Tag Archives: Sensory Overload

Autism and Justified Anger

On my autism treatment and acceptance, Autisticook commented by saying that anger in an autistic is often justified. She compared it to the situation where a wheelchiar user gets angry because they are faced with yet another two-step staircase that wasn’t necessary and where nobody thought of installing a ramp. This made me think: are we overpathologizing anger in people with developmental disabilities (and mental illness)? Are we incorrectly assuming that anger is part of the disorder, while it’s just a response to a lack of accommodations? This is obviously not a scientific discussion, as what is a reasonable accommodation depends on your perspective.

I just a few days ago heard about cognitive accessibility, where people accommodate their language, for exxample, for understanding by people with learning difficulties. I’m trying to find an accessible and understandable explanation of this, but can’t seem to find one. What I understan dit to mean, includes for example using simple, straightfoward language. With autistic people, you may need to refrain from using figures of speech, for example.

What if you were dropped in a country where you didn’t speak the language and everyone refused to speak English? Would you get angry? Quite likely you would. Now understand autism as communicating in a different language, too. Is it strange then that the autistic gets angry when you routinely refuse to make an effort to speak their language?

Autism is not just a communication disability. It’s in a way a sensory disability, too. Imagine, again, being in that foreign country and everyone shouting at you for whatever reason. They also randomly shine a flashlight at your eyes for whatever reason. In addition, this country is rich on insects, and they crawl over your body all the time. Would you get frustrated? Sure you would!

We do not medicate wheelchair users for getting frustrated at the umpteenth staircase. You would not want to be put on medication if you were in the aforementioed country. So why do we medicate autistics who are irritable? It’s probably because accommodating them requires a radical paradigm shift in what we always thought access was all about. Is it a more radical shift than the shift towards wheelchiar accessibility? I am not sure.

Autism and Selective Mutism Symptoms

I have not yet finised reding or even scanning Aspergirls, but I know that in it is a part on mutism in (Asperger’s) autistics. I also recall that in 2003 or 2004, I was on an autism discussion board and selective mutism was regularly discussed. Not necessairly in the context of autistic kids or adults, but as a similar disorder.

Indeed, many autistics, myself included, have symptoms that could minmic selective mutism, where a person is able to speak in certain situations but not in others. A person cannot technically be diagnosed with both selective mutism and an autistic spectrum disorder, since when a person is autistic, their selective mutism symptoms are chalked up to that.

I do not know what the literature says about this, so I can only speak for myself, but I often get “locked up inside” out of anxiety. For example, in high school, when my tutor raised topics that hit too close to home, I shut down. However, I can also experience mutism when my thoughts get interrupted or I’m overloaded. Then, my brain shuts down in another respect.

So what can parents and teachers do about selective mutism in an autistic? What they did to me, both my parents and my teachers, was force me to speak. I remember one night when I was about sixteen, being made to stay up until I’d told my parents a certain rather personal thing. Let me say, thhis is not the way to go. Anxiety may play a factor in selective mutism symptoms. When you use force, this anxiety will only get worse. Also, if your child does not trust you enough to talk to about personal issues, that’s something to work on first.

When the root of the mutism is not anxiety, still, force will not work. When a person is overloaded, the words and actions you use to make them speak, will often only overwhelm them more. Let them quietly think for a bit instead. You might want to ask what the autistic needs – quiet time to process, an alternative communication modality, etc. -, and the person may be able to indicate this in a way even if they don’t use words. Sometimes, asking questions will help, at least with me, but sometimes, this will distract me only further from what I wanted to say.