A really big part of autism is emotional blindness in the sense that whilst emotions are present they are not necessarily consciously felt.
However, in order to socially interact and interpret our world we need emotional understanding, so the autististic brain compensates with assumptions, some generated from external information, others because “that is the way it should be” according the the book of said individual of what life should look like.
But assumptions are not always correct, they are castles of sand until a stronger material is found or the castle has collapsed. In the case of autism, because most of their reality is constructed with sand, sections are constantly collapsing and one could say that one of the measures of autism severity is the amount if brain time that is being invested in reconstruction efforts – more time being higher severity.
When it comes to emotions, more often than not, labels are applied according to circumstance rather than knowing what is actually felt, and because emotions are subjective, the sand castle can end up being unchallenged. From the out side it would be seen as actions not matching the words.
Before last week, if you asked Sofia if she cared about anything, she would say no. She has explained in the past that she doesn’t really feel much at all and she worries about it. I have told her not to worry, that she is having emotions, she just isn’t aware of it yet. She was relieved when at a funeral of a much loved friend a few months ago she burst into tears. She didn’t know what she was feeling or why she cried, but she was so happy something had happened that said she cared and was affected by the loss.
Last week we were talking about Canada and she was saying she didn’t care what happened on the trip, she didn’t want to go. I asked her if she cared about having a pet reptile. She said yes. So I pointed out to her that she does care about Canada then because if we have a horrible time because of her bad mood, she won’t get a pet. You could see the connection being made for the first time in her eyes. Yes she cares, she cares about what she wants, and if she cares about what she wants, then she cares about what is happening right now. Not only has she made a huge learning step (this is learnt normally much earlier) but she has also made a big step towards finding her present moment.
We travel on motorbike and share our story to help raise awareness for autism and the benefits of adventure travel as a platform for learning life skills for autism.
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Sofia was diagnosed with Autism when she was 4 years old. When she was 10 years old she under took her first journey in a sidecar from the UK to South Africa. Since then she has started to ride pillion on a motorbike and travelled Europe and this year goes to Eastern Canada. She is now 13 years old and the skills she is learning on this journey are related to maintaining positive mental health. This skill is the hardest of the life skills to learn, harder still in a modern world where materialism and science define life and spirituality and wisdom not because it can’t be bought or proven, it relies completely on faith.