Alison Wombwell, a national autism and ADHD workshop trainer shares her tips on how to make everyday activities easier if you have a child with autism.
An example would be if it’s the school holidays and you think that the weather might not be the best, don’t promise your children you will take them to a particular place if you know it may not happen. I know it isn’t easy, trust me! It’s always best to have an alternative suggestion on hand, and possibly even a visual if needs be, if your child’s timetable needs to change.
I know you already know that, but again we often think that our children may cope in certain situations without particular items but I think it’s crucial to carry around a little sensory bag in case the going does get tough.
Ear defenders/headphones with something they like to listen to on, an item to fidget with, sunglasses, a chew buddy or food that they may like to crunch or nibble on, a fabric/small cushion for your child to touch and lastly if your child needs some kind of device to concentrate on that actually prevents them from going into crisis then you pick your battles. No-one can judge.
I know, I know, it’s not always possible. I’ve come across these at trampoline parks, leisure centres, bowling alleys, the Alan Shearer Centre, relaxed cinema screenings, outdoor spaces. I will say, though, that not everyone is fortunate enough to have access to places like these and not all companies have had the training to understand our children. This is something I’m happy to help with too.
As I said, use social stories to prepare for change – appointments, changes in school – they don’t always work. Sometimes it may seem like we are rewarding our children for what other parents would deem to be a negative behaviour; WE’RE NOT. We are simply wanting to prevent a negative situation from becoming a possible meltdown or crisis. Autistic children are not being naughty at this point, they’ve reached fight or flight, and it is often down to complete sensory overload. Often displaying behaviours in this way can be a way of communicating and saying I have had enough.
Listen to your child. I always say to parents/carers “you know your child better than anyone else”. They may not speak but their behaviours and actions can tell you so much. Autistic children know more than they let on at times.
NEVER judge, they can pick up on if you are anxious and they can pick up other people’s reactions and expressions more than we realise.
I believe it is important to teach all of our children to be kind. I think it’s crucial that from an early age children are taught about diversity. As they grow up, this will help them learn not to judge others or discriminate because someone has a disability. I believe that as parents, our role is to teach our children to be kind to people, to sit with the child eating alone at the dinner table at school, to play with the child walking around alone, and most importantly, whether that child does have a disability or not, to be their friend and make them feel included.
My name is Alison Wombwell, I am the founder of Chasing Rainbows – I am her voice CIC. I am a recently diagnosed adult with Autism and ADHD (2019). I have two daughters with a diagnosis of Autism and ongoing diagnosis of ADHD. I have battled with mental health problems throughout my life, including anorexia and anxiety disorder which lead me to finally receive my recent diagnosis.
Chasing Rainbows was set up in 2019, initially as a social media blog called I am her voice – Our Autism Journey. This led me to set up my own company which helps to support families, children and adults, both pre and post-diagnosis, through support groups, emotional wellbeing support therapy and group intervention. I am also a nationwide Autism and ADHD workshop trainer helping to inform, advise and support families, professionals, organisations and businesses by teaching them about my own personal and professional experience. I also work as an early years SEND consultant, help support businesses to become more inclusive and most importantly I am a mum to two amazing little girls. I am literally their voice!
I will be writing regularly for High Life North, discussing Women’s Mental Health and the subjects I often deliver training on. I will bring you regular information about what it’s like to be a mum of children with additional needs, as well as discussing holidays, birthdays, food, my home and what I do at work. I will also be able to answer questions from parents, grandparents, carers and professionals around anything that I may have discussed in the column.
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