Through the Eyes of Autism

I love to quilt, and I love a challenge.  So, this year I decided to join a Quilting Challenge group.  Every two weeks, they give you a topic, and you have to come up with an original idea and turn it into a quilt in less than a week.  This week’s challenge was Through the Eyes’s of a Child.  (click on the link to see lots of amazing quilts made by others all around the world) As most of you know who read this blog, or know me, you know one of my children has autism.  This affects everything we do every day, and it definitely affects how we see things.  But, it got me wondering, how HE sees things.  Do kids with autism see things the same way we do?

This really got me pondering what Jimmy, my son, really sees when he looks at something.  He is not able to communicate this to me, so I just have to use clues to take a guess.  My best guess is that there is NO WAY he can see the world as most of us do.  For example, think of your favorite movie of all time.  How many times have you seen it?  I would have to say my favorite movie is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  I have seen it more times than I can count over the years, but over the holiday season I probably only watch it about 3 times.  The first time is the best, and the other times are usually just space fillers and comfort seeking times.  Jimmy has a favorite movie, too.  It is Tennessee Ten.  It is a short 1 minute clip from Sesame Street that talks about how the number 10 gets some weird rash after kissing 10 fruit animals.  I know, only on Sesame Street.  In case you haven’t seen it, here it is 🙂

tennessee ten

Now Jimmy LOVES this movie.  So much that he watches it probably 100 times a day, every day.  He never gets tired of it.  He loves it as much on time 78 as he did the first time.  He laughs, he rocks, he is blissfully happy.  I’ve seen it more times than I can count too, but I just don’t get it.  He MUST see something I don’t.  There is some input he is experiencing that the rest of us mere mortals do not.  It keeps him coming back day after day.  It makes me wish I could see what he was seeing…

So, back to the quilting challenge.  I decided that since Jimmy does not really draw or make much art of any kind, I wanted to try and “see” a quilt the way he “sees” Tennessee Ten.  It had to be crazy and interesting, but needed some predictability and structure.  After all, it is not like Tennessee Ten is different every time.  Ten always gets better at the end after the doctor pays him a visit.  So, I started with making some very different, but very classic quilt blocks.  9 blocks in all with a bold sashing in between to add that visual structure kids with autism crave.  Here is where I started:

Autism Before

I loved the construction of the blocks, the straight edges, the crisp (almost) points.  I loved this quilt.  But, it is not what I knew Jimmy would likely see.  So, I did the sacred sin of quilters, and cut all the block apart.  I used some gentle curves and rearranged all the pieces and tried to put it back together.  I left the sashing in place and uncut, because I do believe kids with autism usually find some general point of focus.  It helps anchor all the chaos perhaps.  Here is the finished product:

Thru the Eyes of Autism

Can you see it?  Can you see the original blocks?  Here they are side by side:

I will never really know what Jimmy “sees” when he looks out into the world.  I know it can sometimes cause him anxiety and confusion, but for the most part it seems to excite him and bring him joy.  So, this is my little piece of awareness I am sharing in hopes others realize that there is more than one way to see the world.

3 replies
  1. Janet Hartje
    Janet Hartje says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your son! A very long time ago I used to work with autistic children. I often wondered what they saw and heard too. I think you nailed it!


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