The most basic system of all life is to breathe.
When Jay was non-verbal, I was always trying to come up with new ways to explain things to him, as he had limited comprehension on what was being said to him and no language to communicate his thoughts to us either. I wanted to convey a method of calming him down using breathing and movement. However I couldn’t explain this to Jay in a way he would understand. So, I came up with what we called the Dandelion Technique! At this time Jay loved the childhood fun of dispersing the seeds of the Dandelion by blowing air from the mouth to spread the seeds around. One day on a walk he was doing just this as the above picture shows, and I suddenly thought I can use this! The next time Jay showed anxiety and was close to meltdown I said to him ” blow the dandelion seeds Jay” I showed him how and took an in-breath, and then blew an out-breath and Jay copied me. I noticed straightaway that he seemed visibly calmer and the meltdown did not come as he repeated the technique five times. This became our strategy from then on afterwards whenever we saw Jay was beginning to get anxious or pre-meltdown we would say it to him and hold up a finger to be the Dandelion. He would respond and in time he began to ask for the Dandelion as if he was learning how to self-regulate. I shared the technique with our child Psychologist and he said he had never thought of it and he didn’t know of anyone who did this but that if it worked it was a fab idea. At this time Jay was five so his development age was baby age so as you can imagine simply telling him to stop it or to calm down would mean absolutely nothing to him. When Jay becomes anxious due to a sensory overload, we can see it. Its in the way he breathes, and the quickness of it. Its in his complexion as he goes red , and then the sudden explosion of the meltdown as it happens so quickly. Its imperative that we intervene to help him. These days at age eight he can feel this himself coming on and so can take steps to self-regulate.
Through the years since diagnosis we have had many ideas given to us by Psychologists at hospital and in school, also Occupational Therapy which was the most helpful and Speech Therapy . These professionals trained us to “de-sensitize” Jay when out in the busy, noisy world and at home. Here are some photos of Jay with his de-sensitizing aids and we use these every single time we leave the house and in the home too.
We have used calming dark dens with lights, technology, ear defenders and a SEN buggy so he feels safe in places such as shopping centres and caps and dark glasses to stop the glare of lights. Believe me, we have had stares and glances and you just know people are thinking why is that big boy ( and Jay is very tall) in that buggy at his age? Once again we are hit with the almost impossible task of educating people as to the fact that not all disabilities are visible! Just because Jay can walk doesn’t mean he can cope with it! If I tried to walk Jay in a busy town without ear defenders he would go into meltdown due to the noise and sights and people. If I was to walk him through a busy shopping centre without his SEN buggy he would shut down into a meltdown and I would not be able to move him as he is as I say a big child for his age. I know people who have children with Autism will understand when I say, for us. one of the most difficult and challenging parts of being a SEN parent is dealing with other people’s reactions to your child and as I said in my earlier post its so hard. I’ve read that many parents feel lonely and isolated and wont leave the house because of the reactions of other people and, at times children, to their child! This is one of my most important objectives of this blog! We must change this we have to, for the sake of the thousands of children and adults on the Autism Spectrum who are feeling lost and alone due to their condition not being respected or understood within communities! Autism exists in every single culture and country in the world. There are literally millions with it so surely the time needs to come when Autism and other Disabilities too are truly understood, respected and finally accepted?
Next time- Delayed Processing and the Delayed Effect