I was asked about a month ago to do interview about working with special needs for a project someone was working on. As I was finishing it up tonight I started to think hard about one of the questions and I got on the thought of some of the behaviours some of the people I work with have. I started to think about some of the stereotypes that people have about people with special needs having behaviours. I’ve been asked many times questions about if my work is safe, if every single time the person I’m working with doesn’t agree with me they hit me, if people have behaviours like the one in Rain Man when they’re trying to get on the airplane all of the time, I get asked why people with special needs are so angry all of the time, why can’t they just tell you what’s wrong. People have a lot of misconceptions. I do my best to explain that people with special needs aren’t angry all the time, that they’re not dangerous, that they’re not behavioural all of the time and more than often they aren’t having behaviours or having an outburst because they want to. As I struggled with answering a question in this interview I decided to try and explain it through what I think it might be like for a person with special needs to be experiencing. This is what I came up with:
Imagine that you can’t talk and you have Autism and with Autism the individuals senses are often heightened so a noise that a person without heightened senses doesn’t even really hear may irritate the heck out of a person with Autism. So you’re non-verbal and you’re in class and the person sitting next to you is using their pencil in a different way and it’s all you can hear and all you can focus on. You want the person to stop using their pencil for a bit or you want to to move so that you can focus and your head stops hurting but you can’t talk. You try and get up to leave but your teacher says that it’s work time right now and you need to sit down. You sit back down but the kid next to you is still using their pencil like that and it’s really hurting your ears. You need to find a way to get their attention so you slam your hand on the table. Your teachers hear and see you but they don’t understand why you’re banging your hand on the table so they tell you not to do that in class and to continue with your work. You are becoming very frustrated and your head is killing you because of the noise. Soon your other senses begin to heighten, the lights in the classroom are too bright and someone is using a marker and the smell is very strong. You need to get out of the classroom to a safe quiet place so you get up to leave again but your teacher tells you that you need to stay seated, you can’t handle it so you go for the cause of the issues and take the pencil from the other students hand, in your confusion and frustration you used too much force and hurt your friend by accident. The teachers are shouting at you and you want to tell them you didn’t mean to but you can’t make the words come out. All the shouting is making your head hurt even more, you start to rock back and forth and you put your hands on your ears to try and stop all of the senses and make your head stop pounding. A teacher comes up behind you but you don’t realize because of everything going on in your head. They try and take your arm but it scares you and you hit their hand away. You didn’t want to hurt them, you were just scared. This makes the staff not very happy, you try and tell them what’s going on but nothing is working. They finally take you to a quiet room where you can focus but all of the senses are too much and you try to get them to calm down but it won’t work. The only way you think you can get everything to stop is to bang everything right out of you. You look around the the room and you see a table. You walk over to it and you bang your head, over and over and over again. Your worker has told you how sad it makes her to see you hurt yourself like that but you don’t know what else to do. You bang and bang and bang and they try their hardest to stop you but they can’t. Once you feel like all of the noises and lights and smells and finally gone you get up and go sit down. You want to tell everyone why all of that just happened but the words won’t come out. You know that hugs sometimes make people feel better though so you walk up to your teacher and give her a big hug and she says that it’s okay for you to go back to classroom with the rest of the kids now but you’re a little worried that the pencil might upset you again so you walk in slowly and you see that everyone has changed activities and the class is now watching a movie. You find your seat and try your hardest to show your friend that you didn’t want to hurt them and then watch the movie with the rest of the class.
Through my experiences of working with people with special needs some of whom are behavioural this is what I could come up. I’m not sure if that’s actually what goes on inside of someone’s mind but it’s the best guess I’ve got.