I attended two seminars this week, one regarding Anxiety and Behaviour from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) and School Exclusions provided by The National Autistic Society.
I found then both very informative and realised that over the years I have tended to concentrate a lot on the Autism side of my sons condition rather than seeking more advice regarding his anxiety. The two come very much hand in hand in my opinion and I think we need to pay more attention to children's anxiety issues especially in their learning environment. How is a child expected to learn if they haven't got control of their anxiety and emotional needs? The anxiety also has an impact on the exclusions from school. I know schools have the interests of the other children in the school in mind and keep them safe but schools do have a responsibility to provide good support and make a child feel included before any steps are taken towards exclusion. The NAS have a great Schools Exclusion Service and for more information please go to www.autism.org.uk/services/helplines/school-exclusions.aspx
Anxiety can affect any child with any learning disability, even without a disability most us will experience some level of anxiety at some point in our lives. For our kids on the spectrum though it can have a massive impact on their day to day lives. Impacts include:
Everyone has different levels of anxiety and a limit of how much they can take before they feel they can't cope any longer, bringing on the 'meltdown'. If you're autism parent or an educator you'll know the score. The moment where the brain cannot quite process the information and the 'fight or flight' reaction kicks in. Aggressive behaviour, lashing out, punching, kicking tears or quiet, no reaction, reserved, mood swings and feelings of shame? Does this all sound familiar.? Our kids are all different so you may have experienced different actions and it can be very stressful and upsetting for the people around as well.
What can we do?
I learnt that the cognitive side of our brain is responsible for helping us deal with anxiety and for the way think, reason and negotiate.
I didn't quite realise the extent of how my son's ability to do this is greatly reduced. I felt really good though, being able to talk and understand more. It made a lot of his behaviour a lot clearer and gave me tips on how to cope. The thing is is we tend to try and discipline our kids on the spectrum the same way we would think about disciplining a child who is not on the spectrum. This just doesn't work, I know it goes against everything in the parenting manuals and advice we learn from others but it's time to throw that manual out and make a new set of rules. This is difficult if you have a child who is not on the spectrum asking why they are getting treated differently to their brother or sister on the spectrum. It does seem unfair and hard for them to understand, maybe a group for siblings would be able to help here, or having the talk about autism and how we are all different. It is a tricky one I know from experience.
I can't stress enough as a parent how important it is to go to these seminars and support groups. A lot of these sessions are free and you do really learn a lot from professionals and other parents. My son is 16 and I am still learning and picking up great ideas from others. I have tended to just cocoon myself in this world of autism and only just starting recently reaching out for advice myself. I tend to think if I'm running support groups I don't need any support myself but I do just like everyone else. It isn't always easy when it comes to behaviour and anxiety, it can also take time to find a strategy that works. Keep going though and always remember we are all here to help each other so reach out if things get too much.
There are some good links to some very useful resources as well which include:
Derby CAMHS Service
Worry Wise Kids www.worrywisekids.org
For a PDF about the 5 Point Scale which is a resource to help children understand their emotions and how to cope. with them. There is also a diagram of the anxiety curve which shows the different stages of anxiety and coping strategies for each stage. www.autismempowerment.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Incredible-5-Point-Scale-Fact-Sheet-rev.pdf
I hope this helps a little but if you do still need more help and advice go to the NAS website at www.autism.org.uk
Thanks for reading, please feel free to leave any comments about your own experiences, give us a like on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.
Take care and catch you tomorrow for some TV talk.
Every Saturday I will be talking about Autism and will review any useful information which may have been highlighted at any support groups in the week.