Thursday, December 2, 2010

In Their Shoes

Last night, I went to a rock concert for the first time in my life. It was U2, and it was very good.

The four of us - myself, my hubby, SIL and her man - were all sitting and waiting for the main show to start. As I was taking in the enormity of the place (Etihad Stadium), and pondering the noise that so many thousands of people altogether make, my SIL leans over and says that it was going to get very loud. I smiled and said that was fine, I can handle loud noises. Besides, I am not pregnant and so I don't have to be worrying about any babies being affected. (It was something I used to worry about in movies and such LOL).

Then the concert actually began.

You are going to think me a terrible wuss for what I'm about to say.....

The lights went out to emphasis the stage lighting and the sound effects began. The bass vibes and rhythms were fantastic, but all I could concentrate on, was the feeling of my whole body being assaulted by those bass vibrations. It went through me in waves, making my heart - all my insides - tremble. I didn't like it one bit. I honestly thought my heart was going to stop. Suddenly, everything seemed too much. The darkness, contrasting lights, people everywhere - all this was full on, but I could cope with it until the sound turned up. On the verge of a panic attack, I turned and buried my face into my husbands arm... still terrified that my heart was literally going to stop. The concert had just started, and I couldn't wait for it to be over. More than once through those first few songs, I debated whether or not to actually leave the was that much for me. Nausea settled into me and I felt sick to my stomach with fear, and those bass vibrations would not let up. I just want to highlight here, that I became afraid only because of the physical sensations that hit me.... it was not a mental thing as such.

In those short lulls between songs, I would find myself taking deep breaths. I didn't realise I had been holding my breath and tensing up so hard when the music was playing. Nevertheless, taking a mental hold of myself, I made a firm decision to ignore how I was physically feeling, and told myself that if thousands of people here can go through this and not drop dead, then I could too. Eventually, I became accustomed enough to the bass waves to relax a little and enjoy the concert a lot more.

It occurred to me that this could be how ASD kids might feel in situations that are overwhelming to them. I feel lucky that my little man doesn't seem to be particularly bothered by loud noises and busy environments. He loves trips to the shopping centre - all the colours and lights, sights and smells - he loves going into the big auditorium at church - loud music (not as bad as the concert though!), darkened room, stage lighting and church news presentations. But I imagined that other autistics who do have such sensitivities might feel the way I did when the concert first began. I am already mindful about anything that may put my son into sensory overload, but this concert experience has opened my understanding in a deeper way. If it was that much of a shock for me - an adult able to regulate myself and adapt to my environment, I can totally understand why it is so scary for them.


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