I don’t know a lot about Autism, but I understand it on some level.
I don’t know the specifics about Autism, how it truly affects people, individual struggles to cope and process environment stimuli, but I get how environmental stimuli could be overwhelming.
I am not Autistic, but I am hyper aware of my surroundings. Without really trying, I am aware of what people are doing, where people are in relation to my position, what they are saying, their body language, their facial expressions and I have potential scenarios running in my head all the time – if this happens I will do this, if that happens I will do that. I pride myself on anticipating what needs to be done next, what someone might need from me, and I will often perform some task without the other person having to tell me.
I would be aware of all of these things in the video, but the difference is, my brain can quickly process it and then discard it as not being important to me or the people I’m with.
Does that make sense?
I suppose my awareness is one of the reasons I’m such a great multi-tasker. I thrive on handling several things at once. I get an adrenaline rush whenever I’m put into a situation like that – I can work on something, answer the phone, answer someone’s question while I’m on the phone, and make an appointment all at the same time. I do this all day, every day at work. I’m good at compartmentalizing. This is one of the reasons why I’m completely brain dead when I get home at night and on the weekends – because I’m juggling my environmental stimuli and constantly adjusting my personality/demeanor to put patients at ease or simply deal with different co-worker, patient personalities.
I can’t imagine being bombarded with all of that information, that over stimulation and NOT being able to quickly process it. It must feel a little like drowning, I would predict.
I work with a gal who doesn’t process very well. For example, we started clinic one day and my doctor got called away for emergency surgery. He had been on call the day before and a patient had been admitted with a brain bleed. They didn’t do anything on that day wanting to see if the bleed would resolve, only it didn’t, and by the next day, the day of our clinic, the bleed got worse and required immediate intervention.
My doctor had to cancel his clinic so he could do an emergency craniotomy (a fancy term that means to cut into the brain to see what was going on) on the patient.
This meant we had to deal with the patients already in the rooms, the patients checking in, notifying the clinic of the situation and calling patients that had yet to arrive. And we had to do all of this super fast – our pace just got jacked up to about five times faster than our normal speed so that the doctor could try and see the patients we had in the clinic before going down to the OR. (They were to call us when the patient was in the OR and ready for him to cut).
It was exhilarating to me, but not so much for the nurse that I work with. I could quickly see she was completely overwhelmed. She had no idea what to do first, couldn’t focus on the task in front of her and I literally ran circles around her taking care of everything.
I don’t say this to brag, I’m just saying that I tend to handle high-stress moments like that. I’ve always operated well under duress. I think quickly – whenever something like that happens, it’s like the fog is blown away and I see everything crystal clear.
But I realize that not everyone is like that. I admit, I got pretty impatient with the nurse for not thinking/moving as quickly as me, but I do realize that not everyone is capable of doing that.
(But you would think thinking quick on your feet would be a prerequisite for nursing as they are often asked to think/move quickly??).
But again, I’m okay to handle situations like that as long as they’re not long lasting. In the scenario above, it only lasted about 30 minutes and then things quieted way down once the doctor went down to the OR. I can only imagine how stressful and exhausting that must be to a person with Autism every moment of every day.
It’s no wonder that Autistic people come up with unique ways to cope – they have to right their worlds somehow – tame the chaos the only way they know how.