When you have autistic children or children with Sensory Processing Difficulties (SPD) in mainstream schools, even with trained staff, there needs to be awareness.
Awareness that if you know one autistic child then you know one autistic child! The spectrum is so wide that each child has individual issues that they need support with.
I look after six autistic children, one of which is my own.
One child has SPD with their hearing and touch, so loud or certain noises can hurt their ears and light touch can feel as if they are being punched! They are verbal and highly intelligent. They are caring, sensitive and really don’t like being laughed at. This child needs to know what is happening and when.
I look after another child who needs very strict routines. They don’t have many sensory issues but struggle to understand social situations to the extent that they think people are being horrible to them or they just blank people or talk over them. This child has to have a certain program on TV at a certain time or the world just isn’t right. They are very much in their own world and wouldn’t necessarily even notice if they got seperated from me and were alone.
I look after another child who chews everything, their SPD means they need the feedback in their mouth and they really like to dismantle or chew my toys. This child has a safe place, on my window sill behind the curtain. I keep my pile of Barbie bits in this safe place and have to make sure no one else sits there or it can cause distress to this child.
I look after another child who needs constant reassurance and attention. They follow me everywhere and never stop talking! Sometimes they are overly happy about seemingly nothing and other times the smallest thing can throw them and at those times they want ear defenders, a collection of familiar items and a special chair that they call theirs.
I look after one child who is obsessed with a certain west end musical and doesn’t understand why other children don’t share the interest and tire of conversation with them about it.
To look after these children I have had to get to know them all individually. I know each child’s routines, triggers that will upset them, special toys, interests and places. Not one of these children is the same as another.
Yes I have visual aids on my walls, I try to make gradual changes rather than big changes to surroundings, I strictly keep to routines, I have built a sensory room for chill out time and many other things a lot of children need but I also turn the TV to a particular channel ready for when a child arrives, give twenty minutes warning to one child to put their shoes on, give different rewards for different tasks that children find difficult. I supervise some children in the bathroom and others in the kitchen. I repeat the same sentences over and over for some children to help their speech, I listen and answer many, many questions for others. I put six broken barbies, a bob the builder toy and a playmobil treasure chest on the windowsill for one child to feel secure and make sure a particular pen is available to another.
I pre-plan, I plan for children who might arrive unsettled, I plan incase a child says the wrong thing to another child.
I watch and I listen constantly, I know the signs each child has that they are unsettled or bothered and I try to help before it’s too late.
I explain. I explain everything! In great detail! I explain what and when and how and why to all children and I explain to other children what their peers like, why they get upset and how they can help.
If I can give understanding and awareness to some of tomorrow’s generation at the same time as helping keep the autistic children and those with SPD in my setting safe and happy then I have done my job for the day!
If you are a teacher the most important advice I can give is to get to know the individual children, talk to the parents and carers, gather as much information about that child as you can and think of the small (or big) things you can put in place to help them. Bear in mind the child might not be in the best environment, the parents might be in the middle of the hardest battle of their life trying to get their child an EHC Plan or another school but try your best and it won’t go unnoticed. Stop and think before you change the tables or groups or places or pictures on the walls, think before you change the timetable or before school trips. Maybe you need to prepare a child, maybe they need a social story, maybe it would be better to do one thing at a time over a longer period. Pre-plan. If you know the childrens triggers you can plan for when they happen and also to an extent prevent them. But most of all understand. Understand what is going through or not going through a child’s mind when they are upset. Understand why that child keeps running away or can’t sit still. Understand why they “can’t” do the task you think is simple. Understand that the parents of that child may not have slept all week and can’t find anyone else to look after their child so they can have ten minutes to themselves, and it might have taken two hours to get the child to come to school that day. Understand and learn and you will make a huge difference!
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Please feel free to follow my blog or like my Facebook page which I keep up to date with new posts as they are written. I also have a closed Facebook group for sharing days out and holiday ideas and tips and anything autism related. You can find me on Twitter @KidsOnTour.
17 thoughts on “If you know one autistic child then you know one autistic child!”
What a great post, when my Daughter was younger there was a couple of children in her class with autism both totally different, but both such lovely children. Luckily the school was amazing and worked really well with the child and the class so that everyone knew what was going on. I agree the key is to get to know the child individually.
My heart goes out to any career of these kids, not because of pity but because of admiration. Such an important job to all parents of autistic kids, their happiness is in your hands! Good on you.
I love this post, it’s so beautifully written. Each person is unique and beautiful in their own way and it’s no less true for children with autism. You sound like a wonderful women and those 6 children are lucky to have you as part of an understanding support system.
This is such an emotional post, though I haven’t met child with Autism and got chance to observe so closely, I can relate to the carer’s job , be it mother or any. All kids are so beautiful and so are these, they need love and understanding. Love
The first time i learned about autism is through my friend. She is a guidance counselor in our school and I used to hangout with her while she teach her students with autism. These kids are sweetest I’ve encountered, and hangout out with them is like being in a different, no stress world. I like it.
What a gut-wrenching post. Succinctly written on such a delicate issue! I find discussions on such topics rarely forthcoming! Would love perspectives of more people with personal experiences, so it would help others in dealing with such issue.
A great share. In the past I went to school and in the class had a friend with autism, we tried to help her a lot, but not successful. Until she meets a teacher and she cures her success. Until now I still do not understand why she can do it.
What an emotional post . My friends son is austic and she says the exact same . Don’t paint every one with the same brush 🙂 xx
This is an emotional post. My neighbor daughter with autism and they are the same. Child with autism needs some love, understand and support.
This is such a lovely post, every child is different, whether they have autism or not, and having someone to care for them who understands that is paramount.
This is a really interesting post as you highlighted some really useful points and advise.As you say each child is different and its important to understand them as individuals when providing care as it needs to be tailored to their specific needs.
I love the awareness that you bring to this! It’s so very important for others to be more understanding and compassionate!
You are right that I know a couple of kids with autism, and they are unlike other kids I have heard about with the disorder. Although I suppose that is true of most children. We can generalize a bit too much sometimes. And Autism is a spectrum and no two people on it are alike. We definitely need to remember that.
My foster sister has Williams Syndrome and a form of Aspergers and she does not like loud sounds, will only eat certain things and likes a very specific friend. My friend who has Aspergers on the other hand, find’s it hard to deal with certain social situations and does not understand sarcasm and struggles to show empathy sometimes. But you are right no two people are the same so I really appreciate that you take the time to know each persons traits.
I have a friend whose son has autism and he’s such a wonderful little guy. Sometimes his speech is robot-like, other times it’s jovial. He’s often frustrated because what he’s trying to communicate, isn’t being understood. One of my favorite things about him though is his love for animals. His entire being lights up every time he sees our two golden retrievers. x
My friend’s sister has autism and they tell me the same what I read here. I think we need to understand, love and support who had autism.