A Boo Bolts in Singapore
I was recently asked on this blog what the "etiquette" is when you observe a carer dealing with what we fondly describe in autie world as a "melt-down".
The question from the lovely Skye of Skylark and Son :
Skye said...Ok Hammie, here's a small question for you about autie etiquette.
During the Boxing Day (St Stephens Day) sales I was in DJs (a large posh department store) when a howling kerfuffle broke out just outside the ladies toilet.
It was a teenage girl (say about 15) left in charge of her sister (about 12) who was pretty clearly autistic and losing it big time (no doubt due to being in DJs on boxing day, which is overwhelming enough for everyone else).
Various people were standing around tut-tutting at the "apalling behaviour" of the apparently tantrumming tween and hassling the older sister.
I was unable to control my meddling bossy boots side and started saying to people in the crowd, "I'm pretty sure she's autistic." so they'd disperse and stop their crowding and disapproving carry on, which was making the situation much more difficult.
It worked, the girl calmed down.
Peace reigned once again, but I couldn't help thinking that I was:
a) presumptious and condescending to say what I said,
b) a bit crap in not trying to help the sister (I had now idea how, so didn't want to make things worse).
What is the best course of action in a situation like that?
January 21, 2009 9:18 AM
Skye: You did exactly the right thing. Had a few very public meltdowns in the last 3 weeks and in every case it is best to back off and let the carer get on with it.
If it is " behaviour" then any reaction or intervention might reinforce it, meaning it will happen again.
And if it is due to confusion and fear, then strangers interfering or watching (and tutting) will make it worse.
Explaining and getting rid of the bystanders is perfect, the only thing you could have added was to wait off side, with a neutral expression and ask if there is anything you can do to help.
Having had a similar situation last Friday on the ramp to the Crowne Plaza in Singapore, what I needed most of all was someone to go back into the hotel and get my bag (abandoned at reception in the lobby as I chased Boo out the door) so I could continue on to immigration, and get our plane home.
He would not come back with me and I cannot move him against his will anymore. So I sat on him on the ramp to the hotel and waited until someone who spoke english passed- which they did eventually. I couldn't do much else as I had fallen while chasing the Boo and twisted my knee (not seriously as it turned out but it scared the heck outta me!)
After 3 tries I got the manager of the hotel to come out with my cabin bags and he then escorted me the remaining 20 metres through the concourse of the airport to passport control.
This was a very real situation for me and the carer in the busy department store. The British National Autistic Society now has a Think Differently Campaign showing video re-enactments of such events and gives the first hand accounts of the people involved.
You need to see these. You need to think about them.
Making the world a more accepting place for people with disabilities doesn't just mean wider parking spaces and ramps.
It is about widening our acceptance and making allowances for diversity in how other people view the world, and how they deal with it.