Parents of autistic children know only too well that change is rarely easy for their little (and big) ones. But the last few weeks have bought a cataclysm of change unprecedented in our lifetime and getting to grips with what’s going on can be tough.
Cathy Wassell, mum to 15 year old Freya, who has autism, and is the co-founder of Teen Calm - a subscription service aimed at helping teenagers to keep calm when the heat is on.
Cathy knows that the changes we are being asked to make seem pretty normal, but how can life be normal when your favoured way to self-regulate is to go to the supermarket (yes, we know!)?
When you are hostage to OCD, but suddenly everyone is telling you to wash your hands? When the professionals you rely on and have been part of your recovery, are no longer available, and the groups which brought you back into the world cease to run?
Cathy says, “The world is topsy turvy a lot of the time, but at the moment this is even more so. If it’s scary for adults, imagine how scary it is for a child who relies on everything being just as it’s meant to be in order for them to have low anxiety. While this situation continues, parents of autistic and other neurodiverse children, are likely to see behaviours that reflect increased anxiety. Behaviour is communication, and even if your child can’t necessarily articulate to you what’s wrong, they are telling you with the way they are acting, and this can be hard.”
Here are some useful tips for parents, and carers, to help keep things under control.
Be honest about what’s going on, but without going into too much detail.
Quickly establish a new routine, or if your child is still going into school, ask the
school to establish one, and be clear that it’s important for no sudden changes to be made. Keep as much constant as possible. Although it may not seem important that a particular drink is drunk at a certain time, there is very little stability to hold on to at the moment, so stick to what your child knows.
Make a visual timetable, tailored to your child and stick to this every day.
Relax your usual screen time rules, especially if this is one of your child’s means of self-soothing. Create a social story to help your child process all of this change (there are some examples in our home education resources). Be even more patient than normal!
The world may seem as if it has gone slightly bonkers, but what our children are going to remember about 2020, is not news reports or empty shelves in the supermarket but their time at home with us. Let’s make it memorable for the right reasons.
For more info on Teen Calm click the links below: