ENGAGING YOUR AUTISTIC CHILD IN SOCIAL INTERACTION
As parents, one of the biggest worries concerning our autistic children is the isolation which being neurodivergent brings. So often I meet adults who share with me that the worst and most disabling aspect of their lives is the loneliness. I’ve also had young adults tell me that they don’t want to always be lonely because life would be unbearable and they wouldn’t want to be here.
Wherever I do talks or trainings I am always asked by parents and carers what they can do to help children interact and play with others. Just to reassure you, many small children often begin exploring through play on their own and want things on their own terms. Sharing is a common skill to learn for all children of all abilities. But what can we do when our children really do struggle to engage with others ?
In my experience as a mum to 4 neurodiverse children and as a professional with almost 20 years experience, I would advise that tapping into something your child loves is a great place to start. Begin to play with them as a parent first. For instance if it’s trains or dinosaurs, musical instruments or building blocks that they adore, just get down on the floor with them and copy how they are playing. Put them in charge. Then slowly introduce your own ideas such as adding a bridge or an engine house if they are really into trains for example. I find this to be a really successful way to sow the seeds of the idea of playing and sharing play with other children.
With music I have done the same. I have copied the child and the noises they make which immediately gets their attention. I’ve often made huge break throughs in this way. Then after a few sessions I might introduce softer playing of an instrument and that gorgeous exploration through play starts to grow as they then copy me. If you make any activity you share COMPLETELY child-led, you build that essential trust, that communication, and the doors into their works beautifully open.
If your child is very sensory, set up floor or table play using sand, water beads, rainbow rice ( using food colouring) and water. Then just add cups, spoons or pans. After you have played with your child in this way, it introduces them to playing with others. Tables full of fidget toys can also help.
Many professionals are now urging parents and teachers to encourage sensory play as a part of the daily routine. Routine for autistic children is an incredibly important factor in their development. Adding sensory play into their daily routine helps them to process information, including atmosphere and surroundings and help them to become more comfortable in social situations.
Playful activities such as rough and tumble play, which are very physical can also help tremendously. Activities that involve jumping up and down, squatting, climbing, throwing and balancing stimulate gross motor skills as well as providing your child to explore their environment, and interact with other children. Best of all, this leads to playing with neurotypical children also, so they will begin to learn from each other in the most natural and inclusive way.
All children need all the warmth and advice they can get, but our differently wired children need these things even more. They need to feel they belong and the earlier this happens the better. It’s within human beings to be social; it’s part of who we are. No one should be excluded and as Einstein himself said, the best way to access education is through play.
I really hope this helps.
If you’d like to have more ideas, I share lots of ideas and activities every week ( almost daily ) on my public Facebook groups https://www.facebook.com/groups/rainbowtherapieskidsandfamilies/?ref=share_group_link
Thad care everyone and I’ll see you next week.
Lots of love,
CALM DOWN YOGA FOR YOUR AUTISTIC CHILD
By Giuliana Wheater
Yoga is now well recognised as a therapy to encourage wellness , focus & peace .
And is wonderful for ANY child regardless of neurodivergence or neurotypicality.
This week I have included 6 very simple yoga poses for EVERYONE , including if you need to be assisted.
Everything I share , I love to think that it’s all TOTALLY INCLUSIVE.
Did you know that yoga improves mental flexibility so is amazing for autistic people for instance ?! When we exercise our bodies we are exercising our brains . Just simple yoga exercises with our hands and fingers stimulate the brain as the muscles found here relate to the muscles of the brain .
Yoga also promotes self awareness , interpersonal awareness , compassion , body awareness along with self esteem as the neurotransmitters of happiness , confidence , productivity & motivation are pushed up from the gut & stimulated in the brain ! 90% of our happy hormone, serotonin, is made in the gut !!
Yoga balances the nervous system because of the release of these vital neurotransmitters & eases stress as well building our resilience to stress & boosting immunity . Much needed in these challenging times of the “new normal “.
Through the regular practice of yoga self management , self regulation & emotional/social intelligence are given a turbo charge ! Depression is reduced as well as anxiety . Sensory integration is boosted too …. fabulous for our children with autism & other different abilities .
Yoga incorporates mindfulness , sound ,breath work & meditation too so it flows beautifully alongside & interwoven with my other therapies .
Yoga should never hurt contrary to a common myth & can be done seated if there are mobility issues along with assisted yoga.
Yoga is also HUGE fun & can be turned into stories , charades , games & even songs or music as I frequently do with the children & families I work with . Everything is an invitation & everything is fun & inclusive . I have lots of videos on my YouTube channel where I “play” with yoga in this way so that even tiny children want to explore it … all whilst getting these amazing benefits !!
Here are six simple poses to get started with.
Take care everyone!
See you next week!
Lots of love,
SELF CARE & FILLING YOUR OWN CUP
Last week I had the absolute joy of speaking with Anna Kennedy and Aston Avery on Gateway Radio 97.8pm.
Tips for mental health and well-being were high on the agenda but we also touched on using tips for self care also.
As parents or carers for our autistic /neurodivergent children, we ourselves are very often suffering with fatigue, stress levels equivalent to veteran beck from the front line, as well as secondary PTSD.
Our children are also a whopping great 4x more likely to suffer with PTSD than the military.
We have no training and are so often fighting a system that is failing or children beyond miserably. That fight continues into further education as well as employment.
If we are continually pouring from an empty cup we end upon burn out ourselves and we are not firing on all cylinders or being dunks to stay on top of everything our children need from us.
So please, even if it’s just for ten minutes a day, here are a few tips you can do for yourselves to keep your own happy hormones and coping chemicals on a good flow.
1. Massaging your temples backwards and forwards with your fingertips.
2. Stroking upwards on your forehead, under your cheekbones and up your jaw.
3. Doing gentle seated spinal twists.
4. Lying with your legs up against a wall to lower heart rate and blood pressure ( unless you’re epileptic)
5. Doing an online meditation ( they are free on YouTube)
6. Going for a walk/ getting outside into nature
8. Taking a bath with candles or mischief playing
These may seem like simple things but as mothers, as parents we are so needed.
As any latent of a neurodivergent child will tell you, everything – absolutely everything – is a heartbreaking fight full of closed doors.
So keep yourselves topped up so we can keep on kicking those doors down.
Stay positive and have a great week everyone,
Lots of love ,