“Woof woof woof”. What does that mean to you, probably nothing I’d imagine? For me it’s the introduction to an autistic girl’s world, how she conveys her intentions and wishes.
I decided to end on a positive note before I go on holiday. Not to remember the dark days but instead things that touched my heart. So I thought I’d start with a short review of a short.
Loop is the story of communication differences, of understanding through compassion and it’s truly beautiful. The story is clear so I’m going to flip it slightly and tell you Rene’s side.
At the start she is slightly anxious because everyone else has left and she’s in the canoe on her own. This is shown by body movements and not allowing the tone to play fully each time. She is paired with someone she doesn’t know and they leave for the island. She is slightly agitated but is settled enough to allow the tone to play.
He gets her focus and asks “What do you want to do?” but then doesn’t understand that she is trying to tell him. She finds a way to communicate but it’s direction rather than intent. What she wanted was the sensory impact of feeling the rushes against her hand. When she does she’s settled and the tone plays on repeat... she’s happy.
The next scene is truly brilliant. This is the cost of misunderstandings played out on the screen. He thinks the water run off pipe will help her enjoy the sound. However what he did was put her in a confined place where the sound would be overpowering because of reverberation. His heart was in the right place, but because of a misunderstanding of autistic people and sensory processing he did the wrong thing. She doesn’t have a meltdown but does panic and go into flight mode. She looks for isolation, so her instincts can calm, resulting in using the canoe for cover.
I understand his reactions because it would have seemed erratic but it’s not. Needs met, she was happy and content, when that changes, she reacts. There are positive and negative sensory reactions... this is where this short shines. Rene is her unmasked and true self, she doesn’t chose these reactions, they just happen. So she does what she can to adjust when necessary. In fact she’s communicating pretty much the whole time but by AAC (augmentative and alternative communication), using sound (as well as body language) to express herself.
I have to say I loved how he responded in the next part of the scene. I think this is really important, he calms himself first and then focuses on reaching her. This would build a level of trust that could let her calm down. That moment of recognition that someone might understand you, if only in a small way. He is honest and direct, slow and calm, not using too many unnecessary words. It takes time but patience pays off, she settles and comes out of isolation.
To go from a positive sensory impact to a negative one would have been very jarring. It’s not always easy and can lead to the wrong interpretations. As for body language recognition it seems to be neurotype specific. Neurotypical people can naturally read other neurotypical people and the same applies with neurodivergent people from what I can tell. So it means the reading body language requires a recognition of self. If you don’t see that, the communication, emotional response and body language can all be different and requires some give and take to find a communication balance.
When she’s calm he sees her, beautifully as shown by “Woof woof woof... Let’s get back on the lake”. Very few words, but a big impact.
Inclusion requires understanding, but understanding requires inclusion. They are a Yin and Yang, in balance, in harmony. This is why I love Loop, not a busy dialogue but so much said. It’s a very powerful animation, because when it comes to inclusion, representation and acceptance... it’s all there.
All my best and love
Words – Ross A Fraser
Graphic Design App – Canva
Loop rights - Disney