Hi, I’m Paula! Professionally, I am a Specialist Teacher, Speaker, Trainer, Advocate, Parent Warrior and Director of my own company. Unprofessionally (and more importantly) I am a mum to 2 amazing adult kids. We are a neurodiverse family that have had to find a way to get through an almost impossible system!
We came across The Low Arousal Approach when Tim was a demanding 7 year old and Bex was lively 6 year old! Life was busy, I was desperately trying to be a perfect mother and Richard was frantically trying to live up to the traditional man of the house role model! Tim was given a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder at 5 years old, he had been ‘in the system’ since his 20-month check.
However, we were discovering slowly that our world didn’t fit our perceived norm. As the aggression grew, I knew something wasn’t right. I could manage 300 eight year olds on a field (I was a Play Worker at the time). Dragging him into school, restraining him when he got aggressive and traditional parenting strategies were not working! Plus, this sort of behaviour management didn’t sit right with me. Unfortunately, we were slow learners! Captain Chaos was ruling the house & boy, oh boy we battled against it! The result: an aggressive Tim & a traumatised Bex! In a last ditch approach to avoid something dramatic happening, we attended a 6 week Autism West Midlands course. What we did changed our lives! We were introduced to autism from a different perspective, from that of the autistic person. It wasn’t a failing, a disease to be cured, a puzzle to be solved. Tim’s brain worked differently, he simply couldn’t think like us; he didn’t need management, he needed us to understand! So understand we did!
We focused on his arousal levels, in any given situation, we thought about the context. What was the sensory impact? What was happening before, during and after? How was our communication, verbal and non-verbal? We saw his behaviour as communicating something, we understood change was really distressing for him, we understood he was experiencing extreme levels of anxiety and, as we changed, we began to see him change!
We stuck to a structured routine coming home from school and very soon we noticed a difference. Then introduced one to the morning. Then, bit by bit we tackled another issue and sure enough the aggression began to lessen. Now Tim is 21 and Bex is 19. Bex received an ASD diagnosis at 16. She is very different to Tim, yes she is autistic, but she has an amazing ability to avoid demands. The Low Arousal Approach works with her too. I am constantly thinking, planning and being creative. I think ahead, I plan and have back up plans of plans. I talk about my toolbox, strategies and grenade moments. But most of all I focus on communication, watching, listening, hearing and asking my children. Then assuming I’m the one responsible for any changes. Now we all try to be aware of our levels of anxiety, our levels of arousal and our levels of wellbeing. We try to focus on managing our own levels. When the DIRM (Does It Really Matter) becomes your motto, you know something is different. This is when The Low Arousal Approach becomes A Low Arousal Lifestyle.
Please take a look at my website for more information: www.touchthespectrum.org.uk