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What 'The Dress' Teaches Us About Autism

In this brief Internet phenomenon, we have all learned something about the frustration of not being able see as others do. We have learned that we have a need for our opinion to be heard and for others to believe us.
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I understand that everyone is tired of looking at and talking about "the dress." I know I am. But I also find the predicament both fascinating and familiar. How can varied individuals looking at the same thing see something so markedly different from one another? Looking at the dress from your own perspective, it seems impossible to imagine what others are seeing. To me the dress is white and gold. Even if I squint my eyes, turn out the lights, turn my head, or look at the image on different sites, I can only see those colors. I can't imagine how anyone could possibly see blue and black. Am I being tricked? Is it all a joke?

Then I wonder that if it is true, what else am I seeing incorrectly? How do I trust my judgment when looking at colors? Especially when others scoff at my vision and insist that it is blue and black, and how could I possibly not see it? It makes want to keep my perspective to myself. I certainly don't enjoy being told repeatedly that what I think is wrong. The longer I stare at that troublesome dress, my frustration builds and I secretly wish that I could be one of the people who sees blue and black.

I then realize that my experience has given me a glimpse of what many people go through every day. I understand that I have been gifted the fleeting opportunity to walk in my childrens' shoes. For people with autism, seeing the world in a different way is a daily occurrence.

Imagine how challenging it is to live each day knowing that your perceptions and opinions are viewed as incorrect by the majority of people. Imagine being told that the colors you see are wrong and that you will need to relearn to label them as others see them. You will have to remember that information every time you are faced with identifying colors, even though you continue to see something completely different.

Just imagine. The frustration of trying to understand why everything your brain tells you is "wrong." The judgment of others when you get it incorrect even though you have tried your hardest to get it right. Others can simply take a quick look and know the correct response. For you, however, it is an exhausting process of wondering if your own answer is correct, or if this is one of those situations where you should you use the answer others have told you. People smirk and look at one another as you struggle to figure it out. They walk away because it took you too long to respond. Your opinion has been discounted. Or people just feel sorry for you. You can't decide which is worse.

You struggle to love and appreciate yourself since it seems so many others don't. It's hard to believe in yourself when you are constantly being corrected and undervalued. You become even quieter. You stop trying. You feel alone.

All because you see different colors than they do.

In this brief Internet phenomenon, we have all learned something about the frustration of not being able see as others do. We have learned that we have a need for our opinion to be heard and for others to believe us. Most of us will quickly move on from the debate and back to our regular conversations in which our basic perceptions do not require so much defending. For those with autism, the battle will continue.

So this is what I have to say to my boys and every person who has an autism spectrum disorder. I am so proud of you. You walk a tough road every day with a smile on your face and love in your heart. You are tenacious and tireless in enduring the extra efforts that are demanded from you. I admire your strength and perseverance.

Please realize that the colors you see matter. The visionaries, the innovators, the artists, the scientists, and the pioneers who have transformed our world have done so because they saw things in a new and unique way.

I know that it can be so hard to be different, but please never stop believing in yourself. It is true that some people will not take the time to appreciate you, but there are many others who will. Those who don't are the ones missing out.

The colors you have shown me have opened my eyes to a more beautiful world. Never be ashamed of seeing something differently. That is what makes you a gift to all of us.