I’m an introvert and so is our autistic daughter, that’s okay by me!

By | January 26, 2019

There are many types of people in this world, some have “labels”, others don’t but what we all have in common is that we have our own ways of coping/dealing with situations.

I’ve said it before, I’m not a “coooooeeee, look at me!” person, to be honest, I’d find it exhausting! The pressure of always being the focus of attention, of performing… no thanks, I’d rather be on the outside looking in, contributing when appropriate and when/if there’s a gap in conversation.

So, it’s no surprise that D is also an introvert.

This was her today, after two days absent from school, she agreed to head to the shops.

She will sit in a coffee shop with me and read her book whilst having a snack. It’s her way of coping with the environment, the contents of her book distracting her from the sounds and smells associated with the environment. There isn’t masses of conversation, she will answer politely questions but I am aware of how much she is attempting to tolerate and fit in with the environment and I don’t want to pressurise her.

It does make me smile that she’ll pack five or so paperbacks into a bag when we go out but I wouldn’t dream of restricting them, it’s far less than the two or three totes she would carry when in mainstream school, cramming them with playmobil, leaves, acorns, petals, laminated pictures and the occasional soft toy, all items that she relied on when sensory issues were looming.

Our girl will stand up in front of a packed school hall and sing, after masses and masses of practice and gentle encouragement but ask her to do something unexpected and out of routine, such as taking an item to somebody who would then attempt conversation or replying to someone who is talking and maybe using “banter” or sarcasm and she struggles, big time.

The latter happened last week during her volunteering, she headed to the nearest tree and hid, because she didn’t know how to answer and got overwhelmed.

That was an extreme example and D’s autism means that she finds it hard to “read” social situations and body language, I could see from her body language that she froze before heading for the relative safety of that tree.

On the whole, school are mindful of D’s personality but at every Parents Evening there is a task that she should join in conversations outside the classroom environment more, that when they’re out, D should start a conversation unprompted and that during “choosing time”, she shouldn’t choose a book! Which makes me reply that “choosing time should be just that! An activity of her choice!”

D has recently been given a diary by school to write down any worries and – finally – been given a daily timetable for her to refer to, all of which helps her deal with her day. In addition, she has started weekly sessions with an autism specialist at school, all aiming to get her to not bottle things up. She is extremely good at masking emotions until we’re on our way home from school and then the painful twisting and squeezing of my hands and arms will start as she lets it out. It’s something I’m used to and I’d rather she uses me as opposed to lashing out at anyone else.

I’ll know she’s got it out of her system when she starts skipping as we carry on our walk home, something which is always a relief to see.

Bearing in mind the above, I was really surprised when D told me that she’d been told (she called it “moaned at but I’ll say “encouraged”) to stop skipping and go over to the other side of the playground and talk to people during break time. Break time to D is exactly that, a break from lessons, a time to wind down (maybe skip, maybe read) and prepare herself for the rest of the day. Not be “moaned at” to join in, surely?

We have seen a major increase in D’s anxieties over the last couple of months, a combination of puberty, my sepsis episode and the pressures of school as they make increasing changes to prepare her for life beyond school, in her introverted way she’s coping…just.

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