Wednesday, November 14, 2018

To Those Who Do Not Understand Social Anxieties and Overstimulation

When you see a family at a restaurant or public place, and their child spends the entire meal (or whatever event) on a tablet, please do not be so quick to throw that judgy shade. Sometimes, more often than you'd think, that child is on the autism spectrum, has a severe anxiety disorder, or has a similar disorder affecting their mind and emotions, and that may be the only way that they can be out and function in society without having a complete meltdown. These meltdowns, by the way, are completely out of their control. Yes, there is a difference between a meltdown and a tantrum, and there is no "spanking them straight" when it comes to meltdowns. There just isn't. On the more severe end, this child may also be nonverbal. Those tablets, while providing entertainment, may also be the only way that child has to communicate to a society where the majority of which do not understand sign language. Yes, there are SEVERAL apps for that.

But even on the less severe end ...

Imagine that there is a giant bonfire in front of you. It smells amazing, provides comforting warmth, and it's just so pretty. You want to be near it. It makes your heart happy. Now imagine you dropped your favorite thing in it. You need to get it out, because you love it so much. Not getting this thing back is not an option for you. So you reach in and grab the thing right out. Fantastic. Now you're on fire. It hurts. It's horrible. You possibly die.

Rewind back to dropping the thing. Much better. I hand you a set of fire tongs. With this nifty tool, you pull the thing right out and go on about your day.

The bonfire is the activity. Any activity. We all need to go do something fun every once in a while, or we lose our minds. We need to be around people, and we need to experience life. That's just how it is. There are enough movies and shows made about what happens in total seclusion that I don't need to actually expand on this, right? Cool.

The thing you dropped is the NEED to participate in said activities, even if sometimes you'll need to be somewhere you're not always 100% thrilled about. Sometimes we need to go to the store or the doctor or whatever responsibility there may be. It's life. It's messy and stressful. Plus, being part of a functional society is a necessity for these kids, so they can hopefully be independent someday, or at the very least, not be a hermit. Come on, guys. The Passengers ... The Martian ... The Shining ... Seclusion is BAD, mmk?

Sometimes going out to do things can be pretty and fun, like Christmas villages and movies and theme parks. But as represented by your fiery death or maiming, it can be a scary, painful, overwhelming experience once they're all up in it. The noises, the lights, the chaos ... It's a lot to take in when you are unable to process life like an average, unaffected, neuro-typical person.

The tongs that I handed you represent that tablet that you look at with such disdain and judgment. It is a tool given to those children by their parents to help them function. With average people, it's just to help life progress. Take the boredom from here (everyday doldrums) and move it over here (creative/intellectual outlet), where it can help you progress in whatever Candy Crush/Angry Birds/Minesweeper nonsense gives you joy, just like you'd move logs around on a fire with those tongs. With these kids, though, this tool can help drown out the overwhelming, terrifying, painful stimulus and stress and allows them to still participate in their own way. Just watch them, if you can do it in a not creepy, non-threatening way. They are still interacting as best they are capable, and I guarantee their parents are interacting with them.

Most importantly, regardless of the situation, disorder, or lack thereof, that child is healthy enough to be out without giving you some sort of winterborn plague, happy, loved, fully supervised by caring adult humans, and not affecting your ability to survive in any way, whatsoever.

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