Today's blog was fun for me to create because once again I am able to use visual aides to assist in my telling of the story. I do warn you though that I have very limited artistic abilities and my diagrams using MS Paint is certainly lacking, but I still enjoyed making it.
These arrangements always terrify me and from the moment I sat down I was wishing, no, deeply yearning for my sunglasses. The head of the table, or rather the speaking portion, was the right side of the square.
What is so hard about this arrangement? Eye contact runs wild in a square and I don't know the appropriate place to look. My anxiety levels rise which further lowers my ability to make eye contact so it is just a downward spiral that feeds upon itself.
At one point in time the conversation shifted to me and Matt, the TouchPoint Community Liaison, set up a perfect pitch for me to state what I have heard at my book signings and in public (the constant thing is that so many parents are told by doctors/schools that autism "disappears" at the age of 16.) They always say 16) but because I was so out of my element in this square of fear my mind was so jumbled that I didn't catch it. In fact, I didn't hear most of what was said because I had to tune everything out to manage my emotions in this square.
I tried to answer the question by trying to go to the audio replay in my mind, but the files were not there because of the amount of processing that was going on trying to 1. manage where I was looking and 2. manage the anxiety and adrenaline that had me on edge. I had to ask Matt, "What am I answering?" and he once again gave me the set up and I was able to give the answer, but after the answer I went right back to fearing the square.
In my diagram above I have X's for each person, but in all reality the X's should be "?" because I don't know how many people were there outside my field of vision. What was my field of vision? I'm glad you asked because I have another visual aid to show it:
After an hour I got into my "positional warfare" and could not settle in on how I should be seated. I went from folded arms, to hands on the table, to crossed legs, to reversing the way my legs were crossed and it was just uncomfortable. My eyes became glued to the exit sign and I began to plot this blog entry of all things.
I find it so unique and mysterious that I can speak in front of a massive group of people with no problems, yet a room with an arrangement like this crashes my system. This has to be because of the amount of things that can be seen all at once. I mean, if I were to look at eye level at the center of the room I would be able to see most everyone at once and for my brain it is too much.
When it was time to go the moment it happened couldn't have come any sooner. As I usually say in all the things that have happened to me, I am glad this happened because I am able to write about it and even though I have been in the square of fear before I wasn't self aware enough to be able to translate all the emotions and feelings that come along with it.
Next time they have that meeting I do want to go along and I want to bring my sunglasses along to judge if that would have helped me. I know I said I wished I had them with me, but I am unsure if they would have done any good because it just wasn't the eye contact but each person's movements were seen and then processed. Seeing so many people at once was too much and that's why I narrowed my field of vision.
So that was my experience with the square of fear. I hope my MS Paint skills were enough that you could understand where I was seated and where I was looking. I hope they were good enough because this, I feel, is very important to understand because in a classroom setting, or a public place for that matter, if we on the spectrum are looking at a fixed place in space, or are looking away from everyone, it may not be because we want to, but rather because we need to. If there's too much input we HAVE to manage by looking away or looking at the place with the least amount of input. We aren't trying to disrespect the group, we are just trying to get by the only way we know how.