I have something exciting to tell you. I like to call it magic, because that’s what it feels like for me. I was given an opportunity to test a pair of glasses that are designed to help autistic people with sensory overloads and sensory processing.
I first need to back up to when I first encountered these glasses. I thought it was an interesting concept, but ultimately didn’t expect much from them. I’m mostly bothered by sounds and textures. So it didn’t make sense that a pair of glasses would help with those issues. Maybe I would experience something, but I expected it to be mild. My guess was that if these glasses had any effect, that they would be the most helpful to autistic people with light sensitivities. My expectation was to test them, say that it did little to nothing for me, and then send them back. I figured it would be good for them to have that honest feedback.
During my first day, the first thing I noticed was a lack of anxiety and extreme calmness. I wasn’t expecting this. It was like I was noticing something that was just always there, and then just wasn’t. Apparently low level anxiety was just so normal for me that I didn’t even notice it until it wasn’t there.
Then I had kids running around me and screaming, you know like kids do. Usually this hurts my ears and gives me anxiety. With the glasses, I just laughed, moved out of the way, and went to do the dishes. This may not sound like a big deal, but when it becomes difficult to just keep up on household chores because children are playing loudly, this is amazing. Similarly, I was able to just calmly sit and drink coffee in the morning while the kids ran around, without all the typical anxiety and the need to constantly stim at the table.
One of the most amazing things for me is that I was able to go grocery shopping while wearing a mask. COVID-19 happened and along with it came all the requirements to wear masks when shopping. Now, my Asian readers may not understand the big deal with this is. I know that this is a part of your culture even before COVID happened, but it’s not in America. I never grew up with it. So at 30 years old, it all the sudden becomes a requirement. This is already difficult, because sudden changes are difficult for autistic people. Then there are the sensory problems with it. Perhaps I’d have less problems if I had a chance to slowly get used to them as a child. Not ever autistic person has problems with wearing masks, but some of us do. Here is an article that explains this more in depth.
Anyway, back to shopping. We already know that shopping is problematic. The lights are bright and annoying. The music is loud. The shopping carts squeak. There’s people everywhere, and they’re all talking. The freezers buzz in my ears and are too cold. And every time they scan an item, it beeps loudly. Why? Who designed this? It sucks. Then we suddenly add a mask onto all of this crap and I can no longer function. I can’t focus on the list in my hand. I don’t know where I am in the store anymore. I can’t hold in my stims anymore. I’m just trying hold myself together until my husband can drag me through the store and complete the trip.
With the glasses and the mask, I could at least complete the shopping trip. Everything still sucked, and don’t ask me to talk. I was able to follow a small list, go through self-check out, and go home. I definitely had a lot of anxiety, and I was not happy, but I did it. This a major deal for me.
I also noticed other instances where I was getting overwhelmed by my environment, and I was able to more easily handle that. For example, I can get easily overwhelmed if the children are running around, the TV is too loud, there are toys everywhere, and the kitchen is a mess. This is usually when my husband finds me rocking in a corner and has to start cleaning something up so that I can function again. When I was wearing the glasses, I was able to notice that I was getting overwhelmed and choose something to fix, which was usually turning off the TV if no one was watching it anymore and cleaning up toys that were everywhere. Noticing that I’m getting overwhelmed and then being able to do something about it is so incredibly helpful.
There was also fun things like flowers just seeming more beautiful, and being able to enjoy cheesecake and yogurt without that tangy bitter taste. I also use less creamer in my coffee because the coffee is smoother and less acidic and bitter.
This is when I messaged her asking if these glasses were made with magic, because all of this is just not normal. I think we all understand the basic concept of how glasses help people see better, or sunglasses that help block sunlight. We can even understand how glasses might help someone who’s colorblind see colors better, because that has to do with eyes. But what does anything I just told you have to do with a pair of glasses? Remember, I didn’t expect these to work, and I was not prepared for everything I experienced. I also didn’t understand how any of this was possible, hence me calling it magic.
So let me help you with this. 70% of all the sensory receptors in the body are in the eyes, and nearly half of the cerebral cortex is involved in some aspect of visual processing. So glasses help the eyes better process the sensory input that the eyes receive. Also, located just behind and between the eyes, the anterior border of the hypothalamus is formed by the optic chasm. The hypothalamus is part of what controls the fight-or-flight system, which is what is active for autistic people during meltdowns and at a lower level for anxiety. The glasses seem to have a calming effect on that system.
Right now, these glasses are in the testing phase and they need the finances to complete the testing and make the final product, which is projected to be done by 2021. They are having a difficult time getting the finances they need, because investors are more interested in making “smart glasses” for neurotypicals or glasses advertised for anti-anxiety than for autism. Most investors seem to think that investing glasses for autistic people is too high of a risk. So they are instead turning towards crowdfunding to raise the funds they need.
I understand if you don’t have the money to donate. Please only donate if you have the ability to. Please at least share this campaign and share why it is important to you. It’s important to me, because these glasses allow me to be a better mother to my children. My son has tried them, and he’s less anxious, tells me about how he feels, and has tried some new foods.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story and my experience!
- I’m in part of this video. I’m the one actually wearing the glasses, because I didn’t want to not wear them.
- This video is of me talking about being skeptical when I first got the glasses.