Linda Woodcock is the co-author author of the title Managing Family Meltdown: The Low Arousal Approach and Autism, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. She is the National Lead on Parent and Family Training for The Studio III Group, an organization specializing in non-aversive behaviour management. Linda also has a son on the autism spectrum with challenging behaviours.
As a parent of a child with autism, what do you think are the main challenges faced by parents with children on the spectrum?
There are so many challenges, first of all coming to terms with the diagnosis, we often spend so much time and energy trying to get news that we really don’t want to hear and then we wish we could put back the clock as when the diagnosis is given our lives change forever. The next stage is wading throught the complexity of what autism is and how it affects our children, (this is a continuous process) We are then expected to become experts in the education, social care and benefits system and so the fight begins. Looking back now I am able to see the positives but in the early years life was just one long rollercoaster ride and all we could do was hold on tight!!
Your new book is based upon the “the low arousal approach” can you please tell us a bit about this approach and how it can help to manage meltdowns?
The low arousal approach is based on three assumptions firstly that most individuals who are distressed are extremely aroused at the time, therefore we should avoid doing anything to make it worse. Secondly, a large proportion of distressed behaviours are usually preceded by demands or requests and we should therefore reduce these as much as possible and finally most communication is non verbal and so we should be aware of the signals we communcate to our children when they (and us) are upset.
Can you tell us about your work with the Studio III group and the work they do?
Studio 3 is a training and clinical service, which was founded 15 years ago by our Director Dr Andy McDonnell, Clincial Psychologist. We offer training to staff and families in Positive Behaviour Management, we also work with individuals who challenge services and offer Psychological assessments and help staff to devise support plans using the low arousal approach. We are based in the UK but work in many other countries including Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and South Africa.
How do you think the public perception of autism has changed over the last ten years?
The public perception of autism has changed greatly over the last ten years, with more children accessing mainstream education they have become more visible, and autism is no longer percieved to be just about the isolated self absorbed silent child, however I don’t think their general understanding has greatly increased. Any parent will tell you that a large part of their energy is spent on educating the public, teachers, medical professionals and wider family about their child and their needs.
What are you currently reading in your spare time?
Well I have just finished The Time Travellers Wife which was beautiful, but as I am about to start the second year of my Masters degree I will be reading the rather large text book which has just been delivered to my door! Colin Robson, Real World Research. I don’t expect I’ll have time for any light reading this year.
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