Holiday Heartbreak & The Call To Autism Coaching
I could scream.
I could cry.
I did cry.
Every holiday or half term, I am faced with the same dreaded problem, the same ignorant responses, the same fears. Yet every time I give them the chance to prove me wrong, to gain my trust and to make me breathe a sigh of relief.
I thought I had finally found it.
Today a ‘man’ made me cry, in front of my son and in front of a hall of children and staff.
I had to walk out, I could hardly breathe with the rage and crushing emotions smashing against my chest.
As my (also) tearful, enraged son hugged me round the waist and asked me “are you annoyed with me, mummy?”
At which point I pulled myself together and found my strength and responded in a firm, loving tone “not you, darling. Not you”
Let me explain….
I arrived to collect my son from summer holiday day camp at a local leisure centre we used back in the May half term. The kids were outside and I waited ’til they all started to walk in. Tyler caught a glimpse of me so started to come over, the staff near him told him to come back in line as the road was right there.
As I crosse the road, Tyler hugged me tight and started to cry. My heart sank to my stomach, I knew exactly what was coming. I could almost predict how the next conversations were about to play out.
The guy said that Ty hadn’t had a good afternoon and had been naughty, wanting to play by himself and not responding to his commands. Apparently when the kids don’t get involved they get a warning then a discipline! “uh huh” I though, here we go….
I asked Ty what was going on and I could feel his rage about to explode, he managed to tell us that it wasn’t any of the kids bullying him this time, this time it was one of the staff. He said he had been on at him all day, shouting and in his space.
So calmly, I asked the guy. Do you and the staff on today know Tyler is autistic? Do you know the signs of autism? Do you know the habits and traits of autism? Do you know how to respond to autism? Are you aware that communication isn’t his strong point? Do you know that autistic kids feel safe playing alone?
No, the staff hadn’t been informed, although it is all over the medical forms I enrolled him with.
No they didn’t realise this is how autistic people are when they need their space or are experiencing anxiety or unease.
Right. Thanks for being honest and I appreciate that you may not be specifically trained BUT all of the staff on duty should KNOW about EVERY child in their care for that day. NO EXCUSES.
I offered to have a quick chat with the member of staff that had upset Ty today, as we went into the hall the other man invited him to have a chat.
The staff member who was a very young man had a defensive demeanour before I even said anything. I asked him if he knew Tyler is autistic and if perhaps he knew why Ty may have wanted to play by himself. He responded by raising his voice “yes I know he has autism and I know how to deal with that problem” I responded with “umm, Tyler doesn’t have a problem” he continued getting agitated saying he has a relative with autism and that my son was being ‘stubborn and rude’ and that he told Ty over and over again to move out the way but he wouldn’t listen. He became increasingly stressed and defensive and incredibly rude then said “i’m not dealing with this” and walked off.
Leaving me stood there stunned, in tears and let down. Again.
I spoke to the manager who was extremely apologetic and admitted that the staff don’t get training on accommodating additional needs. Most staff are still at college and there is not ‘enough time’
ENOUGH. I handed him my business card and said “well i’ll train them then”
I am so fed up of having the same conversation every half term or holiday with every childcare provider Ty goes to.
“There is not enough time”
“There is not enough funding”
“We cant find the staff”
“The staff are young and inexperienced”
“We can’t do everything every day”
If you are going to provide a service and include kids with autism, bloody well work your ass off to cater for that promise.
DO THE WORK. TRAIN THE STAFF. MONITOR THE PROGRESS
I am setting up a staff coaching program for companies or individuals who offer services that include children with ASD. The coaching will include taking responsibility for your role as a service provider to ASD and changing your perception. Signs to look out for, how to react in meltdown situations, plans to put in place, communication techniques and material building.
It will begin in Sussex and I will train others to offer it further afield.
If you are interested in joining this movement to train with me or you want to book me for your staff please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject Line: SUSSEX AUTISM COACHING
Take responsibility, ignorance is exclusion, Emma