A few weeks ago I wrote a post about challenging behaviours. A month or so later I was invited on a course for parents covering how to deal with physically challenging behaviours. These courses are very difficult for parents to access, most run for professionals only, supposedly for reasons of ‘health and safety’. Presumably it’s okay to have parents bashed around providing they’re not trained in how to deal with it. Anyway I declined saying that Archie didn’t really have any physically challenging behaviours.
Of course I had tempted fate and about two weeks later Archie started to become pretty physically challenging. Autism has a way of doing this. Just when you think you have everything sorted, just when you think you are trundling through life quietly and happily a massive great autism spanner is thrown in the works. Actually that’s unfair, in this case the spanner is probably the p word (puberty), together perhaps with some anxieties around the upcoming summer holiday. Archie knows he’s about to lose his daily and weekly routine. He also knows we have visitors arriving soon – which he enjoys, but perhaps almost too much as he starts to find it hard to wait or think about anything else in the meantime.
Anyway whatever the reason Archie has started to become really quite angry for the first time. The talker is helping with this, in that we can sit and discuss ways of dealing with feelings of anger. Today we actually had what I would call a conversation about it and I am certain that Archie does understand that hitting and shouting at people is wrong. That’s the first stage of redirecting it, something that we were also able to talk about, with him having an active voice in that conversation and able to contribute ideas. He’s also learning to describe behaviours and emotions. He can describe himself as ‘cross’ or ‘angry’ and recognise it in others. He can talk about undesirable behaviours such as hitting. This is quite a leap forward, we haven’t previously had the ability really to talk about difficult moments after they have happened.
Yesterday we had a somewhat challenging time at the beach. The journey there was relaxed until about five minutes before we arrived when Archie started shouting at me and trying to hit me. This continued at the beach and outside the surf school when we went to say hello. Jon from Discovery Surf took one look at Archie and decided to take him surfing, both to try and calm him and give me a bit of a break. The Archie who was handed back to me after his surf session was definitely calmer albeit still somewhat cross. He did well in his lesson, I was on the dogs allowed bit of the beach with Mad Dog and only my phone camera to hand, but if you squint hard at the second photo you might be able to see Archie riding into the beach standing alone. This is real progress. Afterwards he had a chat to the lifeguards, had lunch pretty quietly (only shouting at me for forgetting to pick up the tomato sauce) and then was pretty well behaved going home.
Yesterday was a difficult day, and I’m sure there will be more as we negotiate adolescence, but it was certainly made easier with some surfing and the increased access to communication via the Vantage Lite. It meant there were some good bits, and the day was in a way, salvaged. I am very grateful to Jon and Annika at Discovery Surf School who arranged for Archie to have a lesson at such short notice, to Surf Relief who along with direct payments part fund Archie’s surfing and of course to the anonymous talker donor. We notice the difference the talker and surfing has made on the difficult days as well as the good ones.
Incidentally another course on dealing with physically challenging behaviours will be run for parents in the autumn. Please get in touch if you would like to be kept informed of dates.