I wanted my very first post to put a stamp on what I want to achieve with "Project Autism". I want to help families of children with Autism to alter their perception of what 'autism' is and in doing so alter how they then live their lives.
When we see autism as a brilliant way of being and that we need to deal with autism in a more transformative way, then we frame our own experiences in a much more positive and energetic way. I, by no means want to diminish family's experience because as a teacher with children of autism, I know there are 'tough' days and it is often difficult to know what these children need, want and expect. However, I do know with certainty, that when I step outside of the box; step into their world a little more; and understand that autism is as autism does then I have much more success with these kids and more importantly they seek me out and are happy to see me. This is because they know I am making an effort; they know I want to understand them; and vitally, they know I accept and value who they are.
These kids view the world through a kaleidoscope of colours, sounds, textures and smells. Their experience of the world is more intense and rich, but at the same time can be disturbing, scary and frustrating. So as parents, familes and educators, it is up to us to alter the way we perceive and understand these children and in doing so we alter the way we create the world around them. For example, we need to understand that so called 'tantrums' are merely expressions of frustration, anxiety and fear. A child having a tantrum is either 1/ trying to tell us something ie they are hungry, in pain or unsure of what they are experiencing 2/ they may be experiencing something sensorally ie colours, shapes, sounds, textures and smells can be distressing and even painful to these kids. We need to understand what their sensory issues are and adjust accordingly. 3/ they orient within the world very differently and everything has to make sense to them. For example, a boy in my class would walk into the room and push the chairs off the tables. After a few weeks of this, it occurred to me to ask him why he was doing this. He replied "chairs don't go on tables". He is completley right...chairs don't belong on tables! 4/ seguing on from that point...we need to talk to these kids; ask them why they are doing what they are doing; ask them what they are feeling; and talk to them about their experiences. When we do this, you'd be surprised by their answers and you also find that they are willing and actually happy to tell you what is wrong, because finally someone will listen to them.
The one certainty is that children with autism have a huge 'bullshit' metre....they just won't put up with people who are false, don't get them, don't care for them or are tentative with them. If a child with autism pushes someone away, lashes out, or doesn't want to go near a person, generally it means they know how that person feels about them. The remotest sense that someone doesn't get it or get them, then you will have lost them and it will take a lot to gain back their confidence and trust.
As I'm writing this, I am realising that I have so much to write and it is often difficult to contain and put my writing in a way that hopefully will make sense. However, thankfully a blog is just that, a blog, in that it is a space to just "write" what one is thinking; it is not a book that has to have sequence, continuity and form, so hopefully my 'just writing' will provide some insight.
My last words are for parents. I meet and talk to so many parents, either in my role as a teacher, or randomly. Just the other day, I was getting my hair done and the hairdresser asked me what I did. After I told her, she shared that she had a child who had Asperger's. Within a few minutes, I could tell she carried the same burden I sense from all parents; guilt and possbily shame; frustration and anger (because they don't know where to go for assistance); fear and anxiety....there is so much blame experienced by parents, especially mothers. Did I do something wrong? Is it my fault my child is like this? etc etc. Please parents, the one thing I wish you would all get is "it is not your fault and there is nothing for you to be blamed for". You gave birth to these wonderful, brilliant, fabulous children because as a parent you were 1/ up for the job and 2/ must be wonderful and brillant yourself to be blessed with a child like this. When you parent from blame, pain and stress then the burden is so much bigger; but when you parent from a space of wonder, excitement and anticipation, then the entire energy changes around your relationship with your child and the world. Parents, rid yourself of blame and the journey will immediately become easier because you will be able to breathe again and just maybe the light at the end of the tunnel will become more visible.