I had a lovely Christmas with The Boyfriend – I will not be describing how our Christmas are different from neurotypical people Christmas as I think it would not really add much to understanding of our needs, but possibly, when I become an established blogger I may add a few words on that, if somebody asks.
The Boyfriend left yesterday morning and I spent pretty much the entire Boxing Day playing with patterns in PicsArt: I found it really fun and obviously the more I do that, the easier it gets and I am now starting to believe that every Redecor design can be turned in a nice pattern, depending on what tools I use.
Before Christmas I promised I’ll write a post about why I believe punishment shouldn’t be used to get autistic children (or adults for that matter) to behave certain way: it is because we, autistics, fit everything that happens to us into patterns that we already know and also, we instinctively believe that everything around us is connected in some way. I say, instinctively – logically we are perfectly aware that it’s not but our instinct tells us otherwise.
So, as you may remember, I did some shifts in a supermarket before Christmas, it was hard work but I really liked working on groceries when it got busy, which is strange because as a client I hate busy supermarkets.
On 22nd after work I did my own shopping and bought a few items to treat myself. It wasn’t much but I bought things I really fancy. After the checkout I put mulled wine and apples into my rucksack and marinated artichokes, cambozola, lactose free yoghurt and mini courgette in oil went to a canvas shopping bag. It would all fit easily into my rucksack but the glass would all bang with every move and I’d find it annoying.
The entire journey home I kept telling myself to remember about the shopping bag, especially that it was navy – almost the same colour as bus chairs. I could have hold the bag straps actually, but I didn’t. Oh well…
When I got home I realised I didn’t have the bag on me. Can you even imagine how that felt? It really wasn’t about the couple of pounds that I lost, it felt like the entire Christmas has been cancelled for me! It’s been good few months since I don’t have permanent job so I stopped buying those fancy food items and now, when I bought some to treat myself for Christmas, I lost them! Those items were a symbol of having good Christmas and they’ve been taken away from me by the Universe – that’s how it felt.
What is punishment? In its more civilised form is an act of taking away something that one values as a consequence of bad behaviour – as I stated above, we, autistics, fit everything that happens to us into the pattern that we know. And we instinctively believe that everything around us is connected somehow. I was running around a busy supermarket for the entire day so that other people could get what they wanted for Christmas, while I didn’t get have what I wanted!
What was the conclusion that I came up with?: it was the Universe punishing me for not working hard enough. Of course I knew it wasn’t true but that’s how it felt, so please don’t say I shouldn’t be thinking this way (which is an expression a counsellor used once with me) because this is how I think. And why I said the punishment was for not working hard enough? I was really trying, but the truth is, with our black and white thinking it may sometimes be difficult to establish what is and what isn’t good enough. I can possibly say that, if I didn’t pass out at the end of my shift I could have work harder – I guess you can see some logic in this thinking.
So the result of punishing us by taking things or activities away from us could be that we decide that we need to always be on our best behaviour to succeed in life, our intentions have to always be pure and we can never put ourselves first. And then we see neurotypical people who are not like that at all and they get what they want. How does that feel?
Let’s take the example of Home Group again. If you only just started reading my blog, I’ll quickly explain what happened: Home Group is a large housing association and disability confident employer. I worked for them between 2015 and 2017. I was bullied by a colleague and, because bulling happens to autistics people more often than to neurotypicals, I asked my GP for autism referral diagnosis and then the diagnostic centre to bring my diagnosis forward due to work situation, which they agreed to do (big mistake!) and, as that didn’t stop the bulling, I left and took Home Group to employment tribunal where they claimed my diagnosis was private and they paid for it. I could have won easily, if I didn’t end up in psychiatric hospital. Oh well…
I realised that I’m autistic in September 2015, sometimes between my interview for Home Group job and the starting date. The job was meant to require loads of contact with people and, as I applied for it I was hoping to use that to learn how to be more social – which is not unusual expectation for undiagnosed autistics. When I realised I’m autistic, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. But I needed a job and also, I was hoping that maybe, with better understanding of myself I’d be able to apply some coping strategies that make working there possible for me.
At the time I didn’t want a diagnosis and if I wasn’t being bullied I’d probably still not have it till now. But believe me, I used to wonder so many times that possibly what happened to me later was a punishment for the fact that my intentions weren’t pure and I didn’t reject the job offer on realising I’m autistic.
The person who was bulling me got promoted to a manager position and now, Mark Henderson, the CEO of Home Group, doesn’t even bother to answer my emails and I never even heard ‘I’m sorry’ while Home Group continues to take government money to support people with mental health problems.
Yet, it was me who believed that I deserved to be punished. Does that make any sense to you?
That’s why I really do not think punishment should ever be used as a way to deal with autistic people. I don’t know what can be used instead but possibly there are researchers out there who can answer this question.