Sunday, September 22, 2013

Wintergreen Essential Oil for Autism Sensory

Using Essential oils for Autism is a growing new alternative that many people are willing to explore to assist where therapies and modern medicine fall short. 
Children and adults alike that are on the autism spectrum must be willing and accepting of the use of Essential oils to maximize their benefit. 
We have been using Essential oils for a year and a half and in my experience, it has been necessary to change up the essential oils that we are using to achieve continued desired result(s). 

I have long felt, that the belief in and or faith of the potential effectiveness that an oil will work, is apart of the equation for desired results. 

Trying your favorite brand of Essential oil (specific for ailment) + Faith in effectiveness (belief that it will work) = desired results. 

Like most people on the spectrum, every oil should be considered on an individual basis. No two people on the spectrum are exactly alike, nor should they be treated as such. 

When we were discovering the oils that could work for us, we depended a lot on what other people had used and what worked, or didn't work for them. 
As I have branched out, I have become more willing to try new oils as I gain more knowledge in their potency and properties. 

I try to change or just add at least one oil in my kids daily routine every three months or so.  This helps me to understand how the oil works or sometimes doesn't work based on our "regular diet" oils. All with a desired result in mind through research and understanding in the Essential oil. 

Recently, I felt strongly that my oldest needed Wintergreen. I struggled with this thought because I knew Wintergreen to be one for muscles, bones, pain and inflammation. 
As I researched this Essential oil a little more, I discovered that Wintergreen when used aromatically influences, opens and increases awareness in the sensory system. 

It was like a light bulb. I immediately added it to our next order. 

I have only used it a couple of times, and none of them being with a diffuser yet, but by applying a drop or two on his wrists it allows him the ability to smell when he chooses. 
When I was applying it to my son this morning, my daughter fell in love with the smell and asked for some as well. All of my children have a degree of Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration, so why not? 

We had no meltdowns today. Pure luck? Maybe. But maybe not. 

I will continue to use this, and I will be adding some to an inhaler for my son to take to school as well. 
If the desired effects with his sensory system continue to be beneficial, we will definitely be keeping this in our arsenal.

My initial desired results are for my son to experience less irritability with sounds, and less need for auditory stimulation.

On a side note.. (but related) During my research on essential oils I learned that Inflammation is the root cause of chronic illness and diseases. 
It has been recommended that everyone use peppermint oil or an Essential oil with anti-inflammatory properties every day to help reduce the inflammation associated with chronic illnesses. 
Both Peppermint and Wintergreen are essential oils with anti-inflammatory properties but Wintergreen has a more pleasing (not as strong) aroma in my opinion. 
Could it be possible to assist a person with an autism spectrum disorder, or sensory disorder diagnosis with an anti- inflammatory Essential Oil? 

I am not a doctor or a scientist, but it couldn't hurt to try.

I do want to point out that people with epilepsy should NOT use this oil and anyone with a methyl Salicylate allergy should also avoid Wintergreen. 

And just in case you were wondering...
our "regular diet" oils are: 

Balance- for grounding mood. 

Elevation- for emotional well being. 

InTune- A Focus blend

Lavender- for bedtime (sleepy time) 

Serenity - a calming blend (we use at the first signs of a meltdown or shutdown) 

Wild Orange - for anxiety. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

ASD, ADHD, Seeker+broken bone=need for EO's

It's been 6 weeks since my 6 year old ADHD, High functioning, Sensory seeker broke his Tibia.

6 weeks - I don't wish on any parent. But especially I don't wish on a little boy that struggles to regulate. 

It was a Tuesday night, my boys were coming home for dinner when I got the phone call that my 6 year old fell off of his scooter and he thinks his leg is broken. I jumped in my van and zoomed through the neighborhood- once I got to him, I scooped him into my arms and set him in the back seat. He was screaming- crying, and he kept saying, "it's broken, mom. I just know it. I just know it." I tried to reassure him it probably wasn't, but that we would go to the doctor right now just to make sure. 
You would have thought I broke his leg twelve more times on the way to the doctor. Every corner turned elicited screams out of a scary movie. I decided that going to urgent care would be our best bet. The hospital was 20 minutes away but urgent care was only 5. He was in a lot of pain and was completely irrational. 

I carried him into urgent care screaming. Let the stares begin. 
"Yes, people- I have a child that needs urgent care.. Obviously." 

They got us back to X-ray right away. 
They quickly realized they needed extra hands. 
It took 2 X-ray techs, 2 nurses and 2 doctors to hold him for X-rays. 
Our ears now pounding from the screams, On our way to the exam room after X-rays, the nurse mouthed to me that it was indeed fractured. 

Spiral Fracture of Tibia

My heart sank. 
How on earth do you tell a sweet 6yr old seeker- he's on bed rest and has limitations? 

Once in the exam room while we waited for the doctor, I finally had a moment to breath. We got him comfortable in a wheelchair and I pulled out my key chain of oils. I didn't have a reference book with me, but I had no doubt a calming blend, would be a useful one right about now. 
Finding out he had a fracture was the easy part. We now had to splint it and get his pain under control. Right as I was applying the serenity the nurse walked in. She asked what I was using- so I explained his medical diagnosis. It all made sense now; I think. I told her I used Essential oils for  everything. But specifically because he can run a 100 MPH all day every day, they were my go to for calming and keeping him grounded. 

As I applied the oils, He almost instantly calmed down. He found comfort in the oils. we smelled some Wild Orange and I put some Balance at the base of his neck, serenity on his heart and behind his ears. 

While we waited for the doctor to consult with the Orthopedic Surgeon, we had a nice, calm talk. He told me how he was disappointed that he broke his leg. He kept asking me "why did this have to happen?", we read a book, drank some juice, ate some crackers and waited. 
When the doctor returned- he gave me two options... 1. They could try to Splint his leg there, or 2. they could send us to the hospital and sedate him to have it splinted... I would be lying if I didn't tell you that option #2 was considered. 
But with a sensory kiddo- the aftermath of sedation almost seemed worse than the 10 minutes of deafening screaming we were about to get. I knew his pain was unbearable. I applied some more Serenity and some Wild Orange on his heart. I had him look at me and we both took a deep breath. In and out. One more. Ok, lets do this. I held his hands and leaned in to his sweet little head, talking softly at his ear, Reassuring him it would be over soon. "Mommy is right here, squeeze my hand buddy, you got this!" 
It took four nurses, and two doctors to get the the splint on. I am sure if there was anybody left in urgent care they were wondering what the heck was happening in procedure room 2. 
Once applied, we took another deep breath and moved him to a wheelchair. 
They brought him a cute fuzzy frog for being so brave. I pulled my van around to the side door, and as they brought him out- a nurse grabbed my arm and complimented me on what a wonderful mother I was. I was confused at first. Was she really talking to me. The parent that had the loudest, and hands down most difficult child tonight? 
She must have understood my look as a response, because she said- "you handled this so calmly, and the way you knew how to apply those oils to help. That's an amazing mom in my book."

We closed the urgent care that night. But everybody there came to the side door to wave goodbye- wishing us luck. 

Three days later, we were seen at the orthopedics. They of course needed an X-ray again. I applied more Serenity and Wild Orange before they casted him. (Wild Orange is calming for him because of his ADHD. While I think of this oil as an uplifting Citrus, it mellows him out.
 Orange, blue and green.. Why not? 
His bone wasn't healing right, so he had to get 3 different casts in just 5 days. He picked a different color each time. :) 

Just this last week, his healing Was good enough that they were able to put him in a walking boot. Finally! :)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence day anxiety?

I love the 4th of July! I love dressing up in red, white, and blue.
Popsicles dripping off the chins of children, the smell of burgers on the grill. The warm sun on your shoulders. And most of all- the fireworks :)

My love of the this day, has been one I have chosen to pass on to my kids. We have had to adapt to their needs and tone down this day and all of its excitement because of their needs.

Most children on the spectrum have a hard time with this day. The noises, the crowds, the chaos, and just the simple fact that it is even more out of their normal routine. It brings out unnecessary anxiety and meltdowns. Sensory overload.

We generally get together with a few people. Not typically  a large group. We have always made it small, in comparison to those around us. We have always avoided the large public gathering places to sit and watch the spectacular fireworks display. We choose to keep ours at home, small and contained. I want it to be fun, and easy. Anything that invites anxiety or that leads to meltdowns and sensory overloads is not fun for anyone. 

This year we were invited to celebrate with some neighbors. I'm excited for the social interaction, we love this family and they understand our boys. As we prepare for this day, we are learning that this is a big production. A trailer stacked full of fireworks that will last for several hours. Barbecuing all day and lots of fun. The majority of the neighborhood joining in and all their relatives. 
With the need to adapt to this years changes, I will teach our boys that life will throw potentially challenging moments their way occasionally. I am trying to teach them the skills they will need  as they grow older, when I won't always be there to help them adjust or prepare or to help them recognize and handle an anxiety driven situation. 
While, I will continue to explain the Fourth's events and what to expect, I am also packing plenty of Lavendar, Serenity and Wild Orange Essential Oils. All with a calming effect, I feel confident that with a couple of scheduled breaks, head phones standing by, and some Wild Orange applied over their hearts, we will have another first. A first time to experience an all day social event thats packed full of excitement and sensory enriched things, and that we will be ok. 
It's a potluck style BBQ, so we are bringing foods I know the boys will eat. And since my 6 year old is a sensory seeker, and fearless.. We will be watching him closely for the fireworks portion. We intend to avoid any accidents and burns but I will ready the essential oil first aid kit just in case. 
So from our Family to yours, have a fun, safe, and anxiety free day! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Explaining Autism for understanding

My son was diagnosed with Aspergers, on the autism spectrum at the age of 3. 
Up until this point we had assumed the responsibility for his behavior and actions, Although we didn't fully understand them ourselves. 

We didn't hit the ground running in therapies and services, because we weren't aware. We did what was recommended but most of it honestly dissipated because of the amount of information being pushed at us. We couldn't absorb it all and a lot of it slipped away. 

It wasn't until we moved to Iowa, where My sons kindergarten teacher made a comment that at the time, frustrated me. She said I should take him to the local mental health clinic and have him evaluated. My respect for her disappeared that very second, and I instantly decided to dislike her. 

It was no secret, he was struggling in school, but I made excuses. His classroom was too stimulating. It was overwhelming even for me, I can't imagine how it must be for a 6 year old, for 6 hours a day, Autism Spectrum or not! 

Several months later, my sons pediatrician who specialized with Autism, recommended a Child Psychiatrist. His recommendation was valid and I accepted it because of his degree. It turned out to be the best thing we ever did. It also turned out to be at the same mental health clinic the kindergarten teacher not so delicately told me I should take him to months before. 

Reality is this- while I was the parent directly affected by the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder child; I knew less than I needed to. I needed to be educated. I needed to be his advocate, and an intelligent one at that. I needed to be proactive, and I needed to be able to accept advice, constructive criticism, and I needed to be able to help others understand his disorder. No more excuses. 

When there is a conflict or misunderstanding that involves my child, it generally ends up being the best time to educate the child or adult. Yes, my son is different, but he doesn't look different. He doesn't look special needs. 
He thinks differently. This can be very hard for NT (Neuro-Typical) people to understand. 
I have been told by several people, especially parents that my sons autism shouldn't be an excuse. I always tell them that their ignorance shouldn't be theirs. It is possible, that the lack of understanding is the biggest gap between Autism and the rest of the NT world. 

When explaining that my son thinks differently, I use an example that has worked best. I ask a simple question to help them understand his thinking. 

"when I say the word Saturday, what do you think of?" 

the response is almost always the usual common thoughts of - no school. A day off. We get to sleep in, etc.. 
Once I have given them the time to answer my question, I respond by saying "when CM hears the word Saturday, he sees a picture in his mind.
 It is a picture of Tall Buildings." 

We get the immediate reaction of "Oooooh" every time. 
It begins a conversation that then helps them understand that even though, they may have said something very clearly, that everyone else understood, to CM.. It didn't make sense. The pictures in his mind, didn't line up and make a perfectly formed sentence that was clear as day. It was a garbled, random and out of place thought. And often it is this that is the root of his conflicts. A misunderstanding. 

CM has developed a funny guy label with his peers. This is merely his coping device. We talk a lot about his different ability. We want him to be aware that it's perfectly fine to be different, and it's perfectly ok to not be like everyone else. When he is in a situation he feels uncomfortable, or simply doesn't understand... The funny guy makes an appearance. I am sure this was created out of accident. His mind showing him pictures that didn't fit the conversation. He says out loud what his brain is telling him, and quickly learned that instead of being made fun of, they laughed. So he laughed with them. 

We have eliminated a lot of misunderstandings by helping others understand. My son now has a group of kids in the neighborhood, that are willing to defend him. They accept him, just the way he is. 

So what is Autism? 
Autism is different. But it can be awesome. Often grouped together under one term, it is the umbrella over all the spectrum disorders and easier to explain to others to help them understand. 
Rally your support, share with others how it's not contagious, it's not wrong. It's just a different way of thinking. 
Sure my son doesn't "play" with his toys. He collects them and thinks about how he is going to collect more. It's different, but it's not wrong. 


This is how you build awareness. 

And as for the Essential oils... In Tune is a great one for creating focus, and Balance to help keep them relaxed and grounded, especially in social situations. 

It's not going to be perfect. But you can always make progress. 
But we don't want perfection. 
Just progress. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Differently Abled

What works for one, doesn't necessarily work for another. 

The autism spectrum is a wide measurement for the even wider group of differently abled. 

My 11 year old brought home a girl yesterday. A GiRL!! And an older one at that.  He justified it by saying she's a Tom boy. Oh and she is also high functioning. 
They get along wonderfully. It made my heart smile. They spent the afternoon making a video for YouTube.  They plan on using neuro typical kids as Zombies in their Zombie Apocalypse film. Ironic? 
 They want to create their own channel, specifically for kids on the spectrum to use. "no normal kids allowed" I was told. To say I wasn't beaming with enthusiasm for their desire to include all the other kids in the world like them, would simply be a lie. 
His friend told me that it would be a good forum for all the kids that were disabled like them. I corrected her. "not, disabled... Differently Abled" they are so talented, and I admire their drive and force and convictions. You can't try to be and think like they do. It's a gift. And one that requires a special name. It might be a label to some. To them, I make sure they know it's a super power. 

Every child on the Spectrum is still VERY different. There truly are no two alike. 
So often, what works for one.... Won't necessarily work for another. 

When I am asked what kind of oils someone should use on their child, or friends child, I ask questions first. 
I start with asking you to name three things you love about the child. I need to know where their super power shines through. What is their favorite past time?  What is their strength? What do you perceive as their weakness? How do they do in school? In public, or other social settings? How well do they sleep? 
This then gives me a better idea of understanding their view. 

Both of my sons are on the spectrum. Yet very different from each other. While my younger one (6yrs) has had more therapies starting at the tender age of 2, I believe his early intervention has made his social abilities close to that of a typical 6year old. 

My 11 year old (not diagnosed until 3 and no therapies until he was 6) is probably at the same social level as his little brother. So while they are socially the same age, my older son is expected by parents of normal developing kids and the normal developing kids themselves, to act socially like an 11 year old. A completely different topic for another day :). 
This of course, you would think would make sense for me to use the same oils for both boys. 
Not so. 
In fact, the oils I use on my oldest, only exasperate the behavior of my 6 year old. 
It has taken me a good couple of months to realize, I needed to change his oils and cater them to his specific needs, and not the basic general need. 
I played With a few different combinations for a week or so, closely watching him each day. The beautiful thing about the oils is that they are immediate. No need to let them settle in his system like some mood enhancing pharmaceutical drug. Once these are applied, they get to work. 
Now, I'm not sure if there is a link to this or not, but the oils I primarily use on my oldest tend to have a woodsy, earthy smell to them. The oils that seem to be a good fit for my younger son, have more of a citrus, splashy smell to them. Probably nothing coincidental, they seem to fit their personalities perfectly!! 

We now are beginning to have less emotional days. Not so much drama, and a lot less over-reaction. For everybody :) and thank goodness too! Summer Break has officially started, and in an effort to keep my own sanity, we will be keeping our routines in tact. 

My Older sons oils:

Uplifting blend
Focus blend
Lavendar as needed

My youngest sons oils: 

Uplifting blend
Wild Orange
Citrus blend

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Three "Must-Try" Ideas

It's no secret our kids struggle. Pharmaceutical companies are making bank from our children. 

We do our best to advocate, teach, and support our kids and sometimes that means prescription medications. 

My oldest (diagnosed with PDD-NOS, ODD, Anxiety, ADHD, Depression and Sensory Processing Disorder) is currently being followed by a Psychiatrist for medication management because while we want him to be all naturally served.... We want him to be happy with life. So reality, is you do the best you can. 

We use essential oils for Everything we can and supplement them with his prescription medications when necessary. We hope that once we manage his disabilities, we can slowly fade from them again. To be fair, he is probably the best he has ever been. EVER! And we have him on the lowest doses of his medications. (that in itself makes me feel better. We must be doing something right! ) My sons behavioral therapist has asked for samples of some of the oils we use, because to be honest- my sons need for a behavior therapist is far and few between, but his "official diagnosis" has him labeled worse than many of the docs other patients. 

Where am I going with all this? 

I wanted to share with you some great ideas that you can create by yourself with essential oils that will enhance your user experience and that go beyond some "traditional" uses of essential oils. 
We had wondered at one point if our use of the oils and the prescriptions was really making a difference, but I will tell you, if you ever question this same thought. Go ONE day without oils. Prescription meds only. You will see a difference. We no longer miss days with out oils. (although, we have missed days with out the prescriptions, and had no effects of behavior or otherwise while still using the oils)
We have noticed that most Prescriptions simply treat the symptoms; Essential oils treat the core problem.
So in addition to our morning routine oils, I've incorporated these 3 do it yourself ideas. 

Easy and safe home remedies

First idea: sweet dreams bedtime spray. 

In a small spray bottle
Mix the following: 5 drops Lavendar
5 drops Wild Orange 
3 drops Roman Chamomile 
With 4 ounces water

Spray pillows, bed, sheets, curtains, stuffed animals, pajama's... And anything else that might surround your child at night. Along with a drop of Lavendar on the bottom of feet and one drop swiped across the forehead, your little sweetie pie, will be in sweet dreams in no time. 

Second do it yourself idea: Anti- Anxiety liquid (aka liquid Xanax) {but obviously safer, and without the zombie feeling.}

- 3 drops Grounding blend  mixed with 5 drops of Fractionated Coconut Oil (FCO) 
- 3 drops Calming blend mixed with 5 drops FCO

I have even used Wild Orange or joyful blend and placed 2 drops each over my heart. It takes the uneasy, impending doom feeling away within a minute. So Awesome!! 

You can Apply the Anti- Anxiety liquid on the bottom of the feet, back of neck and behind ears. 
Prepare to watch the anxiety leave. No racing thoughts, no jitters, no more tears or fears. And best of all. Natural and safe. 

Third idea: warming essential oils for a smell that is comforting. 

My personality is to be soft. Peaceful. And in tune. I feel connected to music and my mood is heavily affected by smells. I am constantly seeking smells that are entertaining and delightful. So in keeping with my own personality, this one is a PERFECT fit. 

In your old candle warmer (you know, the kind that use lightbulbs) 
Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil 
With 6 - 8 drops of your favorite oil 
And wait for a great calming smell. 

I am currently using Balance and  Elevation in my warmer. It's a mood enhancer, and smells sweet. You could try using Lavendar in a warmer at bedtime, or Lavendar and lemon for a clean fresh scent. 

Or Balance and Lavendar 
Or Wild Orange - YUM! 

 The sky seems to be the limit with this one. Here's to better days!! 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Advocating, not neglecting

So....... I recognize that my last post was a little more than 4 months ago.
I of course, let life surround me with the usual chaos that often occurs when your world revolves around your children.

My oldest (5th grade) needed me. He needed me to advocate. He needed me to reassure. He needed me to ease his anxiety, to assist in helping others understand his different way of thinking and processing.
"They" were calling it bad behavior.
We Call it a lack of social skills and anxiety in unstructured settings with staff that doesn't quite get it.
 His doctors call it a disability.

The school doesn't have the resources for the majority of children with high functioning Autism. They have self contained programs for low functioning, mainly non verbal students.... They have classroom settings referred to as the Behavior Disorder rooms for the disruptive children, but, There is nothing for the social skill lacking, sensory sensitive, routine structured, literal child.

When a child has some difficulties managing in a general education setting ( you know, a bustling classroom with 1 teacher for 30 students, constant noise and distractions) the immediate turn is bad behavior. It's sad really. My sons IEP is written under "other health impairment" because he doesn't meet the Federal education guidelines as autistic.

NEWS FLASH## he doesn't fit anything.
It's time to get real. It's time to change. It's time to adapt, accept and understand.

The schools need to listen. My son won't be the last child with his variety. He most likely isn't even the first child. But I am the first parent that they wish would go away. I am sure of it.

In my recent go rounds (almost daily) with my sons school, I discovered an article. It's a bit lengthy, but boy, it is so nice to have something like this that spells out exactly what I've been saying to the schools. It validated everything. I know I am not alone in this. It's okay to stand up and advocate. The squeaky wheel gets the oil and when translated into terms for your children, it's a win win.

Building Strong Supports in School 

Structure, predictability, and consistency of approach. Many children on the spectrum become overwhelmed very easily. You want to evaluate the sensory, academic and instructional demands in the classroom. Try to make sure that noise level is low, lighting is not too bright, and that academic demands are tailored to the learning style of the student. Try to keep a written or visual (picture) schedule for the day, and try to stay with a consistent schedule each day. The more concrete, visual, and predictable the daily routine the lesser the anxiety. "Uncertainty" is a major enemy of children with ASD.

Kids with ASD can be very "rule" bound. They interpret things "literally" and will follow things "literally." Post written rules and expectations and review them frequently. LOL...just make sure you stay true to them. They will remind you.

Be very careful of the social demands within the classroom. They have difficulty interacting in group situation, especially reading the fast pace interactions among several people at one time. Invite, but do not push too hard, and then support them in group activities. They will have trouble reading the unwritten rules of relating with others. They have trouble reading the thoughts, feelings, and perspective of others. They have difficulty "fitting in." Try not to push them, but rather invite them into interacting. Children with on the spectrum can be very different in desire to interact. They tend to either be indifferent or uninterested and need coaxing, or they are very social and very verbal, but do not know when to stop. The very social ones, will often interrupt, talk nonstop about their topic of interest, dominate a conversation, and overwhelm other children. They do not know how their behavior is effecting others. They will need a lot of coaching.

Focus on their strengths and interests. Kids on the spectrum often have good awareness of detail, and have one or two very strong interests. They can have very good memory for facts and detail, but not catch the "gist" of things. Identify what their strengths and interests are and try to build them into the lessons. Like any child, if you build on their strengths, and help support their weaknesses, they will develop.

Expect that they will have organizational problems very similar to ADD. Break tasks down into manageable steps, and give them a lot of visual cues. Set up organizers, color code things, help them put their backpack together at the end of the day, and remind them to give you their homework at beginning of the day. Try to give main instructions with written notes for them to refer back to when needed. Start where they are competent and build gradually.

DON"T ASSUME. Just because they are very verbal doesn't mean they understand. Also, because they are very literal, they often do not understand our multiple-meaning, vague language. Don't assume they know. Be very careful to explain things very literally for them, and have them repeat it back to you. Be careful to "clarify" and "verify" everything. If the child "does wrong" they probably "misinterpret" the expectations. Look at how it was presented and how it was interrupted. Do not assume the child purposely is "doing it wrong." Rarely is this the case. It is usually more "our fault" not theirs. However, do not expect to anticipate all problems, you cannot be that good.

The children are often very black and white, all or nothing in their thinking. The stronger the anxiety, the more rigid and inflexible the thinking. They can get upset with vague rules and behavior, and get very anxious which can be displayed in obsessive/compulsive behavior, or oppositional/defiant behavior. When highly anxious they can be very perfectionistic and unrealistic in their own performance and that of others. They can have a strong fear of being wrong, and need to make sure that they have competed it right.

Peer awareness is important. The better understanding the other kids have of the child, the better they can support them. There are some good videos and kids books out for explaining autism/aspergers. Some schools use video tapes to teach staff and peers about autism. Develop peer supports to help the child navigate the social life. Supportive peers can sometimes be the best teachers. Watch very carefully for other children teasing and bullying the child.

Often the hardest times during the school day will be the unstructured times, such as lunch, recess, between classes in the hall, locker room before gym, etc. These transition times can be very difficult for them to regulate. When aids are not available, peer supports can really help out.

For many children with anxiety, stress chemicals will accumulate throughout the day. Give them frequent breaks during the school day to rebound and collect themselves. Also give them "break" cards that they can hand to you if they need to "get out of there" and rebound. I would also ask for an Occupational Therapist to evaluate and give them sensory diets to help calm and organize their nervous system.

Each child is different, but assume that the everyday demands of school can be very overwhelming for the child. Whether they tell you or not, their behavior will tell you how they are doing. Communicate that they are safe and accepted in your classroom, and provide proactive support. Become a :"working partner' with them, and most importantly be flexible. Once they read that in you, they will use you for support and feel safe in your classroom.

Anxiety can be expressed in different ways. Some children with melt down and act out. Some children will "shut down" or "tune out." They are just as overwhelmed and anxious. Some children use a very "oppositional" coping strategy. They often argue, or resist much of what is going on. "They will say "something is stupid, or boring," when they feel insecure and incompetent.

Because these child often go undiagnosed, they can appear "lazy", "oppositional", or "poor attitude." Because they often have good verbal skills, the social and emotional issues are often more hidden. These children are not "manipulative and oppositional" by nature, only as a way of coping with uncertainty. Just always remind yourself, as the child becomes oppositional or defiant, realize he is feeling more insecure and anxious.

For the children who become overwhelmed and "melt down", do not scold or punish. Do not become controlling or demanding. When they are melting down, they lose coping skills and self control. Back off demands, lower the stimulation, and lower your voice. Offer assistance, but be aware that many child need to be left completely along to rebound. We often develop "safe areas" for the child to escape too in order to rebound. Communicate that they are safe and accepted with you. Respect their need to back away.

BE PROACTIVE RATHER THAN REACTIVE. Provide strong proactive supports to minimize stress and build adaptive skills, rather then "punishing" problem behavior. This doesn't mean letting them get away with things. You can provide consequences for behavior, but focus heavily on identifying "why" the problems are occurring and building in supports to minimize the behavior.

When assessing the safety factors at school I look closely at the physical surroundings of the classroom (sensory issues, physical layout of the classroom, seating arrangement, etc.), the instructional strategies that the teacher uses, the task performance demands, and the social interaction patterns with teachers and peers.

When looking at how to create a supportive school environment for your child, consider the following:

1. Look to see if there are any sensory problems in the classroom (too many children, too much noise, too much distracting activities, etc.). Look to see if where he sits is a factor for him. Does he need to sit closer to the teacher, away from windows, are other kids sitting too close to him, etc. 

2. Children on the spectrum need strong organization to the classroom and schedule. They require strong predictability to their routine. The teacher should provide the class (or him) with a picture schedule, and go over it at the beginning and middle of the day. The teacher should review the schedule frequently, and prepare him ahead of time for transitions and changes. Also, use visual cues and visual instructions to what he needs to do.

3. Remind the teachers to be very specific, very literal with their language. Don't assume that the child understands what is expected. They need to clarify information, and verify that he understands it (ask him to repeat it back). Provide instructions in visual form, (pictures, written words, etc.).

4. Transitions between activities (ending one activity and starting another), especially if it means ending a preferred activity and going to a nonpreferred activity, can be difficult for the kids. The children usually do better when they know what activity will following the current one, and then prepare them for the transition by giving a couple of warnings before transitioning (in 3 minutes we will be cleaning up and doing ___, then one minute warning, etc.).

5. Watch closely the interaction patterns with the staff. How do they support your child, what types of teaching strategies do they use, and how do they prompt your son to do things? Do they help him out when he is struggling, do they focus on his strengths, and support him early when he is struggling, etc? Does he feel accepted and supported by the way they assist him. If he gets overwhelmed and acts out, how do they support him at the time. Do they assist him to calm (e.g. back off demands, allowed to retreat to safe area, use calming strategies), or do they demand and command. Try to guide them in what techniques work best to lessen the overload, as well as calm your son when overwhelmed. If needed ask the Occupational Therapist to design a sensory diet to help your child stay calm and organized during the school day, and ask for a “functional behavior assessment” if your child is having behavior issues at school. Ask to be part of the team that will be assessing and designing any behavior strategies. You have a right to be part of all decision making.

6. Also take a look at how the child interacts with the other children. This is often their biggest anxiety. Try to get the teachers/staff to support him during social, group activities. He will need help learning how to coordinate interaction with the other kids. He will not be aware of the reactions other children have to his behavior. He will not pick up on the cues other children give him, and will not be aware of the thoughts, feelings, and perspectives of the other children. Teachers need to help guide him in social interaction.

7. Take a close look at how the work is presented. Kids with autism/aspergers often need the work to be broken down into smaller parts, given to them one at a time, and given more time to complete their work. A good rule of thumb is giving "half the work, in twice as much time." Also, many children need help getting started (even if they know what to do). The teacher might want to try assisting him through the first part to get him started, and then return again midway through to reinforce working and jump start if needed.

8. Make sure the child knows how to ask for help and how to appropriately ask to get out of doing something. Even if the child is very verbal, they often do not know (or feel safe) asking for help. The child also might act out to escape a task he doesn't want to do (or feels comfortable doing). Sometimes by raising their hand for help, and given a "break card" to use when they need to take a break from the classroom, the children do much better.

10. Regardless of how bright your son is, he will find many of the normal daily demands of the classroom more stressful then the other children. Making his way through the normal interactions with other children and teachers will take ongoing conscious effort on his part. Much of what other children process subconsciously, with little effort, will require a lot of conscious effort from your son. Because of this, he will become overloaded very easily. He may need periodic breaks to rebound throughout the day; chance to escape from the classroom demands and engage in an activity that calms and organizes him.

11. Pay close attention to the unstructured times (lunch, recess, rest periods, etc.) and group activities that require more relating with the other children. They are often lost in these activities, which will lead to them acting out to control them.

12. Make a list of your son's strengths and interests, his fears and sensitivities, and what helps him feel safe, accepted and competent. This helps teachers know the child better. The staff should focus heavily on his strengths, help compensate for his weaknesses, and adapt for his fears/sensitivities. At all times, focus your attention on what you wanted him to do, and minimize attention on what he is doing wrong.

Helping the child feel “safe, accepted, and competent” at school takes many changes in the physical setting, task demands, teaching strategies, and ways of interacting with the child. Sometimes it takes a few years to isolate, analyze, and create the needed changes to make school successful