Saturday, November 5, 2011

Inside and Beyond Autism

Autism can be mysterious to anyone who hasn't experienced it.  In a recent 60 Minutes report about how children with autism were learning to communicate using iPad apps, several parents commented with wonder about how these tools were letting them understand some of what was going on inside the minds and perceptions of their autistic children.  Without such tools for communication, we simply don't know what it's like to experience autism from the inside.

That's part of what makes Sean Barron's unusual work so important.  After experiencing autism as a child and working hard in his early adulthood to train himself to move beyond the disorder's limits, Barron co-authored two books that give us a glimpse inside.  Together with his mother, he wrote There's a Boy in Here: Emerging from the Bonds of Autism, a book that gives readers insight into what autism meant for both Sean and his family.  More recently, he collaborated with Temple Grandin on Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, a guide to 10 key elements of interpersonal communication.   As Barron explains, the rules reflect things he had to learn in order to move beyond his autism to function well in interactions with others.  He puts those lessons to use every day in his work as a journalist, and in the process, he's walking proof that at least some of those with autism can recover. 

While it's subtitled Understanding and Managing Social Challenges for Those with Asperger's or Autism,and while most people probably abide by these unwritten rules without thinking about it, the book would probably be useful to anyone who wants to be mindful and intentional about how they interact with others.  Who wouldn't benefit from being reminded that "everyone makes mistakes" and their errors "don't have to ruin your day"?  And I bet we can all think of people who need to be reminded of the value of being polite or that we are responsible for our own behavior? 

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