THE CHRISTMAS CONVERSATION AUTISM PARENTS WANT TO HAVE

Christmas is full of cheer and gatherings. But it can also be a difficult time.

We desperately want to come together and have quality connections with each other founded in love and companionship. Last year Aussies spent more than 25 billion dollars on Christmas– that’s a whole lot of trying to connect right? You don’t go into a spending frenzy based on the celebration of the birth of a Messiah. You whip out your wallet or become enthralled with family time because society tells us we need to and we get caught up in either the joy or the fear of the connection. Some beautiful souls become so depleted because they don’t have a family, or a home this Christmas, the thing is- it just isn’t easy for everyone. But it can be better.

If you are visiting your family or friends home, the anxiety may have even started. How are we going to cope?

Will we even go? So as Grandparents and family members and friends- how can we make Christmas gatherings more enjoyable, supportive and inclusive so that everyone feels the love on some level?

Jomara Leaderboard

If your family celebrates Christmas all kinds of wonderful is about to unwrap. All this food to prepare, maybe you have people coming to visit and gifts to wrap, the house to clean- EEEEEK! Now one of the complicated things that can happen is when you have a child on the spectrum, and you would like to enjoy these festivities too but it’s not a time of year of calm and quiet is it?

Often Autism presents behaviors that have traditionally been viewed as bratty or antisocial, however, once you really observe and watch you will start to understand and recognize that they are behaviors that the body’s coping outlet and a way to regulate or try and get away from what is going on. It is entirely unintentional, the behavior is communication.

Flapping -agitated or excited

Rocking

Hitting

Making noise

Shutting down and not responding to a conversation

Stimming-

Spinning-

Becoming physical by crashing into things or hitting and throwing objects.

Spitting

girl plays astronaut

All of these behaviors are indicators of what is going on beneath the surface.

Under the surface there is some kind of central nervous system disruption- now this could be positive as in excitement and joy or it could be the signs of a meltdown or needing to self-regulate. Why? Because the sensory input is HIGH! But here’s the one thing it is n’t: naughtiness.

So as a Grandparent, Aunty, Uncle or family friend what can you do when you have a Spectrum child visiting? Here are just a few…

1) Find out what the child’s passion is, what do they like?

Is it fans? Perhaps at your Christmas gathering, you can have a fan there for the child to look at, focus on or start a conversation about. If its a train, can you get a small train set or something related to trains? Asking the parent to bring something is excellent, but let me tell you if you act, and the child turns up and sees that you too like trains or fans it is going to change the whole energy of the interactions you have.

Green Globe On Moss - Environmental Concept

2) Create a quiet space away from the noise just for them.

Let the parents know that you have created a space for their child if they need to escape the sensory input. Ask them if this is suitable and can you do anything else to help make their little one more comfortable. This will be worth more than gold.

 

3) Lower your expectation!

There will very well be some behavior spill over so when this happens do not make judgments or try and reprimand the child. This is disastrous and can cause further upset, misunderstanding, and it communicates a powerful message to your loved one that you don’t understand Autism in any way. Now, this could be true, but at the end of the day, you want to have time together that is meaningful and real. And on Planet Spectrum won’t be anything but this. Trying to pretend is going to go as far as flying a kite with a concrete brick. However, there will be moments of insight and joy that will change your life. Our Spectrum children are excellent teachers.

4) When a meltdown happens-

 

First act is to make sure the child is safe, so it is just you and the child and they go to jump a fence or run out on the road or grab a kettle, then clearly the first thing you do is stop this where it can lead to a physically harmful situation.  But if the parents are there, do NOT make eye contact with the child, do not try and touch that child in any way shape or form. Simply ask Mum or Dad if there is anything you can do to help and keep calm.

 

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trees on hillside of mountain range with coniferous forest and flowers on meadow. composite image day and night with full moon

5) Reduce your expectation on the parents!  

Let them know you want them to stay as long as they feel comfortable but its okay for them to do whatever they need to do today. Quality not quantity is critical here. Even if your beloveds only get to stay for 30 minutes and in that 30 minutes this Spectrum child melts down like world war 3, if you have shown the parents you care by doing these things, you have given them the best Christmas gift you could possibly give- support.

Parents if you would like to buy everyone a copy of Planet Spectrum for under the tree Click Here. 

If you would like to use our Flight Manual App and download a copy to give to your family before Christmas- Click Here. 

Autism in the Classroom Help!

You walk in on Monday morning,

25 little faces are jumping about waiting for the cue to get ready for the day. If you are like many classrooms around Australia, you may have a few  little people who may be standing out from the rest, why? They have autism.

In 2015, an estimated 164,000 people had autism, representing about 1 in 150 Australians.

Autism was most prevalent among children aged 5 to 14 in 2015. School Age. Some will be your students in your teaching career.

Autism is Here

Autism is here, and it isn’t going anywhere. Even though the term Autism is relatively fresh, coined in the last century it is has been around for what historians believe to be hundreds of years, if not always, it is just that we are now more aware. Just like now we know about Quantum physics and that the earth is actually round.

So if Autism is a part of our world and these little people are in the school system, where does that leave you as a teacher? For many educators, it can be very difficult to customize your teaching. Time restraints on teachers to fully educate the entire classroom, student by student in what can sometimes feel like a one size fits all curriculum, can draw a big deep breath. We get it.

So why are children with Autism in mainstream classrooms?

To begin with, every child has a right to an education and to be included. Segregation isn’t the answer for everyone. A community needs to be inclusive. All abilities inclusion stimulates acceptance which is essential. According to the University of Birmingham  studies show that when our community is fully represented in the classroom and on the playground, that society excels all round.

Interesting right?  Children that don’t meet the criteria for special needs education, what happens to them? If their needs are not being met in the mainstream system and they don’t qualify for special needs, a gap now exists. As we know as teachers and educators, gaps are dangerous

So here you are about to start, what do you need the most? You need to be able to identify what is going on with this little human and what their cues are. At Planet Spectrum, we believe that small steps make up a big journey. So let’s start here with some tools to help you identify some cues.

To begin with, find out if the child’s parent has a Flight Manual.

A flight manual is a list of tips, triggers and behavioral characteristics of the child. This helps you to identify possible triggers and calming and motivators. If they don’t have one, ask them to consider putting one together. You can find the link here for our complimentary one for Planet Spectrum HERE

Each child, actually all humans, if you want to get technical, have sets of stress signals. Our output as a response to the input. For kids with Autism, these are important, because it helps us to identify when they may not be coping. If we can do this we can help avoid certain outcomes, make them feel comfortable which ultimately has a positive impact on your classroom and YOU!

Some of these stress signals will be really obvious, but some may be incredibly subtle.

One is the Shut Down.

You may notice the child’s head may be down, his or her eyes are downcast, they might be on the floor. They have the look of shutting down. What they are doing is shutting down the outside input coming in, or they may be completely stuck with no idea of where to go behaviorally now. Computer says no, so the shutdown happens.

Another is Seeking Behaviour.

Seeking Behaviour is sensory seeking behavior. What can appear to be an outburst, or an out of control child. Just an example you might see him or her- tipping pencils on the floor, kicking or hitting students or other objects in the room. It is an outburst of outward physical high energy action. What is it? It is all that fear and anxiety building up like a thunderstorm. There is activity happening under that behavior. They are not trying to be naughty. The reason is that their body is seeking input to calm their nervous system down.

Avoidance Behaviour-

Absconding – which put simply leaving, running away, running off. Why? The body’s fight or flight mechanism has set off. This can be dangerous and even deadly for a child that wanders away. According to Rehare Care’s wandering and elopement survey found that approximately half of the parents of children with autism report that their child elopes, with the behavior peaking at age four. Among these families, nearly 50% say that their child went missing long enough to cause significant concern about safety. You can understand why parents get anxious right?

Flitting-

This is when you see the child behaving like a little ping pong ball, jumping from activity to activity. For one little one close to my heart, she runs in circles or repetitively hits her shoe against something. The child is winding up feeling anxious.

A meltdown-

What is this? Sometimes unavoidable and sometimes unexpected, the meltdown is a result of sensory overload. We are in nontechnical terms, have absolutely no way of stopping that behavior until it has subsided and been fully released from the body. To some, it can look like a tantrum. It is not. It just looks that way.

So this is a good start. You have identified some pre-cursor behavior from your student, now what? Next week’s blog will be on tools to make your classroom calm and Autism friendly.

To find out how you can become an Autism Spectrum friendly school you can Purchase a Copy of Planet Spectrum Here, or you can find out more about our Professional Development Workshops HERE.