I’m delighted to be taking part in RJ Scott’s blog hop – there are some cracking posts there. And here’s mine…
My best friend at school once said to me, “I’ve always wondered whether the colours I see are the same as the colours other people see. Is my blue different to yours?”
At the time I just said, “Of course it’s the same, as eyes are all the same, anatomically,” but now I think I was too quick to dismiss the notion.
Clearly people who have colour blindness see things very differently to those who haven’t, and I know from experience that one of my eyes sees things with a yellow tinge while the other’s sight is blue tinged, so maybe there are other subtle differences between what I’m seeing and what somebody else is. People taste things differently, too. I’ve never been able to stand fresh coriander – tastes like washing up liquid – but have only recently discovered that’s got a genetic basis. I thought everyone got the same taste and were total loonies for liking it!
Other senses have individual quirks. My middle daughter can’t stand the touch of velvet and when I was young I loathed the feel of certain plastics, especially those dolls were made from. Certain noises set people’s teeth on edge and my dad couldn’t be in the same room as someone peeling an orange without feeling nauseated at the smell.
How can we ever know what it’s like to experience somebody else’s senses? To use a daft but telling example, I really can’t understand why anybody gets any pleasure listening to John Lennon’s “Imagine” (cue the sick bucket for me!) and I guess fans of the song wouldn’t understand why it makes me feel quite ill, the vile dirge that it is. So how can I begin to appreciate how people I know on the autism spectrum are affected by the way their senses interpret the world around them? Is their blue different to mine? Do the sounds I can tolerate make them feel stressed?
I guess I begin by listening to what they – or their families – tell me, and try to act accordingly, in the same way as, when my dad was alive, I’d take my orange into the garden to peel it. Organisations can help by compensating for their particular needs, as happens in the local cinema when it has autism friendly showings of films: that’s no different in ethos to ensuring flat access to buildings for wheelchair users.
Every one of us can make a difference and generally it won’t cost us more than a bit of thought. Making allowances for other people isn’t political correctness or mollycoddling. It’s common decency.