Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How to Navigate the Holidays with loved ones who have special needs

This Fall has certainly gotten away from us All, and time flies by. I know in our household, we have had to 'readjust' schedules, slow things down and put up weekly/daily charts of what is happening and where everyone in the house is going to be. We have gotten all decorated for the winter season, earlier than we usually do, but it was needed and was prompted by our Son with Autism, who started decorating his living space, so we all followed suit, and that 'item' was checked off the internal list he has going on during this season. We do 'check ins' with each other during the day, to ask "Are you OK? do you have any questions? Touching base with each other, has given needed processing time to then voice concerns about what may be happening 3 days from now, who is going, what's happening, how long we are staying and how are we getting there. The holidays, while a welcome time of the year, certainly can cause 'triggers' for anxiety. While the acknowledgement of the importance of routine, schedules, preparing for the 'knowns & unknowns', has become a part of our lives, never more so, than during one of the busiest holiday & family times of the Year. 

This is  a great article that touches on a number of important tips and navigating skills for the Season. It is written addressing issues that a loved one with Autism may have, all the suggestions, would be beneficial for any individual with special needs, and those who are supporting them. Hope it gives you some ideas. 

I don’t know if you’re like me, but every year around this time a big lump develops in my throat, my head starts spinning, the to-do list grows, and I’m convinced that time starts moving in fast forward.

We’ve entered into that time of year sentimentally referred to as “the holiday season.”

And although we may live in different countries and celebrate different holidays on various days, for many of us this time brings with it plenty of stress in addition to the joys of spending special time with family and friends.

The stress might be magnified for someone with autism.

The experience of that mild and brief stress can often be greatly magnified and longer lasting for those on the autism spectrum. This time of year can be filled with precipitating factors for people on the spectrum, including:
  • Unfamiliar tastes and smells
  • Changes to routines and what normally happens on what day of the week
  • Noises and sounds that can be experienced as outright painful
  • Social expectations and spending time with groups of people
  • Spending time away from home and all its comforts
  • Down time away from a structured schedule
  • Weather changes and the timing of when it’s light and dark outside

And the list could go on!

What you can do:

For those of us who have individuals with autism in our lives or who support those on the autism spectrum as a career, we need to recognize these stressors and be as proactive as possible about them. NOW is the time to be planning and preparing that individual for the holidays.

So what can you do to minimize the impact of precipitating factors? Here a few ideas:

Provide advance notice multiple times about anticipated changes/disruptions to routines.
For example, I may know that watching a certain TV show is very important to the person in my care and that it suddenly not being on on its regular night at its regular time because of a holiday special would cause great anxiety or even defensive behavior for this person. So I would look at the TV schedule a couple weeks in advance, check for these things, and start providing warnings, maybe mark it on a calendar, and plan an alternative preferred activity for that time frame.

Provide coping strategies for sensory overload.
Crowds of people all talking at once, the crushing up and tearing of wrapping paper, holiday music playing in the background, glasses clinking together for a toast, unfamiliar smells of foods cooking...these are the sorts of things individually or cumulatively that can spark a crisis to develop. So think about making a coping kit available to the person with ASD, and teaching its use in advance. This kit might include things like ear plugs or an iPod with the person’s favorite music, a stress ball, smelly stickers of a pleasing variety to the person, a break card, or a reminder/cue card to say “Excuse me” before walking away, plus some desensitizing practice done in advance of a big family event.

Pre-teach and plan replacement behaviors.
Imagine what the reaction of others sitting around the person with autism might be if the person spits out or makes comments about a food they don’t like the taste of and think is terrible! If you’re traveling to a friend’s or relative’s house for a meal, ask in advance what’s on the menu. Bring along alternative foods for the person with autism to eat. Teach and rehearse table manners, conversational skills, and emphasize the use of breaks before any sort of meltdowns can occur.

Create and stick to routines whenever you can.
Try to bring routines into even what seem to be unstructured times or activities. Transitions in particular are good opportunities for this—packing for a day or overnight trip somewhere, coming into and leaving a setting, or gathering for a meal and cleaning up after it. Routines help people feel safe because they create a sense of predictability and mastery over one’s surroundings.

Pass it on — and share what works for you!

I hope these tips will help you enjoy the holidays just a little bit more this year. Please share and contribute your ideas for ways you’ve supported those with autism during the holidays and reduced the impact of those holiday-related precipitating factors!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

School fire drills-coming to a School near you!! be prepared.

As the new school year has started, the practice fire drills will be happening across the Island in the next couple of weeks. As many of us are aware, these are startling, loud, disruptive, and can be a hard event to handle, even if you are prepared for it. Take the time to talk to you child about what should happen when a alarm is heard. Take about it, show a video, read social stories, practice at home. This is a very important skill to be able to give to our children, not only for when it happens at school, but when it happens out in their community. It still startles me, when I hear it, so I can only imagine what it may feel like, sound like for a person who has some sensory challenges. Hope some of these suggestions help. Let us know if you have found other resources, tips, stories that have helped to support your son,daughter or loved one. Enjoy this glorious Fall!


THREE things to teach your child about school fire drills:
In the coming weeks, students and staff at Island schools will hear the peel of the alarm bell and will be taking part in school-wide fire drills. It’s a familiar routine most will remember from bygone school days, but for some younger students it may be a new experience. The drills are just as important for seasoned students and teachers, too.
“Everyone in the school needs to know how to get outside quickly and quietly, and because the best way to learn is to practice,” says Provincial Fire Marshal Dave Rossiter. “The lives of students and staff may someday depend on everyone knowing these procedures.”
Parents – here are three things for you discuss with your children, so everyone will know what to do when a fire alarm sounds at school:
1 - Stop everything. Listen for instructions from your teacher.
2 - Don’t panic, but go quickly and quietly out of your classroom. Walk in an orderly fashion. Don’t push or shove. Everyone needs to get out safely, and that includes both you and your classmates.
3 - Go to your meeting place outside the school and wait there. Your teacher will take roll call to make sure all students are safe. Remember, once you are outside, stay outside. Don't go back in until your teacher or another responsible adult says it’s okay.
Don’t forget to practice fire drills at home, too!
“Knowing what to do is the key to surviving a fire emergency,” says Fire Marshal Rossiter. “Fire drills help children and adults feel more comfortable with the noise, the activity and the process, so if a real fire occurs, everyone will be able to respond in a calm, organized manner.”
Officials from the Fire Marshal’s Office will be conducting fire drill assessments at Island schools beginning mid-September. For more information about fire safety for everyone

Social stories are AWESOME!! have a look at some of these, and use them if they would work, if not, use as a guide to create one that would work for you.

This site has A LOT of great social stories to download, so the link is for all of them, fire drill specifically is in lthird & last column to the right, 9th one down. Great resource.

This link also has some great tips & info on it. have a look. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Keep Calm & School On!!-It's that time again.

 Well we took a big break from the blog over the summer months, but will get back into the swing of it with the new school year, kicking off here on the Island today. We certainly hope you had a great summer. I hope you had a chance to relax, make memories, take the time to spend with loved ones & friends. Hope you explored your communities, walked some beaches, jumped in some waves, had campfires & took in some festivals in new corners of the Island. Hope you also had a chance to get ready for the transition back into school. As we are all aware, it can be a difficult one. It's sometimes hard to know, what you need to be 'ready'. I am sure at times, it feels like you have too much at hand, and whatever tools you have created, are not what your house and back-to-schooler needs!! that's O.K. You will figure it out. Give it a try, if it's not working, then shelf it for another moment and pull out a new visual, checklist, PEC schedule, or as my son requested this morning, a tape recording of what he needs to do..

good idea I said..putting that ' to pick up' on my list..sigh...Talking picture frames were always a great hit, and I know you can get a tape recorder with the ability to record a short message, that may help- as my very nice looking visual checklist in the bathroom was completely ignored, I am moving onto plan 'b'. 

I do love the month of September, with the crispness to the air and the opportunities abound for our children. Let's make this the best year yet. We will start the cyber chat's again this month, and stay in contact with each other, so we can help support and brainstorm ideas. Hope each of your back to schoolers, comes off the bus, or meets you at the door, feeling good about themselves and the first day of school 2016!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"What's GoingOn" on PEI-enjoy exploring & making memories

WOW! Summer is flying by and I have not been on the ball keeping the blog updated!! The boys are adjusting to summer schedules, one camp is winding down and another in a few weeks. There's been trips to the beach, some more successful than others. Transitions are always going to be an issue, regardless of the season or reason, but I certainly find that Summer seems to throw everyone off a wee little more. You may need to use visual schedules more, check lists, weekly calendar on the fridge, so everyone knows who is supposed to be where when. Another good tool to use is a small tape recorder, that can have the message recorded on it about what is happening, then your son or daughter can listen to it as often as they want. Or video tape a short message, on your phone, that can be accessed as often as needs be, and removes the constant asking and verbal back and forth, that sometimes creates more anxiety. Creating tools such as these can really support and reduce anxiety levels. Hope it helps!! 

On another note, here's a great link to what is "Going ON" on PEI. This is really a great resource to find out what is happening on the Island, in your community, village, or in neighboring ones, where you can take day trips and plan your staycations!! Our Island is always bursting in the Summer, lots to take in, experience and share with family & friends. Hope you all have a chance to do some day trips and make memories. 

There is certainly lots happening, from one tip of the Island to another. Take some time to have a look, and plan your day, weekend, or week ahead. Many blessings & travel safe. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Canada Day activities on the Island! Lots to do!

 End of the school year, and fast on the heels is Canada Day this week. What a way to bookend the last week of June and kick off our summer!! There are lots of great things happening across the Island, at many venues, communities, variety of activities, for many interests. Please click on the link for "Going On" PEI and have a look. You & the fam jam may enjoy hanging out at home and try to have a quieter celebration as well.I am hoping to do some beach combing and looking for sea glass. Perhaps this will be the summer I find the elusive red or purple....
Where ever your celebrations take you, may it be fun, peaceful and take the time to be thankful for living in this great County. A Canada that many are dedicated to ensuring all Canadians are included.