Watch: To understand autism, look each other in the eye

When her son was diagnosed with autism, Carina Morillo knew almost nothing about the condition. Since Ivan didn't react to words or speak, she talks about how she found ways to communicate with him.

Carina Morillo and her husband discovered their son was autistic when he was two-and-a-half years old. Her son is 15 now and Morillo is an advocate for social inclusion of people with autism. In this TED Talk, she talks about her journey to communicate with her son.

The phrase “Look at me!”, she says, turned her into an eye-contact coach for Ivan, who doesn’t speak and communicates through images on his iPad. Morillo mentions how he reacted to words as if they were mere noise, till she figured out that he had sharp visual memory. She recalls how during regular swimming sessions (even in the rain) that Ivan enjoyed, she once took and wrong turn, to which Ivan reacted in despair and calmed down only when she corrected the route. She remarked, “How was it possible that a two-and-a-half year old didn’t respond to his own name, yet in the middle of the rain and fog, where I couldn’t see anything, he knew the exact route? That’s when I realised that Ivan had an exceptional visual memory, and that that would be my way in.”

She also tried to create eye-contact moments, such as when he played tag with his older sister, Alexia. Ultimately, she resorted to taking pictures of everything. “Even now, it’s the way Ivan communicates what he wants, what he needs and also what he feels.”

Also Read: Why do some autistic children find it difficult to recognise faces?

Her learnings as a mother of a special needs child include trying to make other people see beyond his autism. She says, “There is no need to be an expert nor do anything heroic to include someone. We just need to be there. Let’s be curious but never indifferent. Let’s have the courage to look each other in the eye, because by looking, we can open a whole world to someone else.”

Watch the video here:

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