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Chairty shows what living with autism is like

Update: October, 19/2017 - 08:00
A viewer has to cover her ears while watching a virtual reality video to experience sensory overload as an autistic child. — Photo
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — Have you ever imagined how would you react if all unnoticeable occurrences in our lives suddenly became clear and overwhelmed your senses? Or what information overload would be like?

Nguyễn Thị Hồng Xuân, from Hà Nội, had to remove her headphones and burst into tears after she watched a short 360-degree virtual reality video. The video, using Google Cardboard Virtual Reality, let her experience what it’s like to suffer sensory overload.

The video put Xuân in the shoes of an autistic child. Xuân was joining a project held to help people experience what it is like to be an autistic child, to give them a better understanding of autism.

Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder characterised by impaired social interaction and communication, according to health experts

“It is unbelievable that everything is so hard for an autistic child. Those with autism can’t block out background noise like the rest of us. At the same time, all surrounding sounds come together and overload their hearing,” Xuân told Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper.

“It is really terrifying as they have to struggle with that condition every hour and every day,” she said.

Many other people had the same feelings after watching the video. They could not imagine how terrible it is to suffer such sensory overload. Some of them had to cover their ears as they could not bear it.

When you talk to someone, you can focus on their voice. However, for an autistic person, all surrounding sounds compete for attention at the same time, with the same sound level and speed, from birds’ singing, car horns, mobile phone ringing, a child’s crying to the sound of wind and water, said Nguyễn Hạnh Duyên, a member of the ‘Act 4 Vietnamese Autism’ or A4A Group which is carrying out the project.   

The project, named ‘Try to live like me’, is designed to encourage people to learn more about the condition. It has been conducted in central Quảng Nam Province and Đà Nẵng City from July and is expected to end in November.   

“Research shows that autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder or impairment of the growth and development of the brain or central nervous system. The senses of people with autism will therefore be more sensitive. They can hear and see more clearly than normal people and also feel more pain even when being slightly hit,” Duyên said.

“This results in difficulties and misunderstandings in the communication and behaviour of autistic people,” she said.  

“Many people ask what autism is, whether it is a standard disease or a hereditary disease. Some people even misunderstand that autistic people are arrogant and do not want to play with others,” Duyên said.

“The project is expected to help those without autism understand more about autism and have more sympathy for those with autism and encourage people to join works that can support autistic people,” she added.

The A4A group was established five years ago. Most of its members are young, aged between 15 and 30. The project is part of their activities to support children with autism.

They plan to publish an online magazine on autism in the future to share more information about autism.

According to the World Health Organisation, for every 160 people in the world, one person has autism. No official statistics on the number of autistic people have been published in Việt Nam; it has been estimated that there are 160,000 people with autism living in the country. — VNS

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