The following was written by a good friend of mine called Jenni who blogs at Chilling with Lucas She has experience of working with learning disabled children and adults so knows what she’s talking about in terms of this subject.
Over to Jenni…
Supporting someone with autism can be incredibly challenging but finding routines that work for the individual and de-escalation techniques can make a real difference.
Ear defenders – these can block out sudden noises from traffic, dogs barking, children and baby’s crying. Many children with autism struggle with outside noises. For some its that gentle hum of life that you don’t even notice and for others it’s sudden unexpected sounds. Ear defenders are great as they’re able to protect the wearer from both.
PECS (picture exchange communication system) is an amazing tool and is focussed on the person using it. I have used various forms of these depending on the individual. Some are very simple and just made up as a pocket book of pictures of what we are doing now e.g. Lunch then what is next e.g. Swimming. Others have been full boards in a persons room of the day including what staff would be arriving in the morning then pictures of the morning activities, lunch, afternoon activities then staff on next etc.
For someone who is wanting to know who they will see for the full week, we had a board in the kitchen of staff photos on when they would be in.
I have also used pictures of clocks to end one activity before we move on to the next so we had a small strip (laminated card) and velcro’d laminated clocks on. When we needed to move from one place to another we started with 5 clocks, and by using the clocks as a visual countdown I would remove them one by one until the strip was empty. Once empty, we’d move to the next activity. This worked really well for the person we supported to instigate the change of place/activity without them becoming anxious.
Look at having an area that is their safe space, a place they can go to when everything gets too much and they need space and peace. If that isn’t possible, could you offer them a quilt or blanket that they can get when they need to just cover themselves for a bit of darkness to relax?
A weighted blanket can have a huge impact on somebody with autism. The pressure of it draped over can produce serotonin helping them to feel calmer and more secure.
Can you think of any other ways of calming someone down? Everyone is different and there are so many fantastic suggestions these days.
For me personally, I struggle to calm Jude down sometimes. If he senses any animosity, anger in your voice or a slight conflict in your body language then it makes him a million times worse. It’s so so hard at times when you are tired, he’s been a complete pain in the butt and you just want to yell but you know you can’t. Deep down you know this will make it all harder in the long run. For Jude, he definitely likes his safe space (bedroom) where he can play his funny little games and just relax. I’ve never tried a weighted blanket but have heard amazing things about them; however Jude is pretty sensitive to touch so I’m not sure he’d like it. We previously had headphones so he could block out outside noise with music but he broke two sets in the space of a month so I refused to buy any more. He was given a third pair but obviously the sensitivity was too much as he didn’t like them on his head anymore. Nightmare!
Some people have fidget bags, which is literally a bag or a box filled with little toys, strings, anything really that the child/person can hold onto and fidget with when feeling a bit stressed. Again, not good for Jude as he’d just throw it at me but I know several children who always have one with them.
Jude loves a now and next board – they have always used them at school with him so he has images of what he’s doing at present and what he’ll move onto next. Each time an activity is finished, he’ll peel it off the velcro strip and place it in a “finished” box. It was a sort of bribery tool with him as he’d basically be counting down the activities until it was lunchtime! That boy will do anything for food.
Anyway, thank you Jenni for your input. It’s a really interesting topic to discuss so I’d love to hear any techniques you may have of calming down anxious and fraught situations.