Entering the world of autism

An event in Chennai sought to create awareness on autism through four activities for sensory perception

April 04, 2014 09:00 pm | Updated May 21, 2016 08:46 am IST - Chennai

A NEW EXPERIENCE: At the autism awareness programme. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam

A NEW EXPERIENCE: At the autism awareness programme. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam

What if the world you know is way louder than it is? So loud, so distracting that all you want to do is shut your ears and sit in a corner. What if the world is made up of colourful patterns, of only red boxes or yellow triangles or green squares? What if… no one understood this? Vidya Sagar’s (an NGO working with people with autism) attempt at recreating the world of autism through physical simulations on World Autism Day recently gave visitors at Forum Vijaya Mall in Vadapalani a glimpse of this fascinating space.

The most common knowledge about those with autism is their inability to communicate in social situations, hypersensitivity to certain processes and their single-minded interests. In their stall, three special educators from Vidya Sagar tried to spread awareness about autism through four activities — relating to touch, hearing, olfactory senses and vision.

“We wanted to give people an idea of this world, a glimpse of the fascinating world of autism. It is important to sensitise people on the issue. During the course of the day, we had people who knew what autism was, and had people with autism in their families come and experience this,” says special educator Anu Alex. “Some others did not know what autism was and were overwhelmed when they understood.”

One of the simulations, of hearing and touch, is to have a participant wear a thick glove, hold a long pen and attempt to write their names while one person talked loudly in one ear while another made loud sounds in the other ear. “Sometimes, people with autism are hypersensitive to hearing. What you may not find loud maybe really, unbearably loud for them. That’s why you often see them move to a corner with their hands over their ears,” explains Anu. In another, participants are blindfolded and asked to walk through a series of mats — some soft, some hard. “For a person with autism, some surfaces may be uncomfortable. They will make sure they never walk through those areas,” she adds.

The campaign that took place in three places across the city garnered a lot of interest. “Many have come forward to become volunteers as well,” says Anu. To get in touch with Vidya Sagar, call 2235-1624.

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