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Sunday, 29 May 2016

Working with Children | Helpful Interventions

This post is for the teacher, carers, parents, guardians or anyone who works with or has young children.

I had a difficult time at school. Let's say I was a late bloomer; I needed a little bit more support to succeed and a little extra effort on my part and my family's part to get where I am now! I currently work with young children with Autism and in my four years working with these children I have learnt so much and empathise with the difficulties they face at school day in day out. 

The interventions and support that is put in place for these children I feel (as a child without Autism) would have been so beneficial to myself and so I would like to share some strategies I use in the ASD unit that would be useful for any child, especially children who find school a scary overwhelming place just like I did.
Disclaimer: Every child is an individual; one size does not fit all. I am just giving you some suggestions, not proclaiming what will work for your child. 

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 Expectations 

As a child, I was in constant worry of the unknown. Most children live in the moment but some overthink what might happen past that moment. Life is unpredictable but we can hold on to things that won't change such as understanding boundaries and how people will react to things we do. Children with Autism find this difficult to understand; to see the world through someone else's perspective and of course Children without Autism have to learn this too (they just learn and relate at a speedier pace). 

Laying out a schedule of expected activities/tasks/jobs etc may help children to feel a little more in control of their anxieties. Visual is best! Pictures reinforce meaning- perhaps the child can draw out their own pictures to tailor the schedule to their own lives and the people they are likely to meet at each step.





You can break any amount of time down using schedules. My examples are centered around a school day but could be for morning to bed time routine or home life and extra curricula activities.
You can include elements of unpredictability in a schedule visually showing a 'change' or an unknown space of time that can prepare the child to apply their 'keeping calm' strategies.



Yes this may of course give rise to concern for particular events ahead but this will allow them to voice the worries and to talk through with you their often trivial worries surrounding particular events. Having someone to talk to who is realistic but does not brush you aside is key. (thank you Mum!) 

They must have your time. That is what children crave; your time with them. It is so important to listen to them - even if it appears trivial.

There is such a thing as a Social Story: a child-friendly description of activities or situations that focuses on what the individual can expect and how to behave. Often written in either the first-person or third-person. These are tailor-made for each child, easy to read at their level and gives ideas of what the child could do. It is a tool that we use to give ideas for when I child needs to calm down or needs sensory feedback and what socially appropriate ways they can use to achieve this. 

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If there is a trip or new upcoming event that the child will be participating in (a trip to the theatre for example that involves getting on a bus, and new different otherwise unknown experiences) the social story can map out each step of the trip and when the trip will be over (and social demands expected from the child will cease). 

First and Then is an invaluable language and visual tool; setting out the expectations of what the child must do now for their reward and/ or more desired activity afterwards "First work, then play". It's so simple yet so clear at making your expectation to the child and allow them some predictability in this unpredictable world! 

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It also stops them from protesting against doing the first activity especially if you break it down: "Get 3 smiley faces and the activity is finished". This gives the one in authority control over the particular often undesired activity. Just do remember how ever much the child protests and makes life hell for you during that time do follow through with the 'then' activity so that in future uses of this tool the child will know that there is always a good ending! 

 

There is alot more that I can share with you all! If these are helpful I will endevour to post more ideas and tips for working with children and dealing with different and challenging behaviours.