So it is the season of pumpkins and spices, autumnal colors and harvest. Yes, it’s Halloween and for children on the Spectrum this can be a literal nightmare. So, how can we have an Autism friendly Halloween?
Halloween like many other celebrations can cause an extreme amount of sensory overload for children who are on the Autism Spectrum. There is an overdose of color, sound, sensation and food.
This can cause extreme anxiety and as I said and sensory overwhelm. So how can you get your child to participate in Halloween and ‘trick or treating’ if they are on the Autism Spectrum?
First is first, if you child is uncomfortable, doesn’t want to participate please don’t make them. Of course you can encourage and try some of the other tips I suggest to get them past the sensory issues that they will experience, but never force a child on the Spectrum to do anything.
Here are some tips:
You might be thinking that this is going to take a little bit of work and yes it will. The first few experiences will always be more work than the subsequent experiences. If we want children who are on the Autism Spectrum to assimilate and be ‘included’ in society and the events that occur around them, we have to meet them where they are at first.
What do I mean by that?
For them, they will not understand Halloween in the same way that a neurotypical child will. They will think it doesn’t make sense and if something doesn’t make sense it makes them nervous and apprehensive. So, we meet them at a place where it can begin to make sense to them. Small steps, moving forward. Give them as much information as possible to prepare them and with support from loving people around them they might get to ‘trick or treat’ at one or two houses. If that’s all they
get to do to start with, then that’s an achievement. Next year, try for four houses. I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t let your child’s differences prevent you from trying. Work around them. There is always a way!
If it doesn’t work this year, try a different plan next year. What was it that didn’t work? Make adjustments and ensure you don’t repeat the same plan again. Everything with Autism is trial and error, but we will never know what your child can achieve if we don’t try.
RATIONALE FOR TABLET USE by Karina D. Barley
Imagine a school, just for one moment… where you walked into the door of the school….and the very first questionnaire would contain the questions: “What do you love to do?” What is your favorite thing in life? What are you good at? What would make you smile? How would life/school be if you could do the things that you love to do?
Imagine a school whose curriculum catered for those kinds of questions…and designed a pedagogical program that is individual to your child, based on the answers to those questions?
Teaching to Children's Strengths
It is then that we could abandon English, Math, Science, etc. in the way that it is taught now, where we just deliver buckets of information that has no relevance to kids. Alternatively, let’s say a child’s interest is cooking; what if we were to inspire them to want to learn for example they will want to learn to read because by reading they can gain more information from recipe books. They will want to learn about measurement because this knowledge will help them to become a better chef. They will want to learn about money because they will want to go shopping to purchase their ingredients. They will want to learn about science in the context of how cooking and science interrelate. They will want to learn to write, because they will want to write their own recipes. Just recently, there's a program called Master Junior Chef and everyone is amazed at how incredible the children are.
The comments I hear are "can you believe those kids?" "Those kids are just brilliant". "I can't believe they can cook like that." The recipe (pardon the pun) really isn't that difficult to understand and while I don't want to take away from those amazing kids (because they really are amazing), but these kids are shining because they LOVE to cook; they LOVE to do what they are doing; and when children LOVE doing something, they WILL learn!!! You don't have to ask them, or cajole them into it, they can't wait to get into the kitchen to cook; and to be a better cook, they will learn to read a recipe, learn the math required to get their recipes right; understand the science behind what makes recipes work, flavors taste better etc; and develop creativity in the way they present their food. As I said above, it really is NOT difficult to comprehend and in my mind, this gives me a "recipe", a foundation, a platform from which educating children should stem from. If we start with what they LOVE to do; the rest comes naturally.
I personally believe that using technology can bridge the gaps for those children who are struggling, but also make learning easier for any child. These kids come to school ‘tech’ ready and digitally aware so it makes sense that we give 21st century children, learn using 21st Century technology.
Just read this article about Toni Braxton (click here to read for yourself). This really disturbs me and saddens me at the same time. First, I do not believe any God would punish a child for anything their parents have done. Second, I do not believe Autism is a punishment for anyone. Is it a hard road sometimes? Yes! But to suggest that these kids are a punishment is tantamount to saying they are damaged and deficient and I do NOT for one minute believe that kids with Autism are deficient. We have so much to learn from Autism and I don't want to offend parents, but when you look at your child from a perspective of lack, suffering and sadness then of course Autism will feel like a punishment.
Please understand I am NOT diminishing anyone's experience because in my work, I see many parent's struggle, heartache and torment in trying to work out what is best for their child. I've watched them cry in dismay and wish for a child that was 'neurotypical'. But I've also witnessed parents express awe at what their child can do; light up when they try to explain who their child really is; and display frustration when no one else gets it.
Would we really wish Autism away and believe for a cure? That is a moot question and a question that merits so much more discussion. I for one would not want eradicate Autism. I've learned so much in the last 8 years from teaching children on the spectrum, that I can't imagine that I would have made such discoveries any other way. I've learned to not judge a book by it's cover; not everything is as it seems; to step outside of the box of my own 'teaching' philosophy; to be more creative and forward thinking as a teacher; that there is more than one way to learn; that these kids can teach me; that simple and quiet is sometimes better; and to never give up.
What we need instead, is AWARENESS!!!!!! UNDERSTANDING!!!!! & TOLERANCE!!!!!
Awareness that difference is ok and we can adjust to the difference. Understanding that what looks like 'negative' behaviour is behaviour that 1 tells us something and 2. may be causing pain for the child. Tolerance for difference, uniqueness and diversity. It would not hurt any of us to learn how to be more 'Autism friendly'.
I make no apologies for this rant, but if I could speak to Toni Braxton, I would tell her that her child is not a punishment but a blessing. Again, parents please let me reiterate that I know it's tough and difficult and might sometimes feel like the journey is a punishment, but at the same time I also know the joy, the delight and the fascination that is Autism.
The last few weeks I've felt my client’s desperation. It’s sometimes difficult for me to walk away without feeling like I need to do more.
Why? A number of my clients have two or more children on the Spectrum and all of the parents I meet are struggling with lack of resources, funding and therapies. Either they can’t find appropriate therapies, or they can’t find the funding to do the therapies once they find them.
Parents struggle enough – No one can even remotely pretend that Autism isn’t a tough gig. While the journey can be infinitely rewarding, joyous and inspiring, walking that road can be tenuous, frustrating and exhausting. It’s not so much that the children cause the frustration, but the major problems can be a system that can be roadblocks and brick walls to families being able to move forward.
Getting a diagnosis alone can take months and sometimes years of attending various the Doctors, therapists and organizations. It costs a significant amount of money to pay for these practitioners. An Autism Pediatrician (in Australia) can cost upwards of $450; Speech Therapists are upwards of $200 per hour; and Occupational Therapists are the same. While I have no problem with therapists needing to charge for their services; surely funding to pay for the diagnosis process should be mandatory.
Then parents have to struggle with finding the most appropriate services for their children. In my role as a consultant I often attend Pediatrician visits and therapy visits and I’m dumbfounded that so-called Autism Specialist services don’t even have Autism friendly waiting rooms.
I’ve attended Pediatrician visits where the Specialist doesn’t even talk to the child, then of course the child misbehaves and the outcome of the visit is negative. I’ve watched Parents try to tell Doctors and Therapists “my child doesn’t normally behave like this” and I see the Therapists/Doctors ignore the parent’s pleas.
I walk away NOT surprised at all, there has been NO connection, so the child with Autism is not going to behave well under these circumstances. They are NOT going to show their ‘best’ to someone they don’t trust and has failed to even notice they exist.
I’ve told Doctors that I’ve witnessed our client doing ‘XYZ’… Only to be told that I must have a biased opinion. Not only is that insult to my professionalism, but to my integrity. In that moment, I feel a little of what parents feel every day.
One of the greatest gifts I can give to parents is to ‘get it’. To understand what they are experiencing, to understand their child; and to see what they see in their child. I see parents faces light up when I recognize their children as more than just autistic. They often resolve to tears when I say “oh your child is bright. He has the ability to achieve; we just have to find what induces his desire to learn.”
There is NO ‘one size fits all’ solution to the problem that is Autism. I think we need to spend less time on trying to finding a ‘cure’ and invest more energy spent into understanding the condition. There is a saying that “if you know one child who has Autism, you know one child who has Autism”. So this tells us NO child is the same, therefore NO one therapy or intervention will work for every child.
One thing I believe Autism teaches us is the nature of individualism and uniqueness. We just can’t put children in an “age” box, irrespective of whether they have Autism OR if they are neurotypical.
All children learn differently[KB1] . All children have different skills and abilities. All children have different interests. Being seven years old shouldn’t mean that the child goes straight into a typical curriculum for a seven year old. Some children will learn visually, some by doing, some verbally and some emotionally. Some children love Math and don’t like English; some love Science but don’t like Sport. Doesn’t it make sense to create a differentiated curriculum to suite each child?
Does this idea make the job of the teacher harder? Initially there will be more work and preparation to do, but ultimately if the child loves what they are learning, then behavior problems will diminish, motivation will increase, concentration will improve and children will WANT to attend school.
The principle is the same for children on the Spectrum. I won’t even consider a program for my clients until I’ve observed them at least once. We need to understand how these kids learn, what motivates them and what their sensory issues are. Any program needs to be uniquely and individually tailored to that child.
So I’ve veered off the topic a little, but the truth is this is a huge, varied, and complicated topic. There are so many issues to consider, but I want to return to my original purpose for writing this blog.
Parents with children on the Spectrum need our support. They need our understanding and they need our awareness. We owe children this! Not only because of the benefits to them individually, but we owe it to them because as a community, we will be better off when we understand the uniqueness that is Autism.
I view Autism through the eyes of potential and when I communicate that to parents I give them hope. Let’s make the path easier by supporting faster diagnosis methods, funding for support and therapies, and funding for community, education and professional awareness programs. In ten years we need these children to be shining with potential and productive, thriving members of society. Then people like Temple Grandin and Carly Fleischmann won’t be so unique. They’ll be a part of every community inspiring us all.
I offer a specialized consultancy where my role as coach and teacher is to suggest strategies and innovative ideas about how parents, teachers and care givers of children with Autism can make life more manageable for their child and family.
This “gift to give” is looking at the Autism Spectrum with a quantum perspective! I am convinced the future of Autism is evolving and on the verge of huge positive and initializing change.
I believe passionately and wholeheartedly that when we look at Autism with a different perspective; one where we are not looking at this condition with pity, sadness and misunderstanding, but where we are looking at Autism as an opportunity for huge potential and change for all humankind, then we will be truly seeing Autism as Potential!
The unique individuals who are on the Autistic Spectrum vibrate on a totally different frequency; they orientate within their environment in a very unique way to us; their senses are heightened in a variety of ways which makes the world a profound sensory minefield for them; and most importantly they are misunderstood by society where they are expected to “fit” into the mainstream way of being.
Whether you are a parent, teacher or caregiver of a child of autism, you have been chosen as a shepherd for these amazing, extraordinary human beings, where you can champion their cause.
So, it is tantamount that you are aware of how we can bridge the divide between our world and theirs.
This can be achieved by:
1. Tuning into the frequency that is uniquely theirs and in doing so connect online to the Autism “world”
2. Take ourselves to their world, instead of trying to drag them into ours. How incredibly transforming it will be when we open ourselves up to the possibility that is Autism!
Contrary to popular belief children with Autism are hanging out to connect, communicate and relate, so it is through my consultancy that I can make this possible. I want to help parents to see that they must be incredible, extraordinary human beings to have been given the gift of caretaker of these children.
I’d like to assist parents to eliminate guilt and shame or whatever else attaches them to some negative around this – as they didn’t cause this to happen and parents are NOT responsible for their child being Autistic! Children are autistic because they are here to change the world and challenge the way we do things. They are here to teach us about ourselves and to help us to learn how to tune in to the vibration of the human race in a much more profound way. We need to embrace what they are bringing to the table and then find ways to help them to orientate within this world in a much more effective way. I also think we need to deal with this situation in a holistic way, in that we are working with the entire family, not just the child who has Autism.
I came across this AMAZING group on Facebook and I encourage you to check them out. Not only do they raise awareness in a fun way (creating beautiful jewelry), but in doing so they are supporting children with Autism and helping them reach their potential with the gift of giving.
I am a strong advocate of iPads for Autism as I have seen first hand how this technology can allow children, of all abilities, to reach their potential and advance their learning skills in a way they never have before. AND their jewelry is SUPER fun and made with love.
This is the description from their Facebook page:
It is the mission of The Puzzling Piece to raise Autism awareness, as well as help families that have been touched by Autism feel loved and supported through the gift of technology. The Puzzling Piece also honors those who help the children and families touched by Autism by making donations to Autism based non-profit organizations with each sale that is made. Through awareness and the efforts to place iPads in the hands of children, teachers and therapists the Puzzling Piece strives to enhance the lives of children and families touched by Autism.
Check out their website and Facebook Page with one small click of a button!
I have recently come across some amazing organizations who are working towards making the world a more accepting one. Check out their Facebook Pages!!!
Check out my new Slideshare for Autism Awareness Month - Learning styles of Individuals with Autism.
A presentation celebrating unique and awesome individuals who have Autism, raising awareness on their abilities and potential.
For Teachers, Parents, Carers, people with the privileged of knowing someone with Autism, or people wanting to know more about Autism.