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  • Writer's pictureHannah's Hope

"The Myth of Self Absorption"

One of the many myths about people with autism is that they prefer to be alone. However, that is not necessarily true. While the word autism is derived from the root "auto" which means alone, there are other factors about a person with autism that are indicative of more than just being in their own world. Take into account their lack of expressive communication, body movement regulation, and sensory coping mechanisms. Amy Groshell dove into this topic for the Piece of Heart Community website in her article "Autism and the Myth of Self Absorption" to highlight the ways in which researchers and professionals have proved that this belief of autistic people is not accurate. The first thing Groshell focuses on is language as a precursor to social interaction. Even more so, reciprocal interaction is the key factor in expressive language, especially when in a crowd or group. Without that, it would be like being in a crowded room without being able to speak to anyone, what kind of meaningful interactions could a person have then? While receptive language is intact, without reciprocation, there is no connection between people. The next thing to look at is body movement regulation. This can be observed in the differences in a child's gross motor movements, fine motor skills, control and impulsivity. A child with autism who is able to run and jump and flip around is amazing, yes, but can they do anything slow and controlled...probably not. Groshell explains that her daughter was this exact way; everything she did was propelled by unreasonable energy. There are also forces that drove her to impulsivity, like having to go to the bathroom when spotting one close by. These "regulation gaps" are what can be most confusing to anyone observing the child. But, that is why understanding their differences is crucial to accepting and understanding the child themself. The third factor to note is sensory coping mechanisms. Most individuals with autism have what is known as "sensory integration dysfunction" which plainly means the inability to filter large amounts of incoming sensory inputs. Activities like flapping their hands, spinning, rocking, or walking on their toes help to block out the excess; like blinders to narrow focus. This is a coping strategy that if it is not harmful to themself or anyone else, should be accepted for its value rather than viewed as weird or strange. All of this is to say that if a person with autism appears as if they wish to be alone, that may not be the case. Take into account all of the things that make them unique and evaluate if they need someone to recognize them and be inclusive or if they are happy just dancing to their own song.

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