ABSTRACT

Epic expedition. Ability and disability. Approbation and excoriation. Admiration and derision. Traversing alien social interactional landscapes, balancing contradicting extremes of mental anguish and physical pain, with unadulterated wonderment; the autist grapples constantly with a heightened consciousness of Parallel Embodiment: juxtaposed oxymoronic existence of Self within the realm of Other, as if awake inside a silent, roaring dreamscape.

 

“Scheherazade’s Sea –autism, parallel embodiment, and elemental empathy” is not merely an investigation of compelling phenomena, or a crafted showcase of autism. It is an invitation to enter and partake of a parallel-embodied domain, sharing sympathetic resonances via channels through which the autist apprehends and experiences the world: intrinsic detail-focused cognition, and sensory portals of touch, smell, taste, hearing and sight.

 

The ‘social deficits’ ascribed to Autism Spectrum Condition in current authoritative diagnostic systems (DSM and ICD) are based on a normative model of social interaction, underpinned by traditional arguments that autism is defined by a lack of empathy and other social, functional deficits. Instead of addressing autism through prevalent neurotypical constructs and measurements focusing on perceived impairments, such as the so-called ‘Theory of Mind’ hypothesis, this thesis investigates the unique sensory and cognitive features inherent in autism that reveal richly dynamic sentience of Self and Other, in order to generate a distinct conception of contrapuntal embodiment and alternative Empathic Consciousness.

 

(An abstract of 218 words)

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