Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Long-Term Impact of people with Autism being detained in Hospitals

I am sure anybody reading this will be aware of the various stories about people with autism being taken away from their families, and forced in to hospitals.  But just in case you are not, I will briefly refresh the situation.  Across the country various young people with autism have been placed in the care of hospitals and ATU`s.  This is often against the wishes of themselves, and their families.  The institutions that they have been placed in are not specifically designed to support people with autism, and often very vulnerable people are being placed among those with significant mental health issues, and drug and alcohol addictions, and this is clearly not an appropriate environment for someone who isn`t facing these issues. There seems to be no upper-limit on how long people with autism can be kept in these institutions.  The families are often turned away when they attempt to visit, and visiting in itself is difficult as most of these places are located many miles from the families’ homes.

I suppose what I wanted to talk about in this blog isn’t so much the moral issues, as they have been discussed many times, and it is fairly obvious that it is not right to take people with autism away from their families, and keep them for an extended period of time in an inadequate facility.  What I am really talking about is some of the actual practical effects this could have on the person. This is based on being somebody with autism myself, and imagining the impact that something like this would have on me.

First of all let`s look at why these people are being detained in the first place.: there doesn’t seem to be any one particular reason for admitting them in to hospital; some people are asked to voluntarily stay there for one night, and find themselves still locked up months later.  Some are meant to be there for a few weeks, but are then not allowed to leave – despite their families knowing it is the wrong place for them.  Others are in places that are close to home, and then suddenly taken away to other places, hundreds of miles away, that are not equipped at all.  In reality it all seems fairly murky.  There should be no reason for forcibly taking somebody with autism to any kind of institution, so of course the excuses and reasons will seem flimsy.  Whatever people may try to tell you, autism is not a mental health condition.  Now at this point I feel that I do need to point out that sectioning somebody who has a mental health issue under the mental health act is different – it might not particularly be easy or nice, but sometimes it has to be done if someone is a danger to themselves or others.  But the key point of sectioning someone is that it should be done to ensure the person gets the best support, and care that they can – mental health professionals are supposed to come and check where somebody who has been sectioned is staying, and if their treatment is right for them.  Now people with autism shouldn’t be sectioned under the mental health act as they don’t have a mental health issue.  But even if the person with autism does have a mental health issue that is separate to their autism, the way they are being treated is still wrong.  Parents might have agreed for their children to go to an ATU for example, just for a few weeks so that they can be assessed, and ultimately helped. Consent for assessment and treatment should in no way imply that what has been happening to families up and down the country is ok.

The idea here appears to be a basic level of misunderstanding, and ignorance around autism; somebody is autistic so they are having meltdowns, so they are detained and sent to hospital or ATU – often hundreds miles from home.  They have their time outdoors, and their contact with their families restricted – in a way akin to somebody in prison.  They don’t know when, or if they will ever get out. So let`s do a list: here we have uncertainty, change (routine, location, people, environment) we have sensory issues: sights, sounds smells, we don’t have any of the things that may comfort, or calm a person i.e., particular possessions, or contact with family members and friends.  I think this would provoke a pretty negative reaction in most neuro-typical people, but in autistic people – well I know I would be bound to have some pretty serious meltdowns if I was in this situation.

There seems to be a principle that the more negative aspects of autism can be treated or cured if the person with autism is kept in a medical facility for long enough – this is nonsense.  As myself, and my family can attest to, the only way to help minimise the impact of outbursts and meltdowns is by a lot of hard work being done at home  If you add in all of these other elements you are never going to solve the problem.  There is a huge difference between a specific respite care centre for people with autism, that is fully staffed with competent highly-trained professionals, and allows visiting and freedom of movement for the autistic person, and somewhere hundreds of miles from home that is set up to deal with individuals with complex mental health issues.  It appears that people are trying to treat autism with methods used for completely different issues.  A good way of thinking of this is to imagine yourself turning up to A&E with a broken leg, and finding your arm being put in plaster – when you ask why you are told that the doctors knows best, and you just have to stick with it.  As time goes on your arm is still restricted, and you can feel your leg becoming ever more painful.  You are told that you can have the plaster off your arm as soon as your leg heals.  Because that is a physical example it is much easier for people to understand.  The concept, when it is translated to something inside the mind becomes much more complex for people – simply because they cannot see it.  But for anyone who has any concept of autism, what is happening to these individuals is no less ridiculous or frustrating.

We have established that there are absolutely no benefits to people with autism being locked in ATU`s and Hospitals – often many miles from home – and that this is a very strange, and unpleasant situation.  But if there won’t be any lasting benefits, will there be any long-term effects at all?  Well, there may well be.  Again these are just thoughts from my own head, and I don’t want to imply that these are things that will happen to everybody that is in this situation.  I am again just using the way my own mind works as somebody with autism, and tying to imagine the effects that something like this would have on me.

I know first-hand, again from my own personal experience, and from talking to a lot of other autistic people, that one big change to routine, or one particularly busy social event can have implications that can be on-going for months.  It can cause feelings of sensory overload, which can lead to depression, or severe outbursts, or even physical illness.  And that can be, as I say, from only one event, or particular change.  If we are talking about somebody spending months, or even longer, experiencing these thoughts, feelings and emotional overloads daily, then the idea of how long the after effects could remain is incredibly daunting.  I don’t want to be pessimistic, but the impact of something like this wouldn’t be over quickly for anybody – least of all somebody with autism.

There is also the worry that even though the autistic individual might not have any mental health issues when they are admitted to these places, an experience like this could easily bring on conditions such as depression and anxiety.  These are unfortunately common in autistic people, and are likely to be triggered by their experience.  They might not be present at all before somebody is admitted to one of these places, but they could well become apparent once they have been they are released.

Another unfortunate consequence is the damage that being detained can do to the work that has already been done to help the autistic person.  I know myself – again from experience – that it can take a life-time to build-up certain skills.  The impact that being locked up for so long can have on social and communication, and independence cannot be underestimated.  I can`t say for sure that this will happen in every case, but it does certainly have the potential to knock the skills somebody has developed right back to basics.  So not only it is a completely ineffective treatment, it could also destroy everything the individual and the family have worked for, and achieved.

All of the above hasn’t even taken in to account what the various drugs forced on these individuals could do to them.  The commonly accepted facts about drugs prescribed to people with mental health issues is that they generally would cause some kind of side effect – but that this may be worth it for the positive effects.  The problem here though is that because people with autism don`t actually need these drugs, they don’t get any positives from taking them, and are simply left with the after-effects – whatever they may be.

These are just a few thoughts that I have had as a person with autism, reading about these families.  I am sure there are a lot of other issues that people who are more directly involved in them can bring up.  I understand that at times some of the people who work in these places, and perhaps even the people who arrange for the autistic person to be taken in, might think that they have that persons best interests at heart – as hard as this may be to believe – but good intentions don`t meant anything unless they are backed-up by good and positive actions.  And in this case, actions are definitely speaking louder than words.  Whatever is happening, whatever the justification for it, it is wrong – plain and simple.  The sooner not only the professionals, but the general public wake up and see this, the better.

My new book:  http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum.html/  

Links to families who have been affected by this issue, and campaigns that have emerged because of it:

https://www.facebook.com/JusticeforLB?fref=pb&hc_location=profile_browser

And the LB BILL

http://lbbill.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/lbbill-draft-one-launched/

http://michelledaly.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/warrior-mum-nina-nis-journey_22.html

And the petition

https://www.change.org/p/nicola-sturgeon-bring-my-autistic-son-tianze-back-home-to-scotland

http://michelledaly.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/warrior-mum-leos-journey.html

And the petition

https://www.change.org/p/nhs-islington-bring-my-son-stephen-home-care-for-him-in-our-community-bringstephenhome

https://www.change.org/p/wigan-mbc-adult-social-services-and-calderstones-nhs-don-t-send-my-21-year-old-autistic-son-to-another-secure-hospital-assess-him-using-top-experts-we-can-recommend-to-have-support-to-live-in-the-community-and-flourish-as-a-human-being

https://mail.ntlworld.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/1499c361075e8da4

http://justicefornico.org/ (not specifically autism, but still relevant)

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

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Why Autistic People are more likely to be bullied …

 

Anyone can become a victim of bullying, but it does seem that a disproportionate number of autistic people experience bullying at some point in their life.  There are a number of reasons for this, and most of them are to do with the psychology of the person doing the bullying.  There is something about autistic people that makes them appear to be `good victims` in the eyes of a potential bully.  Probably the simplest way to illustrate this point is to list a few of the key issues below so that you can get some idea of what I am talking about.

  • Autistic people tend to stand out from the crowd – one of the fundamental principles of autism is that if you have it you are not like everybody else around you.  This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and you don’t even have to be completely different from everybody, but the fact is most bullies will pick on somebody who is even slightly different.  This could be somebody who is fatter or thinner, or taller or shorter than average.  If somebody has autism they might communicate differently from those around them, or behave differently.  It might be something as simple as dressing in a particular way, for example, somebody I knew would wear a suit every day.  Or it might be talking in a formal manner in informal situations.  The fact that somebody is looking for a victim means that even the slightest difference will make a person with autism eligible for bullying.
  • Autistic people may not have as big a circle of friends to stand up for them as other people do – what I feel I have to make clear with this point is that I am not talking about everybody here – I am just using what I have been told by a lot of autistic people who have been bullied to make these points – it won’t be true for everybody.  But what some autistic people report is that as they struggle to make friends in school or the workplace, they are singled out within days of arriving somewhere as being that one person who hasn’t made friends yet; therefore if the bully is looking for a victim they won’t be looking for a group, but a mere individual.  This is the beginning of a vicious cycle.  Because they couldn’t make friends quickly enough they became known as that friendless person who gets bullied – and who wants to be friends with that person? Apparently no one, meaning that they are even more likely to experience further bullying.  Of course people should be able to go in to a certain situation and make friend s in their own time and their own way, but unfortunately it seems that a lot of schools and workplaces have social structures almost like prisons; if you are in a group you are much more likely to have people watching out for you, whereas if you are on your own you are much more likely to fall victim to bullying.  It should also be pointed out that people who do have good friends can also be bullied, but the majority of bullies will look for the easiest possible target.
  • A lot of people with autism are not able to read body language or other social cues, so it can be hard for them to read other people`s intentions – this obviously makes them much more vulnerable if somebody is planning to do something to them – perhaps luring them away to somewhere more secluded so they can be beaten up, or manipulating them in to doing something embarrassing, or illegal.  The person doing this might not even be that intelligent or good at disguising what their intentions are, and it may be evident to everybody else in the room – but if it goes completely over the person with autism`s head, then they instantly become a much more inviting target for anybody intending to bully.  People with autism may underestimate the severity of what another person is planning.  It is also possible that they may be manipulated in to thinking that the bully is their friend.  The cues that something is not right when they are being lured in to a certain situation: certain looks, laughs or remarks, may be completely missed.  This allows bullies to be able to manipulate autistic people in a way they couldn’t do with neuro-typical people.
  • Autistic people also tend to take things literally – this connects to the point above in that it makes them easier to manipulate – But what it also does is lend extra power to the words of the bullies – this comes in two ways: if somebody says `I`m going to kill you` most people assume it means they are going to get beaten up.  Now this isn’t pleasant in itself, but if the person with autism genuinely believe what people say to them, and they have to go in to school the next day thinking someone intends to kill them, then the toll that would take on somebody’s physical and mental health must be extreme.  To have the pressure of believing every single threat that is given by a group of bullies would put incredible stress on to an individual.  The person’s family, and their life may be threatened daily.  This might have the added complication of stopping the individual telling somebody about the bullying.  It would also make the experience even scarier for the autistic individual. The other way that taking things literally can make things more difficult is when it comes to on-line bullying; threats and verbal abuse are an unfortunately common part of people’s on-line experience.  But most people know that in reality the people at the other end of it do it for their own pleasure, and probably don’t feel one way or the other about the people they are sending these messages to; if the bully hadn’t come across that particular autistic individual then the messages would be sent to someone else.  I am not trying to say that this makes it easier for the victim, so imagine believing that every random insult thrown up by someone on-line was sent with genuine hate to you personally, then is it any wonder that some people begin to believe these insults and threats, and feel worthless or scared?
  • Sometimes, because autistic people struggle to understand how to fit in socially, they may do anything they feel is necessary to attempt to fit-in with their peers –Unfortunately this makes them incredibly vulnerable to those who simply want to tease them.  In their mind they might be part of a group and they are all having fun together, but in reality they are just the butt of the jokes.  This obviously isn’t the case in all friendships autistic people make, it is just something that can sometimes happen with a bully, or a group of bullies.  Because that desire to fit in can be so strong the autistic person may know that what they are being asked to do is wrong or embarrassing, but they may do it any way rather than go back to being ignored.  Now unfortunately this can happen with any type of social out-cast, whether they are autistic or not.  It is also possible that the autistic person may not know that they are doing something wrong or illegal, and also that they are not trying to fit-in because they want to make friends, but trying to fit-in just to stop the bullying.
  • Autistic people often give a better, more rewarding, reaction when bullied – now bullies like to hurt and manipulate people – this isn’t to say that they will be bad people all their lives, but in that moment they are causing physical and psychological pain to another human being – some do this because they enjoy the power it gives them over someone else, but most do it to see what reaction they can get from another person.  Somebody who is autistic may obviously be provoked to the point of a meltdown –which is just about the biggest reaction a bully can get.  They may wind the person up in subtle ways that will lead to the autistic person having an outburst, and being perceived as the bad-guy themselves.  The reason a lot of bullies, or former bullies give as to why they hurt people to provoke a reaction is that they were bored.  This doesn’t have any weight to it though, as there is really no reason to be bored in today`s society – the internet and mobile phones give us everything we could ever want at our fingertips, and yet some people choose to use this to bully.  People who engage in provoking these kind of reactions do so for their own enjoyment, and unfortunately autistic people often provide the best reactions.
  • Autistic people can struggle to ask for help with a problem because of their communication skills – maybe they physically can’t ask or tell because of an inability to speak? Maybe they are too scared and anxious to make an attempt at telling a teacher, co-worker or parent about what has been going on for them?  Maybe they believe the threats of the bullies, and don’t speak-up for this reason?  Whatever the reason is, autistic people can find themselves suffering in silence at any stage of their life.  People say tell a teacher or a parent, as if that solves everything – that`s fine but if you don’t know how to tell somebody, if you don’t have the confidence to approach somebody, if the idea of going up to someone and starting a conversation like this is almost as scary as being bullied, then what are you to do?  I am not offering solutions here, but perhaps it is better if the parents and teachers try to notice the problem themselves, and look out for it?  It is really important that somebody else knows what is going on and supports the person who is being bullied.

The above are just a few points that occurred to me when I began to think about why autistic people are more likely to be the victims of bullies.  I suppose what I did was put myself in to the shoes of a bully, and ask myself if I wanted to hurt somebody and get away with it, what type of person would I target, and why?  There may be other reasons, and not everybody who is autistic will be a target for bullying during their life.  I hope that the points I made above make some kind of sense to you.  I am sure I didn’t cover them all, and if any others do occur to you please comment below, and let me know what they are.  I also don’t mean to suggest in this article that only autistic people will be bullied, as bullying is a problem that can affect anyone in society.

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

The Long-Term Impact of Bullying

People often view bullying as an unavoidable part of school life, or of childhood in general.  They might think it is a pity that some children get bullied, but they also think it is just a reality – just a harmless bit of playground fun.  But in actuality bullying can invade every aspect of a person`s life.  Nowadays, with the on-set and increasing incidences of cyber bullying, people of all ages can be bullied by complete strangers in their own homes.  There is also bullying in the workplace; either by the manager, or a group of colleagues.  So somebody can potentially be a victim of bullying their entire life, unless something is done to help them.  When you actually step back and take a look, bullying is prevalent everywhere from primary school to retirement homes.  The concept that bullying is something that happens to someone when they are at school, and then it`s all over is simply not true.  But perhaps a more dangerous thought is that any form of bullying doesn’t have a long-term impact on the victim.

The idea of the playground bully has become so ingrained in our society that it is almost as if we just view them as a normal part of life; just somebody who is there and does a job in society like everybody else.  But the long-term damage they can cause is probably worse than the majority of people would ever give them credit for.  It would be silly to say that all bullies are evil, or are even bad people.  Of course their own circumstances could be contributing to them becoming bullies, but this is no excuse.  And it really depends on the severity of the bullying; lot of people have difficult home lives, but they don`t all chase people through lanes of traffic just to kick them in the head.  If you take adult bullying out of the equations and just look at a scenario of somebody who was bullied through primary and high school, it is not uncommon for those years of school to feel almost like a prison sentence for that individual.  It must be torture for someone who is being bullied every day to have to continue to go to school.  At every other point in our life our perception of time is that it goes incredibly fast, and yet in our childhood and early teens we perceive time as trickling by slowly, and so if somebody is being bullied the idea of school stretching on for several more years can feel so daunting that many children often contemplate suicide as a way out – the fact that otherwise healthy children can contemplate killing themselves should put in to some perspective just how psychologically damaging bullying can actually be.  Often the victim will begin to feel worthless, and almost as if they deserve to be bullied.  People can become physically ill and develop mental health issues such as panic attacks or depression, and of course there are often physical injuries as well.  Even when the child has left school those feelings of worthlessness and depression will often remain.

Being bullied is often extremely traumatic.  Because everybody knows somebody who has been bullied, to describe it as a trauma might be looked upon as being a little over the top – but if somebody is surrounded by a group of people who beat them up, and verbally abuse them over a period of years then what is this other than traumatic?   Another aspect of why the after effects of bullying in childhood can last so long is that there is hardly ever any real come-uppance for the bully themselves; most children who bully might get some kind of superficial punishment, but it is nothing at all in comparison to what they have done.  This may seem fair as a lot of people will later grow up to regret what they did in childhood, and even hate themselves for what they did to others.  But this is of no help to the people they have hurt.  It is hard to get over something when there is no closure; if a bully has made every day of an individual’s life hell for years, and then they simply walk a way to happily get on with their own life, then it is incredibly difficult for the target of that bully to feel like things are actually over.  And so there is often a long-term, emotional impact for people who have been bullied.

I am not offering advice on how to deal with the long-lasting effects of bullying for multiple reasons: the first being that I may well cover this in another blog later on in the week.  Another reason is that I suppose it would completely depend on the individual, and the type and severity of the bulling they have experienced – so there is no simple solution to this problem.  I am sure if you have experienced bullying yourself you don’t need me to tell you – or remind you – about the long-term effects, but hopefully this blog has been of use to some of you.  I should also point out that I am not writing specifically about people with autism here – bullying is an issue that can affect anybody in society, and its severity should never be underestimated.

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

 

Autism and the Build-Up of Emotions

It is often said that autistic people don’t show emotions.  For some this may be true, but the emotions are still there, just as strong and potent on the inside as they are with anybody else.  Just because the person themselves can’t recognise the emotions, doesn’t mean that they don’t take just as much of a toll on them as they would if they were aware.  Strong emotions can leave people feeling physically worn out or ill.  Even the smaller, day to day emotions can have an effect on people’s physical and mental well-being.  Displaying these emotions outwardly is obviously first and foremost a way of communicating with our fellow human beings, but it is also a way of relieving some of the pressure from the build-up of emotion we all have inside.  Even if an emotion is positive it is still not always healthy to keep it bottled- up inside, and if the emotions are negative then this can actually be extremely unhealthy.  Autistic people though often don’t have a choice; their emotions are often forcibly kept inside and internalised because they are unable to fully understand, and express them.  Perhaps a good way of showing how this might work is to imagine pumping up a balloon.  It can fill with so much air, and if you keep releasing the air, and then putting more in it will constantly be at various stages of inflation.  But if you keep adding more and more air without allowing any to escape to the outside, then even the faintest puff of breath can cause the balloon to burst.  A lot of the time autistic people will go in to meltdown: scream, cry, fight, or bang their heads against walls, over something that to all intents and purposes is minor.  But just like the balloon, they have filled to bursting point only this time it is with unexpressed emotions.  These emotions could even be weeks or months old: anger, frustrations, stress, even happiness, all flitting around the brain tripping over each other, and unable to emerge in to the outside world in any coherent way, and so even one minor thing can trigger them all to explode outwards, resulting in an outburst.  This is why the term `outburst` is so fitting; it is as if all that pent up emotion simply bursts out.  It is too much for anybody to control let alone someone who doesn’t have a full grasp and understanding of their emotions.  The autistic person can try to reign it in, but ultimately they don’t have any particular control over where it goes or over how it expresses itself.  I don’t particularly know the secret to not carrying round pent-up emotions. I suppose the key is in trying to understand what each emotion is, and to learn to recognise when you are feeling it.  This might sound very simple to someone who is neuro-typical, but I will take you back to an analogy I have used in the past.  Imagine waking up with amnesia and forgetting everything you`ve ever known – every word and what it means.  Eventually, as part of your recovery you are shown a square of colour with three words written next to it.  The words are orange, white and blue.  You are asked to point to which one you think the colour is, but obviously you don`t know.  You do know that to everybody else around you it’s not even something they have to think about – they just see the colour and know what it is.  But for you, you could sit there all day and try to puzzle it out, but in the end you are just going to have to take a wild guess, and hope you are right.  Now I admit that this analogy isn’t perfect because somebody could simply tell you the colour, and then you`d know.  But if you can imagine the confusion and sense of not knowing in that moment it might help you to try to understand how difficult recognising emotions can be for somebody with autism.  If you don’t recognise it, how can you know how, and when to express it?  And in the end it will simply emerge with the rest of the built-up emotions in the form of an outburst.

I don’t wish what I have written here to be too negative; it might sound as if I am trying to say that autistic people can never show any emotion, which would be nonsense.  But I am sure if you are reading this you know enough about autism to understand what I am getting at.  I think that this is a problem faced by a lot of people with autism to varying degrees; sometimes it might not even feel as if it is a problem, until you step back and look at what tends to happen in the days, and weeks preceding a major meltdown, and realise that the build-up of unexpressed emotions could have been the cause.

Hopefully this blog on the build-up of emotions will have been of help to some of you.  If you know and recognise what I am talking about then please comment below, and let me know what your experiences and thoughts on the subject are J

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS? On Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Bonfire Night

A guest post from Jane 🙂

Bonfire Night

Many children/adults with autism may look forward to Bonfire night and want to join in, but still struggle with the sights, sounds, and smells.  Others may dislike the whole event, and just wish it would go away.  Either way, it can help to prepare and support the autistic individual through this time to minimise any stress that may be experienced, and reduce the risk of meltdowns, which can be distressing and exhausting for all concerned.

  • Prepare your child based on their level of understanding – talk to them, watch programmes about Guy Fawkes and the gun-powder plot, write/draw about bonfire night, make collages – anything that you feel will help to get the information across to your child about what bonfire night is, and what might happen.
  • Make a calendar and do a countdown to Bonfire night – this can be a very visual thing, where the child ticks off the days – I used to draw and cut out fireworks that my son had coloured in, and we would stick them in a row on the wall, removing one each day until November 5th.
  • Prepare your child for the noise by playing a DVD or CD with the sound of fireworks on – you can do this very quietly at first and then gradually increase the volume. If your child is doing something they enjoy with this noise in the background, it can help to desensitise them to the noise of fireworks – maybe not completely, but it can certainly help them to be not quite so distressed by the noise of the real fireworks.
  • If your child wants to join in the activities but is experiencing anxiety, the above tips should help.  Also, if they are going to a bonfire, maybe let them wear ear muffs to drown out some of the noise, a peak cap to block out some of the visuals, and stand further back from the display to cut down a little bit on the other sensations.
  • It can help to have a set time of arriving and leaving so the individual with autism can enjoy the event, but not be exposed to that level of sensory intensity for too long.
  • When returning from a firework display the person with autism may need peace and quiet, and time to themselves – don’t mither them with chores or homework, just leave them alone.
  • If the person with autism prefers to stay home you can keep them occupied with a calming activity, may be centred around their special interest if they have one.
  • They can still wear headphones/ear defenders in the house, or turn the music/T.V. up to block out some of the noise.
  • If the individual is experiencing sensory overload then turning up the volumes may not be a good idea, and trying to keep everything calm and low key can help.
  • If the autistic person can tolerate the smell, then use aromatherapy oils such as Lavender, which can be calming, and also help to mask the smell of smoke and burning that pervades our homes during this time.
  • In the days leading up to Bonfire Night, and the days following avoid going out with the person after dark as people tend to light fireworks for days before, and days after November 5th.
  • The sensory overload experienced by many during this time of year can lead to meltdowns.  If you as an individual with autism, or a loved one with autism has a meltdown during this time it will be understandable.  However, it is possible that the meltdown may not occur until sometime after, when all of the fireworks have stopped, and things seemed to have returned to normal.  This is due to a build-up of emotions during this time, and the trigger for the explosion may be something seemingly small and unrelated – so be aware of this and be patient.
  • Sensory overload can cause some people with autism to `self-harm` as a direct response to their stress levels.  Following some of the above advice should help to minimise this risk.  If self-harming does occur then you need to deal with it in a calm manner so that you don’t add to the sensory overload.  If you are the person with autism who is self-harming then please seek help from someone you trust, or the National Autistic Society on how to deal with this. I would suggest doing something that you normally find calming, which can be a distraction from the cause of your distress.
  • http://www.autism.org.uk/living-with-autism/understanding-behaviour/challenging-behaviour/self-injurious-behaviour.aspx
  • Animals can experience the same level of fear and distress during bonfire night, and it can help the person with autism to spend time with their pet (if they have one) or someone else’s, as animals can be a very calming influence for some people with autism, and in this situation they could help each other.
  • The above are just a few tips which may help you as an individual with autism, or a loved one with autism to cut down on sensory overload, and the risk of having meltdowns.  I hope you find them useful, and please do share your tips with us in the comments box below – the more tips we can share, the better we can support people with autism at this time of year   Jane xxx

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