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?

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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. 

Christmas Season Spectrum Style

Christmas Season Spectrum Style

The bells are ringing, the carols are singing and the delights of the festive season are upon us. Now don’t get me wrong, we love Christmas in our house, I personally love the traditions and joys that come with the mistletoe and tinsel. But let me very candid for a moment.

The myriad of gatherings and events that come with Christmas can feel like a marathon at times! Add autism to the equation, and you may also find sensory overload, shutdowns, meltdown, angst and lashings of anxiety,

Don’t panic! There are ways you can help make Christmas a success, ENJOYABLE and to reduce the stress for all.

Planet Spectrum Australia

  1. Visual timetable/social stories.

Preparing your little person for what is going to happen on Christmas day, and running through a sequence of events with help bring down the anxiety. This is crucial. If anxiety is high, the computer will say no, and you are on a one-way street straight to stress town. A social story of where you are going, who is going to be there, what is going to be there and what is going to happen is highly recommend.

 

2.  Being Mindful.

Think of the environment you are about to enter (or host) if there is going to be a lot of noise, lights smells, etc. Now arm yourself with possible to tools to combat these. Earmuffs, noise canceling headphones, stretchy bands (great for pressure and easy to carry), bubbles, fidget toys, security toy/ weighted blanket or toy.  Make allowances for a quiet space- perhaps there is another room where your little one can retreat to for quiet time and social breaks.

Planet Spectrum

3.  Sensory friendly!

Be alert to possible triggers and alter these if possible. For example Christmas carols- can they be turned down or even off for a while? Keeping your little person regulated is the key! Are they seeking pressure, spinning, swinging, or calm?.

 

4. Patience- Behaviour.

Behaviour is communication. Remember, when our little ones are starting to lose it, being oppositional, screaming, lashing out- they are not giving you a hard time- they are having a hard time.

Planet Spectrum Australia

5. Advocate for your little person

Not everyone has the same understanding of your little one and what makes them tick. Help your child (if they need) to engage in conversations. Too often in family situations, there are the dreaded hugs and “give your Aunty Fran a kiss.” Just No. Respect your child’s boundaries and right to personal space.

Ultimately it is all about not stretching yourselves too thin.

You know the old saying- leave when you’re still having fun? So relevant! Leaving when things are still enjoyable will create great, fun, happy memories of the Christmas outing, thus helping for next year, as Christmas will be associated with a good time. Being Mindful, and looking for triggers can be exhausting, allow yourself to leave with some energy left in the tank.

Celebrate! 

There may have been a few hiccups, hurdles and spot fires… But you did it.

For more information about creating a happier life with Autism Click Here

 

Autism Christmas Shopping Guide

Christmas is coming up (eeeek!), and you will most likely be starting to think about what sort of gifts to buy the little one in your life.

Gifts for kids on the spectrum can be such a joy when you find that gift that also serves some functionality for a child with autism. So we here we have your Christmas Shopping Guide for spectrum kids!

1. Mini Trampoline – jumping on a trampoline provides feedback to the body and pressure which helps to calm and regulate the body.

Pressure has an influence on the amygdala and has a regulatory effect on sensory processing. It reduces the overwhelming impact of stimuli received. Pressure helps calm and soothe an over-stimulated or ‘anxious’ nervous system and provides a safe and protected feeling.

For all things sport related, we enjoy the quality and service at Rebel Sport. Check this trampoline out HERE. 

Rebel Sport Trampoline Shopping Guide for Christmas for Autism Planet Spectrum

2. The IKEA PS SWIVEL CHAIR

This one has been incredibly popular in our house, you can pull down the front cover to create a little nook and egg- a safe pod blocking all outside stimuli. You can also spin the chair which my children love. Sometimes with spectrum children the spinning movements can assist. How?
Spinning is a human movement that helps to activate the vestibular system, many children on the spectrum will engage in spinning as a natural response to seeking sensory information.

Check them out here: IKEA

Swivel Chair Shopping Guide for Christmas for Autism Planet Spectrum

3. Tubaloo.

This fabulous quirky gadget is quite popular with speechies and in the classroom. My kids love this, and our social media followers tell us their kids do too. So what on earth is a Toobaloo?

You speak into a Toobaloo with the other end connected to the ear, so all you can hear is your own voice to help block out other noises. Auditory feedback is a tool that is effective in assisting children to listen to themselves to correct pronunciation, tone, and rate of speech but also more importantly children can block out distressing sounds. The Toobaloo provides crystal clear auditory feedback.

Check out the Toobaloo here. 

Tubaloo Christmas Shopping Guide for Autism Planet Spectrum
4. The good old snow globe.

Glittery, shaky and calming. Cmon, what isn’t to like about a snow globe?
Watching and focussing on gently falling snow helps a child regulate. It can have an incredibly calming effect on a child with autism.

Check out the selection on Etsy. Click here for the snow globes we found. 
We love Etsy, it is an excellent website for homemade, makers and startups and we love supporting small business too! Warning: you can find yourself browsing forever.

5. Calling all creatives- this one is the gift of all gifts for Christmas.

Red Bubble is a fantastic website where you can take any photo you love and put it on everything from clothing, t-shirts to iPhone covers. Does your child love washing machines? Yes, you guessed it, you can put a picture of one on a t-shirt from Red Bubble. You design it, they print it. The quality is, and they have an excellent delivery system in Australia. You can find art, canvasses, and designers from all around the world as well. So a t-shirt for the poppet, a new art piece for mum. Win-win right?

Click here for RedBubble 

Red Bubble Planet Spectrum recommends

So, you have a start! We would love your suggestions too, what have you come across that your children love? Share it in the comments below!

Would you like your family to get some understanding of what it is like to be on the Spectrum and how they can help? Welcome to Planet Spectrum has sold out, again and again, it is written simply for easy understanding, and we have filled workshops with Grandparents and relatives keen to know how to support their kids and grandkids. This tells us something- they need some knowledge too. A nice little addition for under the Christmas tree.

To get your hardcover copy click here: PLANET SPECTRUM BOOKSTORE

Autism Is Not A Dirty Word

It is surprising and saddening that in 2018 Autism still carries a stigma.

There is increased awareness of autism and growth in diagnosis- however, the spectrum of Autism remains largely misunderstood by many in the community,

So why you might ask?

The stigma to Autism goes way back! Steve Silberman (an award-winning investigative reporter) unearths the secret history of Autism in his book NeuroTribes

The word Autism was used in 1908 to describe childhood schizophrenia.

In the 1940s Hans Asperger used the term Aspergers for a “milder form of Autism” The knowledge of autism was suppressed for 50 year thanks to child psychiatrist Leo Kanner.

Professional Development Now Available 2018

We have seen the Autism spectrum classified as a mental illness, we have read stories of children left to freeze in the snow, targeted by the darkest social-engineering experiment in history, gassed and abolished. Distressing is an understatement, I don’t know about you, but even the thought of this raises bile in my throat.

Bruno Bettelheim declared “Refrigerator parenting” in the 60s as the reason for autism. It was mum’s fault and bad parenting. We have heard that old chestnut before right?

In the late 80’s Rain Man movie was released starring Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man created awareness of autism.

However, it also led many to believe that all people with autism were geniuses who could count matchsticks before they hit the ground and had a better understanding of numbers than Pythagoras himself. A wonderful portrait, however, it also created a misconception.

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It wasn’t until 1980 that ‘infantile autism” was listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for the first time; the condition was also officially separated from childhood schizophrenia.

The late 90’s and 2000’s saw the Vaccine myth take the credit for causing Autism.

The hysteria of Autism as a disease spread faster than a gas fuel bushfire in the middle of summer. We now know Autism has always been, well before immunization even existed. We also know that some of the most creative and incredible minds that have existed that helped form the world as we know it were on the spectrum- shall we tell them they were diseased and something was “wrong” with them? They too lived in a time when children on masse around the world died from polio, measles and chickenpox and diphtheria, mumps… ok I said I wouldn’t get into it, so I won’t.

Planet Spectrum Facebook Community Group

When Autism finally became its own diagnosis- the model used to classify it was the DSM- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

To this day the diagnostic tool for Autism- the DSM5 is based on the deficit model. Take a moment when you say Autism Spectrum Disorder. Yep. Disorder.

Read through the DSM5 and you will find it littered with negative language such as –

“Persistent deficits in social communication, Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, abnormal social approach, failure of normal, inability to initiate or respond to social interactions deficits in nonverbal communication, abnormalities in eye contact…deficits in developing, maintaining and understanding relationships…”

If you read this diagnosis and applied it to a child- or yourself, you would grieve. The DSM perpetuates fear and frames Autism in the worst possible way. It’s brutal and unnecessary negativity is appalling and fuelling the stigma attached to Autism.

According to the Australian Bureau of statistics 2015, there were 164,000 Australians with autism, a 42.1% increase from the 115,400 with the condition in 2012. Changes in clinical diagnostic criteria implemented in 2013 and moves to questions identifying people with disabilities in the 2015 SDAC may have had some impact on the prevalence, relative to 2012.

News headlines would have us believe that Autism is an epidemic endangering our children and spreading like leprosy amongst the camp!

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When in actual fact, diagnostic criteria, access to health professionals, etc. have made getting a diagnosis achievable.

The media sensationalize Autism. News stories with wonky camera work, dramatic music, and catchy headlines portray Autism as a scary epidemic. Autistic people are shown as helpless, sometimes violent and angry and their families in despair.

Add the community dialogue of

“It’s a fad!”

“We’re over-diagnosing.”

“Autism doesn’t exist!”

“Oh yes but all kids do that!”

“Leave the kids with me for a week- I’ll sort them out.”

“They just need a good smack.”
It just keeps giving.

There have even been politicians who have pushed for segregation with calls of the education department not being able to cater for kids on the spectrum.

Kids Happiness Fun Smiling Children Concept

Parents and families are closeting Autism. Why?

For fear of their child being labeled.

There are therapists and practitioners teaching children to mask their Autistic traits so that they can “fit in” and be accepted,

Further adding shame that one must hide their Autism to be included.

This cycle continues.

But. It NEEDS TO STOP.

What if you were taught the real Autism? The real Autism that is just different wiring in the brain.

That Autism is a person to be loved.

That Autism is different. Wonderfully different.

That Autism can be challenging but is not a deficit.

What if you understood that behavior is communication and that there is always logic to a behavior?

What if you thought of Autism as an attribute?

What if you learned HOW to be inclusive?

If you truly understood Autism, you would not fear it?

If you understood Autism as different and not less, you would open your mind to accepting Autism.

Consider the idea that a meltdown is a response to an overtly stimulated, rushing, a loud world that looks upon you with pity, sometimes disdain, or perhaps you are a burden.

I wonder how you would cope when your brain is wired differently to those around you? I don’t believe it would make it better, in fact, I believe firmly that the symptomatic facets of autism that can stimulate stress for parents will be significantly reduced if exclusion and stigma reduced and inclusion and a balance was increased.

Imagine if the diagnostic criteria highlighted the magnificent positives of Autism!

You would open the door supporting the challenges people with Autism face.

Autism would be celebrated.

You would change the world.

And you can.

It’s starting now.

It’s time for change.

“Remember: autism is not necessarily a deficit, it’s a difference. Just be kind to people, just give people time, listen”.

Jeanette Purkis.

If you would like to know more about how to navigate Planet Spectrum and gain insight and tools please click here.

Five ways to support a parent with a child on the spectrum

Frazzled? Somewhat confused, a tad exhausted and emotionally drained? You are not alone, and it isn’t always because of the kids.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC), an estimated 164,000 Australians had autism in 2015.

This number continues to grow as getting a diagnosis becomes more accessible. Many families with an autistic child(ren) report feeling isolated, exhausted and lonely.

However, there are simple ways we can all support parents and families with autistic children. 

1. Believe.

If a parent mentions their child has autism- please believe them. Refrain from the old-  it’s not autism, the kid just needs to be pulled into line, or “but they doesn’t look autistic”- or the “it’s just bad parenting”. Please don’t think that autism is a result of bad parenting, vaccines or how many cheezels Mum ate when she was pregnant. 

Chances are if a parent says their child has autism… they have autism.

Kids Happiness Fun Smiling Children Concept

In your empathetic quest to relate to said parent, please don’t mention the movie Rain Man, your cousin that has 5 kids on the spectrum, the kids you once knew with autism, the guy from the post office that has autism and every other person that may have autism because each person on the spectrum is different. Different in personality, different interests, Different full stop.

2. Learn about Autism- ask questions. Get to know the child’s interests.

One of the greatest ways to support a parent with a child on the spectrum is to learn about and understand Autism.

Once you learn that Autism is just different wiring, you’ll be on your way to understanding the many positives that children on the spectrum have. You will also have a better understanding of the challenges kids on the spectrum face.

For example:

  • Sensory issues- noises, smells, lights, crowds, food, clothing. Sensory seeking/avoiding… the list goes on,
  • Anxiety
  • Language and communication (speech)
  • Social skills- challenges reading facial expressions and social cues. Challenges engaging in conversation or socially. This can be very overwhelming, exhausting and generally hard work.

Through understanding possible triggers, behaviors, communication and interests you will be able to offer support.

There is nothing more wonderful than another person taking the time to connect and help with a child.

If that means embracing passions (ranging from washing machines, Thomas the tank, clocks, My Little Pony, fans, craft..ANYTHING!)

Make an effort to connect via an interest. This is like a porthole into the child’s world. Let’s call it common ground. A safe, familiar interest that motivates the child, engages the child and makes the child feel calm and content. Happy, calm child= happy calm parent.

happy little girl climbing on children playground

3. Be understanding.

There are going to be plenty of times when a spectrum parent cancels plans, runs late and leaves early. There might be times where the parent goes off the grid for a while. You can support this parent by being understanding. Please keep inviting the parent, child, family to events. Regardless of how many times spectrum parents may cancel or decline- still being asked and included makes such a difference.

Professional Development Now Available 2018

Understand that sensory overload is a nightmare for some kids on the autism spectrum. Noise, smells, light, people.. all of this can be exhausting and actually painful. You can help with this, by planning visits and catch up with consideration.

When picking a venue (such as a cafe) check with the parent where is a suitable auti- friendly place.  Be selective of parks, times of play and time spent catching up. Short and sweet is often best!

4. Celebrate with the parent

The small things really are the big things. Whether it’s talking for the first time, making it to the shops without a meltdown, learning to use the toilet or even touching a new food. These things can be epic!  

5. Be a listening ear.

All parents have rough days. Some days, rougher than others, If you can make time for a phone call, a message and lend an ear- you will help combat the loneliness and isolation that so many Autism families feel. 

If all else fails, give hugs and a listening ear, (wine and chocolate optional).

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