Writing & Research: Aaron M. Weis
Do you recall that scene from Superman Returns back in 2006 where the young Clark Kent struggled with his x-ray vision, and other extraordinary powers in the middle of his classroom, which sent him fleeing out of his sense of being overwhelmed? In recent years, this sequence within the movie has served as a kind of exemplification or analogy for the various sensory perception difficulties that individuals with ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder face.
As someone living on the spectrum with what was formerly known as Asperger’s, I can personally attest to how accurate this specific portrayal is. Like many other individuals with ASD, I am a hyper-visual learner, that sees the world in pictures so to speak, which reminds me of an old saying that my grandmother used to tell me in that, if you don’t like the picture, then change the focus.
In the same way, for as long as I can remember, the five senses in which allow me to experience life have always been hyper-sensitive; at night, bright kind of neon lights have always appeared more illuminated than they probably are, captivating most of my attention, when I walk down the street, I always wear headphones, as not to be distracted by the plethora of sensory stimulation that surrounds me, just as I pick my clothing based upon how they feel on my body, and the foods I eat based upon how my palette reacts to them, and so on and so forth.
Advocating for other individuals living on the spectrum, I cannot emphasize enough what a tremendous role this plays for those living with ASD. In navigating this terrain, it is something that they almost always have to keep into consideration or plan their day around on a constant basis. For instance, in my academic endeavors, I circumvented this challenge by taking all of my notes on my laptop, which I really brought for the purpose of grounding myself in the moment in order to not be distracted by other external stimuli, and thankfully that worked for me personally. In addition to that, I also knew another incredible individual, a female with Autism, that would, believe it or not, wear earplugs during class because her sensory difficulties were much more rooted in audio perception, with things appearing louder to her.
With that notion being kept into consideration, I cannot stress enough as to how enthralled I am for several kinds of autism awareness events that will be coming to the Sacramento area in the months ahead, especially one that aims to tackle this particular issue in question.
Starting July 21st, Capital Dance Project will be hosting what they are calling Sensory Friendly Dance Classes for individuals with ASD and other learning disabilities. Held at Step 1 Dance Fitness, 1920 T St., Sacramento, Ca. 95811, these specialized artists will hold a five-dollar course every Sunday from July 21st to August 11th, to help those affected by these various conditions to develop healthy coping mechanisms to combat these challenges.
Every Sunday in the timespan specified above, there will be three 45 minutes sessions between 12 to 2:45 p.m. The first of which is recommended for youths between the ages of 5-10, followed by one for 11-17-year-olds, which will be concluded with a course specifically for adults.
The instructors of these courses will be focusing on three primary areas during these specific courses in question. Above all else, they are hoping to provide for an environment that allows their students to draw their attention towards creative movements, light stretches, and of course a non-judgmental safe space that will allow them to fully express themselves freely through the medium of dance that they are being taught.
It is worth mentioning that these courses will be closely monitored by behavioral therapists who will be there to assist in the classes in whatever capacity that they are called to do so. In addition to this fact, those administrating this specific event will attempt to circumvent the challenges posited by sensory perception issues by providing such things as fidget toys, noise-canceling headphones, stress balls, and bean bag chairs. They are also hoping that friends, family, and all other loved ones will come in and join them to show their support all at no additional charge.