Even though I talk about how positive autism can be a lot of the time, it would be silly to try to tell people that it is a wholly positive experience. There can be a lot of negatives that go along with it, and I am sure if you are reading this blog you know that for yourself.
For me, when I was younger, one of the biggest negatives was the frequent meltdowns I used to have; shouting and being aggressive. I have spoken in the past about how distressing this was for everybody involved. Because most of the time this was directed at my Mum, she would feel bad, and I would feel guilty. It wasn’t until after I was diagnosed with autism, aged nearly nine, that we were able to start doing anything that really had any impact on these outbursts.
My Mum devised something she called the Reward Plan. I`m sure you all think you know what Reward Plans are, but this one is different. First of all, even though my Mum created it, she did it with my input, and kept me informed of what she was doing the whole way through, so that I fully understood, and was comfortable with the plan when we started using it.
The main principle of the plan was to focus on positivity, and never punish or criticise what could seem like bad behaviour. The reason for this being that we don’t see behaviour such as outbursts/meltdowns as being bad – it wasn’t as if I was choosing to have a meltdown – so to punish me for something I had no control over would have been useless, and counterproductive.
The idea was to give points for any positives that could be gained from a situation. For example, `I calmed down more quickly after having an outburst – 5 points` My Mum designed a chart with a dragon on because I really loved dragons at the time, and collected them. It might seem strange, but within two weeks of implementing this programme my behaviour in general had greatly improved, and I had far fewer outbursts and meltdowns. The same continues to be true to this day. I can`t say that it will completely take away any of the negative behaviours that come with autism – I don’t think there is anything that can do that – and as autistic people don’t choose to have meltdowns these may continue as they have with me. But for us the Reward Plan cut down the frequency and severity of my meltdowns, and made them manageable.
Without this plan, and the positive effect it had on us, I don’t know where I would be today. This is why a few years ago we wrote our first book about the Reward Plan. It wasn’t done with any attempt to make money – even though we do get a small amount from each sale – the main aim of the book was, and always will be, to try to help families who are struggling with their child`s meltdowns, to benefit from the same techniques that helped me. I can`t promise you that the techniques contained within this book will solve all your problems, but I do think it would be well worth you at least trying them if you are struggling to cope with your child`s meltdowns/outbursts.
Based on the incredibly fast-acting effect our Reward Plan had on my meltdowns, I would recommend it for anyone, and everyone to try. Even though the books title is Create a Reward Plan for your Child with Asperger Syndrome, the techniques can be adapted for people of different ages – if the problem doesn’t stop when you reach adulthood, why should the solution? It can also be used for people with Autism in general, and for conditions such as ADHD.
In fact there is no reason it simply needs to be used just for outbursts and meltdowns; over the years it has helped me to become more independent and sociable, as well as encouraging me to try things I might normally never have tried. My confidence and self-esteem has increased greatly since my Mum created our Reward Plan. I am now more able to make decisions, try new things, and make and maintain friendships.
One important thing to add – our Reward Plan was never intended to make me less autistic – the whole point of the Reward lan was to help me to gain the skills I will need to get by in the neuro-typical world as best I can in order to keep me safe, but more importantly to help me to embrace my autism, and to get the best out of it – to deal with the negative aspect of having autism so I can focus on all the positive things about being autistic.
If you want to take a closer look at our Reward Plan book go to http://jkp.com/catalogue/book/9781843106227 where it can be viewed and purchased J