We have had a lot of that going around. In all my years going to school, I never remember having this many snow days.
Being out of routine can bring about a lot of fear for a child with Autism. It's a fact, people on the spectrum, process information, differently. Factor in, noise, smells,confusion and being tired. Now, you have someone on the spectrum, processing even less than they could totally alert and with routine in place.
Temple Grandin talks about connections in the brain. "Connections may work like dial-up rather than high speed internet connections."
I can remember Angi talking to the staff about a brain that is processing slower. She gave the visual of a computer that is working slower. The dreaded hour glass pops up and it spins and spins or that circle on the screen that lets you know your computer is doing something, but you are just not sure what it is. The worst thing you can do is keep clicking because, eventually, it will just stop working altogether.
Many times, people on the spectrum half hear things. I always say, "I hear blah, blah, blah," The more someone talks to me or the faster they talk, I hear every fifth word and before I know it, I have no idea what they are saying. Sometimes, I can piece together words here and there, nod and act like I kind of sort of know what they are saying. People on the spectrum are great at masking. (covering up/pretending we understand when we don't.) But, then you expect us to know exactly what you said and then possibly execute something we have no understanding of.
I know this all to well. There is a term called, "clipping." This can happen to anyone, but it happens all the time to someone on the spectrum. Give an order. "Go to the cupboard and bring me a vegetable, potatoes, and oil."
Every time I was asked something of that nature, I would get to the cupboard and stare at it for about five minutes trying to figure out what I was supposed to get. I would yell, "what am I supposed to get?"
I really only hear the beginning of things or the end. I tune in and out. It's like a bad reception. My brain just does not process and retain. You can tell me to read pages, 12-30 and do these questions, but I probably only heard the words..."read blah blah blah."
I had a teacher ask me once, "Why are you the only one not taking notes?" And because I was a very non-verbal person who did not really know how to answer. Of course my answer was, "I don't know." I would get in trouble for things that I did not even mean to do. I just did not understand. (I am much better at this, now. As long as I am not stressed or tired.) In fact, if I do take notes, I understand much better because I need more than just 'hearing.'
BUT, in order for me to understand words, I cannot look at the person directly. Then I lose my hearing...
My inability to SAY that I was confused caused fear.
All behaviors do happen for a reason. Fear is a HUGE motivator when it comes to meltdowns/tantrums. I'm not excusing all behaviors. I'm just simply saying, "Fear is often the motivator." Panic can be the first feeling when something new is introduced or when out of routine. Not knowing what is going to happen, not understanding all the cues and slower processing can lead to some significant fear.
Your environment can feel like a tornado and you have to make sense of it.
There are ways we can calm before this happens. First, stop it before the processing shuts down and all you are getting is spinning.
Create environments that are safe. Allow the person with Autism to share reasons for confusions and frustrations, but not allowing them to be excuses at the same time for NOT doing what they need to do.
AHA! NOPE! I never allowed my fears, confusions to stop me from growing and moving forward!
Even the most nonverbal person can express how they feel. Find a way for them to sit with you and communicate. They are trying to tell you.
One last thing, people on the spectrum do process slower, but believe it or not, they are the, "masters of reading slight differences in someone's actions."
Talk to them. They are watching, but the slightest differences can be confusing.
Explain and listen.
Assistant Director at IDEA House
someone on the spectrum