more figuratively than literally as we all know that the people who are suffering from this disorder are never forgotten. However, they are often overlooked on the list of people who we wonder “how they have the strength to do it.”
In the years that Autism has been under the microscope, we’ve discovered how it affects the brain, what types of medications help to treat it, what types of things are linked to it, etc. It’s generally known what the symptoms are and what they look like as these are things that can be researched and proven. There are some things that you unfortunately cannot put under a microscope, particularly emotions and feelings. So, we’re left with the often unanswered question: What does it feel like to be autistic?
14 year old Carly Fleischmann was once assumed to be mentally retarded because she was unable to speak. She was diagnosed with Autism and 2 years ago began interacting with people via keyboard. The words that had been caught inside her for years were starting to come out and now she communicates very well using moderm technology.
Carly describes in detail how she feels both physically and emotionally, like no one else other than she would be able to do:
“It is hard to be autistic because no one understands me. People look at me and assume I am dumb because I can’t speak…It feels like my legs are on first and a million ants are crawling up my arms……Our brains are wired differently. We take in many sounds and conversations at once. I take over a thousand pictures of a person’s face when I look at them. That’s why we have a hard time looking at people. I have learnt how to filter through some of the mess.”
Carly also “speaks” about the things that any 14 year old girl does, like her fustrations with her siblings and her interest in the opposite sex. She has already inquired about when she will be allowed to go out on a date.
Carly has a website, Carly’s Voice, in which she shares more of her feelings and experiences, and also reaches out to other people living with Autism. She uses her website, Twitter and Facebook to answer readers’ questions and to provice a first hand account of what it’s like living with Autism.
“I am autistic but that is not who I am. Take time to know me, before you judge me. I am cute, funny and like to have fun….I think the only thing I can say is don’t give up. Your inner voice will find its way out. Mine did.”