Today I read an article on the blog, Musings of an Aspie. The title of the article was grabbing: The Importance of the Pasta on the Left. It’s grabbing because I don’t think of pasta, even at it’s most delicious, as important. And why would the pasta of the left be more important than the pasta on the right? And… well, I had to read more. From the article:
Mother: “James, come and let’s pick out some cereal.”
James (appears from around the corner): “But I haven’t finished looking at all the pasta. I looked at the pasta on the right but I didn’t look at the pasta on the left.”
Mother: “We need to pick out your cereal.”
James (sounding panicked, voice rapidly rising into hysteria): “But I need to look at all the pasta! I haven’t looked at the pasta on the left. I need–“
I recommend this article. It’s well written and concise. The focus is on how the mother in this story works with her (likely somewhere on the spectrum) son to reach a compromise that both find amenable, without shaming, judging or punishing him for his ostensibly odd and stubborn insistence on completing his task. The author broadens this exchange to ask friends and family of autistic people to “meet us where we are.”
When you have an autistic family member or friend, you’re going to run into situations that you find hard to understand. There will be times when we’re not where you think we should be or where you wish we were.
When this happens, try practicing a little flexibility. Meet us where we are. You might be surprised at the results.
It’s a good article.
Of course respecting another person’s wants and needs is a handy skill to master in any environment. But understanding that we don’t always need to understand the specifics of a person’s behavior or what’s driving it – to listen when they tell us they need something and to, if possible, accept that without judgement is, I think, vitally important when we’re interacting with people who are subjected to the kind of stigma that those who are on the spectrum deal with on a regular basis.