Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Coping Skills: Connecting with Your Environment

I got into a lengthy discussion about coping skills, so I'm copying some of that information here.

"Connecting with Your Environment"

Some people have challenges staying in their body, maintaining situational awareness, and relating to the world around them. Too much stimulation can cause sensory overload.

For connecting with the environment, use external grounding techniques:

* When you enter a space, pay attention to the location of doors, windows, chairs, restrooms, food/beverage supplies, etc. Scope people if you can also handle moving variables. These are basic practices of situational awareness.

* If you are in friendly territory, touch things. Touch the corners of tables or backs of chairs as you pass. Feel tree trunks with your fingers. Sweep your foot over the floor to gauge its texture. Use your toes to feel out the ground ahead of you -- especially out in nature, to ensure is it secure to step on. When you have problems, excuse yourself to the bathroom where you can wash your hands and splash water on your face.

* Listen for sounds. You can orient yourself by the sound of a fountain or a loudspeaker. I once worked at a Renaissance Faire where one of the major landmarks was auditory: a booth selling wind chimes, including giant ones you could hear halfway across the site. There were also booths that sold fragranced things -- the food booths, the aromatherapy booth, etc. -- and those were different landmarks. Yes, we needed them, the place was huge and you couldn't see more than a little of it at a time.

* Look for sets of things with a specific feature, such as round or green.

* Search for sets that relate to each of the senses.

Some people have trouble parsing emotions and social clues. This can happen for a variety of reasons including inexperience, culture cap, neurovariance, brain injuries, etc.

I have seen hearing-impaired people wearing buttons that say, "I am hearing-impaired. Please speak slowly and clearly," or "I am Deaf and I read lips. Please face me when you speak so I can see what you say." One might try this with a button that says, "I am neurovariant. Please emote slowly and clearly."

There are also apps, games, cards, and other tools for practice identifying emotions and social cues for autistic people. I would approach these with some caution as they tend to be designed by neurotypical people, thus from that perspective, which makes some of them frigging useless if you don't have that wetware. But ask other users if there are emotion or body language tools they found illuminating.

If you have close friends, you might ask them for help. I say close because most people will lie their heads off on social matters. It drives me nuts, and is why I think of etiquette primarily as lying rather than as courtesy. But there are other folks out there who find it tiresome and would love to find friends who prefer honesty. Seriously, if I am irritating you, tell me, because I'm not likely to figure it out on my own. Be polite, but be clear. Or if you wonder whether you've annoyed me or I am just too swamped to answer a message, you can ask. It's usually me being swamped.

Managing input can pose challenges for people with keen senses and/or neurovariant brains.

I remember a scene from Virtual Girl where an older AI is teaching a younger one about peripherals and interacting with the world. One of the instructions was "Ignore anything smaller than one millimeter." Things like that have to be specified for AIs because they don't typically come with instincts like carbon-based lifeforms have, which provide a basic framework of what to expect. So think in terms of establishing base parameters for a space that tell you what you can ignore. Generally small things and anything that doesn't move can be ignored. Moving things are important to track because they might bump into you. Things which make consistent noises (such as an air conditioner) are typically safer to ignore than erratic things (like car horns).

If you're concerned about physical safety, always try to get a corner if you can, or at least put your back to the wall. This is safer and makes it harder to grab you by surprise. Keep a door within view so you have an immediate exit route. However, if you have worse problems with visual overload, then face a corner or wall to cut down the clutter. Avoid mirrors, viewscreens, or any other changing display. I could cheerfully strangle whoever thought it was a good idea to put televisions in restaurants -- now they have five or six of the damn things and it is impossible to find a line of sight without them. Look to see if there is something stable or soothing you can fix on such as a statue, painting, fountain, fish tank, tree, etc. Always have an exit plan.

Some people don't realize how much WORK it is just to manage relationships or be out in public, for anyone who didn't get the neato human-factory wetware with all the subroutines and processing bandwidth for this shit, and who is working with the cheap shareware version or worse has had to code it from scratch. And much of the time, what can be gotten out of the interactions is nowhere near as much as must be spent on them. This is why many neurovariant people are loners: we get more done that way, and it's more satisfying. (It's also true for neurotypical introverts.) While alone, we can enjoy the awesome things our brains do with the wetware we got that isn't even on the neurotypical menu bar. \o/
Tags: how to, life lessons, nonfiction, reading
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