Our Journey Raising Two Children with Special Needs

This blog chronicles our life raising two children, Nicholas 14, diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome and Weston 17, diagnosed with Autism/Asperger's/ADHD. It's the ups, the downs, the joys, the sorrows and most importantly, the beauty of living a life less perfect, a life more meaningful.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Invisible Gorilla

Temple Grandin is an American doctor of animal science and a professor at Colorado State University. She is a best selling author and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior.

She also just  happens to be diagnosed with autism.

Several months ago, I watched the film, Temple Grandin; it is her life story.

In previous posts, I have explained to you how I believe my son Weston, is alot like Temple Grandin. He is easily overwhelmed by too much incoming sensory information. He shuts down and over reacts in response to intense stimulation. Our Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel restaurant, with a band playing loudly in the corner, and Weston's subsequent withdrawal, is a good example of the effect of sensory overload.

But as a parent, I have tried to encourage my son to embrace the positive aspects associated with this awareness. Temple Grandin has made a very successful living using her heightened senses.

Like Weston, Temple has the ability to see detail....all detail. In fact she lacks the ability to filter any of it out. But this "disability" this lack of filter, can also make her keenly aware of things that the rest of us cannot see, things that are insanely obvious. She has observed animal practices, written papers and designed equipment that seeks to assist farmers and cattle ranchers in creating responsible animal practices.

Temple Grandin, inspired me to research what she calls  inattentional blindness. She explained how this inattentional blindness lead farmers and cattle ranchers to unintentionally breed what she coined "rapist roosters" and brainless collies. She worked with these animal handlers to develop more humane ways of responsibly raising pets and livestock.

It is this inattentional blindness that intrigues me.

According to Wikipedia:

"Inattentional blindness, also known as perceptual blindness, is failure to notice an unexpected stimulus that is in plain sight. This typically happens because humans are overloaded with stimuli. It is impossible to pay attention to all stimuli that is present in one's environment. A person’s attention cannot be focused on everything, and therefore, everyone experiences inattentional blindness. This is due to the fact that they are unaware of the unattended stimuli. Inattentional blindness also has an effect on people’s perception."

Below is a video that will demonstrate this principle. This is called the Invisible Gorilla Test. It is a test that was created by Harvard University Professors. It shows how many of us can experience a form of blindness.

It is like the elephant in the room that nobody sees.

You must watch this video, it's hilarious!!!!!!

Click here if you can't view the video

Why am I posting about inattentional blindness and invisible gorillas?

Because of this..........

This is Nick's school photo. I received it this week.

And it is a true representation of my own inattentional blindness.

This photograph stopped me in my tracks and forced me to ask ...Where on earth have I been?

I have failed the Invisible Gorilla Test with flying colors.

I have neglected to notice that my son is becoming a healthy and handsome young man. He is maturing, no longer the childlike boy. He is well on his way to becoming an adult..and I haven't noticed it.

In my previous post, I talk about "Special Needs Battle Fatigue"

I explain how important it is to treat this debilitating condition.

So, as a family, we visited the mountains of New Hampshire to do exactly that.

To me, Nick's photograph was a positive response to our effort to help ourselves.

It was like "someone" bopped me on the head and said:

"Hey asshole!" (sorry but that is the correct word)

"Finally, now at last you can see it, the beauty that sits right in front of you"

"This smiling and handsome young man is here because of you."

"This is the end result of your pain and suffering, your caregiver chaos."

"Now that you are rested and found some peace,  you can finally open your eyes........"

 "Wasn't the pain of the journey worth the beauty of its cost?

I was dumbfounded.

I could finally hear the guiding voice inside of my head.  The voice I had silenced for so very long. The voice that was lost amidst a whirlwind of sensory inputs and debilitating fear.

Perhaps it is the excess of daily sensory input that creates a type of inattentional blindness in all of us, preventing us from connecting to what we believe to be Spirit, questioning its presence and failing to connect with this healing energy?

Perhaps Spirit is alot like the Invisible Gorilla?