World Autism Awareness Week
As part of World Autism Awareness Week we are sharing some real life experiences of our lovely followers and customers who have autistic Children.
Our daily post sharing experiences in living with autism. Many people are looking forward to being able to go out more, but a change in routine isn’t always as straight forward.
With restrictions now lifting, this is something that is back on our agenda!
Over the last year we have created a really good routine at home and Erica thrives off routine, as this helps her to make sense of the world around her.
You would think that we would be so excited about getting out and about, but with this comes anxiety and frustration for Erica.
Each new place we visit from day trips to appointments requires lots of preparation to try and avoid the anxiety and meltdowns that can occur.
In order to prepare we begin be looking at the place we will be visiting on the internet, talking about how we will get there, how long it will take, what we will see. We also talk about who we might see, and try to find photos of key people so she knows who she will meet, e.g. when we saw our new Occupational Therapist we asked for her photo.
From this we will then print off photos so we can look at these over the next couple of weeks and continue to talk about what we will be doing. We also try and incorporate this into our play where we can.
We try to plan a few weeks in advance so that Erica can have a good understanding of what we are doing, however it is not always possible to predict what will happen, as is the way with life. However by planning for most things it makes Erica much calmer and then when something unexpected does happen she is in a better place to cope with it with our support.
We are hoping to visit the zoo in a few weeks, once they are open again. We have printed off some photos already, and are using our wooden animals to create our own zoo in the living room!”
Thank you for sharing your experiences
Social interaction and Communication
We hear from Jenny, she has an 8 year old autistic son. She describes how George struggles with social situations and although he’s keen and eager to make friends he finds social situations unnatural and awkward.
‘Many of the social norms you would expect children to pick up didn’t happen naturally for George, he loves to chat and can be extremely friendly and kind, however building relationships and having friends is not something thats easy for him.
During his early years in school he was in trouble for biting his friends in the school Play ground. When we discussed this with him, he said they were playing dinosaurs and that’s what dinosaurs did. In his mind this was just part of the game and didn’t understand the problem.
We worked with school to create a social story and he was able to changed his behaviour and had an understanding of the situation. It was the first time we had tried this approach and the additional explanation and visual story enabled him to understand the situation and it set clear social boundaries.
Following the trail of a conversation is also difficult for George, he often needs more time to process information and therefore would lose the trail of a fast paced conversation and lose interest. This sometimes results in him saying inappropriate things loudly to try and contribute to the conversation however if other don’t understand autism it seems a strange thing to do and therefore has impacted his ability to build friendships.
We now create social stories when we come across difficult situations, such as game playing, turn taking, winning and losing, trying not to over use them but making them meaningful and easy to remember. It means that if he can relate a real life situation to a social story he would understand what is happening and know that it was ok.
We have found with George that many social norms can be taught and he has improved his social skills over the last few years. However it’s not always easy and it doesn’t come naturally so the effort this takes him means he needs more down time and often wants time on his own.
We have to factor this into our day to day life, he might not always want to socialise and that’s OK. However he is now able to show people his kind natural, his empathy and that he can be a really good friend with a bit of understanding.’
Thanks so much to Jenny for sharing her experiences.
Meltdowns and Anxiety
Emily shared with me how Meltdowns and Anxiety are often part of her and Jack’s everyday life.
Emily is an amazing mum! She celebrates Jack’s wonderful qualities and characteristics along with supporting and helping him manage all of the things he finds difficult.
‘Frustration or anxiety are usually the triggers but sometimes wording a question or asking him to complete a task the wrong way and he then perceives this to be a demand can be what causes a meltdown.
Due to this we regularly have to stay 10 steps ahead and pre empt as much as we can so that he feels in control and that he has a choice. If he feels he doesn't have a choice, fight or flight will kick in and in familiar surroundings he usually defaults to fight. He will shout and be extremely vocal and he struggles then to regulate himself back to being calm on his own. He does need some time to get it out of his system and then we will usually play or read together to reset the moment so he is settled enough for him to talk to us about what the issue was and how we can avoid whatever upset him from happening again or by helping him find a coping strategy. As he's got older we have worked with him to help him recognise why he felt like that in the moment and that emotions can make us feel lots of different things and how to express them safely.
We have lots of tools after lots of trial and error to help him to regulate after a meltdown and lots of these he will seek out on his own. Mostly these tools are in the form of regulating and meeting sensory needs. We have some light up soft play, a soft play donut shaker, lots of tickit toys, timers and stories are often what helps him the most. He loves anything he can physically touch and hold and anything that is visual such as timers, pictures in books, the perception spheres, liquid timers and the glitter panels all help a lot so we have built up a good little collection. Something little to hold like a Ned to fiddle with or a favourite cuddly or blanket really help him to feel grounded again so we have made him a couple of little cosy sensory corners in both the playroom and his bedroom and he will now take himself to these areas to get what he needs to feel calm again.
Sometimes it can be a struggle but when you find what works it makes it a lot easier to meet his needs in a fun way. We try and incorporate some quiet time at some point in the day maybe with the play dough out or reading together or even colouring where we can sit together and have a chat about anything he is feeling anxious about and that often helps to alleviate any stresses the more he is prepared in advance for anything that may be a little different to our normal routine.’
Thank you so much to Emily for sharing her experiences.
If you have an experience to share, I’d love to hear about it.
The Wooden Play Den has a wide range of Sensory toys, pictured here and described by Emily