The Human Sensorium
It was not until very recently that autism started to become more than just sound and text-bites on the news. Real coverage on the subject began to surface around 2006 and throughout 2007; but despite the coverage, there is still a large gap between typical populations and people with autism. Part of this may simply stem from public tendency to disassociate itself with all disabilities. But autism may not let us off the hook quite so easily. The more we learn about autism, the more we begin to realize that many of its attributes bring back into question our understanding about the human body and behavior for typical and autistic populations alike.
Are those with autism really that different than the rest of us? And if so, to what degree?
Neil Sanders is on the Autism Spectrum. More often than not, he sits at a table by himself, with his headphones on. There is a smirk on his face as he listens to his favorite radio programming. His eyes, though open, seem to be looking inward. The world and all the people around him are of no consequence right now. Because Neil has autism, a considerable amount of study is invested to understand why someone like Neil can isolate himself without any expressed need for human contact. Most studies attribute his being lost in the broadcast world, headphones and all, to a need for sensory input – in this case, audio. Another theory supplements this by suggesting that Neil’s brain cannot process competing sensory information – audio and visual being the biggest competitors. One of them has to win. In Neil’s case, audio is the victor. He helps his brain modulate sensory input by increasing the emphasis on one and not the other.
Or maybe Neil just loves radio.
Either way, none of these theories are too far removed from the typical behavior of, well, you. Picture yourself watching television, and in the next room is a particularly loud conversation between two other people. What do you do? You ask them to pipe down or leave the room. Or, if you are like Neil, you turn up the volume to block out competing noise. In most cases the brain will do this filtering for you. One of the most remarkable qualities of the human brain is its ability to prioritize all that sensory clutter – which is bombarding you even as you read this article. You probably are not paying attention to any of the things in your periphery. And if you are, then you are not paying attention to this article. That is how the brain works.
One of the most remarkable qualities of the human brain is its ability to prioritize all that sensory clutter. This is not always the case with Autism.
Programs such as Creative Movements assist with sensory integration.
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