Personal Space And Autism

Personal Space And Autism

In General by SeanLeave a Comment

So, let me begin by saying this is not a rant, this is to say that people were doing wrong in their eyes and heart. This is more about educating people about the personal space of people with Autism, as well as anyone in general.

Let’s face it, ASD diagnosed or not, we all hate having our personal space invaded by others. 

The main reason I write this post is because of something that happened on the plane on our way out to our recent holiday. Again, this is more about education and not about pointing out wrongs…

Our Flight To Spain

So, we recently went on holiday to Spain. This was our first flight since little Mr was diagnosed (last time we flew he was 18 months old).

We had spent some time preparing him for the flight as best we could. He doesn’t like sitting for too long and smaller spaces, something that flying combines. We hoped though that the shorter 2 hours and 20 minutes flight would be acceptable for him, hoped…

The first hour and a half on our way out went well. He was happy. However, it got to a point where he wanted to get up out of his seat and walk (he’s a big walker). So, we got up and walked up and down the aisle a few times.

Sensory Overload

This is when he really started to show issues with some sensory overload. See, all the people around, all the new noise and the sitting and the space – we think it finally overloaded him and he started to have a little meltdown.

Now, he’s meltdowns at the moment (he’s nearly 6) do look a lot like tantrums with crying, jumping up and down and so forth. Obviously we know it’s a meltdown caused by all the sensory around him – others may not.

When we flew we did put on him a t-shirt from the Autism Society – to try give some visual hints to others. I know a number understood what he was going through – including the staff. They were all lovely.

To be honest, everyone was understanding and great – however, because people really don’t understand how entering the personal space of a young lad with ASD having a meltdown can cause issue, this is why the meltdown lasted 15 minutes or so…

See, people were trying to help calm him down – so they were all getting close to his face with theirs, asking him to high 5 and so on. They didn’t really understand that entering his personal space would make the issue worse.

It could be that a child without ASD may respond to this, but certainly not a child with sensory issues and ASD. Getting close face to face, entering personal space is going to make the meltdown worse.

As I say, it’s not a rant, it’s not about placing blame. I really write this to add and give that information out there – to help others understand not to do this with a child having a meltdown.

Instead, work with the parent. We experience this often so we know what is better for our children to help them through the meltdown. They need a safe space. They need the space and they need to be in a calming situation.

Similar Meltdown On Way Home

As it happened, we had a similar issue on the flight home, are around the same timescale – we have an idea of how long he can tolerate the flight.

We didn’t have the same issue with people trying to help and so we’re able to manage it a bit better. Although the moans went on for a similar time, the meltdown was not a bad – as nobody was entering his space.

What’s The Takeaway

So, what is the takeaway, what am I trying to give you knowledge on. It’s a simple thing really. It’s fantastic that you want to help, help is appreciated. Just check with the parent on what you can help with first – they may have ideas you can help with to help with the meltdown. 

And… Thank you in advance for trying to help.

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