It is About Removing Distress, Not Changing the Individual
If you have Autism or have a family member with Autism, you may have found socialization to be challenging. The social cues that form part of the typical behavior patterns in broader society tend to be difficult for people with Autism to grasp, and can make a person with Autism appear quirky in socialization scenarios. People with more severe forms of Autism may even have difficulties with verbalization that can make it exceptionally difficult to interact with the broader world. Discussing socialization with adults who are diagnosed somewhere on the Autism spectrum, it becomes clear that many of those socialization issues are due to two things: distress and a failure to have learned social norms when initially exposed to them.
Sensory issues play a significant role in Autism.
Although the how’s and why’s are not completely understood, the more research that is conducted on Autism, the clearer it becomes that sensory issues play a tremendous role in the disorder. What complicates the issue is that different people may experience different sensory issues. One person with Autism may be very sensitive to tactile issues, which can make clothes unbearably itchy, while another may find certain sounds to be painful, and another may find lights to be distractingly bright. Making environmental changes can be an important first step to helping a person with Autism learn “normal” socialization. When you remove the distress, you allow a person to be themselves. It is a phenomenon that applies with all people, not simply people who have Autism. People who are experiencing distress are not going to be comfortable interacting in the same manner as people who are relaxed.
At Mt. Bethel Village, we have taken steps to eradicate the sensory triggers that most commonly impact people with Autism, so that distress is reduced, if not eliminated. By doing this, we take the first step towards allowing “normal” socialization. For many people with Autism, it is the first time outside of a controlled home or school environment that they have been in a sensory-friendly environment.
Learned behavior impact socialization.
Because many people with Autism learned to socialize while experiencing distressing trigger stimuli, they may have come to associate socialization with distress. By removing the distress from the socialization, we give people an opportunity to remove that association and form new associations, like socialization and pleasure.