Princess D and “Supporting an autistic child beyond domestic abuse” via @alwayshopesally #ThisIsAutism

By | April 29, 2014

D simply could not wait to get to school this morning, she was to be a princess in her class assembly commemorating St George’s Day. The instruction from her teacher was to wear all her “finery” and, Claire’s Accessory tiara at the ready, she positively bounced into school.

I wish we’d been able to see the assembly, but I know there are pupils who are unable to cope with the change to routine that seeing a parent in school brings, D is quite the opposite but rules are rules. It was lovely to see her so excited about it all.

According to her this afternoon, the “dragon” roared on demand and St George was also very brave.

She was also “star of the day” in class so a very positive day all round.

Unfortunately a bit of angst has crept in over tomorrow’s monthly injection, luckily D is aware that it is all over very quickly, it’s still painful for her though. We are extremely fortunate that the school nurse has taken over administration of this, it does prevent added stress from stranger anxieties within the waiting area.

We are extremely fortunate that, with prompts and patience, she will (eventually) express her feelings and troubles.

This Is Autism

Tonight’s guest post comes from Sally at @alwayshopesally and it contains some very good advice regarding support. I’m glad that her and her children have come through what must have been an incredibly challenging time and thank her for sharing this.

Seven ways to support a child with autism through leaving an abusive relationship

“My eldest son has high functioning autism. He is also a victim of domestic abuse. So am I and my two younger children.

Statistics tell us that divorce rates are higher for parents of children with autism. That one in ten people has autism and that one third of all children will experience domestic abuse. Therefore it stands to reason that there will be lots of other children with autism out there living with the effects of Domestic Abuse.

So here are seven things I learned from my experience about how to help an autistic child cope in the aftermath of an abusive home. Many of these tips are useful for helping a child with autism to cope with any stressful situation, and most of them are things you probably do in normal everyday life. It’s good to re-visit them in times of crisis though, because as I have found out, everything you know can suddenly dessert you as you try to cope.

1. Routine. Routine. Routine.

Routines give all children a sense of security but even more so for children with autism. Take a look at your routines and keep as many as possible. In addition I found it helpful to create new routines and traditions. They don’t have to be highly complex or rigid, something as simple as always making chocolate milk or a hot chocolate after a trip to the park was comforting for my son.

2. Be honest and keep them informed.

My son gets very distressed if he is unclear about what is going on. So I have always tried to be honest (whilst age appropriate) about our situation. Rather than try to protect him from the reality of what has happened to him I think it is better to honestly talk about it and equip him to deal with any unexpected events that may occur. If you have prepared your child for the difficult situations you know will happen they will feel less distressed when something unexpected happens. One caveat to this though is know when to shut up, I have learned to be led by my son because sometimes he doesn’t want to hear it.

3. Encourage secure relationships.

Put as many familiar faces and people who love him in his life as possible. Especially if you end up with involvement from the police and social services your child is going to suddenly have to interact with lots of new and unfamiliar adults. This can be difficult for a child with autism but having lots of familiar people around as well can ease this. My family have been a Godsend in supporting my son. They remind him daily he is loved and safe and secure.

4. Don’t insult the other parent.

Emotions are difficult enough to understand for a child with autism without having to grasp the difficult concept of your complex feelings about their abusive parent. Condemn the behaviour “it’s not right to shout at people like that, I don’t like it when people shout” “it’s not right that he hurt you, nobody should hurt you” but don’t insult the person.

5. Encourage and allow them space to explore their feelings.

This is tough because you cannot make them talk. I find that when we’re driving in the car is when my son opens up the most so I try to make sure I get to take him out on his own as much as I can. Find your child’s space where they feel safe and comfortable, let them lead the conversation and listen, validate their feelings, but don’t push them to talk if they don’t want to. I also got a children’s worker from women’s aid and would recommend this highly, but make sure they have a good understanding of autism. You’re probably used to educating professionals on your child’s needs anyway, I know I am.

5. Keep boundaries in place.

If something was wrong before it’s still wrong now. If you’ve been working on addressing a particular behaviour or developing a particular skill don’t stop. Remember children with autism rely on rules to understand how society works, they don’t understand what’s expected of them if goalposts move. You might think you’re being kind to your child to ‘give them a bit more slack’ when they’re going through it but it’s not a kindness if it creates confusion, consistency is key.

6. Find time to have fun.

You probably don’t feel like doing fun stuff. If you’re anything like me coming out of an abusive relationship will leave you wanting to plonk the kids in front of the TV while you curl up and hide under a duvet. But don’t- at least not all the time. I also know how daunting it can be taking a child with autism out for the day. But sit down in advance and plan some fun time with your child. Maybe it will be painting a picture together or watching a movie or walking in the park. Find simple things that make you happy and enjoy each other’s company. Let your child see that life has improved and is better now. And remember whatever you have been through you have come out of it with an awesome, amazing child- enjoy their company.

7. LOVE.

This is the single most important thing to remember. All children going through abuse have a tendency to blame themselves or believe the negative things their abuser told them, they all have a tendency to feel unloved. What they need more than anything is to know they are loved by the remaining parent (or caregiver) It can be difficult to show an autistic child you love them if they won’t let you give them a hug or they look blank when you tell them you love them. But find your child’s love language. What makes them feel special and unique? What makes them feel happy? Make sure you show them affection in whatever way they respond to at every given opportunity.

I hope these have helped, really it’s just a reminder to think about the strategies you know have always worked for your child and keep them in place; you probably know better than anyone what will help your child. It’s horrific to know your child has been abused and it’s horrendous to watch them go through the pain it brings. But there is light at the end of the tunnel and they can get through this. Even though change is difficult for children with autism, if you are in an abusive situation taking control and changing that situation is always the best thing to do. My son is stronger, more emotionally intelligent and happier now than I ever thought possible.

If you would like to read further about healing from abuse my blog is at alwayshopefulandnotabused.blogspot.co.uk.

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2 Comments

rebecca beesley on 1st May 2014 at 1:32 pm.

sorry to hear you’ve been through something so difficult. I think there generally need to be a lot more family support that goes alongside a diagnosis of autism – but i know in reality that isn’t going to happen because it is enough of a battle getting direct support for the diagnosed child. Your tips are great – and as you say – relevant generally to ASD too. x

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Jeannette on 11th May 2014 at 3:12 pm.

Thanks Rebecca x

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