How to reduce the impact of change?

Sometimes the slightest change however insignificant you may think it is, can be debilitating for someone who struggles with something unexpected or ‘out of routine’. The effects of change can play out as increased stress and anxiety, challenging behaviour and even difficulty coping with everyday routine tasks.

Change is inevitable but can be planned for effectively most of the time – there will be moments when changes are unexpected or unavoidable but there are strategies that can be used to pre plan wherever possible. Pre warning of changes will help to prepare a person for what is about to happen that is different or out of routine.

When we expect something, we plan for it and we have a sense of control over it. We can make arrangements to have things in place to help keep things ordered and organised.

When we don’t expect something, it can be difficult to predict what might happen next, and often things feel out of control and disorganised – stress levels often rise!

We can help support someone through change by assisting in the following areas:

* provide visual supports such as timetables, schedules, cue cards and social scripts to help assist with change – allows a sense of control and develops understanding

* use timers wherever possible – they are perfect for providing a sense of certainty and to grasp the abstract concept of time (how long before the change?)

* remind the person of all the things that will stay the same – this will help to minimise the impact by identifying with ‘sameness’

* allow extra time for someone to practise before the change is about to occur so that they are better prepared for it.

* rehearse how the change might play out – role play or organise rehearsals beforehand.

* always have a back up plan – provide other alternatives to the planned change just in case or reschedule if needed.

* make sure everybody involved with the person is informed of the change and that they are all using the same strategy/support.

If we plan for change as much as possible, the impact on the person will be greatly reduced – there will be less anxiety and more opportunities to experience success!

 

 

 

What ‘Being Inclusive’ asks of us

Inclusion / Inclusive are often used terms these days – but what does ‘being inclusive’ actually look like and what does it ask of us?

Being inclusive is more than simply having everyone together, and it’s more than being open to having anyone participate or take part in experiences.

Being inclusive requires us to look closely at our practices and environments and ask ourselves, “are we accessible to everyone, and are we providing everyone with the appropriate supports or accommodations that they need in order to take part fully or to do the very best that they can?”

Inclusive practices involve taking a look at our systems and procedures.

From a disability perspective, try and look at the world through the eyes of the person:

  • If I was in a wheel chair, how inclusive is my environment in terms of navigating the space in a wheel chair, and accessing all areas?
  • If I had sensory processing challenges, how inclusive is my environment in terms of being able to ‘be’ in the environment without feeling under attack (from a sensory perspective)?
  • If I had dysgraphia / dyslexia or any other learning disability, how inclusive is my environment in terms of offering (and making available) alternatives to reading and writing? How inclusive is my environment in terms of making these alternatives ‘the norm’ and not making people have to ask for them (and sometimes be turned down)?
  • If I was disabled / had a disability of any form, how inclusive is my environment in terms of inviting, encouraging and supporting participation?

So when you think inclusion, take a step back and re-evaluate how you’re currently doing things (it can be a reality check for some of us) and although it may mean some changes to your current approach, it’s something to which we should all be committed.

Inclusive communities value all people, accept all differences, and enable participation – let’s make sure our communities are as inclusive as they can be!

How participating in Sport and Exercise can help people of all abilities in Life.

Guest Post
By Nicholas Glowrey
With the Olympics recently being held, I’ve taken this as an opportunity to shine light on the idea that anyone can take part in some sort of sport or exercise.
One of the great things about sport is that you don’t have to be a Patrick Dangerfield (Aussie Rules Footballer) or a Madi Robinson (Netballer) – you can also enjoy it at ‘Grassroots’ level (local sporting club).
There are many things that people can gain from playing sport;
• Developing a great sense of Sportsmanship
• Opportunity to socialise with other people
• Keeping Active
• You don’t have to be great at sport to enjoy it
I’ll highlight on the second point here – the opportunity to socialise with other people. Sport can be a really great step in building confidence in interacting with other people because as well as socialising on the field or during the game, most of the leagues, gyms, sporting clubs and sporting organisations hold additional social events.
There are also opportunities to learn other skills such as;
• Handling money (by serving in the canteen or bar)
• Helping out in Fundraising Events such as Club Balls and Social Days
There are great benefits from participating in sport and exercise, and the best thing is that there are plenty of different sports you can take on, depending on your interests.
If I can shine light on one of my more happier moments of playing sport. It was when I played a game of football in 2012 and I kicked four goals in a game. I honestly felt on cloud nine and it was great when my mates were getting around me to help celebrate. One of my team mates even joked with me later on in the day about how I allegedy said “kicked four Sausage Rolls today boys” (A term for kicking goals in Aussie Rules.)
Sport can help teach you to celebrate your achievements no matter how big or small they are. Even if it’s that you’ve hit your first boundary in cricket, but then you get bowled out next ball.
Even things like going to a Yoga class can be of benefit as it is one exercise that teaches mindfulness and focusing on the moment.
I also encourage Sporting Clubs to get behind people of all abilities. It could be with your help that they go on to great things in life.
Encourage them.
Believe in them.
Nick

Ongoing Learning – Be open minded!

Learning can take many forms – from first-hand experience, working one on one with people, enrolling in a course of study or a combination of all these things and more. Whatever the learning platform looks like, there will always be more that we can learn.

As both parents and professional educators, having experienced Autism first hand through parenting our own children on the spectrum and Elissa (also diagnosed autistic), we’ve found that even though we have an extensive understanding and knowledge of the spectrum, we are constantly learning new things. And as we learn, we modify how we do things and constantly rethink our approaches on how best to support someone with different learning needs.

With our own children as they move through each new phase in their lives, we also move with them learning to adapt and change along the way as they transition through each new step/phase. With each new phase we learn additional or alternative methods of support and practical strategies to help support them as best we can.

Having just recently returned from the 2016 Victorian Autism Conference in Melbourne (in early September), we’ve continued to think about what we’ve learned from attending various sessions about the latest programs and therapies that are being provided for people on the Autism Spectrum. We were delighted to be directly involved with the autistic community and it was refreshing to know that their voices are being heard.

A word of advice from us is to really listen to the person – they are the experts in knowing what they need and what suits them best. We can never assume that what works for one person will work for another! Be mindful to work with a person’s strengths and help them to flourish and experience success in their own way!

Happy learning!

Sherri 🙂

Victorian Autism Conference (VAC16) ‘Wrap Up’

On Thursday and Friday of last week, we took part in the Victorian Autism Conference 2016. It was a conference of so many high points and that highlighted the movement forward in terms of how we work with and support autistic people.
The conference began with the introduction of a series of fabulous ‘Autistic Etiquette’ lessons where 2 adult autistics shared with the delegates the types of things that might be appropriate to say to an autistic person and what might not. The use of functioning labels was ‘red carded’ and it was also explained to the delegates why the autism community uses the term autistic person as opposed to ‘person WITH autism’. These lessons were a definite signal that this conference was going to be different to many others of the past – that the reigns would be passed to the autistic community where ever possible.
The first keynote speaker of the day was Steve Silberman, author of Neurotribes – an amazing book that delves into the history of autism. (If you haven’t read it, and autism is on your radar, then it’s a definite ‘must read’.) Steve’s messages to the audience were very much focussed on seeing the autistic person as the expert. His statement “the tribal elders have something to teach the children of the tribe” was very significant.
Whilst we missed the session on Education & Collaboration, we were very glad that we were a part of the session on Sensory Processing, where Penny Robinson certainly held the attention of the audience as she talked of sensory issues and her personal strategies. Her insights were very well received!
It was not long after, that Elissa spoke alongside 3 others in the session ‘Lessons from the Female Spectrum’. The interest of the community in learning more about how to support autistic girls and women was quite overwhelming. There really is some great stuff happening in our community for girls and it was especially interesting to hear the work that the Yellow Ladybugs group has been doing.
The afternoon continued with NDIS discussion and then the highlighting of work being done by organisations in our wider community who are working towards creating more autism inclusive environments. We were immensely proud that one of these organisations is our very own community library service who we have worked closely with over the past year or so.
Jeanette Purkis opened Day 2 of the conference with a colourful ‘bang’, speaking on resilience, and she was followed by a panel discussion on choosing therapies. The focus was very much turned away from the idea of treatment or cure and instead turned towards the idea that therapies need to focus on reducing the impact of impairments (such as seizures) and on improving the quality of life of autistics (such as through communication tools etc).
From here we then heard Dr Mark Barber speak, sharing the work of Intensive Interaction – a person-led style of learning. We were overwhelmed with good feelings throughout this session. There was nothing about forcing learning or socialisation and it was all about taking the lead from the autistic person.
A quick switch to another session then brought us to the panel discussion of ‘To Disclose or Not Disclose’ where we sat and listened to the beautiful community of autistic adults share their experiences and words of wisdom.
The ‘Up Close and Personal’ session that followed was practical and useful, and we especially enjoyed hearing from Melanie Martinelli (from The Little Black Duck).
We wish we had been able to stay for the I CAN Network session that wrapped up the conference but alas our time was up and the long trip home was calling. But from what we have read from social media updates, it was a fabulous session and one that signalled hope for the future.
Overall, it was an amazingly positive 2 days of conferencing, where the ultimate message was one of embracing neurodiversity. We were very glad that we had the opportunity to be a part of it!

Importance of Teaching Emotions During Puberty

The teenage years can be quite a rollercoaster of emotions for adolescents and often they experience the extremes of these feelings/emotions.

When a person is happy and their body feels happy, they show this feeling through gesture and body language. For a teenager feeling this emotion, they may present this feeling in an extreme sense – excessive laughing and smiling, loud outbursts of noise, body quite active and intense.

According to the young people that we work with, the body will feel these emotions intensely and can react in an exaggerated manner. They describe it as the body feeling the build-up of pressure like a pressure cooker ready to explode. The body can sometimes physically hurt and feel jarred in the joints. At times, it is often difficult to release that feeling and so the person can feel extremely overwhelmed.

There are occasions where there may be an explosion of emotions as the body tries to cope with the reaction. There may not be any evident warning signs or triggers of this reaction as the body goes into overload.

Teaching someone about their emotions and how to regulate themselves during this time is an important skill to have – it allows them to still feel the emotion but know how to identify how they are feeling and manage it when they are beginning to feel a little out of control. Teaching a person to self -calm or regulate using their own tools / strategies is the best possible support that you can provide a person to manage their own emotions.

Find more information about how to help teach and support someone to understand and regulate their emotions in our book titled ‘Understanding and Working with Emotions – A Teaching Guide’ on our website here: http://creatingconnectionsaustralia.com.au/products-books/

Preparing for Puberty and Body Change

When we think of changing bodies, we most often think of puberty and the developing body. But body changes can happen in small ways at other times of life as well and it’s important to be prepared for what changes might happen.

So how do we prepare ourselves or the people we support?

The first thing we need to do is understand how changes may present, and some of these may include:

  • different sensations in the body
  • physical (visual or non visual) changes in the body
  • emotional upheaval
  • the need to explore (emotions and development of the body)

Once we’re aware of how the changes may present, then we’re better placed to help prepare for the changes. Consider preparing in some of the following ways:

  • Early introduction of what might be happening is important so that a person has time to develop understanding and to be supported through any worries or concerns.
  • Visual learning helps with understanding more complex topics or concepts – use visuals where ever you can!
  • Include learning about how to manage the practicalities that go with the changes – for example, for a girl learning about menstruation, she would also need to learn about where and how to purchase sanitary products, how to dispose of sanitary products (particularly when outside of her home environment) and how often to change sanitary products.
  • Use direct language that is clear and straightforward – avoid confusing words and put concepts into a format that the person can understand. For example, if talking about a person’s voice deepening, use audio examples to help a person in understanding what the change might sound like. You might like to use cardboard tubes or other devices to try out what it’s like to hear the deepening sound of your own voices.
  • Introduce hygiene routines before they’re needed – the earlier a person begins with learning how to use deodorant or other personal products, the easier it will be to manage when it becomes really important.
  • Provide guidelines or boundaries for what’s legally and socially allowed in private and public settings – this is really important for ensuring safety and wellbeing of everyone.
  • Support emotional learning at all stages of development as different emotions will be experienced at different times in a person’s life – this can be an ongoing process.

How have you prepared for supporting a person through puberty and body change? We’d love to hear your ideas!

Is it Autism or is it Adolescence? Key points in understanding the difference between the two!

To enable us to grasp an understanding of ‘is it Autism?’ or ‘is it Adolescence?’, we firstly need to explain what goes on for a person during this confusing time.

Adolescence is an unsettling period of time for anyone as it signifies the beginning of self-identity in a quest to find out who they are and where they fit within their world. Developing their own identity is a tricky time as they experience physical and emotional changes and are often guided by friends, peers and other influential people in their lives.

It is also a time of feeling self-conscious about who they are and mostly rely on their peers to provide them with social and emotional rules etc. The peer group helps to establish their social knowledge and understanding and give them a sense of purpose or direction in life. The social rules are generally unspoken and assumed by the peer group. As their social awareness and experience of different social context becomes more apparent, they develop a sense of another person’s perspective and feelings.

For a typical teenager, adolescence brings with it many ups and downs socially, emotionally and physically.

A teenager on the Autism Spectrum also experiences these ups and downs but most often to the extreme and with much confusion.

It is much simpler to explain the key points or differences as outlined below –  Autism or Adolescence

We would love to hear about the experiences you’ve had – feel free to share any additional key points that we haven’t mentioned above! 🙂

Learning about Healthy Relationships

Learning about healthy relationships is an important part of any person’s development.

For some people, this learning doesn’t come naturally or automatically, and it can be particularly challenging when living in a world where examples of unhealthy relationships are all around us. For people on the spectrum, or who may be vulnerable in their approach with people, it is even more important to teach the ‘Healthy Relationship’ concept explicitly (using very clear language and straightforward descriptions and explanations). And this can be done at any age or developmental stage.

So how do we do this?

We suggest beginning with lots of visual supports and with lots of visual mapping as to what healthy relationships might look like. As a person grows and develops, we suggest introducing different ideas and exploring different types of relationships, but the basis will always be the same and should always touch on the concepts of mutual respect, boundaries and consent.

Social safety can also be explored as part of learning about healthy relationships. Questions like “how do I keep myself safe”, “what can I do if I feel uncomfortable” are really important to work through with people of any age, and offer opportunities to then create personal safety plans (this is especially important for teens who are approaching the adult world and are at the stage in their lives of pushing boundaries and trying new things).

How do you support learning about healthy relationships with the people you support? We’d love to hear!

Our ‘Healthy Relationships – A Social Skills Program for Teens & Young Adults” offers a practical approach to supporting the learning of this concept and is available in both printed and electronic versions.

How to Create a Visual Schedule

2016-07-22 13.19.54Whether we realise it or not, most of us use visual schedules of some sort, every day of our lives!

Calendars, planners, ‘to do’ lists and checklists are all forms of visual schedules – visuals that help make our lives easier and help make us more efficient in what we do.

So how do we make a visual schedule that supports a person in following a list of things to do, how to be more independent, and how to feel more comfortable about what is going on in their day?

Below is an outline of how to make a schedule board that uses pictures or words to support a person in all of these things. You might like to modify yours a little, but hopefully the directions below will give you a starting point from which to work.

  1. Find a piece of heavy duty card or laminate some thick paper and cut into a long thin strip – this will be your schedule base. (Thin flexible plastic chopping boards can also be useful if you want something that is more sturdy.)
  2. You will need some sort of pocket to attach at the bottom of your schedule base – an envelope is a quick and simple solution to this, or you can create a pocket with left over cardboard or laminated paper. * This pocket will hold the cards that are finished with as the person works through their schedule later on.
  3. Make a list of tasks or steps in an activity that the person will be working through. For example, you could have the steps involved in getting dressed in the morning, or the steps involved in completely a craft project.
  4. If you are using pictures with your schedule, find pictures that can represent each of the steps in the activity or task. For example, for the steps involved in getting dressed, you would have pictures of each item of clothing that needs to be put on. * Please note, pictures should always be accompanied by words beneath them to support the development of literacy skills.
  5. If you are using words only on your schedule, write or print the words involved in each step of the task in a size that is easy to see and read.
  6. It is helpful to laminate the pictures and words for longevity, but they can be used without being laminated if needed.
  7. Attach your words / pictures to the schedule board base, running downwards, in the order in which the task/s will be completed. They can be attached using Velcro or blutak adhesive – Velcro is generally more durable but it is up to your personal choice. * To save your own frustration, just remember to always match the hard Velcro to the schedule board and the soft Velcro to the backs of the words / pictures.
  8. Attach a timer to the top of your schedule for extra ‘user-friendliness’ – a timer helps to keep tasks on track and is great for setting limits to things that may be attractive to spend a long time on when other things need to be done 😉
  9. Your schedule is ready to go! Make sure you spend plenty of time introducing the person to their schedule and showing how it works – as each task is complete (moving from the top of the board down), the task card is removed from the base and placed in the pocket. The next picture down becomes what is to be done next.

We’d love to hear how you use schedules for both yourself and the people you support!