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Seeing the World from an Autistic Child's Point of View

November 22, 2022

By ABA Psychological Services

Recognizing how the autistic child sees the world around them is vital for parents, caregivers, and the community at large. It helps to understand how the autistic brain operates and builds recognition, empathy, and patience for those in teaching, caregiving and parenting positions.

We’ll look at how children on the autistim spectrum see the world around them, and how parents and caregivers can support them.

Autism: Seeing the World Differently
Since autism is a spectrum disorder, each autistic person will see and respond to the world differently, yet there are general ways in which they focus on certain things and not others. Research using heat maps and eye-tracking technology can show how those with autism overwhelmingly avoid looking at faces or are biased toward inanimate objects and other visual preferences. Since autism looks different for each individual, it will take more research to determine if all people with ASD show the same patterns.

In addition to lack of eye contact there are other behaviors that many people with ASD exhibit in different degrees. Some find social situations difficult or learning how to interact with peers or joining social groups. Some may make inappropriate comments based on the situation. Or simply have little interest interacting with other people. Some children and adults with autism have trouble with certain situations that a neurotypical brain has no or little trouble adjusting too. Being in a crowded shopping mall may be a mild annoyance but to those on the autism spectrum it can be downright terrifying. Next, we’ll look at overstimulation and how people on the spectrum view the world around them.

Stimulation and Overstimulation
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that the human brain can process an entire image that the eye views for less than 13 milliseconds. The brain, if compared to a computer, would process information at around 60 bits per second. That’s about ten million bits of information every second. Ten million pieces of information every second. It’s so astonishing it bears repeating!

Children and adults with ASD process visual information differently. The autistic brain may process information at the same rate, slower or faster than a neurotypical brain. A common refrain from autistic kids is that they tend to experience everything all at once. Without a way to process or dilute these visions, sounds, and experiences; it’s easy to understand how those on the autistic spectrum can get overwhelmed and overstimulated.

Noise and Lights
Children with autism can be hypersensitive to light and sound, and a cluttered or crowded room can be overpowering. Even certain textures and smells can be overstimulating. A neurotypical brain in many cases, can tune out sounds and other stimuli. For those with autism, it can be extremely difficult to do so. When overstimulation happens, meltdowns can occur or a powerful urge to leave or escape the stimulus or event.

Eye Contact and Faces
We often hear that autistic children and adults have a hard time making eye contact. The exact reason or cause remains unknown but again, using eye-tracking methods researchers were able to see that a test group of individuals with ASD fixated more on the mouth over the eyes. Why this is, remains unknown. What is known is making eye contact for those affected by autism can be extremely stressful. If making eye contact is difficult, a different way of communicating may be needed.

Being Prepared for Their World
It’s important for parents and caregivers to have a toolbox of calming techniques at the ready. A few ideas and strategies include:

• Going to the gym, running errands or play groups at off-peak times
• Practicing mindfulness
• Using a light projector, or white noise maker
• Going outside to a quiet, safe place
• Use of a fidget toy
Listening to music

Autistic individuals see the world differently through their sense of touch, smell, hearing, and sight. The more we can understand and experience things through their eyes, the more we’ll be able to make sense of their reactions and responses. Working with effective therapy is another way to provide skills, behavioral goals, socializing and parent training. Book an appointment and learn more how ABA Psychological Services can help you and your child.

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