Star Child on Earth: Life with Autism & Beyond
I am Eric, a 27 year old with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. I have since come a long way, stepping beyond the limitations of autism to enjoy my life on Planet Earth and accept the people around me.
I have written this book to help present autism from an interesting, useful and soulful manner. This book contains the following sections:
Since most readers have already read the typical explanations on autism, I will use a more imaginative approach. Imagine a world whose inhabitants are merely program codes. They have no need for speech because they understand each other telepathically. They do not have faces, but identify themselves with unique data codes. They do not feel emotions, for it is alien to their design.
Because of their telepathic links, their experience of individuality is more of a collective unity rather than separate selves. Their minds merge in and out of each other like clouds, giving them instant empathy with each other. Hence, they have no conflicts or misunderstandings. However, they remain separated by preferences of what they would like to experience and different opinions on how to achieve goals and interpret data.
With their advanced technology, they have no survival needs and have nothing left to explore in their physical universe. To pass time, they explore the mental realm of knowledge, create artificial simulated worlds and construct new inventions. Shedding their bodies long ago, they live as programs in supercomputer Dyson spheres, each of which draws power from the star it surrounded. Their intellect is incomprehensible to human beings; they are to humans what humans are to pond slime.
What if such a computer being visited planet Earth and became a human being? What kinds of struggles would that this person experience? What syndromes would this person exhibit? What would this person feel?
What if there are many worlds like this, each hosting different peoples? What if some have emotions, but of a variety alien to humans? What if some have bodies, but of a very non-human kind? What if some of them have senses that work differently from the five physical human senses?
I use this metaphor to understand people with autism as “Foreign Tourists” who need “Tour Guides” to help them adapt rather than as psychiatric patients in need of treatment.
In the following pages, I would introduce some of fundamental concepts that can explain the behaviors I have exhibited in the past.Although each person with autism is different, and I belong to the very high functioning end of the spectrum, I hope that what I write will give parents, teachers and social workers an idea of what is happening to the children whom they care for.
Future = Past: I perceived time as similar to space. I used the past, present and future like the spatial concepts of forward, center, and backwards when navigating the timeline. With such a model, I did not realize that we could not perceive the future.
When unplanned changes occurred to my future schedule, it disturbed me as much as if the past has suddenly changed. I resisted that.
Perfect Decisions: As Earthlings must decide in the present moment without knowledge of the future, it is impossible to make perfect or optimal decisions. In other words, perfect answers that I sought did not exist in reality. Ignorant of this aspect of time, I worked hard collect as much information as possible to make a perfect decision.
Only after I have activated my temporal instincts, did I realize that Earthlings rely on heuristics to build their plans, which include:
Equal Probability: Without complete information about the future and the world, I perceived all possibilities as equally likely. In other words, I could not understand that a sci-fi style alien invasion the next morning is extremely unlikely whereas rainfall is rather likely.
As I result, I spent countless nights spent planning and rehearsing responses to different scenarios such as how to prevent time travelers from assassinating me. This also led me to confuse fiction with fact very often.
No Ownership: Not knowing that I existed, I was never born and I had never lived. Having no ownership of this body, all the behavior this body exhibited and the consequences this body suffered did not matter. Having no ownership of the future, I did not know that I could change it for the better. Having no ownership over the past, I could not realize that I could learn from mistakes and feedback.
Most importantly, I never truly made any choices. I never felt the pain of making decisions, since I did not realize the true sacrifices that I must pay. I never felt the satisfaction of making the right decision rather than the convenient decision (which may cause me suffering as a result). Instead, decision making felt like solving a calculus equation – complex, abstract and overwhelming.
Fragmentation: Without self-awareness, my inner world was fragmented and chaotic. Missing any reference points, nothing on Planet Earth made sense.
When I realized my existence, I began to draw a metaphoric line separating myself from the world around me, Reference points started appearing in my mind as I began to think of events as happening to me, rather than as simply happening.
As I perceived causation, my memories started to organize themselves by chronological order. Extrapolating my past into my future, I built a solid foundation that I can use to navigate Planet Earth.However, I still did not own my identity, life and body. The concept of individuality was an abstract tool for modeling the world, much like the use of infinity in certain mathematical equations. The significance of free will and identify remained hidden until I realized what it meant to be a human being as I wrote a story in 2005.
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