Daily Archives: June 30, 2006

What world are we talking about here?


A quote by an autistic person has stuck around for a long time in my head: I don’t get “lost in a world of my own” either. I don’t need to take a bloody compass with me when I am having a think.

The “in their own world” stuff has always been completely lost on me. When I first heard it, I thought people were talking about astronomy or something. But I hear it again and again, by people who are supposed to know something about autism.

The latest autism podcast is about moving your child up the autism spectrum. The problematic concepts don’t seem to stop with the title. The basic idea of autism is something like, “Here’s the triad of impairments. Here’s what we call low and high functioning for each one of them. Here’s some really odd ideas we have about what all this behavior means in the first place. Here’s how we act on those odd ideas to change the behavior to things more towards what we consider high functioning.”

But it’s one of the odd ideas I want to talk about.

They talk about a thing they call “our world,” and how they want to get autistic people “out of their own worlds” and into “our world”.

Some quotes (the bold used for emphasis is my own):

He wasn’t completely in his own world with the flapping or the swaying back and forth, like I’ve seen other kids.


A lot of kids are on the low end of the spectrum because they don’t have that communication piece, they don’t know how to get their wants and needs met, they’ve found their own ways to get out of our world.


Kids have a lot of ritualistic behaviors and that repetitive movement stuff because of a lack of understanding of what they’re supposed to do in the world, and when you increase their ability to communicate, and when you also increase you as something social in their life, then you start seeing that ritualistic behavior go down. Because they have more of an understanding for the world. […] So without the stress you stop seeing them in their own worlds with the repetitive movements, you start seeing them a little more in your world, less repetitive movements or ritualistic behaviors and more communication.

Okay… am I getting it correct that apparently when my body is moving in some repetitive way I’m supposed to disappear to some other planet or something? And I’m not understanding as much of my environment, or something? And if I stop moving in assorted repetitive ways, that’s supposed to mean I’m more engaged with… something or other?

Because that makes no sense to me. I’d almost start to cynically wonder if “in their own world” is a filler term used by people who have no explanation for something and therefore want to invent one, but I’d like to know what it’s actually supposed to refer to, because I really, really don’t disappear anywhere just because I’m rocking or flapping my hands or something.

I’ve asked people about this, and they’ve pointed me at people. And I’m somehow supposed to just understand by looking at people what this “own world” thing is that the people I’m looking at are supposedly in. Or it’s supposed to immediately convey a sense of urgency. And I don’t see interdimensional portals around most of them, nor do I feel urgent needs to feel urgent around them or something. So I’m going to ask again:

Where is this world we’re supposed to be in, and what does it have to do with flapping our hands and stuff? (As a bonus question, I guess, why would understanding my environment better supposedly have made me stop doing all the repetitive motions I never stopped?)