Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Autism and Love

Let's say your brain was such that life seemed overwhelming and
didn't want
interact with anyone outside of yourself.
They call it autistic, but, you just want to be alone.
Things are more interesting than people, much of the time
and "stimming" a repeated over and over movement
is the only way to shut out the overstimulating
get a sense of control in a world
where you seemed to have none.
And then, you have a parent, or other person, and then:
they leave you alone, that's okay
they try to fix you and change you or stop your stemming
and that doesn't make sense
they sit down with you, and join in, as if what you are doing makes
to them.
This feels good.
You feel like maybe they are alright. You feel like maybe they understand you and that you are alright. 
Maybe this being alive thing isn't so bad, after all.
Maybe they are worth noticing or smiling at or at least sneaking a look at.
And then, sometimes you have a "good day," where you are
interested in these other people
you like them
and smile
and look at them
and they get happy about that,
and ask for more,
in gentle and fun ways,
that make you feel like joining them even more.
Then life isn't so bad:
if you want to be alone, they "join" you, but don't punish, or try to fix or ignore you
and if you want to come out, they get excited and help it be even nicer for you
It seems you win, no matter what.
let's do an adult version, but from the point of view not of the person
who is either
"having a bad day"
"having a good day"
but from the point of view of a person who wants to be
a good mate
a good lover
a better friend
to their partner ( or normal child, or friend).
So, your partner is having a bad day,
they don't "stim," they don't sit on the floor and rock
for hours,
but they clearly aren't feeling good.
As a friend we have the same three choices:
ignore them ( sometimes adult mates just do need "space")
or try to fix them
as in
cheer up. or
tell me your problem and I'll give a solution
or scold them: you always get in this mood
demand: when are you going to shape up
(this is very common, really, in most grumbling marriages)
Or, as their lover or friend,
you can either leave them alone, as suggested first,
or do the adult equivalent of "joining"
you can ask them what's going on
or can be sympathetic to why they are feeling as they are feeling
you can encourage them to really talk it through
you can hug and hold and rock them, and demand no quick fix
you can stroke them
you can sit quietly in their company
letting them know you're ready to be with them, when they are ready
and then,
or other days,
their 'good mood' days,
you make sure to join that
to celebrate,
to play, to tease, to dance,
to ask for something you're both a little lazy to
get to,
like going out dancing
or to a party,
you help them get even happier in their happiness
(you don't neglect, again, fairly common. as in, "I'm so busy, they're in a good mood, no need to put any attention and energy their way.")
This is a big topic, and I hope this is a start to get us all thinking on
how to love our partners better
how to serve our autistic children better.
The keys is mindfulness,
being awake to what we are feeling,
being awake in the moment to what the child is feeling,
and then being a bit brave,
not fixing,
but connecting,
not ignoring and taking for granted,
but connecting.
That's what we all want, love and connection.
I'm in Austin. I work with families and children.
I can talk to you if you want to talk.
Chris Elms at 360-317-4773

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