Today I was a SpEd substitute teacher in a class with a nonverbal student who is a known biter. I have subbed in this class before, and so far I have never even witnessed him bite anyone, let alone try to bite be, but that’s certainly no reason not to be cautious around a known biter. Especially when the biter is 18 and almost twice your size.
So when, after this young man started getting a little overly excited, the paraprofessional in the class broke out the forearm guards, I put them on.
Understand something. I wear short sleeve shirts almost exclusively. This past week when it was in the teens and twenties, I wore short sleeve shirts. I’m fine wearing a coat because it fits loosely on my forearms, and the cuffs touch my fingers, but long-sleeve shirts with cuffs tight on my wrist drive me crazy. A watch? You’ve got to be kidding me! Before we started carrying around clocks in our pockets as part of our phone-internet-texting-clock-calendar system, I carried a pocket watch. Well before the hipsters made it a thing.
So when the para broke out the forearm guards that slip up to your elbow, fitting tightly across your entire forearm, with finger holes, I can only imagine the look I must have given her. What?!? Why are you handing me this Medieval torture device!?! Then she reminded me that one of the students was a biter, and he was excited. So, choosing between anxiously wanting to crawl out of my skin to escape those horrendous things and having protection from being bitten by a nearly 6-foot-tall man, I went for the protection.
And all I could think about was escaping those hideous things. They caused me so much anxiety I got a headache. Even after I was finally able to take them off, it took me an hour to get past the anxiety they caused me.
These are the sorts of things that no neurotypical person can possibly understand. Even if you tell them, since they have nothing to compare it to, they simply cannot empathize. So they don’t take it seriously. And we learn that they don’t take it seriously. So more often than not, we just grin and bear it when we are touched in a way that makes us highly anxious. But by doing so, we allow ourselves to be exposed to further anxiety-inducing contact. Of course, if the choice is to have so much anxiety it gives you a headache and getting severely bitten, you’ll probably just have to do like me and go with the anxiety.