I have followed Tony and his knowledge of autism spectrum disorder for many years as I have been in the field for 35+ years myself. He "gets" autism and is able to see how persons on the spectrum "see and interpret" life. Everyone needs to spend time just listening to his You Tube information. In this particular clip Tony references the roller coaster of emotions that persons on the spectrum go through along w/ the coping strategies that work. He also responds to a question asked of him regarding late diagnosis of an adult male 43 years old as well as his mother at 83 years old.
Behavior meltdowns for persons on the autism spectrum are part of life. Many parents are desperate for therapists and teachers to tell them that their child will one day soon be all done with meltdowns. As much as we want to tell both parents and the individual with autism that their meltdowns are over, we can't; it is a side affect of symptoms of autism itself and since ASD is incurable, so are the side effects.
But, the great news is we now have so much knowledge on how the brain of an individual with ASD ticks, we as parents/therapists/teachers/peers are able to teach and help the child utilize strategies to help understand what is happening to their bodies before a meltdown occurs. The majority of behavior meltdowns stem from ANXIETY within the individual that is created from a BREAKDOWN in one or more of the following: the routine/structure within one's environment, the sensory system and how the environment is affecting it, and the hidden social communication rules/skills that are expected of every individual. When this breakdown happens the individual with ASD does not reference their body's signals to tell themselves they are anxious and need a break. They need to be taught the signs their body gives them, what those signs mean and then how to connect those two facts together and react according to what their body is telling them it needs.
Dr. Tony Attwood explains this concept in this short clip below. Don't fret family members and caregivers! We can minimize the frequency and intensity of meltdowns for your loved one. They just need you to be patient with them and understand that their behaviors are not manipulative in nature and they need your help to learn, understand, and connect with their bodies so they can maintain control.
Always remember...maintaining patience and control as a caregiver requires extreme amounts of energy. Be sure to find ways to recognize your own emotions and body signals and give yourself a needed break, even if it is only a hot bath or shower with your favorite song blaring on the radio; it's imperative for you to rejuvenate!
Keep up the great work and take a look at this video.
For more info on Dr. Tony Attwood go to: http://www.tonyattwood.com.au/
Post written by: Sabra Evans
Creating a balanced life can be tricky. Creating a balanced life while being a caregiver for persons with disabilities is a challenge. Still, in the midst of the appointments, homework, therapies, behaviors, schedules and the ever-present "to do list", it is important to take the time to plan ways to manage stress.
Whether you call it feeding the soul, finding joy or decompressing, outlets need to be set into place consistently just as strategies and supports need to be planned for our loved ones on the spectrum. Think about how you might actively plan time to do the things that make you feel better. We plan meals, make lists of groceries/household items we need, and have agendas for things we have to accomplish. While you are planning for your family or your job take the extra step to plan for yourself. What could you do within a week that would provide a physical, mental, spiritual, social or emotional outlet? Or all of them!?
Dedicating time and energy toward yourself or your relationship impacts the other areas of your life in a positive manner. If you play the role of a caregiver the social coaches at Totally Social have some wishes for you:
Happy Joy Seeking,
I love my job! Every day that I work with teenagers on the autism spectrum presents challenges, awkward moments, impulsive and obstinate behaviors, heartache, eye-opening moments for both the teenager AND for me, and plenty of downright fun.
For my day job, I get to teach social communication skills to students with high functioning autism at a public highschool. The students in my classes all have an Individualized Education Plan (I.E.P.) for their educational disability label of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). My social communication skills classes are an elective class that goes towards their Michigan Merit Curriculum credits. We work on so many different skills throughout the year depending on the needs and strengths/challenges of the students in the class.
Ultimately, I believe that underneath all these skills the underlying theme is self-determination. Self-determination includes being self-aware which includes being able to fully understand one's strengths and challenges, accepting these challenges and finding ways to overcome them, acceptance of being a person on the autism spectrum, how they fit within their community, recognizing the importance of creating and maintaining relationships, and feeling confident to self-advocate in all environments.
I say the word autism multiple times an hour every single day: "teens with autism", "those with autism like yourself", etc. I start the year off with a unit on what ASD is and I have the students dissect their I.E.P.'s so they know why they are in the class and what they are working on. I have yet to come across a teen who has a firm grasp on what autism is and how to explain to others how autism affects them, let alone what their I.E.P. goals are.
My students are incrediably lucky to be able to live in a district that recognizes that autism spectrum disorder is a social communication and behavior disorder first which then impacts a student's academic learning. If we only focus on the curriculum and test achievement we will continue to graduate students from high school with a diploma but no employability skills.
As I get more involved in branching out and offering social skills training for those who need additional or more individualized help I am realizing how many young people with autism are not self-aware and families who are in desperate need of help with discussing their child's diagnosis of ASD with them and helping them with accepting it. Here at Totally Social, I am looking forward to having a broader arena for helping young adults with autism learn social skills that will lead them to connect with others, but ultimately, I aim to help lead self-determined young adults with autism who will graduate from highschool able to advocate for their needs.
Written by: Sabra Evans
The Coaches' Corner: