Sunday, 10 August 2014

When special needs clash

Most of the time I love to be around other people with autism, or similar diagnosis's. Because we all have special needs, often very similar ones, we understand each other. You can often count on people who are going through similar things, to understand your needs and not judge you for it.
It also works the other way around. I can relate to the special needs other people might have and won't easily judge them for it, as I know what it's like. I'll often quickly recognise what is wrong and what needs to be changed to make it better for someone with sensory difficulties, for example, because I have sensory difficulties myself.

However, sometimes there's a downside to this. Sometimes special needs clash. This can work in multiple ways. The first is when you have the same special need at the same time and need someone else to help. For example, when both me and someone else are paralysed by an overload of sound, then who's going to lead us away from the sound, or turn the sound off? We'll both be stuck, not able to help each other. This is a mild clash. You can also both be stuck in a strong emotion, with nobody to stop you. This can escalate quickly. However, if you look back on it, you'll probably know what happened and make up.

There's a larger clash though, that I find harder to work with. What if the other person needs something that is actually something that you can't cope with at all? For example, some people thrive in not having every step spelled out for them. They love to take life as it comes. This may lead to some risks, like forgetting to get some accommodations, like transport to wherever to need to go, having to think of something on the spot. There are people who like to live that way. It makes them feel alive.

However, if you're anything like me, this will stress you out to no end. If you're a person who needs to know as much as possible beforehand, being with such a loose person can be stressful. This counts for everyone, special needs or no special needs. But if you have a type of autism that makes it extra necessary to know as much as possible, then it won't just be frustrating to be with a free spirited person, but it will almost be impossible.
If the other person has another disability, let's say ADHD, which makes it very hard to live life very organised, then it's almost impossible for that person to live with the person who needs everything to be structured.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying people with autism and people with ADHD can't be friends. In fact, there are a lot of people who have autism and ADHD combined. This all depends on your needs with your specific disability.
But these things can potentially make it very hard to live together.

One time I was at an autism information market, where people with autism were allowed to showcase their talents. There was a person with autism and hyposensitivity (being less sensitive to sensory input, instead of more), who had a drumming talent. He was great at the drums and very eager to show it off. This was a problem for a lot of us with sensory difficulties. We had to protest to this, as it would drive about half of the visitors out of the building.
I felt very sad and conflicted over this. I mean, this person with autism had as much a right to be there and showcase their kind of autism and their talent, as much as the others right? But on the other hand, do we want to scare away half of the building for one person?
I understood this person and his needs, but I also knew that this would be too much for me and a lot of other people there.

This is where disabilities can sometimes clash. Someone may need a lot of stimulation, where the other would suffer from that same amount of stimulation.
A situation like that can lead to some heartbreaking moments. Who's needs do you choose at that moment? Do you need to avoid each other? Is friendship, being colleagues, or even being in the same room, even possible? What do you say to someone when you really understand their needs, but their needs are disastrous to you? And what does that person say back to you?

I've been thinking about this for a while now, as I've ran into this problem numerous times, especially within my line of volunteering work.

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