Individuals with autism often exhibit repetitive actions that may be very unusual to the average person. Sometimes these behaviors are calming to the one with autism, or they may result from stimulation.
Sometimes these behaviors are NOT calming to the individuals who live with these autistic persons.
Sometimes these behaviors cause the people living with the autistic individual to become stimulated and begin their own repetitive behaviors.
Let me explain. Aaron, when he is telling about something that excites him, will bend over at his waist a little and rub his hands together. This behavior is a little funny and is not annoying. Aaron also loves to clap. These claps can be ear splitting. I am sure that he must have the loudest claps of anyone ever living on planet Earth. This behavior is not funny and is beyond annoying. Aaron has clapped since he was very little. His very little claps were cute and we assumed were just the behavior of a very little toddler person. He never outgrew the clapping, and now his large claps are not cute as they come from this large grown man.
As we walk into a store I will automatically remind Aaron not to clap. He can usually stop himself from clapping during these times when he is out in public, but sometimes I may be in another part of the store and I will hear the familiar CLAP. I roll my eyes and imagine what everyone around him must be thinking.
So the repetitive behaviors that WE have developed as we live with Aaron are to repeat over and over: “Aaron, do not clap in the store.” “Aaron, do not clap while we’re eating.” “Aaron, do not clap during the movie.” “Aaron, do not clap during the ball game.” “Aaron, DO NOT CLAP WHEN YOU’RE SITTING RIGHT BESIDE ME.” Notice our stimulation in the last phrase.
We had our small group Bible study over last night. Aaron was upstairs in his room, playing a game on his computer. He claps a lot when he plays a game. We’re very used to it and hardly notice. Gary was teaching and every little bit we’d hear the familiar clap. “And so we see in these verses………..CLAP………….that Jesus was reminding us to………….CLAP…………..remember that in this life…………..CLAP…………..we are to strive to be peacemakers…………..CLAP.” And so it went.
Later, after everyone had left, one friend remained behind and visited with us awhile. We were talking and there it was………..CLAP……….and our friend paused and asked, “What is that?” And we told her that was just Aaron, clapping, like only Aaron claps. Our friend understands Aaron and accepted the explanation as being a very natural thing. And for us and for Aaron, it is.
Several years ago Aaron broke his wrist. He had to have surgery to have pins inserted, so he had the cast on for weeks. We were sorry about the pain and the discomfort for him – but I have to say, the quietness was a gift! Even Aaron laughed when we talked about how now he couldn’t clap. I would never want Aaron to break his wrist again, but I must admit that on some days the thought of a cast sure is appealing.
Do I hear a round of applause?