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When I Tried to Experience the World Through the Eyes of My Daughter on the Autism Spectrum

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Like many kids with autism, my little girl stims. Hers are usually movement stims. She loves to jump, spin, and occasionally flaps or even dances — she whirls and bounces like a small tornado. She also chews at times and likes to repeat snatches of songs over and over. For a very long time, I was unaware this was a form of echolalia and it irritated me. Now it’s still irritating sometimes, but I do at least understand it.

I’ve began to pay a lot more attention to her stims in the last couple of years, not knowing what she was doing previously. She was diagnosed two and a half years ago and I really began to educate myself then, but I will admit it as mostly through reading. Once I learned what stimming was it intrigued me deeply as I noticed many of my own stims, such as drawing squares on my thumb knuckles with my index fingers almost constantly.

But recently I saw a video suggesting you try and “see” what a person with autism sees when they are stimming and the idea fascinated me, so I began to replicate some of her stims. Not the jumping because… knees! But I tried flapping my hands and found the sensation not pleasant exactly, but strangely soothing. I’ve also discovered chewing helps my own social anxiety and ability to concentrate and have invested in a chewable necklace.

At the cinema last week she had been given a straw for her drink which was still plastic and had a really long bendy section. Towards the end of the film, amidst all the hustle and bustle of people leaving, I noticed her holding the straw in front of her face and whipping it from side to side. When we got out and headed for the toilet she handed me her straw while I waited and I began to wonder what she saw, so I held the straw up to my face and did the same thing. It was amazing. The straw was shiny, black plastic and as it caught the light it created a pattern in the air as it moved. I was quite mesmerised for a few seconds. When she came back I made sure to give her the straw back and told her I had seen the light it made in the air. She just smiled and said, “It calms me down Mama.”

Our day continued but that stuck with me; seeing for just a few moments the world from her perspective was a huge privilege. I had a small insight inside her mind — and it’s beautiful.

Getty image by Punnarong

Originally published: April 3, 2023
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