What do you do when you see someone acting in such a way you would think “that’s a bit weird?”
For example, where a child covers his ears and screams to his mum “That’s too loud!!”, but for you, it is just the sound of a train passing through the tunnel. It is not loud at all but for someone who is autistic, it is. For them, it is like trying to walk on the road while being surrounded by fireworks!
My son Gabriel would always wear his headphones to listen to music in order to escape his surroundings whenever we are at a party. The fact that he agrees to even attend at all is a BIG bonus for me and my husband! He otherwise prefers to stay at home, but I have told him that you must see another human being’s face besides just mommy and daddy’s. I would even mention that he may have the opportunity to see the girl of his dreams, to which he would reply:
“Mom, stop, it! You are being ridiculous!”.
But being an obedient son, he would then go on to say:
“Okay, I will go to the party, but I need my headphones. Will dad come too?”
“Of course!” I respond back.
He is not bothered by what the host or guests say or think when they see him listening to his own music as opposed to socialising with other guests. His pair of headphones is his mate (his dad too) and is also his portable sanctuary! It protects him from all those unwanted, excessively loud noises at a party. He can be in his own secluded world and won’t be bothered by anyone, not even me, his own mom. Of course, he does not wear his headphones all the time especially when the loud party noises have subsided. When we hear “the host is now ready to speak so everyone, please be quiet!!” I could then talk to him and ask him whether he wants another slice of cake, for which he has a sweet tooth. As it is a party and he hardly attends any, why not??
When Gabriel notices that a guest is about to burst a balloon, he would cover his ears! Why is that? Well for us, the sound of a balloon bursting is nothing to write home about. It makes my shoulder jerk a little bit, but that’s it! So, I would reassure my son that it is nothing, but he would insist in covering his ears. He would say something along the lines of “the sound of the balloon explodes in my head!” Yes of course! Sensory overload. What seems nothing for me, is not for him. I should put myself in his position. I know, I know! But sometimes you tend to forget.
So let me ask you, how do you react when you see something unusual? We are only human, so we tend to prejudge. In this particular situation, it is so easy to say, “what a spoiled child! Their parents probably pamper them too way too much, giving in to whatever they ask. What a shame!”
But hang on a minute! What you don’t know is that child or adult who has caught your attention has got autism. You must have heard about autism.
What Each and Every one of us Can Do
The problem with us neuro-typicals is that, we expect autistic people to behave the way we do. Should they? I must admit, I am often guilty of that as well. We fail to understand that the way they see, smell, hear, touch the things around them is different from us.
Once I realise that my son sees differently the way I see things, I then go on to listen to his explanation and I put myself in his shoes. How would I feel if “something explodes in my head?” How would I feel if I don’t want to be hugged and then someone just hug me? How would I feel if I don’t understand someone’s body language? When I then put myself in his shoes, two things happen:
- Acceptance – I begin to accept that his perspective is different from mine and there is NO way I can change that.
- My heart softens and I become more patient and UNDERSTANDING!
When you try to understand… they indeed thrive!
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