Those with autism often respond in a primal way. They want one message communicated to them, and will usually communicate one message back. They will be happy, sad, angry, anxious, they often struggle with subtle emotions like annoyance. This isn’t to say they don’t experience subtle emotions, but they find it difficult to recognise them if they do experience them, so they will often feel angry and be angry, they won’t feel annoyed which in most people would lead to a more measured response before full-blown anger kicks in. For me personally for example I am normally ‘okay’. I don’t feel happy, sad, angry, or anxious, just normal. For most situations this is how I would describe myself. Then when the microwave starts beeping, for example, I am angry, If I am doing something like working on the computer and want to finish what I am doing before going to the microwave I will be angrily swearing at it to shut the f*** up for the full minute that it beeps for. I can see this is an over-reaction, but it happens every time. As soon as it stops beeping I am ‘okay’ again. Anything which triggers discomfort, whether it is due to excessive sensory stimulation, or uncertainty, etc., is likely to trigger the fight or flight response in the child, they will either become anxious, angry, or they will freeze and shut down from the external world.
They are also likely to have a black and white mindset, so they may be working well in class in school, then one small thing happens and they go completely the opposite way, they shut down, or get angry, or suddenly refuse to do anything. This can seem to come out of nowhere because others around them don’t necessarily recognise the patterns of what just happened. The child themselves may not be able to reflect on what happened to be able to understand why they went from calm to angry. One way to help find out what happened is to ask “what happened” and ask for a description of what they were doing before they got angry up to when they got angry. If you ask “why did you do that?” they are unlikely to know why, and so not likely to be able to answer this question. Asking “what” instead of “why” is more likely to lead to giving you the pattern of what happened, and you have a chance then of piecing together the “why”. An example of this was a child who was sat at home playing a handheld games console, then he got angry and threw it across the room, and started being violent. Asking why just got the answer “I don’t know, I just felt angry”. Asking what happened elicited that he was sat in the living-room, the TV was on in the background, he was playing his game, then he felt angry, threw his console, and became violent. The mum analysed what he had said and realised that the TV programme that was on was a talk show where the topic was absent fathers, and it was an emotive programme. The child’s father was absent and made no attempted to be in his son’s life. It was most likely this which triggered the sudden aggressive outburst. The child wouldn’t have noticed or worked that out by asking him why, but the parent could work it out. What made us confident that this was the cause was that it fit with other outbursts which had happened and what was occurring during those outbursts, like an outburst in class when the school children had to make Father’s Day cards.
Look Into My Eyes: Asperger’s, Hypnosis, & Me by Dan Jones is available in Paperback & Kindle Here is a link to your local Amazon store: http://apn.to/prod/1542551196