Top Tip 1: Routine
Top Tip 2: Education
“Communication passports for children who cannot verbally communicate their needs can help when explaining to teachers that if these things are not put in place then this is what will happen.”
“My child can appear like an angel in class and then afterwards at home have a melt down from holding it together all day in school.”
“People are surprised when I tell them I have autism. You look completely normal they say. There needs to be more autism awareness.”
Top Tip 3: Communication
“We use picture symbols to help her make decisions.”
“When explaining the impact of what he is doing or a new idea we use Social stories.”
“We use photographs to communicate the daily routine of going to nursery. A photograph of the nursery building, the staff she will be with, a picture of dad who will come to pick her up.”
Lilias Nicholls met with parents to share how she uses yoga in schools with children who have autism. She is a speech and language therapist and combines yoga with picture symbols and storytelling. She has found huge benefits such as improvement in language development, reduction in anxiety and an ability to self regulate through sounding and yoga postures. She found that once the children found comfort in their bodies they were more able to communicate with one another and build relationships.
Top Tip 4: Food
“I changed his diet to sugar free and now he does not wear nappies. It has helped with his potty training.”
” It is hard to get him to eat vegetables. I find if they are dried in some form he can tolerate them better.”
” I can’t have skittles. I get really hyper and bounce off the walls. It’s the E numbers.”
Top Tip 5: Personal Care
“He hates getting his teeth brushed and would have a melt down every time we tried. He would kick or punch me or his dad. Cuddles and deep pressure help when he is stressed so we found a way to relieve his anxiety by wrapping a towel around him, me hugging him from behind and his dad helping brush his teeth. This seems to work well!”
Hair cuts can be a frightening experience for children with autism. A local parent who has a child with autism and is a professional hairdresser provides some tips.
When cutting hair
It is appropriate to make sure the child’s needs are met. Over the years of barbering and cutting hair it has been a learning process to meet the needs of children with autism, aspergers, mobility issues and neuro diverse individuals. I have many autistic children as clients and the way forward is to make them feel special.
Top tips are:
- Make sure the space for the child is comfortable and that they are well gowned up with towels and no tape in the cape, as hair can cause irritation and discomfort for the child who may want to move.
- There should be no sharp object available to anyone or child for this is a unseen danger in hair cutting process especially autistic children. Sharp objects can cause them alarm and distress.
- Over the years I have learned that if I cover the mirror for some children, and play surprise at the end of the haircut this helps the child feel comfortable. Through engaging the child in a game they are not so distracted during the hair cutting process. A favourite toy can also occupy the child for example a train or a plane. I tend to focus their imagination from the haircut to the toy and it makes them feel happy.
- If the child becomes distress I stop and give time for the child to express there thoughts. Patience is a big factor.
- The child will have an association with the place the hair cut is happening in. If the child has a slow attention span and feels scared I simply ask them if they would like to watch someone else first. This helps reassure them.
- Make the child’s haircut part of their regular routine. Having a regular appointment conquers anxiety of waiting. In time they will feel comfortable. After the first few haircuts I help them transition by letting them watch their hair being cut and the result is that they do become fearless and able to know what is happening and it can be like an adventure for them.
- Finding a good barber with patience can be difficult,however alway make it clear to the barber / hairdresser of the child’s disability so they can create a similar process like I have learned as a mother and as a barber/hairdresser.
Watch video of barber getting down on the floor to cut the hair of child with autism.
Top tip 6: Safety
“I have an ID card because sometimes autistic behaviour can seem suspicious. If I get upset in public and cannot make eye contact and start flapping I can show my ID card.”
Top Tip 7: Sensory
Body socks are a fun and creative way of developing body awareness, co-ordination and balance through hug like lycra material.
“My boy loves the fidget spinner. It helps focus his attention and relaxes him.”
Top Tip 8: Melt Downs
“I use Big Hands cuddle or Small Hands cuddle to relieve anxiety.”
“It’s like his system crashes and needs time to re-boot. People have compared melt down to an epileptic seizure. For him it can take 10 minutes. I remove anything that may hurt him out of his way to help keep him safe. I either back off or hold his shoulders firm to a safe position.”
“He knows right away if there is anything missing from his room when I tidy it even if it is buried under a heap of clothes. This can lead to a melt down because of the change in his environment. I have to be very careful to let him know what I am doing and why Social stories has really helped.”
“Knowing what brings on a Melt down can help you prepare for one.”
“I have lots of Eeyore teddies. Stroking Eyore’s ears helps me.”
“My son hides in his covers, he likes them over his head. He will put pressure on his head on the sofa. That is how he is, how he copes. Hard to cope with all the sensory experiences he has everyday.”
Top Tip 9: Gender
A parent with autism shared:
“People for a long time did not know what was wrong with me. It can be different for girls and boys. Girls can be good at hiding their feelings. I would get upset and others would not know why because it would be much later than the event happened. There needs to be more awareness of the difference between girls and boys with autism. I was 14 when I was diagnosed with autism. Between 14 and 15 years has been the normal age for girls to get a diagnosis. Now it is lower, 8-10 years. It is slowly getting better.”
Top Tip 10: Peer Support
Why is a Peer Support Group important?
“Emotional support.” “Knowing not alone.”
“Self-esteem, feeling like I‘ve let my parents down for being who I am.”
“Potty training.” “Help with Siblings understanding.”
“Transition from nursery to primary school.”
“How do we explain transition in to adolescence….how to explain body changes, teenage hormone behaviour?”
“Online Safety for our children”
“Help with sleep deprivation, melatonin levels.”
“ Help with stress and anxiety levels.”
“ Childminding club so that we can have date nights.“
“ Help with breaking information down.”
“I would like to raise awareness for autism and funds for the Win Project through a skydive with other parents to show people how scary everyday can be for children living with autism. ”
“Meet regularly, like the first Wednesday of every month 13.00-15.00 at Jimmy Dunnachie Family Learning Centre.”
“My autism makes me do things and I don’t understand why. I sometimes hurt other children and sometimes make them cry.
I don’t always understand the words you say with the sounds of the lights buzzing round my brain. … The tiny noises you can’t hear I hear again and again and again!
I need the rules to be followed and I don’t like it when they’re not. I forget I’m not an adult and I tell you off ………………………a lot!
Sometimes when you come near me I think you are invading my space. I may have an extreme reaction because I feel you’re in my face!
I like to be first at everything and may push you in the queue. I do not mean to be rude it’s just something that I do.
I like to be the leader and take control of how we play. I may get cross when I find that you will not play my way.
I don’t like getting into trouble and I want to be your friend. The unkind things I sometimes do are because my brain won’t mend.
You may see me spin, hand flapping and body shaking till I go red. It’s just my way of coping with the lack of balance in my head.
I get fixated on a topic and will speak of it all day. I do not mean to bore you but it’s important to me to say.
So next time you see a meltdown, don’t look and laugh and stare. The child is not always naughty. Please be AUTISM AWARE……”