Autism: Space Invaders!!!
Personal space, something every parent seems to loose the moment they have children. They have no boundaries and let’s be honest, most of the time we don’t want them to, I mean who doesn’t love random cuddles and waking up with half your children in your bed.
Although I could do without an audience every time I have to use the bathroom!
No, I’m talking about the type of space invasion that can only be achieved by a sensory seeking autistic child on a mission. They seem to lack the understanding that while we love them, it’s eventually going to get annoying if they spend hour after hour rubbing their palm on the side of your face, or how dangerous it is when they miraculously appear out of thin air only to jump at you and hang of your neck like your some sort of walking monkey bar.
Then, there is the random moments when they come up to you and put their face just millimeters from yours, make a ridiculous noise then disappear only to repeat the attack moments later.
Unfortunately for children with Autism, this invasion of other people’s personal space sometimes does not limit itself to Mum and dad, luckily for me, Master 5 is my only random stranger space invader, Master 7 and Master 10 are far to anxious and withdrawn when we are out in public, but not Master 5.
If someone looks at him, he automatically thinks they are his friend and it’s completely appropriate for him to talk, climb, jump and generally scare the life out of people, usually other children.
While we have been trying to explain to him that this kind of behaviour is inappropriate, it simply does not work because he doesn’t understand what we mean, in his mind, all those cautionary words just disappear when he decides that he knows someone.
We have also been trying to teach the boys about their own personal space, we like to call it the bubble, we explained that every person has a bubble around them, you can’t see it, but it is like a shield. That shield is always around you and it extends all the way to the end of your arm when you hold your hands out in front of you. If you put your arms up and someone is close enough that you can touch them with your whole hand, you are to close and need to move back.
Again, the boys liked the explanation but it was lost on Master 5, the older boys understand, however simply can’t control their need to behave in a certain way, although they are working on it. As with all behaviours, it is going to take time and practice and patience.
In the mean time, I spend copious amounts of time apologising for Master 5 and his various antics and his teachers at school are also adopting the bubble explanation so that there is consistency with his behaviour management.
The most interesting thing I have found with their behaviour is that while they seem very content on invading other people’s personal space, if someone does it to them, they have a complete meltdown, again you would think that this would assist in deterring them, but it does not, they don’t have the ability to control their behaviour a lot of the time and don’t understand that even though they dislike something, others should just accept it.
While sensory seeking is a big part of the reason they invade other people’s personal space, it can also be a form of communication. While all of my boys are able to talk, their ability to communicate is a whole different thing. Often they either can’t use their words due to anxiety, other times, especially with Master 5 and Master 7 they don’t understand what they are feeling and theirfor cannot communicate what they want or need.
A good example of this is Master 7 having to cling to my leg the way a small toddler would if they were frightened. He will grab hold and hide his head, even if we are walking, the cause is usually an overstimulation of lights or sounds, sometimes it’s simply because someone looked at him.
Same for Master 5, when unable to communicate his feelings or unable to understand why he feels a certain way, he will immediately come as close as possible, often trying to climb up into your lap, just like a toddler, this behaviour is something they can’t control, they need to feel secure and safe and it is the only way they can achieve this.
Master 10 often can’t communicate his emotions, although he usually only invades my personal space and no one else’s, something I think has a lot to do with his age, but it’s the same thing, he comes and sits as close as possible and even moves furniture to sit directly beside me as close as he can manage without actually sitting on me. In these moments I know he needs something, he just doesn’t know what it is.
I assume with time and the boys getting older they will be able to handle their emotions and sensory seeking behaviour better and with less assistance, if not well, it is what it is and we will manage. That being said, I certainly hope I don’t have Master 7 jumping on me out of the blue when he is 15!
As always, thanks for reading!
Oh, also, sorry the photos are not better, I have discovered it is actually very difficult to get a photo with a small child climbing/laying on top of you!