Talib was referred to Kineara’s M2E programme after concerns about challenging behaviour at home which was affecting his engagement and progress in school. As a young boy who has autism, the school was keen to provide extra support for Talib and the whole family in understanding autism and developing tools and strategies to support his wellbeing and progress in school and out. 

 

.

 

"What worked extremely well was the support from the school and their drive to keep pushing for Talib and the whole family to succeed." said Gail 

During the referral, the Parent Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) revealed concerns over Talib’s stress levels, emotional distress and hyperactivity, while his main strengths were his kind and helpful behaviour and friendships at school. Crucial to the success of the intervention would be building on these strengths and addressing the concerns holistically.

Through a variety of 1:1, group and parent support sessions, M2E lead Gail used a variety of tools and resources to help tackle stress and anxiety. These included tailor-made emotion cards to help Talib communicate how he was feeling in a way that was helpful to himself and others, especially when he was feeling sad or anxious.

They also practiced breathing and relaxation exercises to tackle stress and hyperactivity, and social and practical exercises to encourage Talib to follow instructions and work effectively with others. “Talib absolutely loved these sessions and learnt different ways to express himself, which enabled him to attend school each morning without crying and becoming upset,” said Gail.

One of the key learnings was adapting the support approach and activities to meet the needs of Talib and build on his strengths. “Talib would often find it hard to follow instructions and would have to be talked through instructions in detail or broken down into bite size pieces – this is why visuals were extremely helpful,” said Gail.

Involving other pupils in therapeutic activities like baking also helped to develop confidence, communication and broaden his friendship circle. “Group work outside of the classroom setting was good for Talib, it helped with taking turns, helping each other and talking to other students that he wouldn’t have spoken to before,” she added.

With the aims of building awareness and dispelling preconceptions about autism, the parent sessions were geared towards exploring autism, developing effective family routines and strengthening relationships. “I felt that we needed to help the parents understand how important it is to learn how autism affects our children – having this sort of knowledge is powerful for parents, if we don’t learn and understand what we are faced with then we will always struggle with that which we don’t understand,” said Gail.

Working closely with the school’s education psychologist and other health professionals, Gail discussed ways of supporting Talib and the family with coming to terms with autism. They decided to purchase a book called ‘All about me’ – a step by step guide in telling children and young people about autism. Gail then sat down with the parents to explore different chapters of the book, as well as other resources and community groups that support autism and challenging behaviour. Mum attended some of these groups with Gail, and dad asked Gail if she could attend workshops and feedback to them.

As Talib had not been told about his diagnosis, part of the plan was to develop a 6-step process in presenting this to Talib. Gail explained that it was important to implement this in a way that would help him understand autism and make him realise that it was nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about, rather he could be proud of.

“I wanted to help the family understand that many people have autism, most haven’t even been diagnosed. It’s not something to be shameful of, it’s just a different way of understanding, learning and communicating,” said Gail.

caret-down caret-up caret-left caret-right

Parenting is a very tough job but learning about your child and how they think is also a learning for ourselves. We must find new routines, different structures and work hard together to creates some positive changes within the family home.

“Giving the child space to express how they’re feeling and showing parents different ways of changing their responses and routines at home, can make a real impact in improving wellbeing.” 

In addition to struggling with Talib’s behaviour at home, the parents said that he was often very sad about going to school, and that this was affecting his academic progress and ability to form friendships. Talib would also become very hyper at home and the parents had also expressed concern over the safety of Talib’s younger brother.

We found that mum would usually interact calmly and affectionate with Talib, but her parenting style differed to dad’s. To support them with Talib’s hyperactivity, Gail showed them the benefit of family routines including sleep routines where Talib would have a warm bath with lavender, a short massage and a short story before bed. He was also given a worry book and a happy book where he would express his feelings and share them with mum during the sessions or at another appropriate time.

During the intervention, we found that Talib loved trains and had the exceptional skill of knowing almost every journey and how to get there. Gail suggested that dad take Talib on train journeys and make it a reward for him – this would help them to acknowledge Talib’s progress, while strengthening their own relationship. Implementing these small routines has made a real difference to the family dynamics and wellbeing of everyone involved.

“I understand parenting is a very tough job but learning about your child and how they think is also a learning for ourselves. We must find new routines, different structures and work hard together to creates some positive changes within the family home. I am not saying this is easier it takes time and commitment, but if you stick with it you will get results,” said Gail. “We also talked about how physical activities could help with Talib’s running around in the home and reducing hyperactivity.

I asked the family if they could take him for a walk each night, or go swimming, mum said she thought about karate and I said I thought that would be so helpful,” she added.

But there have been challenges along the way. “As M2E involves pupils and their families, one of the biggest challenges has been engaging with a parent who thinks the children are to blame”, explained Gail, “Giving the child space to express how they’re feeling and showing parents different ways of changing their responses and routines at home, can make a real impact in improving wellbeing and enhancing positive relationships.” Generally, the parents have been quite engaged throughout the process, but the mindset shift is one that takes time and commitment, she explained.

Another challenge was their housing situation. They had been living with another family in a small flat, leading to overcrowding. Working closely with the family, a health assessment was completed about the living situation. As a result, they were placed on a priority band for a new home and have just recently found out they will be moving into a new 3-bedroom flat. This is a great achievement, and it is hoped that the new flat will not only provide space for Talib to grow and express himself but improve the wellbeing of the whole family.

The last piece of work is for Gail and the school to support Talib in understanding autism and how he functions, so he can be proud of who he is. They are now in the process of implementing the 6-step for Talib, and he is also free to continue attending the drop-in at the school. Mum and Dad can also attend the drop-in if they need any support or guidance, and it is hoped they will continue implementing what they’ve learnt to support ongoing progress.

Note: Names have been changed to protect client’s identity.