Peyton was on a field trip in which team building was a core of the activities and purpose. One activity asked each member of his 25-student class to balance on a teeter-totter-like contraption. The group agreed that Peyton should serve as ballast (mind you, they missed the point of the challenge slightly). Peyton put his foot down. “Stop,” a classmate said, having changed his mind. Peyton did not move. “STOP,” several classmates yelled. Peyton did not move. “STOP IT RIGHT NOW PEYTON. YOU ARE SCREWING THIS UP,” most of his classmates shouted. Peyton turned to a segment of the class, “Why are you yelling? I can do it, if you give me a minute.” There’s the rub — that minute.
I once had a client whose average response time during a conversation was 146 seconds. Between every exchange, two minutes and 26 seconds transpired, only to be repeated again and again. If you don’t think 146 seconds is a long time do me a favor: Stop and count those 146 seconds off. During that time, I’m going to start a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, take out the trash, and make the bed. I might even heat up some leftovers and make hot chocolate. 145, 146… Thanks for coming back.
As you might imagine 146 seconds make conversations hard, painful, almost impossible. No one has that much patience, clearly not the students in Peyton’s class. In the 5 seconds that passed between “stop” and “STOP IT RIGHT NOW PEYTON, YOU ARE SCREWING THIS UP”, they probably could have sent out 100 text messages, IMs, and emails. Peyton still couldn’t respond.
With 146 Robert, I tried a short catch phrase: “Gimme a sec.” We always use that phrase to indicate I hear ya, I’m thinking, the wheels are turning. We employ it to get others to back off a bit, cut us some slack, chill out, let us think. That doesn’t always solve problems for kids with ASDs. In fact, it can create more problems. Case in point:
Put my foot down. Okay, I moved my foot. I put it down. Did I put it in the ri-Stop. Ght place? I think it is in the right place. Okay, I’m comfortablSTOP. E. What is that noise? Where is it coming from? Is my foot still in the riSTOP IT RIGHT NOW PEYTON, YOU ARE SCREWING THIS UP. What is going on? Are they yelling at me? Why? I put my foot where they said to. They are wrong. I’m not screwing this up. They are. I should say something.
When those wheels start turning, STOPPING isn’t always an issue, especially because under-pressure, quick responses aren’t easy for individuals with ASD.