Remember Remember the 5th of November..

Remember Remember the 5th of November..

Bonfire night and the time around the 5th of November is one of those periods of time when we have to stop and think about what is happening. Many people aren’t too keen on the bangs and flashes that erupt without warning but they have an understanding of what is happening. Imagine if you were sensitive to certain noises or disturbed by flashes of light but you have no understanding of what is going on. We take most things around us and our acceptance of them for granted. When we are sat at home of an evening and we hear a firework going off we know what it is. Our logic and minds tell us that considering the time of year it must be a firework. With this information in mind we don’t panic.

The noise may disturb us a little but on the whole it doesn’t bother us. Someone on the spectrum on the other hand may, due to imagination and theory of mind related problems, find these sounds of explosions disturbing because they don’t automatically think ‘ah yes a firework!’ to them it is just a sound that has suddenly taken place which isn’t usually there. Not only is there a problem building with understanding what is happening but also with the fact that the ‘norm’ is not being its normal self. It is possible for a person to see and understand that it is a firework but there could still be an issue with ‘Why now?!’ as they evaluate the situation and think ‘hmmmm this doesn’t happen most nights so there could be a problem?’. If someone is suddenly made to feel nervous because of strange things happening then this can lead to a heightening of behaviours as they remain on edge.

Many people have said each year that this time can be difficult, so, what can we do?

Let’s not forget those good old ‘basics’. Most parents know the distracters and comforters that will work with their child when their behaviours are up so this is a time to ensure you have these good old aids ready and close to hand. Favourite music, DVD or even game to play. Whatever it is that works for you and your child or relative make sure you have it ready so that if they do become disturbed or agitated by the noises from outside you can quickly turn to them to start easing the stress. It could also be a good idea to not just have the distracters ready on standby but to also plan a couple of evenings through with activities that you know they love. If you can keep a person’s mind busy on something then it is amazing just how much they can shut out other things.

If you already know that your child/friend/relative will be disturbed by the sound of fireworks then think ahead. Try and get all the curtains shut earlier than you maybe would normally as it’s amazing how much they can muffle sound from outside. Having the curtains/blinds shut will also shut out some of the flashing and light as fireworks going off. It could be a good idea to ensure that around the house there is some constant background noise. In one room you could leave the TV on and in another the radio etc so that whichever room they happen to be in there is always some kind of noise that may just take the edge off of the explosions outside.

The best way to deal with many such situations such as this time of year is to actually introduce it to the person. Again we too easily presume and understand things and forget that someone else may not, so do take the time to go through what is happening. You could put together a ‘Social Story’ with some pictures of fireworks going off. On things such as YouTube you can find videos of just about anything so why not look up one of fireworks. If you can show the person an example of a firework going off and what it might sound like it may not make them like them BUT it lets them know what it is that is happening. Too many problems with those on the Spectrum are related to a basic idea of comfort and happiness. ‘I’m use to life being this way and that pleases me’ ‘when things suddenly change that makes me worry and panic.’ Anyone sensitive to the changes and events that take place around us will be disturbed by the sudden arrival of all these explosions and flashes coming from all round so let’s not leave it that they are worried let’s bring them ‘comfort’ by letting them see and understand what is happening. If a person is more comfortable with what is happening then they will feel better within themselves and behaviour should keep to a level that is easily managed. It is important to always put yourself in that persons shoes. Just imagine how you would feel if you had no concept of ‘Bonfire Night’ and suddenly there were explosions etc around you. You would be frightened to start with and then also you would worry about what else is to come. If you had no concept of the 5th November how could you know that it is just something that happens for a small period of time each year? You would be worried that it was going to keep going and maybe even get worse! The unknown is a very frightening place to be but some of that fear can be removed by making the unknown something you have seen and understood.

Be ready to ‘comfort’ and ‘support’ as these are things that more than anything will help you through any rough times that may come such as now. A person scared of what is happening is in need of reassurance and to just know that ‘everything is ok’.

For those of you who know their child will like the fireworks etc that is great and please do go and have some GREAT fun. Remember though that even someone that ‘likes’ something can very quickly suddenly not like it so be prepared. If you are going to take them to a display think about taking some ear defenders with you that just take the edge off the sound. We know displays as a whole are noisy but there is often the odd big bang that makes us all jump so those ear defenders might just stop those from frightening someone which could in turn mean they no longer like to watch them.

If you are doing your own fireworks at home then please be EXTRA vigilant. Remember that someone on the spectrum may do something because they have seen Dad/Mum do it (like most children!) so they don’t intend to do something dangerous but may end up doing so following your lead. Often the same ‘danger’ instinct that we all have is not always present on many levels of the spectrum so if you are having your own display then ensure there are a couple of other people with you to ensure that the children don’t suddenly decide ‘wow these look great and I want to be nearer to them!’

Have fun everyone and enjoy the Fireworks if you can, but, most importantly stay safe!

(An article written by Austin Hughes)

Originally posted: https://annakennedyonline.com/remember-remember-the-5th-of-november-2/

Holidays are here!

Holidays are here!

Once again holidays are upon us. A time for rest, recuperation and fun with a touch of sun burn thrown in for good measure. So, why is it that for so many facing the challenges that Autism has to bring this can be a very difficult time?

We’ve all heard ‘Education Education Education’ and ‘Location Location Location’ but now it’s time for ‘Structure Structure Structure!’. Structure and routine are often serious issues for those on the Spectrum. Even to those without the almost obsessive need to know ‘what, where, when’ there is often an underlying need for structure. We may not always see it as some do but it is there.

I’m sure, like me, many of you all remember the mundane and brain jellifying ‘routine’ of school. The same subjects….same times…..same patterns to each and every day and week. Some of us would go as far as to call it ‘Hell’, I know I did! But, to those on the Spectrum those things that can be a torment to us are actually fairly comforting. Structure and routine bring ‘stability’ and a ‘KNOWN’ factor to what is happening. It is worth remembering again how on the whole for most of us we are relaxed about what is happening around us. We have a good mapped out idea of how each day and week is going to play out.

For example we all know that at some point of the day we will have our dinner and often we know the part of the day it will be had in. We may not know first thing in the morning the exact timing that we will have our dinner…….but we are safe in the knowledge that whenever it is it will happen. To someone that has an issue with structure and routine a simple little thought like that is their ‘hell’. The lack of structure and the ‘known’ brings about a loss of security.

Not knowing that something IS going to happen means there is a good chance it may not and so panic and worry can set in. For many the simple processing of information itself can pose the problem that a structure is heavily relied upon to get through the day. Some can get by with the simple comfort of knowing a day will be the same as others gone before, others are happy just by seeing a ‘timeline’ or breakdown of the day’s events but some need the constant reassurance of a schedule to hand so that it can be checked hour by hour.

That ‘Hell’ of school we may have felt brings comfort to others. Imagine then what can happen in the mind of anyone on the Spectrum when we remove that ‘comfort’. The breaking from school means a loss of uniformity to the day. Everything that has previously been done for a reason is suddenly meaningless. “ I get up at this time for school…..I breakfast at this time for school……I put my uniform/clothes on for school ” becomes  “ I’m getting up at this time for????……Having breakfast now for????…..etc” there is no security or comfort in open thoughts like those.

The sudden loss of that comforting structure is often what leads to the problems that many parents can face at Holiday times making them not as pleasant as they maybe could be.

Have no fear as there are a number of simple solutions that can be put in place to help out. They may mean maybe not the lovely lay in that some get to enjoy but the calm it may bring in the long run is more than worth it.

When planning all your days try and structure them around the time frame that the School/Day Centre etc was using. If a person is use to getting up at a certain time for school then try and stick to that going through the same routine with getting dressed and breakfast. Have your schedule of events/actions that are to take place during the day fit the same structure of school so the first thing you do, even if it is something at home, starts at 8:45 (or when ever school would). Keep these things clearly defined on a schedule so they can be easily seen.  Try to have breaks in your day and lunch at the time they usually would so that again this is bringing little change to what they normally do. If you follow these simple ideas out with the rest of the day then it is surprising just how much of a difference it can make! Another benefit to employing a structure that matches what they have been doing outside of holiday time is that it makes the return to norm easy as well. It can be just as much of a shock returning to a school schedule from holiday as it is the other way round.

If you are not able to offer the same rough structure they have been working to then do ensure you offer clear and simple schedules that can be accessed and viewed at anytime. These can be a real comfort to a person and please PLEASE ensure that you stick to them. Many of the people I have worked with will have a schedule in their rooms that they can go and look at and then a duplicate that can be taken out with them so that it is always there. If any problems are faced it is surprising how much of a difference just reassuring someone with their schedule can make.

There are a couple of pitfalls that I must advise you all about because I myself have fallen foul of them…….Weather and closing times. We are all upset when we find that we are not able to do something as planned but ultimately we know and understand that it can be done another day. Again, for those on the spectrum, this is not always easy to understand or take onboard. Not going somewhere or doing something often means literally that…..it’s not happening. To counter the fallout that can come about with such things happening it is good to always have a backup plan that you know they always love doing and having any distracters that work to hand. If you are worried that weather may be an issue then it can be a good idea to be a little ‘cagey’ with your schedule. If you have directly stated that something IS going to happen then they expect it. To help yourself you can get round this by simply naming something ‘Activity’, ‘Car’ or ‘trip out’. In doing that if weather etc stops your original plan then you are still safe and can change what you were going to do without them knowing or causing distress. Schedules are great but always stop and think about what you put on them as they can come back to bite you!  As an example its worth remembering that relatives and others often let us down so sometimes it’s not always good to state that an ‘activity’ is happening with their favourite Aunt because if that person then doesn’t show it again can cause upset.

Another good idea is to touch base with any support workers or 1 – 1 people. It is easy to presume that we know everything, but, it is surprising the little changes that can have happened of which we are not always aware. It is always good to check on any new known problem areas or little tricks that can work to help in a tricky situation. We think we communicate everything but I myself have chatted with parents that return from holiday to say “we’ve found the old distracter of xxxxxxx no longer works” only to then say myself “ahhh yes did no one tell you that before you went away!”  We are all only human and things can be missed so a quick catch up to check we are up to date on all sides can be a great help.

So, as you all head into the holiday season ……..make plans, be prepared and keep to schedule……….easy!!!    (I know you’ll all need a holiday when you return!!)

(An article written by Austin Hughes)

BT Sport and the Premiere League Disability Day

BT Sport and the Premiere League Disability Day

On Wednesday 28th September Austin Hughes our Senior Practitioner was supporting the launch of BT Sport and the Premiere League Disability Day in London. We are pleased to announce they are putting more funding into ‘inclusion’, working with West Ham Foundation who support and partner our charity AnnaKennedyonline.

The children loved Micheal Owen who got involved with their inclusive football sessions. It sounds like a great day was had by all.

Deck the Halls with what ?? ..

Deck the Halls with what ?? ..

By Austin Hughes

catYes that time of year is here again! Lights are ready to twinkle, garlands are there to be hung and every kind of tinsel you can imagine is calling out from hooks in shops begging to be taken home and draped over every available surface. Festivity and joyousness are flowing out from every shop window and doorway that we pass in a mulled spray on snow fug. I dare say that if you were to stand still long enough in one place you yourself would soon enough find yourself decorated like a human Christmas tree!Families on the whole LOVE Christmas. Many parents not only love it themselves but also WANT to make sure everyone else loves and enjoys it to the same degree.It can surely only be a explosion of Christmas enjoyment ……………. Can’t it?

 

Sad to say for some that is not the case.

Christmas is one of those times when we too easily forget those basics that can help us steer a steady ship. The pursuit of making things GREAT and ENJOYABLE can lead us into a real nightmare. This is one of those times that we are guilty of letting ‘OUR’ perception of something override the understanding of others. We are stood looking at things solely from OUR point of view and not that of others. It is a very natural thing to want the best for everyone but sometimes we forget that OUR idea of what the best is can differ a great deal from others, especially anyone on the spectrum.
In short, what can look like an enjoyable explosion of festive cheer to some, can actually look to someone else like a very confusing sensory nightmare that makes no sense at all and does nothing but make me VERY ANXIOUS!

So, seeing as we don’t really want to upset or make anyone anxious what is the answer? Ban Christmas? Throw the tree and decorations away? Sit and enjoy a ham sandwich with Ribena when the rest of the nation is wearing colourful paper hats that don’t quite fit while tucking into 24 hour boiled sprouts?

The answer is ‘compromise’. If decorating the whole house and going Christmas nutty will cause anxiety lets not do that. If locking Christmas away will upset some lets not do that either! You would be surprised just how many people don’t stop to think that actually they could just decorate ‘some’ parts of the house and not ALL the communal spaces. Christmas dinner doesn’t have to be ONE or the OTHER…… it really can be both! Everyone that will enjoy a full traditional dinner, let them and anyone who would like to stick to something they are use to each day which is maybe a bit plainer (or even spicier in some cases!) let them have that. It might be a small pain to have to prepare a mix of things but think about the enjoyment that will be had by all. It is funny because we don’t flinch when it comes to the fact a person might be vegetarian. REMEMBER…… PICK YOUR BATTLES! Why upset someone or go through the related behaviours if they can be avoided by just letting that child/person have the meal option they would like. It might no seem festive or fun to YOU but that is not the issue. You can be happy with your traditional dinner and they will be happy with their choice. It is as ever important to not allow OUR perception of what Christmas should sound, feel or taste like to take precedent over someone else’s needs.
It is an odd fact to accept sometimes that OUR wanting something to be just right can actually bring upset or anxiety to another. Christmas can be all the fun we want it be as long as we accept that not everyone wants the full bells and whistles experience. Small changes and compromises can genuinely make  the whole experience enjoyable for ALL in their  own way. Here is another simple example. For many families it is traditional as part of Christmas Dinner for everyone to pull the good old traditional cracker with that satisfying bang and terrible joke. Think about that whole process with someone sat at the table who may not like sudden loud noises…… have a sensitivity to smells (yes there is a smell many of us don’t realise each time a cracker goes BANG)….. not like clutter…… not like people trying to put a hat on their head etc etc the list could go on. To have that person sit and endure that experience is not going to be pleasant for them. You might think that not including them in such things doesn’t seem right but the truth is if they will not enjoy it and would prefer not to experience such things then why make them. Why not pull the crackers just before or after dinner as a group while that person/child is doing what they want in another room? Again, that person does not feel anxious from having to go through it and you ALL still enjoy your crackers and badly fitting hats!

 

We could write this article detailing every single thing that happens in and around Christmas, offering many different strategies and ways of doing all of those things. The truth is that posting would be HUGE and Christmas would probably have come and gone before we reached the end.
What makes more sense than a never ending lists of ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ is to simply remind everyone to THINK of all those basics that we know are important to that person on the Spectrum. Remember to think about their sensory needs. Think about their possible aversion to ‘change’ (in your mind decorating the house may not seem like much of a change when you consider the same old house is underneath but to some on the Spectrum it just doesn’t work that way) Keep low arousal in mind at all times……… yes when you get excited about something you think is brilliant just stop to evaluate it from the point of view of the person/child on the spectrum. Find that compromise where EVERYONE can enjoy Christmas in their own way. Also, importantly when you have decorated, wrapped and slaved away in the kitchen try to just enjoy it for yourself as well. I say that because too many people in the past have actually ‘worried’ more than they needed to about MY enjoyment when they should have been enjoying the moment for themselves. Yes, sometimes when I slowly wander off to sit alone for a while or retreat to my room it is not because I am upset but because at that moment that is what I want to do so don’t ALWAYS worry in that sense.
Most importantly always engage with that person, where possible, about all these things. Don’t panic and worry that every move could be the wrong one. Try to sit and simply find out WHAT they will like, enjoy and will be able to cope with. When parents whisper in other rooms about what on earth to do or start to panic then often someone on the spectrum will pick up on that and be anxious before you have even got that first dusty decoration filled cardboard box from the loft.
– Try not to decorate the entire house. Leave one communal space that maybe has no decorations so that child/person on the spectrum always has a quiet/safe space to go to other than their own room.

– Unless they have requested it DO NOT decorate their room! Yes,  I have met many parents with the best meaning intentions who have decorated their child’s room and not seen why that would be an issue.– If that person/child has problems with ‘change’ then try to take some of the surprise element out of things. A good idea is showing pictures of the year before to remind them what the decorations are like. Try to do as much of the decorating as possible with them assisting or just being around so they are aware if it. Where possible decorate gradually so it is not a HUGE sensory hit at one go.– Stop to think about the little things such as that oh so lovely Christmas Candle or the bowl of festive potpourri. You may think it is nice but someone with sensitivities around scents probably will not!– Always give reassurance and make sure that person/child can access all the safe places they usually do as well as being able to carry out the routines they always do. Remember most routines and repetitive behaviours are often coping strategies so lets NOT make it difficult for that person to do those things that make them feel comfortable.– Try as much as possible to understand that person/child and don’t be afraid to ‘Let them be’. Remember that sometimes a person may move away from everyone else because that is what they WANT to do and doesn’t always mean they are sat sad somewhere……. it could be they are happily doing their own thing!Be open…… Remember the basics…… Use different perspectives than your ‘own’ to evaluate…… Compromise where you can……At Anna Kennedy Online we want to wish you all a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS……… however YOU choose to enjoy it.(As with all our articles relating to autism please remember that the Autistic Spectrum is a very wide and varied thing. What works for one person on the spectrum there is a good chance will not work for another which is why it is important we always stop to understand the PERSON and not the label)

 

Austin Hughes

Remember Remember the 5th of November……..

Remember Remember the 5th of November……..

Bonfire night and the time around the 5th of November is one of those periods of time when we have to stop and think about what is happening. Many people aren’t too keen on the bangs and flashes that erupt without warning but they have an understanding of what is happening. Imagine if you were sensitive to certain noises or disturbed by flashes of light but you have no understanding of what is going on.

We take most things around us and our acceptance of them for granted. When we are sat at home of an evening and we hear a firework going off we know what it is. Our logic and minds tell us that considering the time of year it must be a firework. With this information in mind we don’t panic. The noise may disturb us a little but on the whole it doesn’t bother us. Someone on the spectrum on the other hand may, due to imagination and theory of mind related problems, find these sounds of explosions disturbing because they don’t automatically think ‘ah yes a firework!’ to them it is just a sound that has suddenly taken place which isn’t usually there. Not only is there a problem building with understanding what is happening but also with the fact that the ‘norm’ is not being its normal self. It is possible for a person to see and understand that it is a firework but there could still be an issue with ‘Why now?!’ as they evaluate the situation and think ‘hmmmm this doesn’t happen most nights so there could be a problem?’. If someone is suddenly made to feel nervous because of strange things happening then this can lead to a heightening of behaviours as they remain on edge.

Many people have said each year that this time can be difficult, so, what can we do?

Let’s not forget those good old ‘basics’. Most parents know the distracters and comforters that will work with their child when their behaviours are up so this is a time to ensure you have these good old aids ready and close to hand. Favourite music, DVD or even game to play. Whatever it is that works for you and your child or relative make sure you have it ready so that if they do become disturbed or agitated by the noises from outside you can quickly turn to them to start easing the stress. It could also be a good idea to not just have the distracters ready on standby but to also plan a couple of evenings through with activities that you know they love. If you can keep a person’s mind busy on something then it is amazing just how much they can shut out other things.

If you already know that your child/friend/relative will be disturbed by the sound of fireworks then think ahead. Try and get all the curtains shut earlier than you maybe would normally as it’s amazing how much they can muffle sound from outside. Having the curtains/blinds shut will also shut out some of the flashing and light as fireworks going off. It could be a good idea to ensure that around the house there is some constant background noise. In one room you could leave the TV on and in another the radio etc so that whichever room they happen to be in there is always some kind of noise that may just take the edge off of the explosions outside.

The best way to deal with many such situations such as this time of year is to actually introduce it to the person. Again we too easily presume and understand things and forget that someone else may not, so do take the time to go through what is happening. You could put together a ‘Social Story’ with some pictures of fireworks going off. On things such as YouTube you can find videos of just about anything so why not look up one of fireworks. If you can show the person an example of a firework going off and what it might sound like it may not make them like them BUT it lets them know what it is that is happening. Too many problems with those on the Spectrum are related to a basic idea of comfort and happiness. ‘I’m use to life being this way and that pleases me’ ‘when things suddenly change that makes me worry and panic.’ Anyone sensitive to the changes and events that take place around us will be disturbed by the sudden arrival of all these explosions and flashes coming from all round so let’s not leave it that they are worried let’s bring them ‘comfort’ by letting them see and understand what is happening. If a person is more comfortable with what is happening then they will feel better within themselves and behaviour should keep to a level that is easily managed. It is important to always put yourself in that persons shoes. Just imagine how you would feel if you had no concept of ‘Bonfire Night’ and suddenly there were explosions etc around you. You would be frightened to start with and then also you would worry about what else is to come. If you had no concept of the 5th November how could you know that it is just something that happens for a small period of time each year? You would be worried that it was going to keep going and maybe even get worse! The unknown is a very frightening place to be but some of that fear can be removed by making the unknown something you have seen and understood.

Be ready to ‘comfort’ and ‘support’ as these are things that more than anything will help you through any rough times that may come such as now. A person scared of what is happening is in need of reassurance and to just know that ‘everything is ok’.

For those of you who know their child will like the fireworks etc that is great and please do go and have some GREAT fun. Remember though that even someone that ‘likes’ something can very quickly suddenly not like it so be prepared. If you are going to take them to a display think about taking some ear defenders with you that just take the edge off the sound. We know displays as a whole are noisy but there is often the odd big bang that makes us all jump so those ear defenders might just stop those from frightening someone which could in turn mean they no longer like to watch them.

If you are doing your own fireworks at home then please be EXTRA vigilant. Remember that someone on the spectrum may do something because they have seen Dad/Mum do it (like most children!) so they don’t intend to do something dangerous but may end up doing so following your lead. Often the same ‘danger’ instinct that we all have is not always present on many levels of the spectrum so if you are having your own display then ensure there are a couple of other people with you to ensure that the children don’t suddenly decide ‘wow these look great and I want to be nearer to them!’

Have fun everyone and enjoy the Fireworks if you can, but, most importantly stay safe!

(An article written by Austin Hughes)

‘Everybody’s Changing And I Don’t Know Why’

‘Everybody’s Changing And I Don’t Know Why’

( Austin often likes a tune to go with pieces he has written so this time he has gone for the obviously linking track by Keane https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zx4Hjq6KwO0 )

 So, it is that time of year again when everyone has pretty much returned to school. The many ‘obvious’ changes around this point we are within the Autism community very aware of. Changes in teachers, peer groups and repainted rooms are just a tiny scratch on that surface of the issues we all know can cause a difficulty for many on the spectrum at this time.

 

booksThe transition from year to year is a big one and strewn with obstacles to catch us out. A great transition plan started back before the end of the previous academic year can go a long way to cushion the impact of these obstacles. Pictures of new rooms and staff or even the chance to visit them can take much of the sting out of them. Sometimes though this still has its failings.  I have encountered many a child who has been given a GREAT plan. They are aware of their new teacher and even know some details about them. The room they will be in has been visited and even a spot to sit in picked out. This all sounds great until September rolls around and we find that new teacher is actually more of a Tony Hart than a dour scholar and has transformed this new teaching space into what can only be described as a section of the Rain Forest Cafe! Caffeine energised murals, loo roll palm trees jutting from walls and creatures hanging from ceilings have suddenly transformed that comfortable ‘known’ space into a living hell that can take a LOT of time for a child on the spectrum to acclimatise to. Also this can throw up trust issues. Within that is a stream of information clicking away thinking ‘hmmm you told ME I would ENTER this room shown in THIS picture…..and yet I walked into THIS!!’

If we were to list all those transitional issues this piece would take days to read! On the whole they are all things that with the right time and warning strategies can be put in place for.

However, what about all those things we CAN’T clearly map or be aware of until they actually happen? Those things that most people NEVER stop to consider, the other children themselves.

I am not referring to children who have left a peer group or those who have maybe joined after a family move. Here I am talking about the actual change ‘within’ the children.

Through life we all change. The way we act and think alters as we make our way through it. Some of the biggest changes come when we are children. Stop to consider toddlers and very young children just happy to play and sit in the sand with whoever happens to be there. As they move into the very lower ranks of school they do still stay together with a wide acceptance of each other. A ‘class’ or ‘form’ group nurtures that mentality for a while longer. When the time comes to graduate through the years we soon enough see that bigger group splinter and exist by form name only. That form is now made up of smaller groups. Friends who can tolerate each other, but don’t think much of others, form little cliques. Those who like a certain strain of music or favour a particular brand of clothing move towards each other like magnets. The children who want to sit and conscientiously work hard edge away from those happy to sit with pencils up their nostrils ready with a rubber band to fire with crack precision at any moment.

 

The very way children act, behave and how they want to just ‘be’ around others is for many years in a state of flux. I say this because those changes aren’t always immediate and can often be gradual as they still link to older friends they have always known before fully switching to that new clique. Even more confusingly is the fact that some of this can also be done conditionally! Within school a child might need to appear a certain way and only be with that set clique and yet away from there they are happy to spend time with those rejected in school for having the wrong trainers.

As mentioned some such changes can be very gradual. When you think about a summer holiday covering up to 6 weeks, and longer for some, you can understand why the difference in a child’s behaviour between the end of a school year and the start of the next can seem so sudden and vastly different to someone who doesn’t see them over that period.

These are things that most children, and then adults, learn to accept in life. It can bring some soul searching and wondering what they possibly did wrong but on the whole they continue with the flow understanding in the fact that the supposed status quo often changes.

Now though let’s stop to consider the youngster on the spectrum who maybe doesn’t so easily grasp or accept change. Much of the change that does have to be accepted and overcome is obvious and tangible. The issues can be seenheadache and identified by that child. The problem is though; when it comes to the changes we have mentioned within children themselves they are not so obvious or tangible. That child on the spectrum finishes a year knowing the people they have learnt to accept, or in many cases just tolerate, and knows that in some way that is reciprocated. A set status quo exists around those parameters. So, how does that child cope when they return to school to find the person they thought they could once again sidle up to maybe no longer wants to share any amount of time or space with them? Nothing obvious has happened. They have done nothing they are aware of to cause this reaction so why has it happened?

If you stop to consider that a child on the spectrum may not always be quick to speak up or voice their worries then you can understand why such changes can present as a very negative time. The things and people that you thought were set in stone are now very different and for no known reason. On top of this you can’t clearly communicate this issue to anyone else and so it stews away inside you bringing its own ever increasing circle of anxiety.

Also at this point stop to consider how you have felt in life when someone has ignored or shunned you. Did you like that feeling? Did it not bring with it further emotional reactions within you such as feeling lost and alone? You can see how someone not understanding such a situation or in any way wanting to communicate about it could along with the anxiety start to feel very depressed.

So, is there anything we can do to stop this? Is it possible to line up your child’s peer group and tell them very Peter Pan style NOT TO GROW UP!!?? I think we know the answer to that is a definite no.

The truth is there is very little we can do about such changes in life, however, we should not just brush them away and hope everything will be ok. These are some of those almost ‘hidden’ issues that we need to be aware of. If a child is struggling, when everything possible seems to have been done, within such a transition year to year then DO stop to consider these points. Reflect on whether the issue could be this not so obvious and easy to grasp situation.

Consider carefully how to approach the subject. For me all personal issues are just that…… VERY BLOOMIN PERSONAL!!…. Someone trying to engage with me over them will instantly cut to my inner core and at that point I don’t know how to regulate the welling of emotion that I will feel. From that point on I am likely to just further shut down and withdraw or even act in a way that may not seem too pleasant (challenging behaviour) So, it is important that you approach such matters carefully and in an almost ‘throw away’ manner so it doesn’t seem so personal and direct. Remember to not just reassure that child on the spectrum that this part of life is natural and ok for them but that it also happened to YOU and everyone else around them. This can help stop that child feeling or thinking this is an isolated thing that has only happened to them.

We are not all mind readers so it can be very difficult to detect such issues. By keeping them in mind though and always stopping to consider the things in life that aren’t so stand out obvious you can be ready to bring reassurance, support and extra love should they present.

From a personal point of view I can say that I have very much struggled when people have ‘changed’. It is something that has always unsettled me and driven me to want to receive a clarification of WHY that person has changed in the way they have. Even on a day to day basis a person acting differently simply because they are in a bad/different mood can often cause me to be inwardly anxious about what is going on. I don’t stop to think ‘this will pass and all will be ok’ I just worry about and react to the change in mood there and then.

Life as a path can often appear a very obvious and set route from baby to child and on to adult. The truth is that path has many hidden twists and turns that at first glance we don’t always see until they are upon us.

(As ever it is important to point out that the Autistic Spectrum is very wide and diverse. With that in mind it is important to remember that our words are in no way meant to encompass everyone at any one time. People across the spectrum present with many different issues and some can cope with things that others can’t so please don’t ever feel that in what we write we are saying ALL will encounter or present with these problems)

 

 

Austin Hughes
@Strideforth
Senior Practitioner
Anna Kennedy Online