An Experiment

It is a well documented phenomenon:-

a youthful individual has a mishap on the play-ground and the autistic child nearby laughs.

Remember that one?

We could of course go into lengthy explanations as to why this should be so, sometimes, with some children – how some emotions, or rather the expression of those emotions, can flip over to their exact opposite – a trip switch.

Frequently, these explanations don’t ring true.

This is usually for one of two reasons.

The first reason is when the speaker uses too much jargon, so the listener falls asleep from boredom, not that they were very interested in the first place.

The second, because the explanation is too simplistic, just not good enough to be convincing.

Anyone you know still need convincing?

Here’s my version of convincing.

A small autistic child is depressed – bear with me here, I know few people believe depression is possible in a child – a credibility gap – but it really is true.

So, where were we?

Ah yes, a small sad person comes to you; they’ve been encouraged to express their emotions, not bottle them all up. The small sad person has acquired words, lots of them. The delivery is often a bit dicky but it’s still a vast improvement. The listener must be patient as the child gains confidence, builds up to the moment. They cannot be hurried. Use prompts judiciously. There may be several false starts and sputters. There can be many ways of expressing hurt feelings, feelings of self-loathing and poor self esteem – many parents are familiar with these too. ‘Negative talk’ is another common phenomenon in autism. Because they are children, the terminology may differ from adult versions on the same subject. The listener must adjust to age appropriateness, calibrate carefully, tune in to any special areas of need. It’s a serious business for us, as we wallow in his ‘cat phase,’ of development, no jokes allows. We must step into their shoes, see the world from their perspective, their sensitivities. Under no circumstances should the child’s concerns be trivialized, dismissed or belittled, no matter what. Sincerity and an open mind are essential elements of being a coach to the sufferer in their time of need, so that when that sweet innocent appears before me, lifts his fragile chin and turns his pale liquid eyes towards mine, fear, pain and suffering etched into the tiny creases at the corners, beneath a curtain of silky dye cut hair and parts those soft cherubic lips to announce:-

“I’m …..I’m …bad….real bad…..really, really bad…I’m as bad…..as bad ……as bad as a pile of dog poo!”

Don’t you dare laugh.

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