“Dissociation is the ability to cut off from what is happening around you or to you. In its simplest form it is daydreaming. It is a skill all children have and which children with autism tend to overdevelop in managing a world they find overwhelming for a whole range of reasons.” (Donna Williams at https://blog.donnawilliams.net/2011/01/20/the-spectrum-of-dissociative-disorders/)
I can remember the overwhelming experience having eye contact with others sometimes had on me as a child. Too much bright, bold, painful sensory information was received when directly looking into someone’s eyes for a sustained period of time (see paintings below: Look Me In the Eye, Buzzing Bones, SIZZLE POP and STRIKE ME). Coping came by disengaging from the experience. I would hover up by the ceiling and watch the girl below who was me. When the girl looked into the eyes of people I would use the too much information she got to fashion alternatives to those eyes that would cut down on the overwhelming sensory information (see paintings below: Eye Fish, Eye Trees, Eye Land and Eye Tulip).
For me, the more dissociative experiences I had, the more refined my creations from eye information became. In the Goldenrod series one might not even realize the information originally came from eye contact. However, once pointed out most people notice the eye shape in the background (see paintings below: Goldenrod 2, Goldenrod 3 and Goldenrod 4).
Today I am able to use eye contact in a pretty typical manner most of the time. The sensory information I pick up from engaging in eye contact is no longer often painful. Many of my sensory needs have changed over the decades of my life. However, even today when I am under stress I do not have typical eye contact. Avoiding eye contact is one of the things I find myself automatically doing to minimize the quantity of incoming sensory information. I do not consciously think about avoiding contact. It just happens because that is how my brain works. I think this is similar to the way non autistic people do not consciously think about using eye contact each time they speak to one another. They simply do it because that is how their brain works.
Below is my story created in a poem and several paintings. This poem and the paintings are in my book Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. The paintings are also available in three sizes of prints and in packs of five greeting cards at www.judyendow.com under the Art tab.
BOOKS BY JUDY ENDOW
Endow, J. (2019). Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology. Lancaster, PA: Judy Endow.
Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.
Endow, J. (2006). Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.
Endow, J. (2013). Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.
Endow, J. (2009). Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.
Endow, J. (2009). Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.
Endow, J. (2010). Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.
Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013). The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.
Originally written for and published by Ollibean on January 18, 2017.
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