I wrote this post last week, but for various reasons have left it until now to publish.
This post has been inspired by two things I read last week. The first was something that made me really cross. I read some tweets from a fellow parent of a teenage boy with aspergers about a horrifically stressful incident for their family. It made me so angry that I wanted to shout to the world to ‘HAVE A CARE’, ‘DON’T JUMP TO IMMEDIATE CONCLUSIONS’. Then I read last week’s Netmums blog of the week ‘Knock on Your Neighbour’s door‘. which described a comparable situation, but from the point of view of a someone who had jumped to conclusions.
As the title of this post states. We all need good neighbours, and we could all learn to be a bit more understanding of those around us, not just our neighbours. When you hear noises, shouting, banging etc. don’t immediately jump to a conclusion, you could be making someone’s difficult and stressful life even more stressful and difficult than it already is.
As Shanni Leigh tells in her post, she jumped to some very wrong conclusions at first and then learned that there was a very sad story behind her next door neighbour’s front door which made her think and re-consider her actions.
As a parent of a pre-teen boy with asperger’s syndrome I live with an inner fear that as the testosterone levels increase his anger and frustrations will reach a level that I am scared to even contemplate.
Last week a fellow parent of a teenage boy with Asperger’s tweeted about an awful incident with a neighbour that made a very stressful situation even worse. She has published a post on her own blog over at Aspie In The Family in which she writes to her neighbour to try explain the additional distress caused by the actions taken.
For those of you who don’t know anything about autistic spectrum disorders you can find a basic explanation here . The brains of people on the autistic spectrum are often hyper sensitive to certain senses, visual, sounds, smells, etc. They often process information in a different way and take longer to process things, they may not be able to process more than one piece of information at a time. Often autistic people experience high levels of anxiety and sometimes for a range of reasons, depending on the individual, when too many things are going on for the brain to cope with the wires get overloaded, anxieties are heightened to an overwhelming extent and the result can be a ‘meltdown’. A meltdown is not a toddler tantrum. It is where the person’s brain just cannot process any more information and the messages all become confused and overwhelming. This website gives some insight into the differences between a meltdown and a temper tantrum. The one thing this website doesn’t make clear is that meltdown’s are not confined to autistic children. They are also experienced by teenagers and adults. There are many bloggers that can describe the effects of a meltdown better than I.
So back to the point. Meltdowns can be scary, they can be noisy, they can be messy, they can be frightening for those involved and immediate family. It is SO stressful to watch someone you love in such distress that they don’t seem to know or care what they are doing, that they are screaming, shouting, kicking, biting, throwing furnature, slamming doors. hitting their head against the wall and any number of other things. As a family you have to try your best to manage the situation, to make it as safe as possible, to try to find calming things to do and say. You may have to leave the person to be as safe as possible and allow the meltdown to run its course. You may have to deal with very difficult decisions if you think that the person you love is causing a danger to themselves or others. Am I giving you an idea that this is bloody hard work and heart wrenching stuff? – I hope I am.
So please imagine that you are at home, at night with your other children and your teenage Son is having a meltdown, throwing his furniture round the room, slamming doors so hard and so many times, that they come off the hinges, throwing things down the stairs.
Would you be upset?
Would you be scared for your Son?
Would you be scared for yourself and your other children?
Would you be trying to think rationally about how to keep everyone as safe and calm as possible so that equilibrium can be restored as soon as possible?
Would you be having some anxiety about what point you should think about calling the police or a doctor yourself if the situation deteriorates in order to protect your family?
Would you be worrying about the re-percussions of such a potential decision?
Would you, possibly, be having a little worry in the back of your mind about the noise and how it might be disturbing or even scaring others?
I expect for most parents the answers to all these questions would be ‘yes’
So, how would you feel, on top of all of this if your neighbour added to your stress by complaining about the noise and threatening to call the Police? – It would really help to calm things down and relieve your anxieties, worries and to bring the meltdown to an end wouldn’t it? (NOT)
And then, how would you feel when the Police DO actually knock on your door in the middle of it all? Yes, I guess you might be pretty damn frazzled by this point, as if you didn’t have enough to cope with!
Well, if you read Aspie in the family’s blog you will know that something like this did happen to one family last week. It is very likely happening to other families. It is something that I am scared may one day may happen to us.
We are lucky at the moment, we have lovely neighbours who I hope know us well enough to want to try to understand the challenges of autism and who would respect that we would do all we could to limit the impact on others, but would ask for help IF we needed it. Please try and be a lovely neighbour. Please don’t judge. Try to find out what the bigger picture is.
If someone you know tells you they have a child, or any other relative for that matter, on the autistic spectrum please ask questions, try to understand. The stresses of coping with some of the practical issues of autism are one thing, but the stress and difficulty in handling the lack of understanding of others is MUCH, MUCH harder.
Thanks so much for reading and remember some statistics indicate that approximately 1 in every 80 boys has an autistic spectrum disorder. The figure is slightly less for girls. So it VERY likely that you know several people on the spectrum.
If you would like to help us raise awareness and understanding that people on the autistic spectrum and their families need please share this post and pop over to Aspie In The Family and read and share their post too.
Thanks, so much for reading. x