On our way home from the KSP Writers’ Circle we stopped to have lunch at Whistler’s Chocolate Company in the Swan Valley. We being Grandma, Alex and me. I know what you are thinking, chocolate for lunch! Actually I had a chicken pastry with salad, Alex had a sandwich wrap and Grandma ate chips; which is an improvement on her usual cake lunch.
What I wanted to talk about was the service. Alex had responded badly to the writing group and was stimming and non verbal. She’d reached a level of withdrawal where she appears happy but intellectually challenged, she is a genius but that’s one of her symptoms of stress.
In the gift shop there were 2 soft dragon toys, Alex has an obsession for dragons, and she hasn’t been spending her pocket money so when she made happy noises I told her the price & said I’d front her the money if she paid me back when we got home. She clutched them and waggled her bottom, which means she’s very happy with the idea. I took out some notes and gave them to her.
Unfortunately I fell behind her getting to the counter to be served. So what was the store clerk’s reaction to a 21 year old young woman that only made noises and was both shaking and flapping her hands after passing over the toys. She was smiling warmly and speaking clearly but not patronizingly to Alex. She had obviously realised instantly that Alex mimics head nodding/shaking with her fist to answer questions and was asking clear yes/no questions. As I joined Alex I smiled and said “Everything okay Alex” she nodded with head, upper body & fist (she was too over whelmed for control). After that the clerk continued to address Alex while smiling at us both, now using her name. Alex loves people and was by this time wanted to be friendly after a few repeats I managed to translate “thank you” & “Nice day”, you would not believe the warmth in that clerk’s smile when she responded to Alex. There were no customers waiting behind us so no one was kept waiting.
At the little cafe the servers waited patiently for Alex to communicate her decision. They reassured us there was no rush, helped trying to work out what Alex was pointing at and engaged with Alex as if she were a normal, friendly customer.
Halfway through lunch Alex had calmed down enough to speak and control her movements and enjoy the rest of her day.
Thank you Whister’s Chocolate Company of the Swan Valley.
A few years ago I realised something that was tremendously freeing.
If I become overwhelmed I start to stim; I jerk my head (painfully), flap, knock and judder, I also slur and stammer badly.
In the past if I started to become overwhelmed when shopping I would avoid people return my planned purchases to the shelf and flee without shopping, then hide until someone came to get me.
Then one day it happened in the queue; it was too late to escape. When the cashier looked at me I started to cry and said something like “panicking, scared, have autism” in slurred ‘baby’ talk. She smiled and told me I was doing very well, that I was brave to come shopping. She checked my groceries, counted back my change and checked I’d be okay to get home. I told her I was meeting someone not driving and she again complimented me and said goodbye. I looked back and she was beaming as she continued her work. I saw the same look on people that served Alex during her turns.
I realised people love helping people. Sometimes the symptoms of autism, & other conditions, can look like emotional extremes, drug use, drunkenness or other potentially dangerous situations. Scared people can be very nasty. But as soon as the person doesn’t feel threatened their good nature comes straight out. Alex comes across as intellectually challenged but happy which most people consider not dangerous so most people treat her very well. If I can remove doubt as to my “inebriation” autistic & panicking not under the influence I usually get treated very well.
You can see the happy buzz helping gives people. It makes them feel good. I was always more scared of frightening or angering people not embarrassed. So for me knowing that talking to me when I am panicking or stimming makes people feel as if they are doing good gives me the freedom I need. I am now able to justify shopping etc. If the worst happens I won’t upset people I will give them the chance to feel a little better about themselves.
And I can feel better about the community I belong to.
A quick look at the unique birds that gave our river & our valley their names.