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The necessity of self-care for parents with children on the Autism Spectrum.

The necessity of self-care for parents with children on the Autism Spectrum.

Yesterday my son had a meltdown. The first in a while, that truly knocked us both for six.

In the early days they were more frequent. With early interventions and finding out strategies to manage our lives, now at the age of 6 ½ they are less frequent. Thank goodness.

Yesterday it got to the end of the day and he started to grunt. His little grunt of frustration sometimes drives the rest of the house a little crazy, because once he starts often there is no stopping it.

I can best describe it like the beginning of a volcano, it is a warning sign, like when earthquakes or gas emissions begin. That is the grunting stage.

Then comes the kicking or moving his body in a ridged way. This is like the initial steam and ash venting out of the volcano stage. 

I was then sitting close by waiting inevitably for the lava eruption. The very loud screaming, thrashing about and yesterday hitting himself. This stage is the hardest, it hurts him, and it hurts my heart as a parent to watch it. I must let it play out.

Not if he is really harming himself, then I step in as most parents of children with autism must.

You can’t plug a volcano up once it has erupted. You must wait for it to do its thing and stop when it is ready. A volcano stops erupting because all the trapped volatile gasses have degassed and there is no longer enough pressure to drive the magma out.

I can see in my son the amount of energy trapped in his body that he has not been able to release. This is sometimes why a meltdown for him is the only way he knows to get it out. For him it is usually caused by over-stimulation or no time to process a transition. Once it is over, he is worn out. He is tired, but he is also clearly more at ease and able to move on with his day.

When it was over, I gave him dinner, put him to bed with his usual routine of a book and a massage and put his brother to bed.

It left me shattered, it took all my reserve that I had. I had been building that reserve up every day through self-care. That night I didn’t have energy to talk it out with my husband, all I could do was eat mini snickers and sit on the couch looking at the TV.

I handled the meltdown with patience and compassion. I didn’t lose my cool or try to get him to snap out of it. That is impossible for him to just snap out of it, this would only make it worse and last for longer.

I want to make it clear that I could only do this because I have been using a lot of energy to look after myself lately. Walking in the mornings early before anyone is awake, eating better, making sure I have time to spend alone without the children. This could be a date with my husband or spending time with a friend. I regularly read and practice meditation (a BIG one) and I feel these self-care practices are the only reasons that I could handle yesterdays meltdown.

I know how hard it once was for me to recover from one of his meltdowns, and how I couldn’t always handle it with patience. I couldn’t come back straight away. It made me unable to socialise, I went into what felt like survival mode. I still do sometimes, but not every time. My anxiety would be shocking the next day, this in turn makes managing children harder.

Did you know the statistics are higher for parents with children on the spectrum or special needs to have depression or anxiety, to get divorced, to end up with drinking problems etc.

So, to all the parents out there with children on the spectrum please I beg of you to get support around finding time for you. Find out what works for you and what fills your cup up.

Make it a priority so that we can help our children the best we can. This is not selfish, this is imperative. Meltdowns and management of a child with ASD is often taxing and they need you to be functioning well.

I hope this year you can sit down with someone close to you and work out a care plan of how you can look after yourself. This way after a meltdown with your child you can bounce back a little quicker and still be there for the family.

There is support out there and it is important we take it so that we ourselves don’t end up burnout.

Big love to all you parents out there. Keep your chin up.

If reading this has made you think that you may need help around this please contact your local family Doctor, Counsellor, Therapist or support line to work out a care plan for you and your family. Below is a list of some services for Australian parents.

 

Sara Stace
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A New Kids Yoga Therapy.

Kids Yoga Therapist

As always my lovely readers I love bringing you new blog posts and this latest one I am especially excited about. Meet Jess, Jess is a friend of mine who has found her calling in life and started her own Kids Yoga Therapy business. Her story is very inspiring and I urge anyone looking for their purpose in life or needing a push to strive for more to read on. I am so happy for her but also extremely proud that vulnerable children such as those who have experienced trauma or those with special needs now have another advocate! So please enjoy my interview with Jess and show her some love over on Instagram and Facebook.

1 - Please introduce yourself and what you do. 

I am Jessica Lee. I grew up in a coastal town, Port Macquarie, and since leaving at 18 years old I have been on many adventures, most of which included a plane flight, packing far too many clothes than I actually needed and terrible walking shoes – when will I learn!? Next time, next time for sure.

I would say that travel has been a dominant aspect of my identity so far and I am grateful for this. I have experienced many cultures which has led to my appreciation for diversity and a developed sense of personal power as you need to depend on yourself when travelling. My goals for each adventure have often been the same, to feel alive, to connect with others on a deep and meaningful level and to embrace the diversity of the world we live in. On reflection, it still amazes me how easy these goals were achieved and in extreme measures while in foreign countries, and yet I was finding it difficult to achieve this back home – an issue which I believe many can relate too. Although our world is moving at a rate we can hardly keep up with, our yearning for genuine connection is ever-present. This yearning is one which I have begun taking very seriously in the last 6 months and although the catch-cry, ‘only you can make yourself happy’ is thrown around like hot potato, unless you FEEL it to be true, and are READY for it to be true, it will never be.

Another dominant aspect of my life has been the need for knowledge, the desire for solutions, and the belief that we can always be better. I not only believe this for myself, but was determined to help the adults and children I worked with believe it too. As a Social Worker, I have connected with people who have absolutely no reason to believe their situation could get better, but here I was, determined to alter this view. So instead of reading the Twilight series I read books about neuroscience, trauma, child development, and mindfulness, because the more I knew, the better chance I had in guiding people to find their reason and a sense of hope for their future.

The most proud and fulfilling aspect of my life to date has been my personal quest for inner-peace and contentment. For those of you who get as excited as me about self-development you’ll know it’s hard bloody work and involves a lot of tears! For me, the journey of self-development has led to a transformation mindset! One which now chooses faith over fear and love over hate. I now have a faith, a faith in the universe and it’s energy. To say this out loud is daunting for me because for so many years I have been living in the shadows of my true SELF. I am happy to say that after many podcasts, books, time spent in nature, time spent feeling alone and isolated and forced to find a way out, time spent suffering from anxiety, time travelling, I have found the confidence to just be ME and it simply feels liberating.  

Out of this journey Kids Yoga Therapy was created. I am able to work with the most vulnerable children and their families and provide tools and strategies that begin altering their minds and bodies. Yoga and meditation are so powerful when you commit to them that the inconceivable outcomes start to become possible. My programs usually run for 9 weeks which is long enough to begin building concentration, releasing built-up tension, increasing self-confidence and reducing anxiety. My role within the 9 weeks is not only to support the child, but to support the parents/carers. Parents/carers are often exhausted when they call me that they need self-care strategies as well. It’s also important that parents feel confident in continuing yoga and meditation with their child after I leave as creating long-term change takes time – longer than 9 weeks.

2 - Why did you start Kids Yoga Therapy? 

I have spent most of my career working within Foster Care which meant working with the most vulnerable children there can be. I absolutely loved this job! I loved forming connections with these children and their carers and supporting the home environment. However, when speaking with my carers, rarely did they express that their child was being given opportunities to simply BE and strategies to calm their mind and exit out of their constant state of fight/flight – sometimes a child cannot even calm their minds within their foster home despite having supportive and loving carers. I knew within the core of my being that I had something to offer these children but needed time to figure it out.

Whilst in the U.K in 2017 visiting a friend, and after many, many chocolate biscuits and cups of tea, she said “why don’t you combine everything you love and are passionate about?” This in my case was neuroscience, trauma, child development, yoga and meditation.

With this simple question, my head began to spin and my heart beat began to race and there it was. The idea I had been waiting for. The idea that would have me returning to Australia far earlier than expected because I just couldn’t wait in making this fabulous idea a reality – I decided then and there that Kids Yoga Therapy would be created to use the calming, joyful and purposeful practice of Yoga Therapy to begin a much needed REVOLUTION in the way we heal and transform the lives of children.

3 - What do you hope to achieve for 2018?

My goal for 2018 is to bring a renewed sense of hope within the most stressed and desperate families. The heartbreaking aspect of my role is when I see a huge disconnect between parents and their children. Children are unable to explain their thoughts and emotions, and parents are simply exhausted and have no idea what to try next. The medical model is simply not providing the answers for all families and I firmly believe that alternative interventions, such as yoga and meditation, are the way forward. There is a reason why yoga studios are on every street corner and I believe it is now time to bring this empowering experience to our children.

On a practical level, the hours I can reach children are quite limited due to school hours. If Kids Yoga Therapy is going to reach as many children as possible then online programs and resources will need to be created for parents/carers, teachers and support workers, and this is another goal of mine for 2018.

4 - How can we better understand the need for special needs therapy and spread the word?

During my time as a Social Worker and in my current role, I am constantly reminded by parents of the lack of support services and therapy options for children with special needs other than medication, an occupational therapist and a psychologist. Only last week I was told by a parent that despite her 9 year old son with ADHD and Autism having contact with a Psychiatrist, additional support services have not been mentioned or discussed. This is simply not good enough. A diagnosis does not give us a black and white indication of what the child needs to live their best life possible. We can have 5 children diagnosed with an Attachment Disorder or Autism, and the experiences of these children, or the behaviours the children exhibit are entirely different. Ensuring parents have a wide range of service options is my goal. It is crucial that parents have options for their child to suit their very unique and individual needs.

I believe the first step in creating change in the area of special needs therapies is to first be willing to pause and think critically about information you receive about special needs, either from other parents or health professionals, and that includes me. Conversations that include what a child needs, or doesn’t need, should know, shouldn’t worry about should be considered critically and with reflection. We are bombarded with information every day. Often it doesn’t matter if this information is true or false, if it’s said enough we end up believing it to be true. Our ability to pause and take 2 seconds to consider the information presented to us increases the chance of our opinion being ours, instead of dominant ideology. When we don’t meet children where they are at, they can never be found.

Once we can accept that difference is more likely than similarities in the field of special needs, or children in general for that matter, then demands for therapy options will begin to increase. I believe it has already started. I am overwhelmed by the supportive comments from people I meet in the community regarding Kids Yoga Therapy and it’s vision. People are tired of a one-size-fits-all approach, and if we start to express this with our friends, families, support workers, school principals and teachers, and anyone else you have access to, change is inevitable. Kids Yoga Therapy is a prime example of this. I listened and listened until I felt the overwhelming desire to provide a solution.

I also believe the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a huge opportunity for parents to have their voices heard. Parents will have the choice of services or therapies for their child. I hope parents use this opportunity to do their research, find the service or therapy option that they believe will benefit their child, even if it’s not part of the mainstream medical model. Your choices will inform organisations, therapeutic services, and practitioners of the need for more choice.

5 - How are you looking forward to using the "My Feelings Matter" book with your clients?

I absolutely love Sara's feelings book and I love using it with the children I work with. During my private sessions I allow the child to select a picture or feeling they want to focus on and the poses and meditations I then select will all relate to that theme. I find providing the child with something visual, like the book, they become more excited and focused about the topic of feelings rather than being asked to name an emotion - which can be met with a face saying "what are you on about lady?".  

6 - Where can we find out more about your services?

If you would like to find out more about Kids Yoga Therapy, please visit www.kidsyogatherapy.com.au and subscribe to receive event information and helpful tips. I have a number of workshops coming up and will be speaking at a number of conferences which you will be given the details of.

I’d love for you to join the Kids Yoga Therapy (KYT) Community group on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/123834968475335/

It is a new group and my intention is to create a supportive and inclusive network of like-minded parents where feeling stuck, lonely, or lost when it comes to parenting your child is a think of the past.

If you are interested in program options for your child, please contact me on 0403 270 367 or email info@kidsyogatherapy.com.au. I would be more than happy to conduct a Needs Assessment with you over the phone and determine if Kids Yoga Therapy could be an option for your child.

 

 

 

 

Sara Stace
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My guest interview with The Therapy Store

My guest interview with The Therapy Store

Find the interview here -

It’s a reflective question parents, teachers and anyone who has children in their lives will have asked themselves. How do you talk to little people with feelings and emotions that are sometimes bigger than they are?! It’s a question we get asked regularly, particularly by parents with children on the autism spectrum and those with other challenges than can make understanding emotions a real obstacle.

Thanks to author, Sara Stace, we now have a wonderful resource that is helping families and classrooms discuss a huge range of feelings and emotions, and how to interact and work with them. We had a quick chat to get an insight into this wonderful book and how to best help children understand what they’re feeling. 

My Feelings Matter has fast become one of our favourite and best selling books, where did the inspiration and idea come from?

It is super exciting for me to hear this! The idea came originally from me wanting to create feelings flash cards, I then decided at the last minute to turn it into a book. I had created my own feeling cards at home for my son who is on the Autism Spectrum and we had them fixed to the fridge. I hand drew the illustrations and they were terrible, but he seemed to understand them. The idea was to see if he could remember to grab one off the fridge when he couldn’t talk to me but could maybe identify with a visual. This way I could know how he was feeling. At the time anything I could have done to avoid meltdowns (which were so very frequent at the time) I would have tried. I decided that this could work for other children especially those with special needs, so I set to work!

Who is the book for?

The book really is for everyone, by that I mean the number of adults I have tell me that they have learnt a new perspective from our book is just amazing. The book is a resource. It’s not a story telling book. It is more of a way that children can identify with the visual illustrations we have put together and then that helps them recognise and name a feeling, emotion or sense. The book of course was written for my son, so any one with children on the Autism Spectrum or Sensory Processing Disorder will really benefit from and love this book.

Illustrations are a big part of any kid’s book, how important are they in yours?

Without our illustrations the book couldn’t exist or be as well received as it has been. I knew in my mind exactly what little people we needed, and it did take quite some time before we reached our little feelings people. I had to test them out to see if my son knew what they might be feeling, and we had to change some. They needed to be simple.

They needed to be on a white background so that children’s eyes were not met with an overwhelming amount of colour and distracting visuals to take away from them focusing on the emotion or sense.

Not every child can recognise facial cues as easily as others, and some may not be able to identify with ours either. They may need real photos of people they know to learn from. Every child is different. A HUGE thank you goes to my friend Tamara Hackett from Sweet Clover Studios for somehow understanding my requests and bringing them to life. I love them so much and think she has done a wonderful job.

From your experience what are the essential steps to helping children understand their feelings and emotions?

This is just my experience of course, as a mum with two boys, who are each VERY different. I would say it’s crucial to communicate, talk and ask questions. We are human beings. We are not robots. Children are not born knowing about emotions, they are taught, and rarely are we taught in a healthy way. Sometimes how we are taught comes with a whole lot of baggage from our parents. (Not always intentional, just unaware).

Children need to see our expressions so look at them when you talk to them. Go down to their level if what you are saying is important. Don’t just shout from the other room or expect that a two year old or six year old knows how you’re feeling. Also, don’t expect them just to be able to tell you how they are feeling. It takes time and effort.

Talk about feelings regularly. Ask them how something made them feel and just listen to their answer. You will without a doubt in turn raise emotionally intelligent children. Children that may not have to heal from all the suppressing of emotions that we may have had to do as children. That will in turn hopefully produce healthy adults. Adults that can talk to their bosses, their partners, their children and work through feelings without numbing them out with unhealthy habits. Or on the other hand, lashing out, being angry and violent all because they can’t express how they feel and sit with those feelings until they pass.

The most important thing even though my book is all about feelings is to teach children that just because they are feeling something doesn’t mean they have to BE that feeling.

You can feel angry or sad without being angry forever or sad for days. Feel it, sit with it, what is it telling you? How can we work through that, and now let go of that feeling? We can’t be happy all the time, but we can feel it regularly, enjoy it, then let it pass until next time.

Can you imagine that world like this? I can.

Sara Stace
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When you find out you're normal, for a creative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Lesson learnt for today - work with & along side the "fear".

You see, I feel fear daily, hourly even, every time I try to create something new. An idea comes to me and so does anxiety/fear at the exact same time, hitting me equally as hard as the idea. 

One comes with goosebumps and a warm fuzzy feeling and one comes with a nice side of nausea. 

I always thought I had to feel the fear and push through...but today I like the lesson of learning that I can acknowledge the fear, and take away its power by allowing space for it next to me while I work. 

To find out this is normal for creatives makes me feel a deep sense of relief.

Hey, I'm somewhat normal! A close friend gave me the book "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert last week. OK, so I know I'm late to the table with this popular book so bare with me. She gave it to me after I said how I can't seem to move past the fear of creating my new and latest idea. It's been sitting in my brain now for weeks, maybe months.

There is nothing at all stopping me from doing what I need to do to make the idea come alive....that is except for fear. Will it work? Will it sell? Who am I to create a product for ASD kids? (Besides a kick ass mother of an ASD child!) I'm no expert (well actually I am on my son!), I have not studied, what price will I make it? (who cares, it will help children!) How will I get the artwork done? 

You see where I am going with this? My fear likes to jump right on board of every idea I have every had and tell me why I can't do it. So to hear this is normal and that even Elizabeth Gilbert feels it, well you can imagine how that makes me feel. 

I have created products from absolutely nothing except an idea before. All while raising babies and suffering from PND and Post natal anxiety.  I'm talking to the point of being scared to leave the house. But I have felt the fear and done it anyway. Somehow, day by day I push through it.

Only someone who has ideas and has brought them to life would understand. Only someone who feels that anxiety of "what will the world think" and "how on earth can I afford or find time to do this" would understand.

Is it that my Mum gave me her spirit of NEVER giving up that helps me through? Is it that God is watching over me and guiding me knowing that I was born to do this? Or is it just that I have been enough places and had enough experiences to help me grow and move through my fear?

The answer is not important. The only thing that is important is what I do with these ideas that come to me and make me giddy with excitement.

I encourage you today to use the wise words of Elizabeth and when an idea comes to you in life - "Most of all, be ready. Keep your eyes open. Listen. Follow your curiosity. Ask questions. Sniff around. Remain open. Trust in the miraculous truth that new and marvellous ideas are looking for human collaborators every single day. Ideas of every kind are constantly galloping toward us, constantly passing through us. Constantly trying to get our attention. Let them know you're available. And for heaven's sake, try not to miss the next one". 

You heard the woman - hear it, see it, do it! Move with that fear along side you and acknowledge it, then tell it to take a back seat and shut the hell up! 

So please tell me, have you had this same experience? Let me know below. 

Sara x

 

 

Sara Stace
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