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Posts Tagged ‘mind blindness’

The Blind Side

November 16, 2010 7 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a rising senior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He started an Autism Speaks U Chapter: Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

As a college student, I can definitely tell you that I go through my own long list of challenges. As someone with pervasive development disorder- not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), a form of autism, those challenges have seemed a bit longer and harder to deal with in comparison to my peers. I’ve always been that individual who, when I see a problem, I wanted it fixed. Not that all problems can be fixed, but if I was in a situation where I know I could change something, I would be the person who did something about it. Recently I have seen myself go through a great deal of struggles both in friendships and work-related incidents because of my difficulty in not seeing the views of others from their perspective. My “Blind Side” as I’ve called it, has put me in some of the most difficult struggles throughout my college experience.

Many people have different names for this theory such as “Mind Blindness” and “Tunnel Vision.” Overall it can be defined as the difficulty of being unaware of what others are thinking. Basically, not understanding the perspective of someone else, not being able to put yourself in their shoes, not being empathetic.  This has led some of my peers to believe that I’m self centered, that regardless of what I’m doing, it’s about me and everyone else has to live with it. I can remember from a self evaluation during my junior year by one of my faculty advisors, I was called out for being “disrespectful to others feelings” and “not a team player.”  Sophomore year my Resident Director where I was a Resident Assistant called me out “for being stuck” and for “wanting to do things in the same manner.” On the other hand these experiences glaringly pointed out, that although I have raised the awareness on my campus of what autism is, and put a face on what a student with autism looks like, many people haven’t a clue of what it entails or how it manifests or affects students. I’ve never used my disability as a scapegoat for whatever tendencies I have or may go through but what do you do?  Follow my own advice? Autism is never a disability unless you let it become one. I take criticism as an indication of what I could work on to become stronger as a person, but in this situation I’ve never felt so blind.

I can’t see where I’m going and I keep going through walls, regardless if I go left, regardless if I go right, regardless if I just go straight down the middle, that wall is hitting me as hard as I’m hitting it. The problem with hitting these walls is that even when you pick yourself up, you still have to go through the pain for making those first few mistakes. Now, if you hit enough of these walls, why would you even consider going through the same pain regardless of how sweet it would be to break through them.

I may be blind for a little while longer, but I won’t back down despite the limitations. They told Michael Jordan he couldn’t fly and he did. They told Jackie Robinson he would never play major league baseball and he did. Although these seem like extreme examples, we all need those to inspire us to be the best we can be. To help myself moving forward I have mainly asked my peers to communicate. I’m a very detailed oriented person so whenever I get feedback, I like to write it down and take time to reflect on what it truly means and how I can go about a positive outcome. Frankly, regardless if I have a blind side, everyone has those “blind spots,” which if no one ever gave them advice on they may never grow. I’m far from perfect but I’m more than less because I’m here, doing what I need to do to better myself and hopefully through these blogs, helping others as well.

(This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to this post I can be reached at kerry.magro@autismspeaks.org.)

Love and Autism: My Progression in Relationships

August 25, 2010 9 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro.  Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a rising senior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He started an Autism Speaks U Chapter: Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

Ohhh relationships. At the age of 22, I’ve had several relationships throughout my life. I’ve also had several breakups. When I talk to families with children on the spectrum this is usually one of the big subjects, but also one of the most sensitive. How does a child on the spectrum even go about having a relationship while many neurotypicals today, cannot? It’s a difficult road with no clear answer.

Looking back at my experiences, some of my main problems in relationships have been due to “social awkwardness.” This social awkwardness could be attributed to many factors, but for me it was always based on “small talk” and “mind blindness.” With small talk, many times (especially when I was younger) I couldn’t hold a conversation, making any type of interaction awkward in the sense of the silence and long pauses involved. The only way I would be able to keep a conversation going was to change the subject randomly to something that was of interest to me (such as basketball).  This was hard because while I did have friends who play and like basketball, for instance, it’s not something you want to hear about 24/7. How do you make strides without having the capabilities of conversation?

Confidence, as well, became an underlying issue because of these tendencies. These moments, where I wouldn’t have anything to say made people think I was a shy person who wanted to be left by myself (which was never the case). Could you imagine a scenario where you wanted to be talked to, in many cases even loved, and you just didn’t know how to acknowledge it?

Mind blindness, which is typically known as the inability to develop an awareness of what another person is thinking, made for some difficult scenarios for me. The inability to do this, to “put myself in the shoes of another,” limited my understanding of others, and made it difficult to develop anything but basic friendships/relationships. People  in today’s society are are very complex and reading them, not only by a relationship standpoint but to advance in life, whether its through school, employment, etc. is a necessary skill.

At nine, my doctor recommended against mainstreaming me in a public school because she said I would have never understand social cues and worried about me getting beat up.  Granted, I survived those days, a testament to having developed coping mechanisms, splinter skills and/or growing up. The one thing I wish though, looking back, was that I found someone who understood what it was like. Whether it was an intimate relationship or just a friendship, someone who, on the spectrum knows exactly what I’m going through. It’s not the same case as others, where maybe you relate with someone because you both came out of the same background, for example. Being on the spectrum, no one case is the same. Every case is different which means that you would always find something close but not exactly to what you are looking for. Especially on the college level, many students on the spectrum don’t go to college. This is where some of the difficulties lie for those on the spectrum who are having trouble with relationships in college. How do you approach it when you are the minority filled by a majority that may or may not be accepting of who you are?

I leave these questions up for debate but my standpoint on relationships is pretty simple. Whether you are on the spectrum or not, all relationships are hard work. Whether it is within the relationship or not, the best thing you can do for yourself is be who you are and to negate all the negative energy that may come your way. Yes, there is definitely a need to branch out and find what interests you have which can expand the pool of who you may be interested in. Ultimately, we all know the expression; there are many fish in the sea (but not quite as many if you are not looking). This is where relationships begin.

(This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to to this post I can be reached at kerry.magro@autismspeaks.org. Thanks everyone!)

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