Behaviour Matters

Nobody knows Everything.

Everybody knows at least one person who thinks they know all they need to know. They will either be the person who wont listen or take your advice as their don’t need to know what you are telling them or they already know what you are telling them (or at the very least think they do).

I hope I am not one of those people. Although I know that I can become a bit obsessive in my thinking. I like to be in control but I am willing to listen to other people and change my thoughts if I need to. Why am I talking about this today? Well this week I have had at least two instances that have made me question myself. The first was an incident at work. I was talking to a colleague about the plans for a session and I made a few suggestions on changes I thought would work. These were not taken on board and the session did run to any sort of order or result in any achievements. I wonder if my suggestions had been considered if the results would have been more positive.

The second was incident was related to one of my tweets; Flapping or ‘stimming’ is a necessary part of daily life for some children; do not try to stop it. This tweet became the topic for a 3 day long argument. Maybe I was wrong in the information given, but I don’t think so.

The argument was that as children grow up their stimming may be the instigator of bullying and so stimming should be prevented or the child should only be allowed to stim at home and only then within certain boundaries. I can see this point of view, but the tweet did say that “’stimming’ is a necessary part of daily life for some children”. If the child is able to understand the concept that stimming may result in bullying then they could possibly be able to control it. As Autism is a spectrum disorder every child is different, some children will not see the connection, never understand the connection or ever be able to control their stimming.

Another point was made that society will never change its attitude to Autism so the children must learn to fit into society. I would like to think that society can change, but by hiding the already hidden disability by pretending to be ‘normal’ then society will not see the problems and will never accept them.

Every person I have ever met has some sort of habit or sign of unease; it may be biting nails or chewing the inside of their lip, stuttering, inability to stand or sit still, talking too fast, swearing, or doodling. None of these are seen as socially unacceptable and I cannot see much of a difference between these and stimming.

As I said I don’t presume to know everything, but I do think that I can back up any of the statements I make on twitter or in person. Autism is a complex condition that can never be understood by one person. As a parent you know your child, as a teacher you may know a number of individual children. Every one id different and will need different levels of support at different times of the day. So allow your child to be individual, teach them what is important to their level of understanding, and enjoy the differences. As Wendy Lawson said it’s a differbility not a disability.

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More infomration please

following on from my last post I have had some great feedback on what teachers want to know and what parents want teachers to know about autism. here are a few of the ideas mentioned
teachers and parents to work together
more communication between home and school
teachers to understand that a melt down is not deliberate or beign naughty
parents to inform teacher of sensory triggers and needs
understand how to aleviate triggers and overloading senses
teachers to be aware of signs of distress and act accordingly
understand that stimming is natural and should not be discouraged
avoid non literal language (sarcasm, colloquialisms)
provide support with changes to routines
see the benefits of autism in the classroom

there are lots of others, but please keep them coming in, the more I can know the more I can help.

Thanks for the response so far

Some of your reading this will have a vague idea of my current plans and my current status, others will not.

I have been asking the same on Twitter and Face book for a couple of weeks now; what do teachers want to know about Autism and what do parents want teachers to know about Autism?  I have an idea of what people want to know, but really want to understand your needs more fully.  I will then use the information to develop training and a second book to help teachers and children with autism in mainstream schools.

Why do I want to do this?  I have been reading papers and reports and have uncovered some scary statistics related to children with Autism and exclusion, teachers feeling unprepared and unable to teach children with autism, and the inevitable cuts in funding will not make anything easier for the children, parents or teachers.  I also have evidence in my own work of the difficulties schools face and how they deal with those problems.  In one paper statistics state that 1 in 86 children have special educational needs that are related to autism spectrum disorder.  I work in a small unit of 24 children (all permanently excluded from school) of those 24 I estimate that 6 of them either are or could be diagnosed with ASD.  That brings the ratio to 1:4 and shows that mainstream education is not prepared for the behaviours or equipped well enough to support children with ASD.

My aim is to develop a training package to accompany my second book.  The training will be designed specifically for school staff and specifically aimed to help them support and understand Autism.  Currently 72% of schools are dissatisfied with the extent of their teacher’s training in Autism, and I in 5 schools with children with autism or Asperger syndrome have no teachers with autism specific training at all.  I am sure that as parents this may not surprise you but will cause concern.

I will approach schools; primary and secondary, as well as local authorities’ across the country with my training.  I will armed with information found in the Department for Education, Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability. March 2011 (published in Dec 2012) along with information from other research papers and your comments.  I will start try and turn the tide on understanding Autism in Education.

If you would like more information or think the teachers in your child’s school would like to be involved then contact me at allison@oagconsultants.co.uk

Lets make things better.

Reflection

Yes people it’s that time of year when people reflect on the year almost gone. I could bore you with details of my year (it has been exceptionally good), but I wont. Instead I wanted to ask you to reflect on how far you and your children have come in this last year.

I know of one family whose year has been exceptional. Since January 2012 they have had an official diagnosis of Autism for each of their three boys. They have found an excellent special school that has accepted the two oldest (6 & 5yrs) they also have a specialist nursery for the youngest; he will be starting there next year. Since the oldest boys have been at the school their achievements have been remarkable. The oldest is now writing independently and there are signs of reading too (he made no0 progress in reading or writing for a year in mainstream), the second child is becoming more vocal and uses makaton a lot more too. Although all of this is fantastic the story doesn’t end there. To enable the boys to go to this wonderful school they have had to move house; 4 days before Christmas! But despite the autism (between them the boys cover the whole spectrum of difficulties) they all coped well with the disruption of the move.

Yet the story continues to develop. Mum has had heart health issues this year and dad has undergone a kidney transplant due to a progressive kidney disease that was slowly killing him, thankfully the transplant has, so far, been successful although there were times of worry. Mum is looking to get her own diagnosis of Autism too. The youngest of the boys also has chronic lung disease which can cause fitting and projectile vomiting on a fairly regular basis, and the middle child sleeps for around 4 hours a night. Each child has his own obsessions; sharks, dinosaurs and peppa pig.

Now this story may seem extreme, but all of it is true. My reason for telling you is to help those families out there who do not have Autism in their lives understand the complexities of life that autism can bring, regular visits to the hospital for assessments, and blood tests, visits with dieticians, behavioural support, educational psychologists and the inevitable trips to the GP. For families with autism their lives are very different. Nothing can be taken for granted, every outing needs to planned to cause the least disruption, every meal is planned around what the children will and can eat, medication needs to be considered, even toileting and personal care is a concern for some parents even as their child is way past the ‘normal’ toilet training stage. Live can be very difficult, but it is never boring.

The small improvements your child makes are so important, treasure them and don’t worry about regression or transferring skills. Stay positive look for the improvements. Celebrate achievements and accept your children just the way they are. Every child is special, and some are more special than others.

Have a great 2013, and look back at how far you’ve come in 2012.

As we watch Christmas films and cookery programmes we are constantly remined of the traditions of Christmas. I don’t think that as an adult I have followed many of the traditions of Christmas, especially the ones I don’t like. This has not made my Christmases with my small family any less enjoyable and we have played a part in following our own traditions. We get to open one present on Christmas eve before going to bed, on Christmas day we have no TV, internet or mobiles on until after our meal, we have a strange pudding called Heavenly Hash as no one likes Christmas pudding or trifle.

So the final point to make before the big day is to enjoy it your way, not the way other people expect you to. The best tradition to follow is the one that works for you and your immediate family.

Enjoy yorselves and I’ll be back with a New Year message next week.

As you all know routines are very important to your children. So it is important to them that their normal daily routines are not disrupted too much. If your child is at school you will already be aware of how the holidays can affect them, and at this time of year so many other things change too. With Christmas day being so close to the end of term your child may find the whole experience too much. To support your child at this time
• Try to keep the changes to a minimum and explain as much as you can before hand.
• Use a visual timetable to help remind your child of the events and more importantly show them how normal routines will fit into the schedule.
• Allow time each day where one thing is always constant; morning routines, bath time routines, bed time routines.
• Know your child’s triggers and prepare for those you cannot avoid
• Keep your child involved in the events as much as possible but always allow them time to go off to be on their own when it is needed
• Inform visitors of the strategies in place

Talking of visitors, if you have a lot of visitors all descending on you for the big day, or any big day, then make sure they understand that your child may not co-operate or behave as they usually do.
• Your child may be more interested in the box or the paper or the tree than in the gifts.
• The gifts may not even be looked at during the day; this is not a personal insult.
• The child may take all of the gifts to his room and stack them up to play with and explore later.
• Thanking guests for gifts may not happen; again this is not a personal attack.
• Not interacting is also a common feature. Make sure your guests do not try to force interaction.

Then there is the Christmas dinner. Traditionally Christmas dinner is served at about 2 or 3 in the afternoon (I never understood why). This can be a big change to routine. The actual food on your child’s plate may be different and where they sit at the table may need to change. All of these things can be the cause of a meltdown and can easily be avoided.
• Allow your child to eat their meal at the usual time
• Give your child his usual lunch
• During the main meal he can be alone with his thoughts and autism; it can be a good time to readjust to the changes in a clam environment.

Christmas should be a time of fun and memories. Don’t allow tradition to create a time of stress and fear. Make Christmas your way, what ever suits your family best. On Christmas Day I will be having a normal day. I am eating a Christmas dinner of roast pork and roast lamb on Christmas Eve. We will open presents on Christmas Day night and no doubt be walking the dogs during the Queen’s speech. I do not have anyone with Autism in my family, but we adjust the day to suit our needs and there is no reason why you shouldn’t do the same.

Enjoy your Christmas everyone.

At this time of year the decorations can be either a blessing or a curse depending on the needs and environmental sensitivities of your child.

One of the easiest ways to overcome the problems that can be caused by massive change in their living environment is to involve the child in the decorating of the room. Explain what you are doing and why and encourage your child to help. If you have a real tree then remember that the scent of the room will also change and this can be an added distraction or cause for confusion. Allow plenty of time for your child to decorate the tree their way, they may be very particular about the order of the baubles or tinsel or the lights, or they may prefer to have all of the decorations in one space rather than all over, either way is fine. By allowing the child to decorate the tree they will be more accepting of it. The same applies to all of the decorations you may have in your home, both inside and out. In most cases it is not a good idea to decorate your child’s bedroom, especially if they are not a good sleeper as they may find the changes too much and may need a space to chill out during the hectic season.

The blessing of decorations comes into play if your child needs overstimulation to settle. If they enjoy sensory rooms then having twinkling lights, colours and interesting smells then the introduction of all of these into the living room can have a very calming affect. Although the problems may occur when the decorations are taken down!

If you child is anxious about change and find the concept of presents daunting and upsetting. There are two options. Option one, buy the presents and wrap them together. This will reduce the anxiety as your child knows what to expect and they will also know that there are no surprises lurking under the tree. Option two is to not put any presents under the tree. If there are no expectations then there should be no anxiety.

What ever you choose to do, think about your child’s needs are they hyper or hypo sensitive to changes, smells, lights, colours and sounds. I would recommend decorating your home during this time, but do it in line with your child’s needs even if that means one very small tree in a very inconspicuous space or lots of lights, smells, and the biggest tree you can find. Every child is different and every child should be able to enjoy this season as they want/need to.

Merry Christmas everyone