A special, free concert for families with children and young adults on the autism spectrum struck me as a generous gesture when I heard a CBC report about it. The conductor being interviewed said one of the things that would be different was that he would not talk so much before and between pieces.
That is when I was reminded once again of what limited understanding I still have of the realities of social interactions for those who live with autism. So I went online and searched for the Canucks Autism Network. They were sponsoring the concert, but they are also doing a lot more with their sports, recreational, arts and social programs for individuals and families across British Columbia.
A bit more sleuthing led me to Cineplex. The Canadian movie theatre company decided to make things easier for people with autism spectrum disorder by launching Sensory Friendly Screenings. They have been offered by AMC Theatres in the U.S. since 2007, but Cineplex’s move is a first for Canada. The showings will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturdays in theatres that will turn the lights up and the sound down and will limit previews and ads. Families can attend for the price of child tickets, and no one will complain of behaviors comforting to attendees.
Those are just two examples of increasing awareness and acceptance of the different needs of people with autism. I had barely heard of autism spectrum disorder when I first learned of the work of Temple Grandin. I was farming at the time and interested in her work on the more humane handling of livestock. Year later, I heard her speak in Berkeley about living with autism in an over-stimulating world.
For too long, people with autism and a whole lot of other variations on what we think of as “normal” have been misunderstood and frequently marginalized. We are gradually realizing how limited our experience of the world is when we shuffle those with different abilities off to the sidelines.
We are all like pieces of an infinite puzzle. The more we understand of the amazing variety of human experience, the more intricate and beautiful that puzzle becomes.