This simulator nails why you should never judge someone with autism.

"It's intense, isn't it?"

Flashing lights, screeching noises, disorienting colors.

That is what 10-year-old Alex Marshall saw, heard, and felt — not while playing an intense video game or watching an action flick on the big screen, but while standing in the middle of a shopping center with his mom. 

Many people on the autism spectrum — people like Alex — have varying issues with sensory input. That is, they may be over- or under-sensitive to sights, sounds, and other stimuli around them. An everyday experience like walking down an aisle in the mall can be overwhelming. 


The U.K.-based National Autistic Society recently set up a virtual reality experience to give mall shoppers a taste of what someone like Alex may experience during an everyday errand in public:

A virtual reality experience doesn't mean others can truly know what having autism feels like, of course. And not every person on the autism spectrum experiences sensory sensitivities the same way (or at all). But still — this video can make a big difference.

The National Autistic Society wants more people to have a better understanding of what life is like for people like Alex.

When our understanding of another person's experience deepens, so does our empathy for them.

"Autism is complex and autistic people and their families don’t expect or want people to be experts," Mark Lever, chief executive of the organization, said in a statement regarding the campaign. 

Lever noted that while many people don't want to be judgmental of those with autism, they often fail to "see the autism" in others. Instead, they simply see a "strange" man acting out in public or a stubborn child who refuses to listen to their parent. 

As the shoppers concluded after trying out the virtual reality simulator, however, we shouldn't let preconceived notions about "normalcy" dictate how we view others who may be simply experiencing the world differently.

The simulation "just shows you the panic," one woman said. "How they feel. You don't realize how they feel." 

Learn more about autism and how you can help the world become a more welcoming place for people like Alex at the National Autistic Society's website.

More

Mom and blogger Mary Katherine Backstrom regularly shares snippets of life with her two children on her Facebook page. One particularly touching interaction with her daughter is melting hearts and blowing minds due to the three-year-old's wise words about forgiveness.

Even adults struggle with the concept of forgiveness. Entire books have been written about how and why to forgive those who have wronged us, but many still have a hard time getting it. Who would guess that a preschooler could encapsulate what forgiveness means in a handful of innocent words?

Keep Reading Show less
Family

California has a housing crisis. Rent is so astronomical, one San Francisco company is offering bunk bedsfor $1,200 a month; Google even pledged$1 billion to help tackle the issue in the Bay Area. But the person who might fix it for good? Kanye West.

The music mogul first announced his plan to build low-income housing on Twitter late last year.

"We're starting a Yeezy architecture arm called Yeezy home. We're looking for architects and industrial designers who want to make the world better," West tweeted.

Keep Reading Show less
Cities

The U.S. women's soccer team won the Women's World Cup, but the victory is marred by the fact that the team is currently fighting for equal pay. In soccer, the game is won by scoring points, but the fight for equal pay isn't as clearly winnable and the playing field isn't as even.

We live in a world where winning the World Cup is easier than winning equal pay, but co-captain Megan Rapinoe says there's one easy way fans can support the team: Go see games.

Some people argue the men's team deserves to get paid more because they are more successful and earn more money for the United States Soccer Federation. Pay depends on merchandise and ticket sales, and in general, men's sporting events tend to draw a bigger crowd than women's sporting events. It's not about sex, many argue; it's about the fact that people just prefer to see men play.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

You think you know someone pretty well when you spend years with them, but, as we've seen time and again, that's not always the case. And though many relationships don't get to a point where the producers of "Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?" start calling every day just to chat, the reality is that sometimes partners will reveal shocking things even after you thought you'd been all shocked out.

That's the case for one woman whose Reddit thread has recently gone viral. The 25-year-old, who's been with her boyfriend for five years, took to a forum for relationship advice to ask if it was normal that her seemingly cool and loving boyfriend recently revealed women shouldn't have a fundamental right. (And no, it's not abortion — although there are a lot of "otherwise best ever boyfriends" out there who want to deny women the rights to bodily autonomy, too.)

Keep Reading Show less
Recommended