Updated: Aug 4, 2019
I was listening to a story the other day about someone who'd recently visited the snow. This person has done skateboarding in younger years and dabbled in a bit of surfing, but had never done snowboarding. For the weekend he was there, he set himself the task of learning. He said that on many occasions, as his backside kept hitting the snow, the little voice on his shoulder was telling him that the club house would be a much nicer place to be. He pushed that voice to one side and persisted. In the week that followed, when he was back at home and work, his body ached. He said he really enjoyed the ache. It made him feel like he'd pushed himself out of his comfort zone and experienced life in a way he wouldn't normally.
I know the point of the story was about how limiting comfort zones can be, and I agree, it's just that I got a little distracted with the role of the 'little voice'. His story was really about battling the little voice. What is the function of that voice?
My little voice is really loud sometimes and most of the time it's really convincing. I can talk myself out of anything in a snap! Even when I want to do things, the little voice can talk me out of it! I can see that little voice in action all the time our adult clients. If my little voice is loud, theirs is booming. If mine is convincing, theirs is compelling.
The other day Rudolf and the guys in Piranha were talking about girls. I'm not privy to the boisy-boy talk that goes on in that 'work environment', nor am I interested, but in the version I heard from Rudolf they got onto the topic of visiting Covergirls - a local gentleman's club. Rudolf said it was interesting that in response to the suggestion of going out together at night, one of our Piranha's stopped and his whole demeanor instantly froze. He started wringing his hands, and when prompted, he told the others he usually stays home at night. It was interesting to hear this response, because I know that particular Piranha is very social. What was his 'little voice' telling him?
I know the pull of a routine for a person with ASD or an intellectual impairment is very strong. I also know imagining or visualising something unfamiliar or unknown is part of the disability, so this can give traction to the 'little voice'.
A number of years back we ran a Holiday Program. On one particular day, we'd organised an outrigger activity with volunteers at the Yorkey's Knob club (would highly recommend them, by the way!). We had about 12 kids booked in, and it was bizarre to see them all turn up filled with anxiety. I'm not sure why they came? As more and more kids arrived for the day, the group anxiety became palpable. What if they fell out of the canoe? Worse, what if they fell out and were eaten by a crocodile? No, no, no, what if there was a stray jelly fish and they were stung? Wait, what - it wasn't even stinger season?? What if they can't swim in the ocean? They've only swam in pools!! What if it's different? What if they fall out and can't swim? Worse, what if ... the scenarios were endless. The 'little voices' were taking over and we were faced with a dozen scared individuals all about to go into simultaneous meltdown.
Rudolf took lead. He used his big, boomy teacher voice to tell them all they were going. The building momentum of self-doubt stopped almost immediately. He told them they were going to do just fine, and if anyone decided that after trying, they didn't want to do it again, he would sit with them on the beach. His assertive voice replaced their little questioning voices. They left for the day, had the time of their lives, and their parents arrived at the end of the day to find a very excited group of kids all saying they wanted to do it again.
We all have our little inner voices. I guess the voice stops us from doing dangerous or stupid things. It keeps us safe, but safe can sometimes be limiting. I see our GSL-ians wanting to achieve goals and do what others do, and I see them battle their inner 'little voices'. I have no scientific evidence, and my thoughts are just that - thoughts. I know we all have 'little voices' that keep us safe and sometimes limit us, but my thought is it is a whole heap louder and much more convincing for a person with an intellectual disability or ASD. We need to recognise this and acknowledge the responses. It is the same; it's just different.