Ok, so here it is, my first ever article/blog. What do I say? How do I say it? What should I wear?!
As with all things in life there are so many questions to be asked about autism. Sometimes I think we are all guilty of getting carried away with everything going on and forgetting the very basics that can help us out. If we know nothing then we strive to find out everything we can all at once. If we know lots of things then we try to use them all at the same time often forgetting the simplest things.
‘What on earth is he going on about?’ I hear you all say. Well, daily like many other people I do what I can to give advice and information to those that need it. Some of those looking for advice are parents just entering into the world of ‘autism’ and needing help. On many occasions those looking for advice are parents/relatives that have actually been living and dealing with autism for some time. An event may have taken place that has caused their loved one to act in ways they have never seen before, a new behaviour may have surfaced or there may have been a rise in challenging behaviour for which they can see no reason. These people are often very upset and frustrated because they have ‘tried this and tried that’ or ‘implemented this new strategy…’ but to no avail. They think they have failed and have no hope of finding an answer.
Often the best answer is there right in front of us but we don’t always see it. We are so keen to actually do something we miss the subtle basics.
So, what are those basics? When all the wonderful technology around us goes wrong we have this option to ‘reset to original settings’, what that basically does it put you gadget back to the state it was in when you first got it and it achieves this by removing all the extras/apps that we have added. In relationships we do the same. Where a problem or hard time is reached we start to strip back everything around us so that we get back to the point where we were comfortable. Within life as a whole often the best answer is to just get back to a basic level where everything was ok and from there build again.
Autism is no different to any of the things already mentioned because often the best action is to remove all the other influences around that person and this will help them.
To try and put this into perspective think about this. When we all walk to the shops how often do we stop and think about all the information that we are taking in and processing? Very rarely! We might notice a smell because it reminds us of something or a colour because it stands out but on the whole everything that is happening around us is processed within us without us even noticing. It isn’t a case of it just passing us by but that all that information is being dealt with in such a way that we take it for granted. It builds a living picture of the world around us that we just accept. For many of those on the ‘spectrum’ the taking in and processing of information can be very different. Many have heightened sensory skills so everything is louder or brighter than it may appear to us. The biggest point of all is that in the way we just take all that information for granted they actually have to think about and take every single piece of it in. Stop and think about that for a moment……..think about everything your senses come into contact with on a short walk. Everything smells, everything has a texture, almost everything makes a different noise, every brick in a wall is very singular and different to the last one and the list could go on. Now just imagine if rather than it all being just accepted and taken for granted how you would feel if every single little thing you had to consciously think about and accept. It would be very tiring. Sometimes when we start pressing too many buttons and commands our computers freeze and take time to catch up. We all have a point where that would happen to us as well and we would all just stop to take a time out for a few minutes. But just imagine if you can’t do that…..if that conscious process of all information is constantly there with things having to be accepted and acknowledged. You would in time get use to it just as all the wonderful people we work/live with do but if you then start to throw in all the other anxieties, problems and fears that someone on the Spectrum can have to face you soon reach that breaking point again.
The point I’m trying to make here is that if we are faced with a new challenge or problem with someone that is Autistic and we don’t know the answer then rather than try to throw new ideas at them to solve it we should first go back to basics. Make use of a quiet room or area, remove distractions from the area and ensure that they have the things around them that we know they love. Even changing the way we ourselves act around that person can help dramatically. Panicking and charging around, because we mean well, is just added chaos which someone who is distraught and struggling to taking everything in doesn’t need. Rather than accept you being there to help and support they are likely to push you away, not because they don’t want you but because right at that moment they can’t deal with that extra ‘information’. No matter how worried we get it is always best to not let it show. Talk in short factual phrases, avoid direct eye contact and if possible lower yourself to a level that is below that of the person you are trying to help. In doing this you reduce the stress and often that helps the person to find a balance again. When someone has been returned to this balanced state……then you can start to tackle the problem! These again are all things we kind of take for granted around us because we just accept that is what happens. If a 999 caller is hysterical the emergency services don’t just send everything straight away without knowing the problem, they wait and help that person to calm. Once that person has reached a calmer state then the emergency services can better collect the information they need which tells them what the problem is and how they can solve it.
It might seem like such a small thing to us but you will, as I have in my own experience, find it can really help as it is such a big issue to anyone on the Spectrum. Help to get that person back to a level state first……and then try to find the answer.