A Light Touch – Understanding Autism

Jonas Torrance provides creative therapy & behaviour support for autistic children. His first book, Therapeutic Adventures with Autistic Children: Connecting through Movement, Play and Creativity is published by JKP on 21st May. Here, Jonas describes a case study in which a little understanding went a long way.

Jamie, an autistic boy, is in maths. The boy behind him begins to absentmindedly stroke Jamie’s back with a pencil. He lets the pencil drift up, and then back down. Jamie starts twisting in his seat, shouting and tearing off his clothes. The maths lesson descends into chaos.

A few days later, Jamie is able to explain why he was so distressed – the sensations of the pencil on his back made him think that the whole back wall of the classroom was collapsing, and that he was about to be crushed to death.

autistic childrenThese days there is a good deal of understanding around the sensory issues that autistic children face. Ear defenders, for example, have become a common accessory for those with sensitivity to sound. But it’s important to realise that, to the autistic child, the ear defenders are not simply useful for reducing noise levels. The tightness of the headphones is also a factor – for some children this pressure gives them the sense of their heads being held together and contained. Continue reading

PDA by PDAers

Fittingly, Sally Cat’s first ever blog piece is about her first book, PDA by PDAers, which is out now. Here, she describes how the online support and discussion group that fuelled the book came about and flourished, despite her PDA sometimes getting in the way. 

I’ve been thinking about writing a blog for a while.  I’m good with words, have opinions and an understanding of PDA, but my PDA (pathological demand avoidance) has actually scuppered me into a kind of helpless paralysis. Demand Avoidance has told me that blog writing is “too difficult”.  It says, “you’ll get lost and waffle on irrelevantly”; “people will be bored”; “it would take up too much time” and this negative brush with which my subliminal demand avoidance has painted the concept of blog writing has left me feeling terrified of even trying.  However, JKP have invited me to write a blog to coincide with the launch of my book, PDA by PDAers, and (after much avoiding and, in facing it, feeling physically sick) here goes!PDA

PDA to me is a wondrous, many faceted beast.  I equate it to a tiger in the introduction to PDA by PDAers where I say that thinking of PDA as merely comprising Demand Avoidance is akin to thinking of tigers as comprising only stripes.  We PDAers, as I have come to know us, have metaphorical teeth, claws and bodies finely honed for leaping too. We experience extreme, hard-wired anxiety, which we tend to feel compelled to mask (for, I believe, equally hard-wired reasons).  We fight injustice and fearlessly defend victimised people and animals. We have wonderful imaginations and breadth of lateral thinking. We have our own minds and think out our own, well-considered codes of ethics. We are vulnerable though to social pressures and need personal control and quiet space in order to thrive.  There is a myth-conception amongst the few who are aware of PDA that we feel no shame during meltdown, but this is untrue. Melting down is involuntary and we observe ourselves in mute horror then, once our meltdowns are over, tend to hide our shame behind involuntary masks. Continue reading

PDA Action Day – Positive PDA

PDA day

The PDA Society are encouraging everyone to mark today, 15th May, as PDA Day! The theme is ‘Positive PDA’ and in keeping with that, they’ll be focusing on success stories, recognising all those who are making great contributions to the PDA world, highlighting some of the positives of living with PDA and showcasing the accomplishments of adult PDAers. As well as this, you’re all invited to get involved by fundraising, sharing stories, or joining their peaceful protest.

We’re joining in by sharing some of the resources we’ve published over the years, and a sneak peek at what’s coming up throughout 2018. PDA has been a big focus for JKP this year, and will continue to be as more is learned and understood about the diagnosis, and more stories are shared. So, take a look through our old, new, and upcoming books on PDA.  Continue reading

Fifteen Things They Forgot to Tell You About Autism

Co-editor of the not for profit parenting magazine, AuKids, Debby Elley has now written her first parenting guide, Fifteen Things They Forgot to Tell You About Autism: The Stuff That Transformed My Life as an Autism Parent. Here on our blog, she describes the book and its aims in her own words. 

I’ll let you into a secret. It’s not really fifteen things, it’s a lot more. My son Bobby calls it Fifteen Things YOU TOTALLY MISSED About Autism, but the thing is, you’d be forgiven for missing them. No-one tells you what it’s important to know. You sort of find out the hard way. That is, with time and effort and sometimes a few tears.

Fifteen Things… is the sort of book that I could only write having amassed a decent body of evidence from my own experience of raising twins. It’s now 12 years since they were diagnosed and I’m one of those parents who can look back with the benefit of hindsight and tell myself where I went wrong. That’s no fun at all, so I thought that I’d prefer instead to tell those at the beginning of this learning curve where they can go right.

Fifteen Things

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The perfect job – book extract

As you might already know, we’re marking Autism Awareness Month throughout April by sharing a series of blog posts on books by, for, and about autistic adults. Featuring personal stories from those with Asperger’s Syndrome, Sarah Hendrickx’s book, Asperger Syndrome & Employment highlights successful scenarios and provides suggestions for employers and those in search of work. This extract looks at key criteria which can be helpful to think about. 

Is there any such thing as the perfect job? Or is this an oxymoron? A suitable job is one which allows best use of specific skills and minimises the areas of weakness. Lone working, excellent factual memory, logical analysis and problem-solving are likely strengths for someone with AS. Jobs which have been suggested to be more suitable for those with AS include:

  • aspergerpostman – lone working, lack of pressure, involves exercise
  • gardener – lone working, lack of pressure, physical work (can be relaxing)
  • IT technician – lone working, technical precision required, problem solving
  • software engineer – problem solving, working to precise specifications
  • photographer – creative, lone working, using technical skills
  • researcher – analytical, focused, detail-driven
  • accountant – proficiency with numbers, accuracy
  • librarian – system focused, excellent factual memory
  • piano tuner – perfect pitch, lack of pressure, lone working, specialist interest

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Forest School and Autism

Upon the release of his book, Forest School and Autism, we spoke to author and practitioner Michael James about what exactly Forest School involves, and why it’s so well suited for autistic learners. 

What exactly is meant by the term ‘Forest School’?

The term “Forest School” describes a specific approach to outdoor learning. Forest School has a strong ethos of learner-centered practice combined with an understanding of the benefits to wellbeing which come from regular contact with nature. Forest School is attended by people of all ages and abilities.

forest school

How is Forest School suited to the needs of autistic people?

Well, I’m always very aware of the saying “If you’ve met one person with autism, then you’ve met one person of autism”! The learner-centered ethos of Forest School seeks to accommodate the individual needs of different learners, and this flexibility can allow autistic learners the space to be themselves and engage on their own terms. This space includes the physical space of natural settings, which is far greater than in indoor settings, and also there is more space in time afforded by the Forest School approach. In my experience, this approach can suit autistic learners very well. Another strength of Forest School is the heightened awareness of place which can encourage practitioners to consider the sensory environment which is obviously important when learners have different sensory needs. For Forest School to best meet the needs of autistic learners the practitioner needs to develop autism awareness, and this book aims to promote and encourage that.

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Autism & Ageing – book extract

The latest in our blog series for Autism Awareness Month, we’re looking at Wenn Lawson’s excellent book for autistic adults. The first book to look seriously at the practical issues facing older adults with autism, Wenn Lawson’s groundbreaking handbook Older Adults and Autism Spectrum Conditions offers support, advice, and sensible ways in which to look at the issues. In this extract, Wenn uses himself as a case study.

autistic adults

As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed a few changes related to ASC that are relevant to this discussion. I’ve divided them into physical setting, emotional wellbeing and social setting, though clearly each overlap.

Physical setting

This broad topic includes health and mobility at home, outside home, at work, using public transport, and visiting family and friends.

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Coming Home to Autism

New book Coming Home to Autism takes a room-by-room approach to guide the parents of a newly diagnosed child through day-to-day family life. There are ideas and routines to try at home, including advice on toilet training, diet and nutrition, sensory play, and much more. We sat down with co-authors Tara Leniston and Rhian Grounds to find out more…

Congratulations on the publication of your first book! We want to let our readers know a bit more about it, so, can you tell us who this book is for? Who did you have in mind when you were writing it?

Tara – When my son was diagnosed with autism 5 years ago, I was looking for a book like this. I needed simple practical advice that was easy to read, and something I could use at home.  All the books that were available at the time were either very medical based, diaries of other people’s journeys, or books on pointing fingers as to why your child had autism.  I was very fortunate that I lived in the London borough of Wandsworth at the time Dylan was diagnosed, and I had access to the best help. I was also in a position where I could throw myself fully in to learning all about autism and Dylan. While I was writing I was thinking of all the information I wish I’d had in one place – as opposed to spending hours, weeks and months researching and wasting a lot of money on things that didn’t really help at all.

Rhian – Yes, as Tara says, it was written for families with younger children and those children with a relatively recent diagnosis. I was constantly thinking back to all the families I have worked with, what they said was most useful during their sessions and what they wished they had more advice on. I was also thinking of all the other professionals I have worked with over the years and how their knowledge has contributed to helping children and families consider and plan for all their child needs; from the day to day activities, sleep and communication. This book really is a combination of all those experiences and expertise.

autism

How did you discover your shared desire to help and advocate for autistic children?

Rhian – My career has been dedicated to working with all ages with ASD. I have worked, volunteered and supported autism awareness campaigns. At the same time Tara was raising money for the National Autistic Society; launching herself off buildings, clearly advocating for Dylan and autistic children! She was also supporting local families with advice and signposting them to resources and services. Through our common desire to advocate and consider ASD as part of our families and communities we developed a friendship.

Tara – I gave up my career as an actress to help Dylan and I threw myself in to learning all about autism and how I could help others in the same situation as us. The autism community is a fantastic group of supportive people, families and professionals. I believe Dylan brought Rhian and I together to write this book.

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Anxiety and the Autism Spectrum – book extract

As it’s Autism Awareness Month, we’re sharing a series of key extracts from some of our best and most popular books for autistic adults here on the blog. You may have already seen the extract from An Adult With an Autism Diagnosis which we shared recently, and below is an extract from The Guide to Good Mental Health on the Autism Spectrum. This short extract focuses on anxiety and autism, and we hope gives a good idea of what readers can expect from this book. 

The high rate of anxiety disorders among people on the autism spectrum may be due in part to the issues that people with autism spectrum conditions have to contend with in being part of the ‘neurotypical’ world. On a daily basis, autistic people have to make sense of a world that is extremely hard to decipher, deal with sensory overload (and worry about potential sensory overload), and navigate an often hostile and incomprehensible social world. All of these experiences can contribute significantly to a person’s anxiety levels. In addition, the autistic traits of perfectionism, preference for structure/routine and repetitive behaviours can all add to the levels of anxiety. In trying to make sense of the world, people with autism often want to imagine the outcomes of events or situations that involve them.anxiety
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Autism as Difference Not Disorder: Insights from the Author

Drawing on 30 years of professional experience and detailed research, Difference Not Disorder: Understanding Autism Theory in Practice exposes the myths around autism and provides practical guidance on teaching and learning, behaviour management, addressing sensory and physical needs of children with ASD.

Difference Not Disorder

Our recognition and understanding of autism forms a recent story in terms of human knowledge. In my lifetime this story gained momentum, hastening to the current perception of autism as neurological in nature. However, across the globe this neurological nature, viewed at-odds with the neuro-typical one, is considered impaired or disordered. The over-arching aim of this book was to question this assumption while posing an alternative view of difference not disorder because of all the children I had the honour to work with, children with autism were some of the bravest.

disorder

There are limitless ways in which I witnessed their bravery. They included venturing every day out into a world with incomprehensible social rules and codes in which lack of or inappropriate response could result in unwelcome, verbal attention or even confusing reprimand. It also included perpetually manoeuvring through sights, sounds and textures that could overwhelm and/or aggravate the senses often without being able to express mounting stress and distress; and/or experiencing revulsions towards some tasks but compulsions towards others in situations where you had no idea of the duration or scheduling of either.

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