- Posted March 28, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Communicating through autism
Keepers of Conscience & the Drum
A Story of Compassion, Transformation & the Promise of Rhythm
by Alyssa Janney, MBA
I had a life transforming experience. We were visiting a facility where their mission is to change the way we think about people with autism. It was a lovely November day in San Diego, California.
I entered the facility on a balmy coastal morning, with a film crew at my side. We were there to create a video about the amazing work done at TERi, Inc. Campus of Life. This organization serves people with autism and other developmental disabilities. They offer arts and exercise integrated curriculum. They offer music therapy and equestrian therapy too. But what I noticed most was how I felt.
The feeling throughout the facility was one of warmth and normalcy. Wait, actually "normal" would be a stretch (I'll explain later). I noticed that the students at the campus ranged in age from elementary school age to adults. The arts integrated curriculum was so engaging and supportive. The students were transparent with their feelings, and some appeared to have significant life challenges related to sensory and communication issues. One might expect to feel uncomfortable meeting so many new people with significant challenges. But in those hours I had an epiphony. This place was not anything like what I have come to experience as "normal". All those students with autism, seemed to have a very strong sense of conscience. They were rule followers. There was absolutely no hidden agenda, unlike the world outside those doors. There were problems (yes we all face problems) and there were effective strategies. But there was such incredible honesty!
Suddenly it happened to me. Their mission of perception change manifested in me. I realized that people with autism are a gift to us. As much as their challenges are difficult to surmount and exhausting for families, once that is all stripped away you have a keeper of the collective conscience. I never felt so free in all my life as I did in that moment. And I will never look at someone with autism the same way again.
Thank you to all my friends with autism, for being there for us, as we try to discover how to reach in and connect with you. We have noticed that rhythm can be a challenge for people with autism. This creates difficulties with language and communication. We have noticed that social engagement is a challenge, yet when people with autism engage around the Remo NSL Drum Table that has a special sound technology called Comfort Sound, they make eye contact and play in synchronized rhythm with others. We have noticed that children with sensory avoidance behaviors are drawn to this Drum Table, even climbing under it and likening it to "a massage that feels good". The instruments big vibration and controlled, focused tone draws them in like a moth to a flame. We are connecting in wonderful, fun activities.
I had a life transforming experience at TERi, Inc.
Here's a video that provides a peek into the work they do for the keepers of our collective conscience. Perhaps you will experience a transformation too!