Autism is confusing, hard to explain, and a bit scary, especially if you're a kid seeing it for the first time. The solution? Watch Alex Amelines' Amazing Things Happen. It's four minutes and fifteen seconds of pure brilliance that explains the basics of autism in a simple and intuitive way, paying close attention the often overlooked sensory disruptions that most autistic people have to live with.
I particularity like the bit about the video games because even non-gamers can grasp the concept with ease. The segment about how a peaceful walk down the street can be borderline terrifying is also incredibly helpful. It's important to realize that autistic people are not hopelessly malfunctioning, they're just different and that's OK.
And Amelines is only just beginning:
I wanted to create something that would really engage children and help them to see things from another’s perspective. Something that could equally be used at school, as part of homework, within families or as a tool for children who want to share their diagnosis with their peers.
There’s so much to say about autism it was a challenge to condense the essence of it into 5 minutes, but I hope that it serves as an introduction to the subject. Furthermore I hope it serves as a springboard to expand it into a series so children can explore the topic in more depth, focusing on those issues that families touched by autism would like the world to know about.
I cannot tell you how happy this video made me and how much I'm looking forward to the rest of the series. I wished I'd had this 7 years ago as it would have made my family's transition into the world of autism a whole lot smoother.
By the time my son Jordan was diagnosed with autism at age two, we had known something was wrong for several months. He made noise but didn't speak. He was growing fast but was uncoordinated. He understood what we were saying to him but seemed unable to express his needs at all. When we received the official word, we weren't surprised but we were naturally overwhelmed.
No one could quite explain to us what autism was or what it meant in a way that fit our existing frame of reference. We knew Jordan's brain was wired differently and we understood this was permanent but that didn't really help us understand why loud noises scared him so badly or why he flapped his hands. My wife read a lot of books and I spent a lot of time online but there was so much contradictory information and so much medical jargon that it wasn't much help. It took us years to understand that his senses were out of whack and what that meant. Support groups were far more helpful as other autism parents were able to speak to us in plain English but not everyone has access to such support and autism, especially more severe cases, tends to completely isolate parents from the rest of the world.
But aside from the needs of parents new to the world of autism, Amazing Things Happen is absolutely vital for non-autistic children. There are millions of autistic children like Jordan and thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), many of them are being placed in mainstream classrooms with accommodations instead of shunted off to rubber rooms to be warehoused and ignored. Being able to talk to students about what autism is and how it affects their classmates is how we bring autism out of the shadows.
It's worth noting that Betsy DeVos, Trump's Secretary of Education, would like to undo all of the progress made in this area but that's going to take time. For now, we are continuing to build the vocabulary to talk about autism and that benefits us all. We do not fear what we understand and Amazing Things Happen goes a long way to reaching that understanding.