Friday, January 21, 2011

Avocados to Autism

I had the perfect avocado the other day. I do not award an avocado with the status of perfection lightly. I'm an avocado connoisseur. Or, more accurately, I eat a lot of avocados. (Thank you, Chile, for shipping this glorious fruit to Costco all year long; and I apologize, Planet, for not eating locally.) The last few batches of avocados have been crap. Brown and stringy, off-tasting, or just plain rotten. But not this one; this one was perfect.

Thus, it's no surprise that as I was falling to sleep that night, I was happily reliving the moment of slicing open the avocado and seeing the perfect yellow and green center. (What? You've never done that?) The perfect avocado in January—who would have thought? But wait, there are always good avocados around January for everyone to make guacamole for the Super Bowl. I think I read somewhere that more avocados are consumed on Super Bowl day than on Cinco de Mayo. We should call it the Avocado Bowl, not the Super Bowl.

I jolted wide awake. Had I missed the Super Bowl? Completely. Was it possible? I don't watch news, I don't read a newspaper or go through paper websites to get my daily information. Cody doesn't follow sports. None of my friends do, either. I hadn't been in a grocery store in well over a week: I could have completely missed the yearly mock goal post made of chips, salsa, and soda, which is my usual first clue.

The followup question belatedly surfaced: Would it be so bad if I had missed it? I mean, I don't need an excuse for guacamole. And watching football isn't exactly entertaining. In fact, what I thought was: Watching football makes me feel autistic.

That thought completely derailed all others. It makes me what? (Does this ever happen to you—do your thoughts about yourself ever shock you? Doesn't that seem like it should be impossible? I mean, they're your thoughts. You're the only one in your head. Yet, somehow one part of you can surprise another part of you. How many people are really in there?)

And what did I mean by It makes me feel autistic? What does autism feel like? What do I even know about autism?

Very little. Bizarrely, what I know about autism comes to me a bit in the way I feel an autistic mind might process information: everything was pictures and sound bytes. Conversations and shows. I can't ever remember reading or being taught what autism is. Here's the general breakdown:

Jenny McCarthy. Vaccines = Autism. America's Next Top Model and Asperger's. Neat piles of clothes, neat racks of shoes, everything arranged by someone with OCD. Excessive hand-washing. The exhausted face of a parent I knew who has a child with autism. Scattered Pick-up Sticks with a number that flashes over the image. Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory. "Penny" knockknockknock "Penny" knockknockknock "Penny." Vaccines do not equal autism; scientists like to manipulate studies.

And finally, always, there's a video clip. I don't know where I saw it. I don't know why I saw it. I know it was a show on autism, and the scientists had chosen to test the visual reactions of autistic people by using Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Had they used any other movie, I doubt I would remember it. But I was so flummoxed by why they would choose that movie. I mean, here are people that have a difficult time connecting with family members and the colorful, interesting world around them, and then the scientists decide to conduct their experiment with WAoVW? A black-and-white, agonizingly boring film with completely unrelateable characters? It makes no sense.

Using the movie, the scientists proved that autistic people did not pick up on the body language cues of the actors. When the actors point to somewhere else in the room, and then the camera cuts to show what they were pointing to, the average person's eye goes directly to where they were directed. The autistic person's eyes wander over the screen, landing on all the pieces of art and the light switch on the wall.

Which is exactly how I feel when I watch football. My eyes roam over the screen, but nothing seems more important than any other thing. Not one player. Not the fans. Not the officials or the cheerleaders or the little colorful boxes with the statistics and score and flashing ads. The TV stops being a medium to show me an event and it becomes like a canvas, a piece of art, where no one section holds more weight or importance than another.

Is that really how autistic people feel? I have no idea. But it's the way my brain interprets both autism and football.

Eventually, thankfully, I fell asleep, to dream of more interesting things, like saving the life of a cat from a man burning a subdivision of little cat houses after taking a zip line across a trampoline field while enemies raced above me on catwalks made out of flexible, sheer netting.

1 comment:

anonymom said...