Yes yes yes! People with autism most definitely share the same feelings as people who don’t have autism. Autism does not make people emotionless nor does it cause a lack of empathy. In fact, emotions can be even more intense in autism - including empathy. For some people with autism, the challenge lies in naming, understanding and expressing emotions. A ‘feeling’ may be felt but being able to name what it is can be tough. That’s true for every human being. Sometimes we feel a mix of emotions and we cannot quite describe what we feel. Individuals who live with autism may only be able to express basic emotions such as happy, mad, sad. But, we know that emotions are far more diverse than that. We may feel infuriated, elated, desperate or gloomy. This has nothing to do with a level of intelligence – in fact, very intelligent individuals
What might a person with autism tell his or her parents, caregivers and teachers about the holiday season? Dear adults, I know you are upset with me. I hear you talking to each other about me. You wonder why I seem so ‘off?’ Why do I melt down more often these days? Why am I being so inflexible and ‘non-compliant,’ you ask? There is a lot going on in my world. I wish I could tell you so that you would understand – and help me. My house is occupied with new decorations. The blinking lights and shiny things on the tree hurt my eyes. The presents under the tree are not to be opened. I must wait, you say. Your ‘background’ music screams in my ears. Different sights and sounds fill my world – decorations filling spaces and changing the way my house and classroom looks, feels and smells.
The message I was about to deliver boomeranged around and smacked me in the head. Ivars and I were excited about our return to Ohio. Anticipation occupied my mind as I rehearsed my presentation and imagined the people who would attend my workshop early the next morning at a large autism conference. “Your books aren’t allowed in our country.” The words stung. My chest tightened. My muscles stiffened. My face constricted. My husband’s voice broke through my shock, telling me to stay calm. His words sounded a million miles away. I was far beyond the possibility of calm. Beyond the point of no return. For almost a decade, we had travelled in the U.S. with my self -published books with no issues. The explanation at the border was always the same: “My wife is speaking at an Autism conference and she has a table to sell her books.” This time
Just because some kids with autism cannot speak, does not mean they don't have something important to say! :-)
What pictures do you hold in your mind of your child’s day at school? What activities would be challenging? Which activities would bring her the most joy? How do you see him reacting to frustration? Is your child dancing when music is being played or sitting with headphones watching a learning video? Is your child running around enjoying the freedom of recess or walking the perimeter of the school yard? Is he sitting on the floor with the other children during circle time or on a chair on the edges of the circle? Is she contributing to group work or working independently at her desk? As humans, we have incredible imaginations and we are constantly creating assumptions in our mind about what we think someone is doing and what they know or don’t know. We may not even realize that we have these ‘pictures’ in our mind until they clash
Dad, I am not the child you thought I would be. You love me anyway. I cannot do the things you hoped I could do. You cheer for me anyway. I have interests that are very different from yours. You participate with me anyway. I don’t respond to you the way you would expect. You engage with me anyway. I sometimes behave in ways you don’t understand. You keep learning anyway. My future may not be what you planned. You encourage me to grow to be the best me anyway. Sometimes, you get impatient and frustrated with me, I love you anyway. Sometimes you feel scared and your heart hurts, I see your bravery, love and courage anyway. Thank you for loving me the way I am Dad. Thank you for letting me love you, the way I can. Love, Your Child with Autism Copyright©2015JenniferKrumins
The post entitled Cultivating Self Regulation left me feeling like I had more to say. Now, those who know me, might be thinking that I always have more to say. True. But, this time, I was unsettled. It was in the midst of one of those embarrassing, "less than my best - self moments," that I figured out what needed to be said. Once again, I must sheepishly admit that in dealing with my hormonal,' preteen daughter I may have "lost my $#@$" one evening. Our day had been a series of small collisions of minds. In my mind, she was being selfish and ultra sensitive and in her mind I was being just plain, MEAN. The storm clouds had been brewing all day and by the time bedtime was within reach her frustration and anger bubbled up from some dark place within and she unleashed the beast of preteen fury!
Kids with autism cannot be expected to self regulate emotions until we teach the skills needed to do so. But don't get too excited. Our work is not over once the "content has been covered." I suppose that it true for all teaching. Deep learning needs far more than coverage of skills. To learn a skill well enough to be able to use it under stress and in different situations, we have to have a whole lot of guided practice, support and then a gradual release of the skill into our own hands without the direct support of another human being. The process seems to be a lot like garden work. It's not enough to dig a hole, throw a seed in and then rest with a cold beverage while the seed 'does its thing.' I am no expert gardener, but, I am quite sure that we need to provide
Last week I promised that we adults cannot take it personally when a child with autism experiences a meltdown. I explained that meltdowns signal that the child needs help and skills need to be taught. Before taking a closer look at what those skills might be I thought it would be frame the meltdown in a way that many of us can relate…hopefully, I am not alone on this one! Warning: Embarrassing self -disclosure ahead. There are times when I just lose it. Any semblance of self- control eludes me and I fold like a cheap suit. The sight of me relapsing to the state of a crying child who just simply cannot cope, is not pretty. For the most part, I hold myself together in front of the public and colleagues, but, my dear friends and family get to witness the ugliest moments. Once in a while, life delivers
Toys strewn across the room. The shrill sound of a screeching child permeates the halls. What just happened? All was well. A child was playing happily and then...without warning, a switch was triggered and BAM! A frenzy ensued. Moments such as these are painful - for the child and the adults involved. No one enjoys losing control. There is no secret pleasure that a child with autism gets from an eruption of emotion. Think about it - Do you secretly enjoy losing your cool in moments of extreme fatigue or upheaval? Probably not. Personally, my least shining moments arise from a lack of being able to keep the lid on my self control due to exhaustion, pain, overwhelm or hunger. I may try to pin the cause on something my children or husband did or did not do. But, the reality is that I choose my responses. We all do. The