Yesterday I was in the grocery store waiting for my husband by the exit when a little boy, anxious to help his mommy, ran ahead to push a door open for her. Unfortunately, he chose the emergency exit door, which, in fairness to the child, from his height, looked like a regular door. Immediately a shrill piercing alarm began to sound and I did a slow pan across the front of the store looking for the manager who I was sure would be running with his jangling keys in hand to remedy the situation.
I stopped mid pan at a little boy who was standing with his dad. He was sobbing, burying his head into his dad’s leg, trying to alternately press one ear and then the other against dad so he could stop the noise. I instantly knew he had Asperger’s. His chest was heaving in an out and the terror on his face was painful to see. His dad picked him up, spoke comforting words that everything was OK and took him outside away from the noise. My husband came and we headed outside as well.
The father was talking the little boy through it, telling him what had happened and constantly reassuring him he was safe. He spoke calmly and quietly and gently maintained physical contact with the boy at all times. He was encouraging him to stand on his own and he was leading him through processing it all.
THAT is how a parent lovingly responds to a child who cannot handle or process too much stimulation.
These children easily identify their difficulties for their parents. Most of them have difficulties processing sensory stimuli such as in this case, where sound was the culprit. In addition the child can develop fears about specific things or ideas that can strike terror, or it can just be fear of the unknown. These children do not handle change well. They require structured routines where there are no surprises.
Parents quickly become experts on their child’s specific issues and have to become experts at helping their child avoid (when possible) and negotiate (when necessary) these situations. What they DON’T DO, is turn on the “alarm,” put the kid right next to it, and leave them there. They don’t purposefully seek out or run to an “alarm” and force the child to listen to it. They don’t ignore the child’s demonstration of fear. They don’t feed the beast, the don’t poke the bear. BUT THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT GRETA THUNBERG’s PARENTS ARE DOING TO HER AND IT IS CHILD ABUSE.
How DARE anyone applaud that.