Reflecting on the Year gone

As we move closer to the end of the year, many of us begin to reflect on the 12 months that have been – and this is especially so in settings where ‘end of year’ reports and evaluations are being written.

Here in the Creating Connections Australia (CCA) office, we have been involved in parent / teacher interviews ourselves and reflecting on our own children’s past year.

End of year meetings are a great opportunity to celebrate achievements, but the danger that comes with evaluating what has been is that there can be a heavy focus on what still needs to be worked on in the future. It can be a case of “yes, that was really great, but perhaps it’s important to now continue to work on”…..

Sometimes, though, we just need to be glad with what is… to celebrate the achievements no matter how big or small they are.

Because feats of grandeur are relative to each personal situation.

End of year reflections should be about acknowledging and celebrating who you are and the person you’ve become – the fact that you were able to make a new friend, or that you were able to face a fear and succeed (even though your head was working hard at telling you otherwise).

When approached in a positive way, end of year reflections should leave a sense of pride – not wishing for more.

So, we’ve rejoiced in our children’s successes these past few weeks.

Would these be successes that others would celebrate too? Perhaps not? But they are successes to feel great about, and to celebrate as grand feats. Because in our eyes, and in the eyes of our children, they are as grand as they come!

Surviving the End of Year Rush / Holiday Time

The end of the year often signals busyness, celebrations, extra commitments, social occasions, and if you’re in Australia… hot weather! And with these things, comes potential overload—particularly for anyone who struggles with change from routine, sensory processing, or with socialising.

So what’s the best way to survive this time of year? The answer is easy—keep things simple!

Understand that the best way to support a person in managing the overload that can come at this time of year may be to:

*  Reduce expectations – cut back on extra activities, and perhaps know that things may not be done to the high standard that you normally expect (eg. jobs around the house).

* Provide plenty of down time – time alone, extra time with a special interest… anything that allows time out from the busyness of everything!

* Be okay with declining invitations to social events that are too demanding – it’s okay not to go to that Christmas party, or to not host parties yourself. Remember that social events can take a long time to recover from, and this recovery time can add extra stress to an already overloaded situation!

* Be prepared to arrive early at events to settle in, or to leave early if it all becomes too much. (And be prepared to carry your own snacks and food to parties just in case there is nothing on the plate that appeals!)

* Schedule days where you require nothing more than rest and relaxation – both in the lead up to the holidays and during the days of celebration.

Tune in to the person you support, and listen to their needs—they’ll thank you for it! 🙂

What do you do to ensure you survive the end of year rush / holiday time?

 

Socialising might not be what you think

For many people, a relaxing day or evening might be one that is spent with a group of friends – chatting, sharing stories, and generally enjoying the company of other people in a social environment. We see images of these types of settings everywhere around us – in our communities, in movies and in our media. In fact, the whole concept of ‘social media’ is based around being with and connecting with other people.

If you’re someone who loves being around others and who loves nothing more than a fun social event, you would sense and feel the enjoyment that these environments bring.

But there is also something very important that you need to consider…

What if socialising wasn’t that easy?

Or what if the very thought of socialising was enough to send your anxiety or stress levels sky high?

Or what if socialising was so taxing on your body and mind that it was something that could only be accomplished if your energy levels were in peak condition and you knew that the environment was going to be a safe place to be?

For people on the autism spectrum or with other social or emotional needs, socialising can simply be a hard task to endure.

Socialising usually brings with it a whole set of skills that don’t come naturally to people on the autism spectrum. Social skills that involve engaging in conversation, knowing what to talk about, knowing when to ask a question or when to provide your own thoughts or comments. It can also require following a conversation that involves a number of people, and with this comes working out who is thinking and saying what, and the task of knowing where you fit in to the conversation becomes even more challenging.

Social environments can also be sensory processing nightmares, with never ending noise, visual stimulation, smells (food, perfumes and fragrances) and a physical closeness to people that can be overpowering.

A question that often comes up in our workshops is this; “should the person I support be socialising more”?

And our answer is always based on the following:

* Does the person want to socialise?

* If the person is interested in socialising – do they have the skill set and support to be able to socialise?

As a society, we need to acknowledge and respect individual choices around socialising – particularly for those on the autism spectrum or with social anxieties. We need to understand that it’s okay to choose to spend time alone, and that it’s okay to decline a social event for a reason as simple as “no thanks”.

The recovery that comes from enduring an overwhelming or failed social experience can be long and sometimes traumatic.

And for those people who ARE interested in socialising or who DO want to be able to socialise, we need to ask the question – “how can we better support social experiences so that there are opportunities for success”?

Sometimes in the day to day experiences of life it’s easy to overlook these things. But it’s important to remember that socialising might not be what you think.

Managing Change

When was the last time you experienced a major change in your life?

Or maybe it was a small change, but it was significant to you, and it was a change that you felt you had little or no control over?

Change is something that we all experience, on a day to day basis – but it effects us in different ways.

Have you ever experienced that feeling of not knowing what is going on around you? Or of not knowing if the people involved in your life are going to be there tomorrow? Or of not knowing what a change is going to mean for you in the future?

Some of us can handle quite easily, and we manage to ‘flow’ with what’s new, but for others, changes can cause our anxiety levels to rise, and leave us feeling completely out of control of our lives and our environment.

It’s a horrible feeling of ‘dread’ for many, and the anxiety that comes as a result can have all sorts of effects on a person’s ability to function in life – to sleep and eat well, to maintain positive relationships, to manage tasks and workloads at work or at school, and to go about every day life.

So when we anticipate that something new is going to happen, or we’re involved in a major ‘life change’, it’s valuable to look for ways to manage what is going on around us, and to help ‘transition into the new’.

Question – what do you do if you support a person who finds change or transitions really difficult (or perhaps you yourself find change really hard to manage)?

Answer – other than avoiding change (which is an incredibly difficult thing to do in the world that we live in), it’s a good idea to plan, and to set some support strategies in place.

Planning for a transition is really important as it enable us to be proactive and make decisions ahead of time (rather than being reactive), and so to is arming yourself with strategies to make change easier (whether it be for yourself or for a person you support). Whilst not all changes are predictable, many that we encounter in our lives are, and it’s how we tackle these that makes the difference.

Whether it be a transition from bed to breakfast, from home to school, from lunch to a work task, or a major transition such as a move to a new home or a new job, or a new addition to a family, changes can be supported to make them a little easier on everyone. It’s just about planning ahead where we can – and patience and understanding is always handy too!

So what do you do to help ease a change or transition?

Welcome

Welcome to the Creating Connections Australia blog page! Please check in with us regularly as we share our thoughts, ideas and stories.

Please also feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

Elissa & Sherri