Autism, do you REALLY get it?

This post was prompted by a post on social media regards being a parent with autism. It was a simple problem, with a simple solution (if you look at the world through an ASD lens like I do) but the backlash was quite incredible.

The ASD world is a complete mystery full of crazy weird meltdowns and unexpected reactions to the most unknown things, if you are neurotypical that is.


The original comment was from a mum of an ASD child who was using too much toilet paper and she wanted to know how fix the issue.

Responses by others

There were a range of responses. Mostly punitive and involved removal or restriction of access to toilet paper, the way I see this is that the child is being punished for being autistic.

Mine was simple: has the child been shown what to do?

Autism is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. We see the world in black and white. We do not naturally learn / pick up things that neurotypical people can instinctively learn or know.

Developmental pitfalls in childhood

Having been an ASD teacher for 17 years earlier in life (long before I even got my own ASD diagnosis) I speak from experience when I say that children and young adults are often incorrectly labeled. These labels usually range from stupid to naughty and many things between.

This was illustrated by by someone else’s response to my short, simple question.

DO you REALLY know autism?

I was asked, how can I judge. (Please note, my short simple question cannot possibly be interpreted as a judgement IMO)

They then went on to say that being a parent of an ASD child is challenging (which I do not doubt). Some days are described as so hard they almost break you, you never know how the day will end and the smallest thing can turn the situation on its head.

Here’s the thing. Children are still learning how to communicate and what feelings etc are. Add on top of that an ASD lens where feelings themselves are a completely abstract thing and EVERYTHING feels like its been turned up to max, there is no wonder that days end up in meltdown.

But, know this. From an autistic persons point of view, tiny things do not cause a meltdown on their own. What causes a meltdown is a multitude of tiny things that do not make sense, that are grating on the senses to the point that they are causing pain.. that THAT is what causes the meltdown.

And… on the most part it can all be avoided if you UNDERSTAND AUTISM PROPERLY.

Senses on the overload

I see colours brighter, details greater, sounds louder and tactile feelings much more intensely that a neurotypical.

I am currently in a cafe writing this. I ALWAYS choose a table near the door with my back to the wall or a corner. The reason is that I can then have a degree of control over the acoustics of the room and how many directions the sound and sight is coming from. Plus I know that if it gets too much the exit is right there.

This is a common situation for people with autism.

What is the problem with the toilet paper?

I do not know any details of that particular situation, but looking at it through ASD eyes I would suggest a couple of things.

  • Puberty?
  • Texture of the paper (even if it was ok before does not mean it is ok now)
  • Anxiety around something else that is completely unrelated but is presenting itself in this way
  • Or… does the child just now know the social expectations?

Never expect someone with ASD to ‘just know’. Equally never expect them to be able to explain their anxiety either.

Work out their triggers, their hypersensitivities, what way works best for them to describe their feeling. (As a teacher we would often use colours… colours the child chose mind you).

And, above all, whatever YOU think is the problem,… is probably incorrect.

Author: Melanie Magowan

I am a massage therapist and part time athlete

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