Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Can Praise Cause Sensory Overload?

Many kids with Asperger's Syndrome experience sensory overload from embarrassment or being picked out of a crowd in some way. This is why they sometimes don't enjoy receiving an award at Assembly or Parade, or being praised for their work in class.

So does that mean we shouldn't reward them at all??? Of course not - but we have to find a way for them to feel comfortable and proud of themselves at the same time. This is where thinking outside the square for your child with Autism comes into play.

Suggestions include:-

a one-on-one meeting between the Principal and child with AS
sending the award to the Aspie child's house with a letter about why they're receiving the award
If your child is embarrassed when they're praised, or don't like to be rewarded in public, talk to their teacher or principal and find a solution that suits your child. We all know that when supporting children on the Spectrum there aren't any "one size fits all" solutions. We must try to individualise support and accommodation for each child.

During his school years our son really disliked any attention or spotlight on him at all. This led him to wanting to stay home from school every Wednesday in an effort to avoid Parade and any possibility of receiving an award. He was a fairly well-achieving student, so there was always a chance he may receive an award for work well done. Once we discovered this we met with his teachers and his Principal and we agreed that all praising would be done in private.

Another trait that puzzled us was that our Asperger child didn't "believe" praise that came from us (his parents). His reasoning was that we're his parents and we have to love him and everything he does. So when he was growing up we enlisted the help of family, friends and neighbours to ensure he "heard" praise and approval. We'd simply phone them with his achievements and successes and they'd casually drop it into conversation when they visited.

This worked for him - we could see him 'shine' with their praise and attention. Everyone deserves to have their star shine brightly sometimes!

Currently I've teamed up with a local psychologist and we've created a new program for children with Autism Spectrum conditions - the Sensory Detective Program. We've been using heart rate monitor rings on the children as they complete the program and the results of this have really amazed us both! All the things we know about Asperger's children is proven/displayed by their heart rates, which 'spike' at change, sensory input, social interaction and praise etc. So if you're unsure what calms or upsets your Asperger child, invest in a heart rate monitor ring - the results will amaze you!

Nelle Frances is a Special Needs educator with over 17 years experience working with children with Autism/Asperger's Syndrome of all ages. She is author of the Ben and His Helmet book series written especially for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). These social stories offer problem-solving strategies to assist Aspie's to navigate their world. Nelle is the parent of a 21 yr old son with ASC. She delivers her Professional Learning Sensory Detective™ workshop to schools and libraries around the world. Her website offers resources, strategies and links on Autism/Asperger's Syndrome for health care workers, therapists, parents and teachers.