I should have it up later today, and I mean that about today, because there’s nothing really planned for today.
Yesterday I got a visit from three people from MIT, and by the time they were gone I was totally exhausted. (They were fun though, very autie-friendly and geeky. But there were still three of them.) I thought of trying to get the blog carnival done last night, and did some of it, but haven’t finished, so I’ll finish it sometime today barring anything unforeseen.
I wanted to mention something interesting they brought along with them. It was a glove that uses a couple of simple electrodes that attach to an LED, that measures your body’s (physiological, not sexual) arousal by how much your hands are sweating. The brighter the light, the more the arousal, which usually correlates to some kind of emotion, whether positive or negative. (Either laughing or being scared or stressed out, for instance, make it glow brighter.)
Anyway, the gloves were all too big for me, but they had one that was just electrodes that attached to a thing that transmits to a computer, which then shows it on a graph. Because there were so many people in the room, my arousal level was really high, it turned out (I wouldn’t be surprised, being around lots of strangers stresses me out). But if I sat and rocked and didn’t look at the people, it slowly went down. The moment one of them turned her head to look at me, though, it suddenly jumped up again. And this was before the point of eye contact, even, and certainly before I could feel more than a small difference in my stress levels.
She said that Ami Klin had tried to claim at a lecture that eye contact doesn’t actually cause any stress for autistic people, and that some autistic guy in the audience had stood up and told him he was full of crap (well maybe not using those words, but something along those lines). I showed her my Eyeballs Eyeballs Eyeballs post and also discussed with her the research in this regard that says yes, in fact, autistic people are generally stressed out by eye contact.
I wish I’d had that on during the interview with Sanjay Gupta so I could show him that I was even reacting in a measurable physiological way to his attempts at making eye contact (he asked me, in a part that didn’t get aired, why I didn’t just look at him, and he was, I think in an attempt at friendliness, leaning into me the whole time in a way that was making me very stressy indeed, too stressed out to fully explain to him the effect he was having on me). I also wish I had one of those devices to play with for longer. It sounds as if they could be really useful in learning what stresses me out before it reaches the point that I notice it. I also wonder if showing readings like that to the sort of professionals who are heavily invested in forcing eye contact and other invasively direct forms of interaction on autistic children would make them think twice about it.