World Autism Awareness Day

World Autism Awareness Day – whether we have a diagnosis or not (which can be helpful or not), we are all individuals and one response or label does not fit all.

World Autism Awareness Day is a day to celebrate us all

 

World Autism Awareness Day is a day to celebrate us all – especially those that are ‘different’ and find it more difficult to communicate with others in ways we expect or understand.

 

The popular term ‘neurotypical’ is stating that there is a ‘typical’ way that we interact
with others or not. In reality all of us find interaction difficult at times, and can be
supported in so many different ways, once we are understood. At the same time,
individuals can find it really helpful to understand how their ‘neuroatypical’ wiring,
affects their ability to interact with others and how they perceive the world around
them.

At one end of the spectrum, autistic people may have significant learning disabilities
and require 24-hour support in order to lead their lives, while at the other end the
person may be very intelligent and successful in their chosen career but require a
little support and understanding from others in some areas of their life.” (Forest
School and Autism: Micheal James)

Autism spectrum disorder is described as, ‘persistent difficulties with social
communication and social interaction’ and ‘restricted and repetitive patterns of
behaviours, activities or interests’, present since early childhood, to the extent that
these ‘limit and impair everyday functioning’.

The Woodland Project - World Autism Awareness DayOur funded Woodland Project which we run in partnership with CAMHS and CAMHS-LD-FISS offers family days out, parents days and a long-term teenage programme who are diagnosed with many labels. In the woods we are all people who are valued. We know it makes a positive difference to everyone involved and allows us all to achieve more than anyone imagined.

The days encourage families to put their worries to one side, mingle and laugh knowing that their child’s behaviour is not the focus of attention.  They support young people to feel safe, move through difficult feelings, find hope and be okay with who they are.

You can support the future of The Woodland Project by donating here. Thank you.

The majority of ‘autistic’ people present a level of difference in sensory processing
which affects them in their day-to-day lives. A recent workshop I went on gave us
various activities to give us a momentary glimpse into what it may be like to have
sensory processing difficulties. We had to undo and fasten buttons using washing up
gloves – not easy!

Next I walked around some cones looking through binoculars –my balance and sense of place was totally affected. Finally, the bit I enjoyed most was getting inside a stretchy sock, all tight around me. I experienced how safety can be increased by this touch and containment. And why so many young people I work with love getting inside hammocks or tight spaces.

We perceive the world and our place in it using our senses: sense of sight, sense of
hearing, sense of smell, sense of touch, sense of taste, sense of balance, sense of
our physical positioning and the strength of effort our body is exerting. These are not
the only senses – how we sense our internal feelings is also vital, as this lets us
know if we are hungry or sad.

Our bodies are always enabling us to ‘sense’ our world, and it is often through our bodies, in nature that we can learn to regulate and rewire ourselves to facilitate meeting our needs and providing an increase in well-being. Our new book co-authored by Marina Robb and Jon Cree will be published in Spring 2020. This will dedicate a chapter to the bottom up and top down strategies that we can apply in a natural environment – along with much, much more. Sign up to our newsletter to find out more.

The National Autistic Society recently produced a short film called Too Much
Information, which can be found on YouTube. The film shows the experience of
walking through a busy shopping mall from the perspective of an autistic child
experiencing an overload of sensory information. I would recommend taking moment
to watch this film if you have never experienced sensory overload personally.

Greta Thunberg - World Autism Awareness Day

Finally, on World Autism Awareness Day, I want to acknowledge the climate activist Greta Thunberg, who is diagnosed with Autism. Her protests have both called attention to climate policy, as she intended, but it also highlights the political potential of neurological difference.

 

An extract from: The New Yorker. See the full article here.
“I see the world a bit different, from another perspective, I have a special interest.
It’s very common that people on the autism spectrum have a special interest.”
Thunberg developed her special interest in climate change when she was nine years
old and in the third grade. “They were always talking about how we should turn off
lights, save water, not throw out food,” she told me. “I asked why and they explained
about climate change. And I thought this was very strange. If humans could really
change the climate, everyone would be talking about it and people wouldn’t be
talking about anything else. But this wasn’t happening.” Turnberg has an uncanny
ability to concentrate, which she also attributes to her autism. “I can do the same
thing for hours,” she said. Or, as it turns out, for years.

Here I am, sitting in Lewes, East Sussex. It is because of the many people who
have gone before me who acted, and people today, like Greta, that I am glad to be
part of a growing community to come, who values diversity and our uniqueness.

Today, on World Autism Awareness Day, thousands of young people are out on the streets across the world inspired by a young woman with Autism.

Marina Robb, Circle of Life Rediscovery Director

 

By Marina Robb

Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC – Director.

 

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

info@circleofliferediscovery.com

01273 814226

Challenging Behaviour – A balanced brain means a pro social mind

Challenging Behaviour – how does the outdoors promote a balanced brain? This was a question put to me on a play structures course last weekend. I had been talking about challenging behaviour and the way ‘movement and making’ can help people of all ages regulate behaviour. So to the question. First what do I mean by balanced brain?

Join Jon Cree for Challenging Behaviour this June or NovemberI was working with a youngster this autumn, Jordan, who, providing he was succeeding with a task, was engaged and controlled…he had a penchant for sawing and took great pleasure in making clean cuts. However as soon as it got hard or he made a hash of sawing he would throw the saw down, stomp and withdraw shouting all his way to the gate of our forest school site.

This became a common occurrence. He would become, very quickly, dysregulated and have difficulty controlling his emotions and behaviours. He also developed the vocabulary and a basic understanding of psychology to try and wind up both his peers and teachers with some choice words!

He displayed a lack of balance. This type of behaviour could be indicative of a sensory processing disorder, ADHD, history of trauma or something else, he was seen as a ‘handful’ in school, where he was always in reactive state, whereas at forest school was more often ‘on task’.

What was happening in his brain at these outbursts was an imbalance of both brain chemicals and lower and higher order thinking. The more reflective brain was being dominated by the reactive brain. Neurologist Jak Panksepp would say the mid-brain pathways are not working in harmony, in this case a lack of control over his frustration saw him reacting with the ‘fast’ or ‘no I can’t do this’ brain….I was sure it wasn’t necessarily indicative of other conditions.

What was needed was time and practise at getting into the pre frontal cortex to recognise the emotions that threw Jordan out of balance and to think about self regulation. Jordan was 12 and at this age the pre frontal cortex…the higher order brain that thinks about feelings and helps regulate behaviour by bringing the brain into balance, is going through a developmental phase.

It is fine to feel frustration, in fact its good and healthy. It is how we respond to the emotion that’s important, not letting it call all the shots. In the moment what helps is ‘calming’ and an approach from us, the adult practitioners, who have a developed pre frontal cortex, that is non threatening, clear, calm, empathetic and soothing to help Jordan re-balance. What happens when his frustration kicks in is either Jordan’s hyper-arousal and he stomps in rage, or some people enter hypo-arousal where the freeze response kicks in and a rigid non-flexible adaptive behaviour is displayed.

What is happening when these two states are witnessed is the autonomic nervous system activating to release certain chemicals such as cortisol or adrenaline and neurotransmitters like noreprophine, opioids etc, that can lead to brain imbalance.

Find our more about Jon Cree and his Challenging Behaviour 3 day course

How does Forest School help bring the brain into balance? Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson in their book ‘The Yes Brain Child’ propose through 7 daily ‘activities’ optimal brain matter is developed to create a healthy mind.

These include; sleep, physical time, focus time, down time, reflective time, connective time, play time.

While all these exist simultaneously at forest school (excepting sleep, unless you drop off in a hammock!) what the outdoors offers in abundance is physical and play time. One of the key mid brain systems Panksepp calls the PLAY system.

It has been shown that regular integrated play helps to stimulate both lower order thinking and higher order brain development, enabling a more integrated brain to develop. When in extended play mode, it could be through a hunting game or ‘playing with’ saws to see what happens when different techniques and materials are experimented with, then all kinds of higher order thinking and behaviours can develop.

These can include handling disappointment, sustaining attention, making sense of the world, overcoming fears of disappointment, tolerating frustration or coping with feelings of helplessness. Chemicals released through play can include serotonin, oxytocin, noreprophine all of which can counteract too many of the hyper and hypo-arousal chemicals.

Explore Challenging Behaviour in the outdoors with Jon Cree

 

The moving and physical activity at forest school beit running, dragging, swinging, climbing or sawing and chipping also helps both dissipate the reactive chemicals and stimulate resilient balanced brains.

 

When this is a regular programme eventually the combination of an empathic approach, plenty of integrated play, physical activity, daydreaming, a soothing green place and reflective time can see more balance and more pro social behaviour.

In the end Jordan will keep hold of the saw, regulate his behaviour and brain, discovering, through trying out how to make the most of technique and materials, the pleasure from ‘making’.

By Jon Cree

Jon Cree
Jon will be in East Sussex in June and November this year with Circle of Life Rediscovery delivering the 3 day course:  Working with Young People with Challenging Behaviour, in the Outdoors.

 

Working with Young People with Challenging Behaviour, in the Outdoors.

This course is aimed at any educator who feels they want to engage and work with students in the outdoors who may be reluctant learners (of any age).

This course will delve into:

  • What challenges us as leaders in the outdoors
  • Theory on challenging behaviour
  • Up-to-date neural research; triggers and causes for challenging behaviour
  • Ways of dealing with ‘real life’ scenarios in the outdoors
  • De-escalation
  • How to transfer outdoor strategies into an indoor and other settings – including looking at the validity of sanctions and rewards.
  • Reviewing your own policies

Date: 17th, 18th & 19th June OR 20th, 21st & 22nd November 2019
Lead Facilitator: Jon Cree
Where: Mill Woods, East Sussex
Cost: £325 for the 3 day course, £55 for the Accreditation (optional). This Level 3 West Midlands Open College Network Accredited Course.
Time: 09.00 – 17.00.
Booking: Please book online here for the June course or online here for the November course.
More info: Please visit the website here for full details.


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.