The Blissful Peace of Autistic Staring
You know what really grinds my gears? People who try to stop autistic people from staring.
“It looks weird.” “Your eyes look cold.” “You look like a killer.” “Stop drifting off!”
Look, first of all, we have to do this to survive. The neurotypical world is a sensory nightmare for us because our brains don’t filter out extraneous information the way a neurotypical person’s does.
If we don’t “check out” repeatedly throughout the day, our overloaded brains will suffer for it. Think of it as a reset button on a computer. When two many tabs open at once, we get an internal “404 error” message, and our brains freeze up and crash.
Hence, reset button.
Also, if you have a neurotypical brain, you have no idea how blissfully peaceful staring actually is! It’s really amazing. It’s not a “high” or anything, but it’s deeply soothing and comforting.
When I zone out, and my face goes slack, and my eyes glaze over, I feel like I’m cradled in soft cotton. The overload stops, my heart slows, my breathing slows, my mind goes into a type of suspended animation. It’s very restful.– Jaime A. Heidel
When an autistic person is in suspended animation like this, the WORST thing someone can do is try to get them out of it (unless they’re in danger, of course).
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The best way to improve communication with your autistic loved one is to understand how your autistic loved one’s mind works! Intentions, motivations, and personal expressions (facial expressions or lack thereof, body language, etc.), are often quite different in autistic people than they are in neurotypical people.
Experience a better understanding of your autistic loved one by reading books about life from an autistic perspective as well as stories that feature autistic characters. You’ll have so many “Ah ha!” moments and start seeing your autistic loved one in a different light (and you’ll have a better understanding of their behaviors, which you may have been misinterpreting up until now).
Books I recommend for a better understanding of your autistic loved one:
Two important things to know:
1) These staring spells are almost always involuntary.
2) In some cases, these spells could be a sign of silent seizures, so it’s important to rule that out first.
You want to know what it feels like to be interrupted while staring? To have fingers snapped in our faces? To be yelled at or spoken harshly to?
It’s the equivalent of someone barging into a neurotypical person’s bedroom at 3 AM and yanking them forcefully out of bed and throwing them, sans clothing, into a freezing pile of snow.
Yeah. Quite a shock to the system!
This is why autistic people, especially children, will scream, cry, kick, hit, bite, etc., when someone forcefully tries to “wake them up”.
(Not saying kicking, hitting, or biting are OK, just explaining the reason.)
Also, I really wish I could show you how peaceful our suspended animation is. I’m not sure if neurotypical people can do it, though.
Meditation or smoking “special herbs” may be the closest thing. That, or the feeling you get when you’ve had a nice glass of wine, or even some good lovin’. 😉
Maybe try it? If you’re neurotypical, go to a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for about 5 minutes, and just stare. Find an object to look at first, then just let every part of your face go as slack as possible and your eyes to relax and glaze over.
You may think it’s weird, scary, or even peaceful. If you try it, let me know what it was like for you. I’m curious to see how the neurotypical mind perceives it.
Nevertheless, it’s vitally important to allow autistic people to take these sensory breaks unless we are in immediate danger by doing so. They are our way of coping with the world around us the same as stimming.
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[…] too loud and overwhelming, we often have to “check out” throughout the day to cope. I call it taking sensory breaks. I just sort of go glassy-eyed and slack-jawed, and it’s like I’ve gone into power save […]