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An encounter with Sky

It matters to think about the social world around us

· ASD related

It was a nice quiet evening. My wife and I just returned from church and it was Mission month. We were geared up and ready to support Mission!!!

One night my wife shared with me about a case she counselled some time ago. This person has been sleeping on the void deck underneath our block. She has asked for a favor and we decided to extend our help. Did a mission opportunity presented itself to us ?

She called herself Sky. She is pleasant and appears dazed when I interact with her. We learnt that she has been sleeping on the street for some nights. She has a big luggage and she asked for a favour to have her luggage place in our home while she run some errands in the day.

We invited her to stay at our place. My wife could not bear the thought of her sleeping another night on the street.

While we were gathering to make bed for her in our study room. She said she was grateful to have a place to sleep. Sky said to us " It okay, I can sleep on the floor because your floor is clean. I have slept in many dirty places. " It then dawn on us how we take such a simple thing as a clean floor for granted. That night we went to bed ... grateful.

Lesson one - Remember the simple pleasure in life and be grateful.

Sky eventually found a job and she was a hard worker. She was fast in her duty and she did a good job. Her supervisor and boss loved the way she worked. But sadly she only landed this job for a week before conflict arises between her and the Supervisor.

Eventually after speaking to her, my wife learnt about her past job experiences. Sky could not hold down a job. The longest she kept was only a month. She began to pour out how she struggles to understand human beings. More specificly , human conversations were confusing to her. It became clear to us that the aspects of taking perspective was difficult for her to comprehend. While she is extremely efficient in her skills to carry out a task, her major fall back was the inability to share social space with others without causing a misunderstanding. It is her blindside ... a mindsight that is egocentric.

My wife shared about the importance to communicate so that others understand us. There is also a need to make other feels comfortable when we are sharing common space. It was a foreign concept for her. She listened but was hestitant to consider the possibility of sharing space comfortably with others. The conversation went deep into the night and it's mainly ONLY from her point of view - how others are always making 'troubles' for her.

As days gone by Sky shared more about her journey. We were very surprised that she survived this 'harsh' world and has not expereince any mental breakdown yet. It has become apparent that she has a huge gap in relating to others socially and emotionally. In her eyes, many people has failed her and hence a mistrust begins to grow within. This grew more in evidence as her stay with us continue.

So we thought that while she is still staying with us perhaps we can share more with her that Social Thinking ( A program that teaches relational skills) might be helpful for her. She seemed open to the idea then. However things has turned out sour the next few days ... the sky has changed ... a storm was on its way.

After a week or so, Sky's interpretation of our offers to help was deemed as controlling. However what she deemed as controlling was actually a choice offered to her. My wife asked her while she is doing her grocery, she has the choice to either go with her or sit at McDonalds. Does that sound controling to you?

She said we are giving her too many rules and she felt mistreated. Laundry night was like a ritual and if changes were made, she would be displeased. "My previous landlord say I can ONLY washed my cloths on the third day." she insisted. It was LAW to her. Despite explaining to her that we too have our own laundry and we have limited space to dry them. We asked if she could break up the load or do it the next day. She seemed alright at that moment but soon we received her distorted text messages. There were little chance to changed her mind ... " I dont want flexible thinking " was her reply. Reasons offered were misunderstood. Help offered was deemed insincere.

During conversation, if she feels we dont understand her she would backtracked to her first historical encounter and from there proceed till the point of her emphasis. There can be no interruption during this time of verbal stimming or else the historical accounts has to be resetted to the beginning again! A conversation with her is tedious.

For this season ... in this transition ... our adventure has began and we are learning to ride the storm. Some day it looks like Mission Impossible. However, this transition too will soon pass and we have been through other adventures before. So while it last, we ride the waves that the storm stirred up. Want to come along with us? We dont hate her ... in fact ... Sky is our good teacher. There are precious lessons about life in her sharing. We seek to understand. For that, we are thankful.

The encounter with Sky opened our eyes to see the importance of instilling a need to share with Caregivers about the intervention that teaches Social Thinking (click to read more) . Sky's journey was a real example of a person with ASD struggling to understand the complex human world. While she is functional ... her lack of Social Thinking makes living with others really difficult for her and others. Her observations were distorted and her social life miserable. She often feels misunderstood and alone. Speaking to Sky requires one to take the high road and it is exhausting dysecting the 'atoms' of interaction in order to put them into right perspective for her. She is simply black or white, all or nothing, good or evil ... no middle ground, there are no grey areas in her life. She would blocked off mentally when the conversation does not turned to her favour and it would be a tit for tac conversation always ending up with others NOT understanding her. YET ... if only she would PAUSED and also think of others ... there could be a chance to make things right. Certainly a few days interacting with us cannot change her worldview.

I think of the many other 'Sky' out there. Do you know of any? Have you encounter a storm?

Lesson 2 : If you dont want to feel lonely and misunderstood, learn to take perspective, seek to understand.

Steady Steps offer one on one sessions where Caregivers can be involved and learn how to engage, explore, explain and apply the lessons learnt from the class to real life.