Thursday, 1 October 2015

Autism and the delayed effect


Tonight my son walked through the door from school and immediately I knew. He didn’t have to say or do anything....I just knew!
Call it mothers intuition, or call it years and years of practice, but I knew something was wrong. It was the delayed effect. My son has had a tricky day at school. He has held it together for nearly 7 hours. He walks through the front door.....And bam!!
He’s somewhere safe, familiar and he can’t contain the pressure anymore.


It creeps out of every fibre of his being. His face is tense and he has red cheeks. His body is stiff and awkward. His words are fast and loud, and he’s agitated. He’s hungry, he’s not hungry. He wants a snack but not what’s in the cupboard.  So he gets angry and swears as he’s not in control of his body anymore. He wants to say hello to the dogs but their over excitement is too much for him, so he’s too rough with them and he gets cross with himself.  I try to ask him how he is feeling and it’s like there is a red fog surrounding him. He can’t process what I am saying.  His sisters walk in chatting and laughing. They sound like a crowd of people to him and he shouts to them both to be quiet. They snap back at him as only sisters do and wham....the volcano explodes. We have lift off.
   



Meltdown. There’s no turning back now. It has to all come out!
Then comes the exhaustion; for him, and for me. He can’t reflect on it because it’s all just too much. He just needs to recharge now, as do I. It’s so hard being a mum on the receiving end of the delayed effect as it holds no prisoners, and doesn’t care who it hurts in the process. So I can’t even begin to imagine how it must feel for my son.

As his mum I know there would have been tell tale signs throughout the day. But small clues that can be easily missed, as he would have been largely compliant, therefore no one would have realised there was any problem. But I know that as they day progressed his complexion would have become paler as the energy sapped out of him with each passing hour. He may have struggled to eat his lunch due to high anxiety. A nervous giggle would have squeaked out when his teachers tried to speak to him. He would have put his head down on the table during lessons, or possibly rocked back and forward on his chair to calm himself down. And as the pressure mounted there may have even been some finger picking, and sleeve chewing as the clock ticked towards home time. 

My son shows these signs of stress through his body language and gestures. He can’t always communicate his needs verbally, so they can get missed. And to be honest I don’t even think he is able to recognise this rising pressure himself until it’s too late most of the time.

The delayed effect is a very common challenge facing many children on the Autistic Spectrum. Some children are able to contain their feelings all day at school, with the teacher blissfully unaware that there is a problem. However the stress hormones are slowly building and building inside these kids. This creates a Jekyll and Hyde sort of situation that can put incredible pressure on families. Especially if the teacher doesn’t understand or believes what the parents are telling them. So let’s think about it this way for a minute.......

Imagine yourself as a bottle of pop. Your ingredients include; Autism, Sensory processing difficulties, ADHD, and a hidden speech and language delay. The worlds a confusing place and your difficulties are largely hidden to the wider world, not many people understand things from your perspective.

Your day......
Going to school is just one big worry for you... so give that bottle a shake!
You get to school and your teacher says “let’s start a new topic” ...what does that mean? ...give it a shake!
You don’t understand what you have to do...shake it up!
You make a mistake...shake, shake, shake!
The lights in class are buzzing, it’s annoying... shake it a little more!
It’s assembly. You have to sit still while your insides are wiggling and jiggling around....shake it up!
The timetable changes and it’s not maths like it should be, it’s now music... and again!
The taxi gets stuck in traffic, your late home, and the wrong radio station is on in the car... that’s a few more shakes!


You get home and the lid blows off with the pressure!! That's the delayed effect! Its a real thing... trust me. The times over the years I have felt so confused and isolated when teachers would say  to me “well that is a surprise we dont see any of that here at school.” Or I would hear “well he can behave for me, so maybe your being too soft on him”. I spent many a  sleepless night wondering if it was me. Was it my parenting? But I am his mum and my gut instinct is always right. I knew there was something my child was struggling with and all I had to do was really understand what his behaviour was telling me. My child explodes at home with me because I am his safe place. I am predictable and calm and he can really be himself at home. At home he is fully accepted.

So this tells me that there are many things that can be done in order to reduce this build up of stress hormones for children like my son, by making them feel more safe and accepted for who they are And that means really embracing their individual needs. Not just trying to fit a round peg into a squre hole. If you want to read more about the delayed effect you will find really useful threads on my facebook page -https://www.facebook.com/sliceofautism

26 comments:

  1. Lisa embery donaghy18 October 2015 at 13:01

    This described my life with my son to a tea.
    My son does this everyday. And you took the words right out of my mouth.
    Its heart breaking. Coz im at my wits end not knowing how to support him anymore. We are goingcthrough the fight of trying to get him in a special school as he isnt placed in the right school at all.we have been fighting since 2013.

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  2. Hi Lisa Its so hard I know , it made a huge difference when we got our son in a special school, I hope the school your son attends is understanding about the challenges you face at home.I am in the middle of writing about how we can help with the delayed effect as a guest post on an another page I will be sharing it early in November if you wanna keep an eye out for it... keep strong hon x

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  3. This hit the nail on the head I felt like I was reading about my son .I've saved this link to pass to his teachers x

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  4. This hit the nail on the head I felt like I was reading about my son .I've saved this link to pass to his teachers x

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  5. This is my 9 year old daughter. She holds it all together at school and depending on how stressful her day was , she may melt down once off the school bus or she may be able to hold it together until dinner when she is asked to eat foods other the pasta or carbs.Once she is in full howling sobbing tears she says how her day was so stressful and it usually has something to do with how she perceived how other kids were treating her or the teacher misunderstanding what she wanted. Wehave yet figure out how to make it better. But music and a bubble bath usually help her calm herself.

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    1. Glad you were able to connect with the blog that means a lot to me and thanks for sharing your story

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    2. Glad you were able to connect with the blog that means a lot to me and thanks for sharing your story

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  6. wow.....this is my son (accept the dogs, he doesn't like animals)
    my son is my hero, the things he deals with everyday, yet still gets up and faces the day head on is commendable.

    this boy knows a strength that no 8 year old should know, but he does, his strength inspires me.....if I could be one ounce of the person that my son is, I would be happy. thank you for sharing these blogs, they are great.

    Katie green - Mother to a real solider fighting a war all on his own xx

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment Katie x

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    2. Thanks for taking the time to comment Katie x

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  7. This is my son (aged 8) too. I have passed your wonderful words onto his teacher and SENCO. They said they have found it extremely helpful to understand children such as Harry. We are undergoing the assessment process for ASD/Aspergers currently. It has been a long hard slog. How can he be Autistic if he behaves at school but not at home is the question I have been asked over and over and over. I now have the answer after reading your blog. Thank you! Lucy xx

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    1. Hi lucy so glad it helped ! It's so common that people just don't understand how they can behave differently in different places

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  8. Thank you for posting this. I could have written every word myself-if I could write coherently. It does make me feel better to know my 8 year reacts as others do. His teacher told us the other that he is what makes her want to come to work! But when he gets home.......explosion. We know he needs more sleep and quiet time but there isn't enough time in the day. Thank you again. Aurora

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    1. Hi aurora so glad reading this had made you feel better !!

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  9. Do u have to be in the Autistic spectrum to process stress like this? My son has been diognosed with ADHD he is 14 and has the biggest melt downs I have ever seen... He scares me no not for me but for him... He says he feels like he has a monster inside he can't explain why he reacts like this... It got much worse after he hit puberty also!!! And he started playing some semi-violent video games... We have since taken them away from him... I KNOW war games with his over competitive nature and losing (as we all do in a game sometimes) takes its toll on him. He gets sooo mad at Xbox I HATE IT AS WELL NOW!!! School was another HUGE stressed too... He'd come home and be sooo stressed and just SNAP!

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    1. Yeah I think it's the case for many children who have to work that bit harder than everyone else in school, speech and lang delay, adhd, etc.

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    2. Yeah I think it's the case for many children who have to work that bit harder than everyone else in school, speech and lang delay, adhd, etc.

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  10. I'm in shock, this article describes 100% perfectly my son(9 years old) the only different is my poor baby explote and don't show it, instead he hurt himself in many different ways
    Thank you for sharing, I'll try to pass it to his teachers the school is being horrible stressful a huge worry for him and act like enemies with him and us but I love to think positive thank you very much
    This is the exactly words I couldn't pronounce myself in any IEP meeting
    Aura Amaya mother of a wonderful boy who is just different!

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    1. Hi Aura

      Many thanks for contacting me and I hope sharing it helped
      Mrs M x

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  11. This is my life with my daughter who is 11yrs old. Thanks for sharing this story. My daughter's melt downs scares me and trying to handle them is so hard sometimes. I find myself once she calms down and is reasoning again that I go to another room and cry. She can be very hurtful physically and verbally sometimes, but I know she can't control it when she is in the red zone. I try my best to stop it from happening, but sometimes there is no way of stopping it. Thank again for sharing.

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    1. Many thanks for sharing , it can be really tough seeing your child so upset, it helps me to think if it like a panic attack that help keep me that bit calmer
      mrs m x

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  12. This is my daughter
    And was my son to a tea (he's now 20)
    Reading this it could have so easily been me writing this thank you x

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  13. God this is my daughter all over and she is only six am going to have to give this to her teacher so she understand cause at the moment she just keeps telling my daughter she a big get your work done think she needs to read this understand kids with autism and keeps telling her she to slow and keeps her in over break time to finish her work am at my wits end with her new teacher this year

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