Due to some of the many things I see on social media site groups, I decided to write a letter to the parents of the kids that are on the Spectrum.
From the day your kid was born, you were made to put on a cape that came with no instructions or how to list when it came to your incredible child. However as it seems to me a good amount of parents get lost in what their child has and what they can not do in the midst of parenthood. So I made a list of things based on what I have either read or encountered when it comes to parents of this population.
If you happen to come across this by other means than Facebook and like what you have read, just head on over to the Facebook page for this blog(facebook.com/throughtheseautisticeyes) and like it.
SAB stands for self-abusive behaviors. This can be anything from cutting one self to banging ones head on a hard surface to even biting one self to the point of bleeding. These kind of behaviors are found in a good portion of people on the Spectrum. Like all behaviors, there is a reason for the specific behavior.
The two causes for SAB, in my opinion, are to:
a.) replace complex emotions and feelings of ones environment by producing a feeling and emotion that one can relate to, and that is pain.
This is the one I consider to be the more prevalent of the causes of SAB. I say that because, during a few years in middle school and high school when hormones were raging and I was having some difficulty navigating the social worlds of school life and family life, I punched things. I punched walls( interior and exterior), lockers, and even metal poles. All just to get to a simpler understanding that I knew if I punched something hard, it would hurt and could even make me bleed. I also knew that when I punched something that I did not need to try to figure out what someone else was trying to convey to me through communication and end up guessing wrong and being told so. My SAB fails in comparison, when it comes to destructive capabilities, to many others who use SAB in this fashion. However I was blessed to be able to be dealing with a lot of nuero-typical problems during the time and knew how it would be looked on if I did anything worse.
The other cause of SAB is:
b.) To get attention any way possible regarding how one physically feels.
This cause is a lot less common considering I have only encountered it once and very recently. One of the kids I work with has numerous SAB's caused by this. Whether it be, that this kids skin is itchy or if the kids sinuses are acting up. The kid has learned early on that if I cause pain one place it will at least cease in another place for the time being. I have been successful in being able to advocate for this kids needs thus far and the kid has been making tremendous strides in this area.
I know this example is vague, but due to certain rules and guidelines that I must adhere to for my job, this is all I am willing to share to keep the kids information as safe as can it can be.
SAB is not something a lot of people can see or talk about, but it is a prevalent topic when talking about people on the Spectrum. We just need to remember that all behavior is communicating something, no matter how gross or hurtful it may be.
One of the first things that gets listed when mentioning how to know if someone could be on the Autism Spectrum is "Do they make eye contact during conversation?" Then the lost usually says how someone on the Spectrum just flat out can not make eye contact but never goes on to explain why. Well I will try to explain what I think the reason it was/is difficult at times to first male eye contact then maintain it during a whole conversation.
Making eye contact has always been difficult for me and is something I have to remind myself to do every now and then. The reason why it was hard for me in my early years is way different than it is now. Growing up, turning my head to look someone in the eyes, even the slightest bit, gave me this weird troublesome feeling that even today, when I am able to express myself to a degree, can only be referred to as a dizzy/vertigo feeling in the front part of my head(known to be the frontal lobe area). After many years of facing this feeling over and over again that I got used to it even though it has been felt in other situations in my life. I personally believe this to be some sort of a circuit faulting in the brain and needing to reboot. Try to think of all the things you need to process in your brain while in a conversation.
Now imagine not being able to concentrate on one face when things are going into and out of sight and not being able to shut out all the noises around you. Then it makes sense to not worry about what the speaker or other person is doing if your putting all your focus on listening to them speak to try to catch everything they say even if it means you come off as disinterested or occupied with other things. Because at least your not having a sensory overload and contributing to the conversation.
Last thought of the blog. Thinking about this topic the past few weeks and seeing the kids I work with that are on the Spectrum and have A.D.D( now jointly classified with/as A.D.H.D), I have come to a interesting thought. What if this A.D.H.D diagnosis is just a sensory regulation issue that is being misclassified as not being able to retain attention? Because since being around a few people under this diagnosis, I have witnessed times of intense attention given by an individuals attention is one of their stims. Just a thought to ponder.
Disclaimer: I do not have a medical or psychiatric background and thus all this could be completely and utterly wrong. Please do not use me as a source.
Kind of how I would view me describing to a person what stems are:
-What are Stims?
-Stims or Stimming is short for self-stimulating behavior. Often seen as hand flapping, body-rocking,spinning, and even repetitive sequence of sounds in the Autism Community.
-But what is the purpose of self-stimulating behaviors?
-The purpose of these behaviors is to relax the mind from all the sensory input the body is receiving at that current time and place, to kind of focus on one particular thing to escape the reality of ones world.
-Whoa, wait. I thought this was an Autistic thing, however it sounds more like a human thing.
-It is. What people do not grasp is that everybody stems in a given day. What NT(nuerotypical) people see as relaxing time is them stimming to get away from what ever happened during the day. This can be anything from reading a good book, exercising, watching tv/movies, playing video games, playing sports, drinking a couple alcohol beverages, cruising the world wide web, shopping, and the list goes on and on.
-So why is it just connected to the Autistic Community?
-For one, it is the oddity of how a person on the Spectrum stims, the mere fact that a person would be seen as flapping their hands to try to calm their minds perplexes people. Secondly, the place that this population stems. For a person on the spectrum, speaking from how I deal/dealt when I need/needed to stim, is that it does not matter when or where you stim when you feel this unending feeling you can not control all the chaos going around, unlike NT people, who wait till the setting is appropriate to do what they feel they need to do to relax.Thirdly, the time a person on the spectrum can spend stimming. From my observations and self-awareness, given a choice to stim all day most would choose to stim all day.
-OK, but NT people binge watch tv shows and play video games for long hours a day so you really did not answer why this is connected to the Autistic Community.
-See the thing is, is that NT people can stim out by binge watching a tv show and go back to reality with little or no problems doing so. However, with someone on the Spectrum, once a stim stops/taken away, problematic behavior starts. This is why I consider stims to be lil-addictions. I'll put it like this, say a kid is no longer allowed to spin a top over and over again due to needing to do schoolwork or something else asked of him. Then said kid will do whatever in his discretion to get back to spinning the top over and over again, like hitting, biting, and cursing until adult in charge gives in. The same scenario can be added to most if not all addicts.
Last few words. Stims can be changed. Proper duration of stims can be taught to lessen or eliminate problematic behavior. Proper venue to stim can be taught to lessen even more social anxiety brought on by how some people view certain stims. Different coping skills can be taught for when overwhelmed in certain situations. Stimming is not a bad thing, but stimming all day and everywhere can lead to problematic behavior.
Mark Fleming- Person on the Autism Spectrum