Zoom Autism Magazine Issue 1 Fall 2014 - Page 44

Big playground, full sun. There was nowhere to hide from the brightness. form cliques and roaming groups. On the playground, all structure and buffering was gone. Kids were basically encouraged to go wild and burn off some of that energy, making the social dynamics far more complicated and overwhelming. The primary difficulty—one that is an unfortunate reality for many on the spectrum—is that I very much wanted to form social connections. I just didn’t know how. My best efforts to participate in games and conversations resulted in a long series of rejections. The anxiety was bad enough, but these interactions also took a heavy toll on my self-esteem. The lack of structure that characterizes recess just made it too easy for me to drown in the chaos of group play. I also had a hard time managing my light sensitivities. Big playground, full sun. There was nowhere to hide from the brightness. Because of all this, I would frequently claim to feel sick and ask if I could just rest in the classroom while the other kids played outside. It rarely worked, but that didn’t stop me from trying. Any day that I could skip recess was a good day. If You Step on a Mine, Prepare for an Explosion In a way, that was really the worst part, the fact that it was so difficult to escape those moments. With lunch, for example, I was never able to convince anyone to let me eat alone in the classroom or in a hallway. I grew up in the 80s. Back then, kids were expected to stick to the program. There was no willingness on the part of the school to make exceptions for issues like sensory pain, since it was invisible to everyone else. Today, thankfully, I believe it is a little better in schools. Ear muffs and headphones that help drown out noise are a common sight in the lunchroom. Schools are making quiet rooms available to their students who may be feeling overwhelmed or need a sensory break in a place where they can hang out on a bean bag chair or listen to music to calm down. Many schools are even adding Buddy Benches to their school playgrounds (see Sidebar) 44