Category Archives: child development

Towards an improved understanding and acceptance of Autism

Today’s Daily Prompt: What change, big or small, would you like your blog to make in the world?

not-a-disease

I want my blog to add to the growing sources of information about Autism. A lot of people with Autism are misunderstood since much of the popular beliefs about the condition is influenced by the media and out-dated studies. While a lot of these sources are correct and positive, they often fail to account for the differences between individuals with Autism.

Having worked with, taught and befriended people with Autism, I have become aware that Autism manifests differently. Each individual with Autism has his/ her own set of strengths and areas of needs that are unique to them. This reality tends to confuse people with little or no experience of Autism- ‘how can they have the same diagnosis but be completely different from each other?’ To be honest, I don’t know why this is the case. Nevertheless, what I found useful was to get to know each individual and respond to their needs and strengths accordingly.

By sharing my opinions, what I have read, listened to or watched, maybe I could increase people’s awareness, understanding and acceptance of Autism.

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10 Ways to Help Children to Manage their Anger

Anger is one of our primary emotions. We all feel it regularly, but very few of us know how to manage it. Just like us, some children also find anger management challenging. Children’s failure to appropriately manage their anger could lead to negative consequences such as being involved in physical altercations, damaged relationships, and/ or depression. What follows are what adults can do to help children manage their anger:

  1. Recognise and validate their feelings – Instead of telling them to stop being angry, say ‘ I know you’re angry because (for example) she called you names. That would probably make me feel angry too’. Validating their feelings can reduce the likelihood of them hiding their feelings from you. Let them know that it is alright to feel angry so that they don’t have to feel defensive. Also, not recognising their feelings may cause their anger to intensify as they bottle it up inside. Furthermore, talking to a child about their feelings will help build a trusting relationship between you.
  2. Empathise – Listen to what they say. Some incidents may appear less serious to you, which could lead you to discount their interpretations. This could lead to confusion or feelings of isolation on the part of the child. Encourage them to say what they feel.
  3. Teach children to self-monitor – Not all children would develop an understanding of the causes and cues of emotions. A lot of aggressive behaviour can be prevented if children are able to correctly recognise that they are feeling angry. Explicitly teach children about the sensations that accompany anger, such as being sweaty, clenching of jaws, shaking, dizziness, stomach ache, etc. Teach children to use a scale (e.g. 1-10, with 10 meaning they are about to hit someone), which can be used as a communication tool.
  4. Allow them to express and communicate their feelings in different ways- Some children may find speaking challenging as they might not have the necessary vocabulary to articulate what they feel. Allow them to express their feelings through drawing/ painting, writing, and/ or other ways which are safe.
  5. Teach them ways of calming down – This can be done by modelling. Whenever you get angry, talk to them about the reason and talk to them about how you would deal with it. For example, when driving you may say ‘I feel angry because that driver nearly hit our car. I am angry because we could have been hurt. But I will try to calm down by counting from 1 to 10’. Deep breaths, and other methods should also be taught.
  6. Bond with your child – This should be a given, but due to the busy lives that many of us lead, the opportunity for ‘bonding’ may be limited. However, it is important to bond with your child as it allows you to have a conversation which should be mostly positive. Reflecting on both of your days, on what you have just watched, read or heard can be a source of laughter.
  7. Look for and praise positive behaviour – If you’re reading this, it is highly likely that one or more of your children/students are behaving inappropriately due to poor anger management skills. Such children are prone to behaving aggressively which causes them to be told off most of the time. This may have created a negative image of certain children in your head, which causes you to only look for the bad behaviour. Change that now. Look for positive behaviours and appropriately praise them. Let them know that you are not there to criticise their every move. Let them know that you are there to help them.
  8. Establish clear standards for appropriate behaviour – Tell them what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. It is also important to be consistent with your standards.
  9. Collectively decide on reinforcements – The child(ren) and you should decide on the rewards and negative consequences of behaviour. Including children in the planning increases their likelihood of abiding by the rules. In addition, always remember that they are looking at you. You also need to behave appropriately and the rules should also apply to you.
  10. Remember that it takes time – Teaching children to manage their anger takes a long time. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that one can take to solve such a problem. However, your positive attitude and willingness to help them will go a long way!

Autism LinkFest

Autism: How new therapies are helping people with ASC – find out newly developed therapies that may help people with the condition. Be aware that not all of these therapies have been evaluated!

Food, clothes, transport, beds and ovens: the aid schools are giving UK pupils – poverty is everywhere. Schools find it difficult to ignore the signs of poverty in students, and are doing the best they can to help.

Girls and Autism – How does Autism affect girls and what can be done about it?

Preparing for Halloween – how can we prepare people with Autism for halloween?

I am not Kelli Stapleson – a brilliant piece written by a mom with unconditional love for her child

What can be done for adults with Autism? – there are not a lot of studies, provisions or help available for grown ups with Autism. The system seems to forget that kids with Autism grow up to be adults with Autism. What can be done?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Adventure (life)

Life is an adventure in itself. It’s the greatest, most challenging adventure there is. Survival, of course is the main goal whether it is your personal survival, that of your genes, species or the world. For me, nothing captures this as much as a portrait of a child (which in this case is my cousin) blissfully playing. 

 

To what extent would you influence children’s development, i.e. life adventure?

 

In response to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Adventure from dailypost

Top 10 Tips for Disciplining Children with Challenging Behaviour

When it comes to teaching and parenting, one of the most talked about topics is discipline and behaviour. Most of us expect children to behave in certain ways – with respect, listen and respond appropriately, have infrequent tantrums, etc. Getting children to behave in these ways is not always easy. Even though a lot of children respond to our unique ways of disciplining, a few of them may display more challenging behaviours that are persistent and could seem uncontrollable – from theirs and your point of view. Below is a list of strategies and tips that has worked for me in schools and different settings over the years.

(It may be usefult for you to read Understanding Children’s Behaviour as well)

10. Know what the triggers are – Every behaviour is triggered by something. Find out what it is.

Potential triggers:

  • Medical diagnosis  (Autism, ADHD, etc.)- Please note that I am not saying that having a diagnosis is an excuse or a ticket to behave badly. What I am saying is that a diagnosis provides a signpost on what interventions you could use.
  • Medication – some kids on Ritalin could become hyperactive as the medication wears off
  • Sensory Stimuli such as noise, certain smells, bright or dim lighting, temperature– Some children are very sensitive to sensory stimuli and tend to react in unconventional ways when they encounter an unbearable one. If they are not able to communicate this discomfort through words, they may act out.
  • Change in routine (substitute teacher/Teaching Assistant, cancelled or swapped classes)- This is not specific to children with Autism. I have encountered children with no diagnoses who were unsettled by changes in routine.
  • Home life- problems and/ or changes at home
  • Bullying– It is worth investigating whether your student in question is being bullied by others when you are not looking. Not all children will report bullying.
  • Relationship with classmates– Investigate their relationships with other children. Are they getting enough attention, and if so, what kind of attention are they getting? If they are not getting any attention, make sure that you find out why.

9. Find out what the student’s receptive and expressive language skills are.

A lot of our behaviours are forms of communication. If children are not able to verbally express what they are feeling (see above), there is an increased chance that they would ‘act it out’. This can also happen if they do not understand what the others are telling them. Some children struggle to read body language, understand people’s tone of voice and/ or metaphors. If this is the case, you can organise for them to have lessons wherein you or other professional(s) will explicitly teach them these things.

8. Give them chances to succeed.

Give small targets that are achievable by the students. Set them up to succeed. For example, instead of asking them to ‘be quiet inside the classroom at all times’, you could start by asking them to ‘try to be quiet during carpet times’ (Primary school) or ‘try to be quiet when the teacher is talking’.

7. Give praise that is specific, well-explained and well-earned.

Never give blanket praises such as ‘good job’, ‘excellent’, ‘well done’, unless they are followed by a brief explanation of why you said what you said. Let them know why and which part of their work is amazing. You could say for example: ‘well done for colouring within the lines’ instead of ‘good work’.

6. Approach them positively.

Try not to shout and try not to be negative. Humour definitely helps. If the children understand figures of speech and metaphors, sarcasm can be an excellent tool. I found that students of any age are more likely to listen and change their behaviour if I approach them positively.

5. Tell them what to do instead of what not to do.

There are a lot of research that suggests that if you tell someone to ‘not play on the stairs’, they would. This is because what registered in that person’s brain is ‘play on the stairs’. Even though some children will hear you loud and clear, chances are, they will not know what to do instead of the undesirable behaviour. Quite a lot of teachers always tell students ‘not to fight’, but a lot of these children may only know one way to behave. If this is the case, how can they behave appropriately if you are not telling them what tappropriate behaviour is?

4. Be consistent.

You should be firm and fair all the time. Punishments and rewards should be handed out consistently – not only when you feel like it.

3. Remember that behaviour can be changed.

The whole point of your efforts trying to make your students behave appropriately relies on your belief about behaviours and attitudes. If you believe that we were born with a set of attitudes that make us behave in a certain way which cannot be changed, you need to think again. Although genetics play a part in the development of our attitudes and behaviours, the people around us and our experiences also have big contributions. We should keep in mind that everyone is capable of changing, especially our students.

2. Communicate effectively with the children’s parents/ primary carers.

For any intervention to work, the children’s school and home should work in concert with each other. Although it may be a good start, it shouldn’t be enough that your students behave really well in school but throws tantrums and go wild at home (or vice versa). Having an effective professional relationship with your students’ parents/ carers is one of the most important factors in helping children behave appropriately. Regular communications through phone calls, emails, face-to-face meetings will help increase the likelihood that interventions will be carried out in both settings.

1. Set an example.

Kids will follow and copy your actions. If you practice what you preach, then you have won half the battle. Always remember that your students are far brighter than you think. They will start ignoring your advice and you will lose their respect if you do not walk your talk. Here are a few examples you can set:

  • Admit your mistakes publicly. You will make a mistake today- trust me. When you do, do not be ashamed to admit it.
  • Apologise to your students. When you make mistakes, say sorry. Explicitly let them know that even you can make mistakes, but your apology and subsequent actions are what matters most.
  • Respect your colleagues. Never say anything bad about your co-teachers, no matter what. Students notice how you treat other people and indirectly learn from your example.

Other bonus tips:

Get To Know Your Students Better

Positive Words and Phrases to Use in School