If you ask anyone to describe me in one word, they’ll probably say “she talks a lot.” Yes, I know that’s 4 words, but considering I speak an average of 4 words to everyone else’s 1, I thought I’d take an opportunity to prove my point- I talk a lot! (In case it wasn’t clear) 🙂
As a person with a disability who is very opinionated and talkative, I find that I am often in a position to advocate for others who aren’t able to verbally communicate their thoughts and feelings as easily.
I have a ton of sensory issues. When I hear certain noises (like chewing, forks scraping on a plate, clicking or vowel blends,) I cannot process them. It is like nails on a chalkboard except 20 times worse. Even after the noise has stopped I will feel the pain and discomfort periodically through the day as I recall the noise. It gets stuck in my head and acts like a song on repeat.
Anyways, one day I was in class. One of the girls in my class was diagnosed with autism and told us at the beginning of the year that we couldn’t clap because she didn’t like clapping. Everyone was generally very accommodating about it.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks later, when we were doing group presentations. At the end of the first presentation, everyone clapped. It was almost a reflex- people are used to clapping after presentations and nobody was doing it intentionally to bother our fellow student. Almost immediately- the girl began screaming and soon was having a full scale meltdown. The teacher kept repeating “it’s okay, nobody’s clapping anymore.”
I knew it wasn’t ok. All it takes is one clap, slurp, vowel blend, Etc. and you’re in sensory torture for the rest of the day. And I’m sure the teacher repeating “it’s ok, it’s ok” and everyone else chattering among themselves was just adding to the overwhelming sensory overload she was experiencing. I felt so bad for her. She was so embarrassed afterwards, even though she wasn’t in control at the time.
I could have said something. I could have used the opportunity to educate the class on how she was feeling, that she wasn’t “overreacting,” and help them see what they could do to help her.
I could have talked to her afterwards and let her know that she wasn’t alone, that I knew how she felt, and that she didn’t have to be embarrassed.
But I didn’t. The girl who talks a mile a minute didn’t say anything. And I regret that more than anything.