Do you often find that your autistic child will demand your attention much more when you’re already stressed or busy, rushing or panicking or even chatting or laughing with others?
This is pretty standard behaviour for us autistic people.
Even as adults. Yep, it's true.
The presence people fill rooms and spaces with when they’re busy, rushing, laughing, or having conversations with others generates an energy that can often feel threatening to autistic children.
Excitement, happiness, busy schedules can be as noisy as actual physical noise.
It can bring about an energy that feels unstable, chaotic and disconnecting to us as little people.
The fastest way we find calm and reassurance is to connect with our parents or important people, and when they are not able to provide us with good quality connection, we will take whatever we can get.
Autistic people, of all ages prioritise and prefer CONNECTION over socialisation.
So we go for small snippets of connection with Mum and Dad.
This might look like us asking you the same questions over and over when we already know the answer.
It could be us interrupting your conversations with others in public or when friends and family visit our home.
We might behave in ways we know you will find unacceptable.
Because all of these methods bring about a glimpse of connection with you, which in turn provides us with snippets of reassurance or calm.
Even if you snap.
Even if you yell.
Even if the response is negative.
Anxiety has many faces.
It isn’t always a child shaking, hiding behind her Mother’s skirt, struggling to separate.
It is the child who presents as ‘angry’ or irritable.
It is the child who knocks over or destroys the creations of their peers in educational settings.
It is the child who is late, everywhere, every time.
It is the child who panics over their sock not feeling right.
It is the child with their fingers in their ears, even when the sound isn’t loud..
But the energy, the presence of others, is.
When our autistic children appear to be giving us a hard time,
It is always that they are having a hard time.
And when they appear to be harassing us, provoking us, defying us..
They are more often than not,
Seeking quality connection.
It’s important for us to find the time,
Even two uninterrupted minutes
Of good quality connection
For our little ones.
Because even when they do manage those smaller glimpses of desperate connection,
Our negative, busy, rushed, overwhelmed, exhausted responses
Require recovery time for them as well as us.
A book in the evening,
A cuddle in bed with Mum and Dad.
A cup of tea and a dipping of the bikkie,
And some chit chat about our day.
Some toast together at brekkie,
A silly dance and a laugh.
Receiving a ten minute presentation
On the hunting rituals
Of the North Alaskan seals
Or whatever their current interest might be,
Autistic children want the same thing all children want..
They may just seek it out in different ways.
It might not be affection or physical closeness,
But we can always ask:
"How can we spend time together today?"
And allow ourselves the space, time and freedom to
Reconnect us all,
And reinforce the very presence
Our little ones seek.
Artist: Valeria Hernan.