Saturday, 19 August 2017

A reason. Not an excuse.

Too many times I have heard the phrase "but I can't do that because I have autism (or insert other diagnosis or disability)" being uttered.

In some cases, this statement is true.



In many cases, this statement is not true. A diagnosis just means that the individual has to work harder to reach their end goal.

O has said it a few time this year and we keep reminding her that no, her autism is not going to stop her from achieving her dreams, we just have to find another way to get there. L has begun to realise that he is not yet capable of doing things that his class mates are able to do due to his autism, we keep on encouraging him to work his hardest.

Autism is the reason why my little superheroes struggle at times, but it does not excuse their behaviour if they are doing the wrong thing.

In L and O's case. I never want them to use their autism as an excuse for not being able to do something or for getting out of an activity.

But there is a very fine line between being an enabler of an individual believing that they are not capable and being an encourager of that same individual to achieve to the best of their ability.

There are simply some every day activities that O and L struggle with, and probably will continue to struggle with, for some time.

The difficulty lies in being able to distinguish between what they generally cannot do or understand without assistance and when they are trying to get out of doing an activity. My role as a parent is knowing when they are using their autism as an excuse.

Another difficulty that we face on a daily basis is convincing others that O and L genuinely cannot do or understand a particular concept because of their autism. That they do need some concessions that other students do not necessarily need due to the way in which they learn and pick up new skills.

I can encourage my little superheroes until I am blue in the face, but there are some aspects of autism that may never get easier.

For instance.....


Rough Play

L just does not understand or comprehend that he can be too rough at times. He isn't being malicious when he is engaging in rough play as he is genuinely not aware of how rough he is being towards others.

And it all has to do with the concept of sensory proprioception. L's sensory input is so out of whack that he is simply not aware of how much force to use when hitting an object, giving someone a cuddle, or when he engages in rough play. Over time, L will come to understand about using appropriate force at the present moment, he is not yet at that stage of understanding.

But in saying that he is not yet aware of the force that he can and/or shouldn't use in particular situations, L needs to learn what is and isn't appropriate. L has to learn that if he is too rough and the end result is that someone gets hurt, he has to show some empathy, he has to say sorry. L has to learnt hat there are consequences when you hurt someone, deliberate or not.

Autism is the reason L can be too rough, but it doesn't excuse his behaviour.



Sensory Breaks

I need regular sensory breaks and I don't have an official diagnosis.

Sensory breaks are how L and O get through every single school day. Some days they can get by with only a few brain breaks. Other days, especially L, they need regular breaks throughout the day.

O has begun to recognise when she needs a break and most of the time she is able to verbally express to her teachers that she needs a break.

L is yet to recognise the internal feelings that tell him when he needs a sensory break but we are hoping that over time, he will be able to recognise the feelings that are building inside of him.

Sensory breaks are one aspect of their autism that I am sure that both O and L will need in the future. This is not something that I can change. They may not need to physically escape from the classroom to have a break, they may just need to use their sensory tools. But I certain that sensory breaks will be here for good.



Being able to focus

This frustrates me no end when people comment that O and/or L just need to focus on the task at hand. "They need to stop fidgeting and just focus, put their mind to it."

Sure, I can make my children who regularly enter into sensory overload, ignore said sensory overload and focus on the task in front of them. Said no ASD parent ever!

Ever heard of a sensory break or brain break? No?

Well you've got buckley's chances of getting them to "just focus" because, shock horror, they are in sensory overload.

Again being able to focus goes back to needing sensory breaks. If a child is not able to focus on the task at hand, chances are that they need a sensory break. Learn the cues people!!

Self Calming Mechanisms or Stimming

We all have a stim of some description, diagnosis or not. Do you regularly tap your fingers, tap your foot, fiddle with pens when at work? That's a stim.

Some stims are appropriate, others may not be. When a child is exhibiting a stim that is inappropriate they are not being malicious, they are just doing it out of a habit.

Stimming is a form of self calming or is used as a means to self regulate an individuals emotions. L and O both have various stims that they use. Each of their stims, when you get to know O and L, are used for different emotional states that they enter into. O and L's stims tell us when they are frustrated, excited, nervous, happy, scared and so on.

An individual should not be stopped from stimming, as it is how they are calming themselves. If the individual is not hurting themselves or others why should they be stopped?

But if the stim is inappropriate then what we can do is replace it with another more appropriate action. Replace the perceived negative stim with a positive stim. And when you are attempting to replace the negative stim, you need to explain to the individual why the previous stim was inappropriate.



Misbehaving

There is a huge distinct difference between a meltdown and a tantrum. First and foremost, if you are not sure of the difference, please read up on them. The knowledge that you gain, will be of an immense help in the long run.

Children are smart and they will play on us. They know exactly which buttons to push to get a reaction.

Something to remember is that behaviour is not done on purpose, behaviour is done to serve a purpose. We need to work out what that purpose is.

"My child is having a meltdown because they have autism."

Yes they are in meltdown mode but what is causing the meltdown? Are they in sensory overload? Are they uncomfortable? Are they sick? Have their routines changed?

Or is it that they are throwing a tantrum because they are not getting their own way or you are not giving them what they want (a toy/lolly etc.)

When you learn to distinguish between the two, life becomes a whole lot easier.

Visual Supports

Both O and L are visual learners. They always will be. They will always benefit from accessing a range of visual supports.

Taking these supports away will not help them in any way shape or form. Taking visual supports away will in fact hinder their ability to take new information on board.

I am hopeful that in future, we will not need to have as many visual supports and social stories around superhero headquarters, but for the present moment, they certainly make home and school life a little more peaceful.

There are many other "reasons" that I could add to this list, the list really is never ending.

What I hope that you take from this, is the next time you have a child who doesn't seem to be trying hard enough for your liking, please take a good look at their surroundings. Is there something that you are missing? Are you communicating with the child in a way that they understand?

At times, Autism IS the reason why a child isn't taking in information as quickly as other children. They are not learning the wrong way, we are simply teaching them in the wrong way.

14 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing. My son doesn't have autism, but he has ADHD and thinks that give him a free pass sometimes, but my husband I have been working with him to break him out of the habit. It can be hard because it is challenging to know if there is something that he can do or can't do because of his lack of focus and hyperactivity. His doctors help with some of the things but it is a work in progress.

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    1. You are most welcome. We too are still working out what O and L can and can't do aswell.

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  2. This post is so useful to all moms. It's amazing that you consider hard work above all else. Your kids have a great mom in you!

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  3. This is so helpful no matter what diagnosis a person has! thank you for sharing!

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  4. This is post is so helpful no matter what the diagnosis- thank you for sharing!

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  5. This is such a great and helpful post! Your kids are very lucky to have you as their mom! You're doing an amazing job ensuring that they know that they can do anything!

    Belle | www.OneAwesomeMomma.com

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    1. I feel very lucky to be their Mum! I just want them to know that they can do anything that they set their minds to!

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  6. So much great information in here. I also need sensory breaks throughout the day. Just a little time to get back to center. You are doing a fantastic job, mama!

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  7. Your so well informed ... obvioulsy due to experience! Ive been enjoying reading your posts and want to pass this onto my friend. I think she would find your blog helpful.

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    1. Thank you Kristie, I hope that people find what I write helpful.

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