So, you’re in the store grabbing a few items and trying to remember what’s on your list when, you hear a child in the next aisle yelling at the top of his lungs. You turn the corner and see the child is much older than you thought for a child to be yelling and out of control. What is wrong with that parent?
Before you jump to the poor parenting conclusion, consider that this may be a child with special needs. Autism is one possibility… children (and adults) who are on the Autism spectrum often have difficulty with changes in their routine and can get overstimulated when there are too many sounds or visual stimuli… both of which are present at a store. The sound of noisy carts, buzzing of coolers, music on the overhead speakers, announcements over the P.A. and strangers chattering all around set an overwhelming scene for a person with Autism.
Autism spectrum disorder (abbreviated “ASD”) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and interaction and the presence of restricted, repetitive behaviors. Those with Autism often have difficulty paying attention to something others are trying to tell or show them. A perfectly logical explanation of why a child cannot have their favorite snack may not be comprehensible to a child with Autism. It’s also hard for them to show emotion or recognize it in others. A person with Autism can have challenges communicating thoughts and feelings, often leading to the behavior you have just witnessed in the store. Can you imagine how it would feel for a child who lacks the outlet of expression throughout the entire day? Add to that a desire or need to adhere to routines, limited interests, and sensitivity to sensory input and you can see why a meltdown has just occurred.
Chances are this is one of many times a meltdown will occur for this parent and child today. Imagine the frustration and exhaustion that you would feel as a parent in this circumstance. It is easy and natural to jump to conclusions; however, it is important to consider that there may be more going on than meets the eye. An alternative approach would be to consider offering assistance. A pleasant, calm voice could be helpful in distracting the child or disarming the parent who could then share what may be helpful to them. Even just a kind word or kind glance could be the bright spot in the day that parent needed to keep their cool in a tough situation.
Improving the communication abilities associated with Autism can be accomplished through speech-language therapy, which Central Florida Speech & Hearing Center provides.
By the Speech-Language Department at Central Florida Speech & Hearing Center