Mornings, parenting, Resilience, self resilience, strategies

A Hot Chocolatey Recipe for Success

I’m sitting here at my computer feeling content and successful. I believe you should be reading this feeling as good as I feel and I believe I know how you can feel successful. Everyday.

See, I believe we often make the mistake of not recognising our own success.

Success is usually attributed to BIG life events. Great exam results, acceptance to college or University, doing your dream job.

Success can also be attributed to smaller every day events. I made my kids a healthy breakfast, when my kid got cross I dealt with it calmly, and even I arrived at the school gate on time without getting hot and bothered. These statements may say a lot about what I personally struggle to manage everyday but when I do them now I remember to feel the success of achievement.

I’ve got to the age where BIG life successes are rare and unlikely to come around out. Most importantly what this does is build with us a sense of well being which then carries us through the rest of the challenges of the day.

Success can be an abstract term but it can be measured.

It is only when we measure it that we can feel it.

So go on. Congratulate yourself for the good things you have done today.

I’ll do it too.

I woke up early thanks to the lovely sunlight coming into my bedroom and had cuddles with my youngest son, Max. I helped him find his clothes. From the bed. So actually I enabled him to be more independent. He also went downstairs and made his own breakfast (well so we all believed… we later found out he hadn’t had any breakfast at all but we also remedied that with some hot buttered toast).

I made pancakes for Bear, got their swimming things ready, their pack lunches ready and even had a shower before the boys went to school with their Dad. On time. I’ve also now done an hours work for a new client and hung out the washing on the line.

Every time I remember all the good things I’ve achieved today I feel good. You can have the same feeling too. The best thing is the more you remember to tell yourself well done the better you feel and the more natural it becomes. It’s exponential.

Now the funny thing is I didn’t set out to write all this today. I was just going to let you know about a delicious hot chocolate recipe I’ve made up to replaced my morning coffee.

I called it a recipe for success because I love drinking it and it makes me feel much better than the coffee ever does.

Here it is so you can try it out. It’s the kind of recipe that is very open to adjustment and play to make it suit your own taste.

I like it to taste spicy and rich to remind me of chocolates Aztec and Mayan roots.

Hot Chocolate

1 tsp of good quality cocoa powder.

1/2 tsp of cinnamon powder.

1/2-1 tsp of Reishi mushroom powder.

1/2-1 tsp of raw honey.

1/2 cup of just boiled hot water.

1 large splash of goat milk or coconut milk or your preferred milk.

I put all the powdered ingredients in my cup. Pour on half of the hot water. Add the milk. I stir in the honey after the milk so it keeps all the enzymes alive. Then I top it up with hot water. I do it this way as I like the ritual of only using one teaspoon to stir and I never put a used spoon in my precious honey jar.

I use raw honey because of the it’s many beneficial properties not least it’s active enzymes.

I’ve started added the Reishi mushroom powder to give my immune system a boost.

Give it a go and let me know how you got on.

IMG_0544[1]

Standard
ASC, ASD, Autism, parenting, strategies

How to: 2 Simple Methods for Supporting our Children to Improve their Emotional Regulation.

The last time our Autism Support Worker came out I told her how Bear, our 9 year old autistic son, has been very physical recently when he gets upset. When I say physical I mean it really hurts. He uses pinching, punching, squeezing and ramming to express himself emotionally.

I can’t remember what it was about but the worst time he had me pinned against my bed and kept pushing his whole body against mine. I felt crushed bodily and emotionally. Bear is usually very loving and warm. So it is always distressing to me when he flips into aggressive mode. He was cross and he resorted to non verbal communication to express himself.  I remembered something I was told at an Autism Workshop last year, ‘If your child is doing something you don’t like or find uncomfortable at 8, if you don’t deal with it at 8 they will still be doing it at 18.’ It’s a powerful way to imagine what life might become with our children on the spectrum if we just let things happen to us and to them. Things will stay the same.

Visuals are commonly used to help communicate and remind children with autism. I no longer use visuals with Bear because last year he started getting upset by them and throwing them at me. Rather obviously I decided that they were hindering rather than helping him and we stopped using them.

When the Autism Support Worker heard what was going on she suggested a twofold approach. Firstly bring back visuals and secondly to work on his emotional regulation.

Hearing our experience with Bear and his last set of visuals she could tell I was apprehensive about this part of her plan. She asked me if he liked words and if maybe the problem had been the pictorial element of those visuals he threw at me.

I realised that I used to write short lists on the back on an envelope to explain what is happening that day to Bear so he can process the information but I had stopped doing it. I had got waylaid by the terminology. Just because the word visuals sounds like pictures, and often seem to be pictorial, it doesn’t mean they have to be pictures. Or have to include pictures. So we are going to list instructions.

Bear really, really loves Dennis the Menace so I am using Dennis as a positive role model (!!! I know) to explain emotions. We were given a chart of emotions ranging from calm to out of control and I found our old laminated traffic light set. The list is colour coded and numbered with matching faces for each emotion. We came a bit unstuck over colours on the chart not matching the colours on our traffic lights. So I need to do more colour paper circles to include the other colours or only talk to him using one set at a time about emotions. I did talk to him about Dennis and how Dennis feels and he took this on board well. We are yet to see if it will have a positive effect on his daily outbursts.

Do you still find visuals helpful?

Or have you found they had a shelf life and your child stopped responding to them like Bear did?

To sum up the two simple and effective methods to support our children to regulate their own emotions are;

One; Use visuals, pictures or just lists, to show them what is coming that day and we can make a conscious effort to talk to them about recognising what they are feeling inside.

Two; Teaching them to use numbers or colour charts with a scale to help them recognise and communicate where they are at any given point in the day. Using a familiar character as a reference can really help children with autism to relate their own feelings inside them to how they are able to respond in stressful and challenging situations.

I am aware as I finish writing this that I also need to give Bear something he can use to regulation his emotions. Examples of this would be counting to ten, taking five deep breaths or leaving the room when he starts to feel different inside. I will revisit this subject in an upcoming post as it is very important and central theme with helping children be more comfortable and the whole family to have more fun together.

I am also aware that as parents we need to use these same techniques to keep our emotional responses in check at the same as supporting and teaching our children. Please comment below if you have found something here that resonates with your experiences parenting?

Standard
ASD, Autism, parenting, Resilience, strategies

The Disappearing Child; What is sensory overload and strategies to cope?

Bear is prone to running off or totally disappearing. It left me in tears, scared I’d lost him forever, often five times a day until I started putting in some simple strategies to help us all. He still does disappear but not only has it reduced to one off occasions but I can manage my anxiety better.

One of the many shared traits of autism is sensory overload. During a overload your child can become violent, refuse to move, stand still and not respond to you, run off, scream and stim. Having a child doing any of these behaviours while you are out is one of the most distressing, difficult, painful experiences we as parents of children with autism go through, often daily. So what is going on for the child?

Here’s one of Bears disappearing stories.

When I used to go into town shopping with Bear and his younger brother I would lose him. Every single time.

We were in a supermarket on the main street. Bear was around 4 years old. We were standing at the checkout and I was packing the bags. I had a double buggy and my younger son Max was in the buggy. Bear was unusually right next to me. I asked him “You OK Bear?”  as I put my card into the machine. He even replied “Yes”. I typed my pin, looked to where he was but he wasn’t. I looked all around us. There’s a good view of the aisles and area around was open. But I couldn’t see him anywhere. Panic rose inside me. Where had he gone?

In the space it had taken me to type 4 numbers on the keypad he had vanished. I ran outside leaving my card in the machine, Max and buggy, and said something probably incoherently to the cashier about needing to find my son. My strategy at this point was always to check exits first.

I went out of the supermarket and looked up and down the main street. No Bear. There was a large lorry in front of me and the road was full of traffic. I walked up the street to the see round the corner but I couldn’t see him. I came back believing I’d need to call the police this time. I was about to go back into to the shop and search the aisles when I suddenly I asked the lorry driver if he had seen a small boy leave the supermarket moments before.

“Yes, he went up that way.” He told me. So I retraced my steps right round the corner and up to the very top of the street. I found him standing by the crosswalk.

I asked him what he was doing.

“Arrows.” He said, and I looked to see a sign post with arrows on them. As we returned to the shop, me shaking inside, I saw the other arrow pointing up the street.

Happily Max was still in his buggy, I apologised to the cashier and the queue, retrieved my card from the machine, gathered my shopping and left.

Do you recognise any of your own child’s behaviour in this story?

What factors are influencing and affecting our children to behave in such ways that are either dangerous or difficult to manage?

I believe Bear runs when he can no longer handle the input of information. Supermarkets are full of overwhelming  colours, sounds, people, smells, bright lights. It makes sense that it becomes too much and the need to get away is overpowering.

Bear gets out of these situations by just leaving. Fast. But there are many ways a child or even adult might deal with this and it’s rare to find a child with autism who will use words to tell us they can’t cope anymore.

The connection between behaviour meltdowns in a child (and adult) with Autism and sensory processing difficulties is now recognised as a major contributing factor. Many of the meltdown scenarios come on because of sensory overload. The classic child screaming in the supermarket that may appear to the untrained (overly judgemental) mind to be spoilt and over reacting can actually be a child in pain from the masses of sensory information flooding their brain. Strip lighting, bright colours everywhere, lots of unknown people moving around them, being bumped by people not paying attention, different smells, which is all too much for a child who can not filter information.

The Autistic brain does not respond to sensory stimuli in the same way as a Neuro Typical (NT) brain. Each autistic brain responds in its own unique way. To understand why a child is having a meltdown every time you enter a supermarket, friend’s house, school, train, car, public bathroom and complete the activity without a major meltdown there are several strategies you can use to improve the experience for you all.

First of all, remember meltdowns are generally caused by sensory overload. Your child isn’t running off because they are naughty. They aren’t screaming because they want to make a fuss. This is about them not being able to cope and as their parents we need to step in gently and take care of the situation.

If you reduce your expectations of what and how much your child is capable of doing in a visit or outing. Don’t be tempted to look at similar aged children and use them as a guideline for your own child. Go by what works for your child and yourself. I won’t take my son shopping and then go and visit a friend. One of these activities is enough. Both together will possibly produce a meltdown.

You can also try using positive distractions to reduce the sensory stimulus. Many parents use ear defenders to block sounds while out. I often keep my child focused on a task he really enjoys while we shop, like finding the ingredients for our next baking experiment. Bear loves food so I use the incentive of a snack to keep him moving.

If there are some things you can keep the same I recommend doing them the same way each trip. Maybe even go round the shop in the same way each time. Keeping things the same is reassuring for children with autism. I often go to 3 different shops and go to them in the same order or at least always finish shopping in the same shop. Normally where I can buy the boys a snack. This is big progress for us as when he was younger it was a one shop only policy for us.

The most important strategy I use is to reduce the sensory stimulus as quickly as is possible. I used to talk and talk to try to calm him down. Now I say almost nothing. Maybe I just tell him what is happening. Something like, “We are leaving now”.  Or even I just say “Hand” for him to hold my hand and we leave.

When in sensory overload less really is more.

By using a combination of these strategies I have managed to reduce how much he disappears when we go to the shops. I know that all the bright lights, colours, smells, sounds, people get too much for him and that he can’t filter any of it out.

How does your child respond when you go out shopping?

Have you found any similar strategies work to reduce the overload?

Comment below and share your story.

Standard