A couple of days ago a quote popped up on the Autism Speaks Facebook page.
Children with autism are very observant so they will notice everything, including your attitude toward them.
— Trevor Pacelli
This is so true for Geordie.
Over the years we have learnt, sometimes the hard way, that although Geordie appears not to be listening, he is. In fact, the times he appears the busiest, or the most absorbed in what he is doing, are the times he hears and sees the most.
Hand in hand with this is Geordie’s keen sense of character. He either likes a person immediately, or he doesn’t. There is no in-between, getting to know you behaviour. You are either IN or OUT.
A lot of this, I believe, has to do with a person’s initial interaction with Geordie. People who are ‘in his face’, forcing eye contact, speaking in high-pitched or babying voices or who question him incessantly — without fail, they are OUT. If, on the other hand, people are chilled, don’t pressure Geordie to respond, don’t talk about him like he isn’t there and stay out of his personal space — with very few exceptions, these people are IN.
This is something that is very hard to impart. There are two things I desperately want people (particularly his teachers) to understand about Geordie:
- It is not about YOU. Geordie’s behaviours are NOT a reflection of whether or not he ‘likes’ you, but your reactions to his behaviours will influence this.
- If you really want to engage with Geordie, you need to wait until he invites you in to his world, his space. If you pressure him to conform, you will never get in.
Even as a baby, Geordie seemed to have this innate sense of personality. There were some people he would happily go to. Then there were others who he wouldn’t have a bar of. In one particularly extreme case, a friend of mine could not even walk into the room without Geordie screaming. If she looked at him, or tried to pick him up he would be inconsolable for ages. These days, he has better control of his emotions, but little else has changed.
I am very open with people about Geordie’s diagnosis. For me, it is important that people don’t label Geordie as naughty, spoilt or anti-social. As far as I’m concerned Asperger’s is not a label — it’s an effective way to explain Geordie’s behaviour without going into reams of detail. However, the range of understanding about Asperger’s and Autism is as broad as the spectrum itself. And it is this understanding, or lack of, that Geordie picks up on best.
She doesn’t get me.
These four words have been used by Geordie about people who: think his diagnosis is an excuse; get upset because Geordie won’t talk to them; and who constantly pressure Geordie to join in because it’s fun.
Not everybody will get Geordie. He knows this. Very few people get on with everybody they meet.
Most students (and adults) with Asperger’s who I have met are the same; it takes time to get to know them, to build trust and to be allowed to experience their world.
This rule applies to everyone though, Asperger’s or not.
Stand back, give the person some room.
Try to understand who they are.
Give them time to see who you are.
Be open-minded if and when you are allowed to enter their world.