We visited my parents a few weeks ago. This is a normal thing for us. We live close and I have most of the grand kids. So they love when we are hanging out, even if it’s just for a moment. We visit more often than every few weeks, but this time has been bouncing around in my brain. So I felt it was necessary to share.
It’s so prevalent because we had another moment where I desperately try to explain to my father the idea of mind blindness.
A simple visit gone a little sideways
Here’s the quick rundown.
My son opened the pantry door to put his recyclables in the correct bin then proceeded to walk away, without shutting the door.
Grandpa (G): ‘X’ What are you doing? Close the door.
X: What? Turning around. Oh, I didn’t even notice it was open. Proceeds to close the door.
G: raising his voice What do you mean you didn’t know it was open? I just watched you open it.
X: But I didn’t know it was open.
G: growing more frustrated How can you say that? I just watched you open it. How could you not know it was open? It’s ridiculous. Just say you forgot to close it.
X: But grandpa, I didn’t know it was open. I didn’t forget.
Me: Dad, he honestly didn’t know it was open.
G: Dear, that’s stupid. (a pet peeve word for me) I just watched him open it. How could he not know it was open if he opened it?
Me: It’s called mind blindness and it’s an actual thing. You know, because he is on spectrum. It’s a thing.
G: Quit making excuses for him. He opened it and wouldn’t admit he forgot to shut it. It’s stupid.
Me: It’s not stupid. He legitimately did not realize the door was open. It’s called mind blindness. Whether he opened the door or not, he did not realize it was open.
The conversation repeated itself at least one more time, probably more. I won’t bore you with the details. But in the end, as in many cases, I just gave up. My dad can be very stubborn and refuse to see things unless it is his way. I maintain he may be on spectrum too, not just because of this behavior but in conjunction with many other behaviors as well.
This is an interesting term. Thing is, most people don’t know what it means and that can do many people harm. Mind blindness is an actual thing. Children and adults who have processing disorders, sensory disorders and are on the Autism spectrum experience this all the time. Young children can be prone to this too because they are still learning how to process the world.
I prefer to call it uber-focus because it’s easier for me to cope with it if I remember they were too focused on something else. Then I can’t really get angry or frustrated because sometimes I do the same thing. I forget where I set my keys because it was late and I just wanted to get everyone to bed as soon as possible.
But actual mind blindness happens to this group of people much more often and can be much more intense. This means they don’t even recognize what is going on around them. It reduces their abilities to assess risk and danger. Sometimes it can lead to an overwhelming melt down or it can be indicative of a melt down that is on it’s way.
I didn’t realize this was an actual thing until I stopped and watched. I used to get frustrated with my troop of Aspys denials about forgetting things. They didn’t forget. They have a reasonable amount of tunnel vision. And as much as I hate to sound like I am making excuses on their behalves, I no longer think or feel it is an excuse.
This is what causes my 6 year-old from realizing she hasn’t eaten for hours. Or my 9 year-old to open something and not close it. They make food and forget it’s made. Neither one can remember what is recyclable and what isn’t let alone remember which color bin it goes in. All due to mind blindness. You may never have 100% of their attention and that means they are paying attention, but in 10 seconds, they won’t remember what you said because they are focused on something else entirely.
Do I get annoyed continually pointing out they need to throw away their trash or put away that toy or any number of things they don’t realize they are doing because of it? Yes, I’m human. Who wouldn’t be annoyed by repeating themselves who knows how many times a day?
Perhaps if you notice this behavior, you may know someone with mind blindness. Chances are if it is chronic enough, they may have something else going on inside their head. If you notice that you are chronically pointing out things like this to someone close to you, slow down and take mental notes. It may be as simple as mind blindness.
For me, I need to put it all in perspective and sometimes this means taking a step back and looking at everything. I ask, is what they did going to hurt anyone? Is it dangerous? Do they need to remember that all the time? In a lot of cases, the answer is no. There are moments when I need to find ways to help them remember things, but most of it isn’t things they are mind blind of.
This is one of those moments as a respectful parent I find I have to let it go. If those three answers are all no, I have learned not to say anything and let the cards fall where they may. Does this mean things don’t happen? By all means, no. I have children. So sometimes things get broken. This is when a young child, one with a processing or sensory disorder or is on spectrum needs a little more than mild and subtle discussion.
Why? Because they are now mind blind to what caused this to happen in the first place and thus, most natural consequences are lost on them. This is where I personally struggle. I believe in respectful, conscious parenting. Kids have choices and rights. But where do those rights extend if they have special needs?
You do have to gauge this one for yourself. We have rules and routines/schedules at our house. The rules are common sense they can’t see and the routine/schedule is to create consistency to minimize melt downs. Sometimes their melt downs aren’t safe for anyone, including me. The rage strength of a six year-old would baffle and amaze you. So, we do what we need to do to maintain safety and order. Because they really need order.
More Info –
I read this awesome article after I wrote this one.
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