We have discovered grooves in our family. They come in all types of depths, some are little grooves others are very deep and difficult, if not impossible to get out of.
I will explain......
Jeorge our son has recently explained through his connections with Carol Cumber of the Natural Harmony Centre that he has grooves. This came up when I was asking why he was so transfixed on only eating certain food from a certain place.
Jeorge gave me a ‘heads up’ in the reality of his difficulty in making some changes in his daily routines. Jeorge has called his ‘grooves.’ He gave me a visual so that I could understand the depth of what he was explaining to me. He showed me the record on a record player, indicating the grooves to divide each track. He showed me that some of the grooves were shallow and thin and he could get himself out of those without too much trauma. He explained he may wobble a bit and display some resistance but with love, gentle persuasion and an alternative groove to engage with, he could move on. This analogy works for me, it makes sense to my understanding which of course is why Jeorge gave it to me in the first place!
As with autism the spectrum is wide and varied. Jeorge explained the groove system for him too, is wide and varied. So from the very shallow groove and everything in-between, the biggest and deepest groove of all was the one he was in with his food.
He explained that when he finds himself in the deep groove he has no way of getting himself out of it. Absolutely no way at all, no matter how hard he tries he simply is unable to remove himself from it. It’s a bit like trying to climb out of a slimy jam jar, slipping constantly as you eagerly try over and over again only to end up in a pile at the bottom of the jar.
From an outsider’s point of view, a parent or a carer this ‘groove’ can seem like stubbornness, defiant behaviour and very challenging, even confrontational. From this mind set it can cause incredible negative circumstances. You would feel that you are being challenged for no reason than to be in control. Which is something I hear a lot of professionals say about autistic people. Although they do need the control it isn’t needed in the way others see it. It isn’t about getting your own way and feeling like you have won a battle or can then go away feeling smug like you have one up on the other person. This is a deep need to keep within that groove for everything else in your day to feel right and safe. A place where functioning as a human is bearable. It is real and it is immense.
If, however we can accept that for autistic people sometimes the change in a routine or food, any kind of pattern change unexpected in their life is so traumatic and disabling it is impossible for them to be able to continue functioning. It is a need they cannot change, we could respond to this in a very different way. It wouldn’t feel personal and therefore become a battle of wills. I see this so many times and I have behaved in this way myself with Jeorge. Now I have a deeper understanding of how it is for him and how grooves are grooves it is a system he has shown me, shared with me so I can understand the reality of his difficulties.
I discovered that another of Jeorge’s deepest grooves is one of his apps on his IPAD. I learnt this as it had gone wrong, which I could do nothing about as it was totally out of my control. It was one of the most traumatic incidents we have ever had. Especially in recent years where Jeorge is so much bigger now he is 11 years old. I honestly did not know what to do to help him calm himself. He became so distressed he had a nosebleed. Blood pumped out of his nose, he was traumatised beyond reaching him. I didn’t know how long it would go on for if the problem wasn’t rectified. No amount of talking and reassuring reached him. He was too far gone.
Thankfully the App store reactivated and the app was downloaded fresh and on we went with our day.
Sometimes in life we cannot make things right even if the groove insists on it- depends on it. Those moments I imagine are intensely distressing and traumatic for all concerned. Those moments we just have to ride through it the best we can. BUT now I know this information, I can understand how it feels for Jeorge. It isn’t a behavioural strategy that is often interpreted as a battle of wills and to get their own way. It is a survival skill and absolute necessity for lives to be lived in harmony and ease. For a sense of the world around them and within them to feel safe and secure. A way of processing and filtering information coming at them so intensely the patterns created within a daily routine are paramount in their functioning in an acceptable way as possible.
Autistics may display some pretty ‘out there’ behaviours from the non-autistics point of view. But it is always for an absolutely valid reason. We, I feel must accept this as fact. So accommodate this need as best we can with compassion and love. We know we cannot predict everything in life, things break and change without a moment’s notice. For those things we can fix, change or ease I feel we should. Why not? Most of the time the carers and parents have no idea of the reasons and the intensity of a need yet we still insist that the autistic person be the one to change their behaviour even if we can see how very distressing it is for them to do so.
I find myself at the end of most of my articles coming to the same conclusion. I feel this is the learning of a new language. We both have to learn new languages; autism and non-autism. Both worlds have a place here on earth, both bring beauty and wonder. Both I feel are needed, we need autistic humans in this world at this time. We really do. They need us to support and walk alongside them to help them understand the crazy ways in which non-autistic people function...When we really look at it, we are very weird, contradicting, negative (a lot of the time) judgmental of ourselves and others as well as fun, clever and loving.
When we accept the differences in how we function, without fear and with absolute freedom and love. Behaviours do not seem so weird. When we discover the truth behind certain behaviours of autistic people, we can accept them and get used to them. Constantly pulling a person out of their own space, their own beliefs, their own language and place of safety is cruel. It feels like punishment or a disregard of their right to be who they are.
I know how challenging learning a new language can be, I am a student every day. But we both are, Jeorge and me together living in the same house fumbling along learning. But I have to be honest, despite the bumps and bruises along the way. It is an honour and a joy to be his mum, to stand by his side, learning from his perspective how to be a better me, the me I have always wanted to be and at the same time never knew was there. So I thank Jeorge for that gift to me every day.