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Emma Kaye is Anna Kennedy OBE’s guest this week on ‘All things Autism’ . Emma tells about her role as a play therapist and SEND Teacher.

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My name is Emma Kaye and I was born in Dover to young parents. They travelled around the country a lot, running hotels, restaurants and cafes. So I spent the first 11 years of my life living in different parts of the country.

When I was 11 years old we moved to Kent and stayed! I’ve been settled in Kent since then, where I studied to become a Nursery Nurse (NNEB), Teacher (BAQTS Hons), SEND Teacher and Play Therapist (PTUK). During that time I met my husband and had two children.

How did you become involved with Autism?

I first became more intensely involved with Autism, when I had my son in 2006.

He was diagnosed with Autism in 2013, when he was 5 years old. Then with Dyslexia at age 6 and Dyscalculia at age 10.

It was important for me to support him and get what he needed, so I started to read up on Autism and attend additional training, as a parent and professional.

Then my husband was diagnosed in 2016, at the age of 47. His diagnosis of Autism has been really positive for him and for our relationship. He now realises why somethings are harder for him and I know realise why he behaves in certain ways.

I also became more involved with Autism and the EHCP process, when my son was really struggling at school. I was told he was; “just badly behaved and not very bright”. That made me even more determined to get what he needed and for others to understand how Autism and Dyslexia presents.

I then joined the Specialist Teaching Service in 2014, where I would advise schools and nurseries how to support children with SEND, in their settings.

Why did you set up The SEND Trainer business?

Due to huge caseloads as a specialist teacher, I felt I couldn’t make enough impact for those children and families/schools.

I also didn’t have enough time to give schools and nurseries adequate training and input on SEND.

So in September 2018, I set up my own business, delivering training on all areas of SEND to schools, nurseries, organisations and other groups. I also started offering home visits to parents and affordable SEND workshops 6 months ago.

As part of my business, I work as a Therapeutic Play Practitioner delivering Play Therapy for 2 schools in Kent.

Play therapy is an amazing way of helping children process Trauma and to support those children on the Spectrum, develop social and play skills, communication and interaction skills. It enables the Autistic child to be their true self, which builds self-esteem and confidence.

Also with waiting lists for an ASD/ADHD diagnosis in Kent, is currently 3 years.

During that time parents struggle to access parenting support around these conditions. You often have to have a diagnosis in order to access any parenting support.

So this was another reason I set up, The SEND Trainer, so I could offer parenting workshops. One of the most popular workshops offered is Meltdowns and Shutdowns.

Meltdowns and Shutdowns occur when the child or young person becomes too overloaded.

The brain then triggers the fight/flight/freeze response. This then makes the body react to keep the child safe. The child who meltdowns, might hit, kick or punch is seeking proprioceptive (sense in the body that deals with body awareness) input.

The best thing to do when the child or young person is having a meltdown or shutdown, is to let them know they are safe, then stop talking, reduce sensory overload and just be present in the room with them, until they are calmer. When you notice they are calmer, offer them something they like for comfort, but still don’t talk. Then much later, when they are regulated talk to them about how hard it must have been for them to feel out of control. 

What is the impact of Mental Health on Children and Young People with Autism?

In Kent referrals to CYPMHS is 14,189 children (July 2019 data), with over 9,092 of those on the neurodevelopment and learning disability pathway. Mental health of Autistic children and young people is often overlooked, as part of the condition.

Mental Health permeates everyday life, due to the following challenges; Language and communication, social understanding and relationships. Challenges with lack of flexible thinking and social imagination, sensory processing needs and memory and processing needs.

Autistic females are more likely to experience high rates of depression and anxiety. Beginning in their teenage years, there’s evidence to suggest that autistic girls commonly develop mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and eating disorders. This is often associated with girls ‘masking’ their condition and therefore not being picked up earlier.

My top tips for parenting an Autistic Child

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Emma Kaye – Freelance SEND Teacher, Trainer & Consultant/Play Therapist

Email: e.kaye@hotmail.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thesendtrainer/

Emma’s interview can be heard this weekend at 1pm and 1am on www.womensradiostation.com

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