The importance of 'downtime' for individuals on the spectrum is significant.
Have you ever picked your child up from school and seen the difference in their behaviour?
They don't want to communicate with you, wont answer questions or perhaps have a meltdown either at the school gates or as soon as you walk back into your home?
I have certainly found after a tough day at school, family days out, birthday parties (if they were lucky enough to be invited) trying to 'fit in' with their surroundings or other children-both of my boys would struggle when they got home. I had one child that would cry uncontrollably for hours and another that would throw chairs and get very cross. How do you deal with that??
Well... It took a very long time for my husband and I to work out what the heck was going on. After researching several posts on the internet and reading a whole library worth of books, we figured that this is the after effect of keeping restraints on their natural behaviours, and at some point these had to be released. Take a look at this YouTube video
We started to become detectives and work out when these changes in behaviour were taking place and what our children did to release this tension. One of our children was obsessed with music so we watched the pattern- as soon as he returned from school, or family outing, he would go and lose himself in music for an hour or so.This then became his way of achieving self-regulation, and so we encouraged this whenever he was looking as though he was getting overwhelmed, or building up to throwing some kind of furniture :-(
We found this useful and purchased an MP3 player which of course needed to be upgraded to the state of the art Ipod to enable self- regulation whilst we were out. This seemed to release the tension prior to it building and significantly reduced the 'meltdowns' when we returned home.
Our youngest child on the other hand flits from interest to interest and this is still making self-regulation hard for him to achieve. We tend to let him have time alone ,usually in his room, watching YouTube. He then he is able to communicate with us and tell us about his day. Honestly, this young boy has several sensory issues and this makes his self- regulation very different from what we have previously achieved with our eldest.
Because his interests go in and out, we tend to go with whatever is 'flavour of the month'. Unfortunately, this strategy does not always work, but it gives an idea of what to try.
When I set up BEAT4AUTISM, along with many other things, I wanted to create a regular meeting where these individuals (children or adults) could experience peace and quiet in a different environment to their bedroom or home. With the help of the local library and community hub, we managed to create 'Autism hour' which will hopefully take place every week, from 4:30-5:30pm when the library is closed, to allow quiet time and space. These will include activities such as slime making, card making, or just outside with some chalks, amongst other various activities to try and gain as many participants as possible.
Feel free to pop along.
Quiet time is essential for these children/young adults to process their day, feelings and self regulate. As parents we are so interested in their day and unknowingly bombard with questions i.e How was your day? Did you eat your lunch? Any problems? What do you want for tea? Nans coming over this afternoon. These scenarios can cause the lid to pop and a meltdown to take place. I have found giving them the space to process, and then, talking to them creates a much calmer environment and is happier for all parties. Let them breathe.