I was doing a first aid course today, which I have to do to be able to work in the education system. I have done these courses every 3 years for the last 15 or so years, and before that I was a St John Ambulance cadet for several years. So I did not expect to feel particularly challenged during the day, apart from the obvious issue of being in a room full of strangers and probably getting lost on the way there!
I found the room fine (25 mins early), the room filled up, I was in a seat by the door, with one person on one side, then a gap for the door before other seats. The people were fine, the presenter was enthusiastic and interesting BUT…. slightly too graphic about the dangers of the beach and sea snakes and blue ringed octopi…. ugghhhh I never want to go to the beach again!!!
I could feel myself starting to physically cringe and in order not to completely freak out thought I would look at how everyone else was reacting – and interestingly enough they weren’t. I am unsure if people weren’t listening or weren’t bothered but there were no discernible reactions from anyone else in the room.
This was in stark contrast to when a participant accidentally broke the neck of the resuscitation doll and her/his head went rolling off…. at this point everyone laughed hysterically. I was just so thankful that I hadn’t killed the doll, as I did this about 20 years ago and failed the course (I couldn’t inflate the lungs enough). Apparently now, you don’t have to do the mouth to mouth part of CPR as it is what puts people off doing CPR and without it more people do CPR so more lives are saved. I didn’t like to say that I carry around a mouth guard in my bag so that I can give mouth to mouth through a barrier, but I do!
Most interesting for me was the challenge around serious abdominal wounds – these provoked intense visualisations that were horrendous and I decided that I really need to listen less…
On a less stressful note, I also registered the dog – which was fairly straightforward until the official tried to work out where to put my postal address (as this is different to my physical address but there was nowhere on the form to record it). She suggested she write it in the section for ‘dog’s residential address’, and I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing and said “I don’t think he’d fit in the post box’ as I was visualising trying to stuff a large 45kg dog into a 10cmx10cmx30cm box. It was hysterical… the official looked at me as if I was barmy and made some comment that I couldn’t hear due to my continuing to laugh.
Challenges in public come in all sorts of places and ways, not understanding others, or going with the visualisation instead of the continuing conversation. I think these challenges are some of the gifts within autism, they are the things that illustrate the different ways we view the world and I love to share these moments with others on the spectrum as we share the laughter or the squirms and let go of the worry about how others might view our reactions.
Enjoy your visual images and those of other people on the spectrum who share them with you – I think a cartoon book of some of these images would not only be hysterically funny, but also make someone very rich!