Sunday, March 29, 2015

Working With Autism: Control

So I also babysit other families. As I type I’m sitting next to Tyler, he’s one of the boys in my first grade group in the after care program that I work at, who’s 6 and has autism. We’ve been playing Mario on the Wii for about 2 hours now when I told him I needed to finish up some homework when I passed my remote to his older brother, Matthew, who’s 12. Matthew is also a hardcore gamer, so Mario is no challenge. I have been working with autistic kids for years now, and one of the most important things I have to remember is that they want to constantly be in control of the situations that they’re in. With this in mind, when I saw Matthew beating him I see Tyler getting frustrated. His body tensed up, and you could hear the voice that comes from his belly getting louder. When you see something triggering a meltdown, you have to find what emotion is being pushed past the breaking point. Ellen Notbohm from the book Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew describes a meltdown from an autistic child’s point of view. “Meltdowns and blow-ups are more horrid for me than they are for you. They occur because one or more of my senses has gone into overload, or because I’ve been pushed past the limit of my social abilities. If you can figure out why my meltdowns occur, they can be prevented.” It’s different for everyone though. Each child is unique, so planning a course of action must also be unique. With Tyler, he is one of the sweetest and loving kids I’ve ever met…but when he gets upset you see true aggression. Now calming him down is the next step. Now, these children take everything quite literally, and they answer everything truthfully. Talking it out with him and explaining what the positive outcomes of working together could be helps. I told Tyler that by watching Matt, he could learn and get better at what he was playing. It’s like tying your shoes: at first, there are these two pieces of string, but by the time you’ve learned how to tie them, there are presents on your feet every day.

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