You know how sometimes a child will scream and cry? Maybe even become defiant. Perhaps they kick or hit and run away. On the surface it looks like misbehavior. It might seem bewildering to you. The reason why may seem insignificant. But it isn’t any of those things when the person is autistic.
Here are a few moments when Finley responded in one or all of the above ways. But she was acting that way out of defense to sensory overload and/or change, not to misbehave. Her mind required small accommodations or extra prep time and explanations in order to complete the task or deal with the situation. She didn’t “want” to have these things. It was a necessity, she needed them to be able to cope.
- Having an apple at lunch that was cold: Warm apples taste and feel better than cold ones because the cold ones make my belly hurt and freeze. I can’t eat when I hurt and my food is wrong.
- Picking up a large pile of toys: If there are too many things on the floor at one time, cleaning up hurts my eyes. Breaking it up into small piles with only a couple of things visible at a time makes picking up work.
- Learning to write: I can write the letters you show me only if you do one letter or short word at a time. If you put lots of words and letters on the paper I have to run away because it’s too much to see. It is distracting and confusing.
- My iPod is wrong: I can’t use it anymore. They changed how it looks. The battery picture is the wrong color. The icons are different. I need a warning if things are going to change. I need time to process what is different, analyze why they made changes to make sense of it, and get used to the new look.
Each of us has unique needs. She is no different.
Photo credit: Shayla Hearn