Return to Video

To understand autism, don't look away

  • 0:01 - 0:03
    "Look at me!"
  • 0:05 - 0:09
    That phrase turned me
    into an eye-contact coach.
  • 0:11 - 0:14
    I'm the mother of Iván; he's 15 years old.
  • 0:15 - 0:16
    Iván has autism,
  • 0:16 - 0:18
    he doesn't speak,
  • 0:18 - 0:20
    and he communicates through an iPad,
  • 0:20 - 0:24
    where his whole universe of words
    exists in images.
  • 0:26 - 0:30
    He was diagnosed
    when he was two and a half.
  • 0:32 - 0:36
    I still remember that day painfully.
  • 0:37 - 0:40
    My husband and I felt really lost;
  • 0:41 - 0:44
    we didn't know where to begin.
  • 0:45 - 0:47
    There was no internet,
  • 0:47 - 0:50
    you couldn't Google information,
  • 0:51 - 0:53
    so we made those first steps
  • 0:54 - 0:56
    out of sheer intuition.
  • 0:58 - 1:00
    Iván would not maintain eye contact,
  • 1:01 - 1:03
    he had lost the words that he did know,
  • 1:04 - 1:08
    and he didn't respond to his name
    or to anything we asked him,
  • 1:09 - 1:11
    as if words were noise.
  • 1:13 - 1:17
    The only way I could know
  • 1:18 - 1:20
    what was going on with him,
  • 1:20 - 1:22
    what he felt,
  • 1:22 - 1:24
    was looking him in the eye.
  • 1:26 - 1:28
    But that bridge was broken.
  • 1:31 - 1:33
    How could I teach him about life?
  • 1:36 - 1:39
    When I did things he liked,
    he would look at me,
  • 1:39 - 1:41
    and we were connected.
  • 1:42 - 1:45
    So I dedicated myself
    to working with him on those things,
  • 1:45 - 1:50
    so we would have more and more
    eye-contact moments.
  • 1:51 - 1:58
    We would spend hours and hours playing tag
    with his older sister, Alexia,
  • 1:59 - 2:01
    and when we said: "I caught you!"
  • 2:02 - 2:04
    he would look around for us,
  • 2:05 - 2:10
    and at that moment,
    I could feel he was alive.
  • 2:13 - 2:18
    We also hold a record for hours spent
    in a swimming pool.
  • 2:19 - 2:23
    Iván always had a passion for water.
  • 2:24 - 2:27
    I remember when he was two and a half,
  • 2:28 - 2:31
    on a rainy winter day,
  • 2:31 - 2:34
    I was taking him to an indoor pool,
  • 2:34 - 2:36
    because even on rainy days
    we'd go swimming.
  • 2:38 - 2:42
    We were on the highway,
    and I took the wrong exit.
  • 2:42 - 2:46
    He burst into tears and cried
    inconsolably, nonstop,
  • 2:46 - 2:48
    until I turned back.
  • 2:49 - 2:50
    Only then did he calm down.
  • 2:52 - 2:55
    How was it possible
    that a two and a half year old
  • 2:55 - 2:57
    didn't respond to his own name,
  • 2:58 - 3:02
    yet in the middle of the rain and fog,
    where I couldn't see anything,
  • 3:02 - 3:06
    he knew the exact route?
  • 3:09 - 3:13
    That's when I realized that Iván
    had an exceptional visual memory,
  • 3:14 - 3:17
    and that that would be my way in.
  • 3:18 - 3:20
    So I started taking
    pictures of everything,
  • 3:21 - 3:23
    and teaching him what life was like,
  • 3:23 - 3:27
    showing it to him, picture by picture.
  • 3:28 - 3:32
    Even now, it's the way Iván communicates
  • 3:32 - 3:34
    what he wants,
  • 3:34 - 3:36
    what he needs
  • 3:36 - 3:39
    and also what he feels.
  • 3:42 - 3:45
    But it wasn't just
    Iván's eye contact that mattered.
  • 3:47 - 3:49
    Everyone else's did, too.
  • 3:51 - 3:55
    How could I make people see
    not only his autism,
  • 3:55 - 3:56
    but see him the person
  • 3:57 - 3:59
    and everything he can give;
  • 4:00 - 4:02
    everything he can do;
  • 4:03 - 4:06
    the things he likes and doesn't like,
  • 4:06 - 4:08
    just like any one of us?
  • 4:09 - 4:12
    But for that, I also had
    to give of myself.
  • 4:14 - 4:16
    I had to have the strength to let him go,
  • 4:17 - 4:19
    which was extremely difficult.
  • 4:21 - 4:23
    Iván was 11 years old,
  • 4:24 - 4:27
    and he went for treatment
    in a neighborhood near our house.
  • 4:29 - 4:32
    One afternoon,
    while I was waiting for him,
  • 4:33 - 4:34
    I went into a greengrocer,
  • 4:34 - 4:37
    a typical neighborhood store
    with a little bit of everything.
  • 4:38 - 4:40
    While doing the shopping,
  • 4:40 - 4:43
    I started talking to José, the owner.
  • 4:45 - 4:46
    I told him about Iván,
  • 4:47 - 4:48
    that he had autism,
  • 4:49 - 4:54
    and that I wanted him to learn
    to walk down the street by himself,
  • 4:54 - 4:56
    without anyone holding his hand.
  • 4:57 - 5:01
    So I decided to ask José
    if Thursdays around 2pm,
  • 5:02 - 5:05
    Iván could come and help him arrange
    the water bottles on the shelves,
  • 5:05 - 5:08
    because he loved to organize things.
  • 5:08 - 5:11
    And as a reward, he could buy
    some chocolate cookies,
  • 5:11 - 5:13
    which were his favorite.
  • 5:16 - 5:17
    He said "yes" right away.
  • 5:19 - 5:22
    So that's how it went for a year:
  • 5:22 - 5:24
    Iván would go to José's greengrocer,
  • 5:25 - 5:29
    help him arrange the shelves
    of water bottles
  • 5:29 - 5:34
    with the labels perfectly
    lined up on the same side,
  • 5:34 - 5:38
    and he would leave happy
    with his chocolate cookies.
  • 5:44 - 5:46
    José is not an expert in autism.
  • 5:49 - 5:52
    There is no need to be an expert
  • 5:53 - 5:57
    nor do anything heroic to include someone.
  • 6:00 - 6:02
    We just need to be there --
  • 6:03 - 6:04
    (Applause)
  • 6:11 - 6:13
    (Applause ends)
  • 6:14 - 6:15
    Really, no heroic deed --
  • 6:17 - 6:19
    we simply need to be close.
  • 6:22 - 6:24
    And if we are afraid of something
  • 6:25 - 6:27
    or we don't understand something,
  • 6:27 - 6:28
    we need to ask.
  • 6:29 - 6:31
    Let's be curious
  • 6:32 - 6:36
    but never indifferent.
  • 6:38 - 6:42
    Let's have the courage
    to look each other in the eye,
  • 6:44 - 6:46
    because by looking,
  • 6:47 - 6:50
    we can open a whole world to someone else.
  • 6:51 - 6:54
    (Applause)
  • 6:54 - 6:56
    (Cheers)
Title:
To understand autism, don't look away
Speaker:
Carina Morillo
Description:

more » « less
Video Language:
Spanish
Team:
closed TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
07:09

English subtitles

Revisions Compare revisions