This Thursday (10th July) we attended the Rochdale Boroughwide User Forum (RBUF) Involvement Day. RBUF exists to give voice to people who use mental health services. The annual Involvement Day provides an opportunity for people to come together and try out some fun activities, get advice and have a voice. We offered free circus skills workshops, meditation and Chill Skill sessions, play sessions and Reiki tasters. The event took place at Rochdale Cricket Club.
We put up a board with a timetable of activities. I started a circus skills workshop while Jo gave a Reiki treatment to the first "customer". RBUF organisers expected we'd need a quiet corner for Reiki but it was such a glorious day Jo set up on the cricket pitch next to me with circus skills in front of the seating i.e. we had an audience. Before long it became obvious that I'd have to abandon circus and join in with the Reiki action, it was so popular. We gave 2 chair treatments at a time for the rest of the day and though they were only 20 minutes long everyone who received a treatment reported that it was very relaxing and some had an emotional release.
You might be wondering why we would offer this when our main objective is to work with families affected by Autism? Well, did you know that at least one in three adults with Autism experience severe mental health difficulties? The figure is likely to be much higher as there are so many undiagnosed adults out there. And with 40% of children with Autism experiencing bullying at school I imagine that the figure will increase as these children reach adulthood. This is one of the reasons that we support early diagnosis and training for professionals. The earlier a family knows their child has Autism the sooner they can implement meaningful strategies. It goes without saying that if professionals working with children with Autism are well trained they can better meet the need of each child.
We know that people with Autism are amazing, talented and valuable to our society and want to see an end to Autism being synonymous with limitation and despair. I believe in a future where the unique talents and gifts that often come with Autism are celebrated and children can reach adulthood as healthy, happy individuals!
P.S. Figures quoted are taken from The National Autistic Society website.
Here at Enlightening we like to inform ourselves as much as possible. Sometimes the information we receive is very challenging. What do you think?
Just Huggle! - What?
This is just soooo sweet! We love hugging and we love juggling so this is right up our street - I should edit that for those with Autistic traits but I nearly replaced it with "just our cup of tea"! For all you lovely Autists out there this is something that completely makes sense to us and suits our tastes? Does that work?
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video below.
If you follow our blog you'll be aware that we had a trip to see Dralion by Cirque du Soleil on Wednesday night. Following that trip I'd like to share the following:
Any circus show is bound to be an audio-visual spectacle and Cirque du Soleil never disappoint so it's little wonder that when they donated lots of tickets to our group of children and young people with Autism we were a little wary about how some of our members would cope.
Our youngest member (5 years old) came equipped with ear defenders and a few toys for distraction just in case. We often talk about the issues around sensory processing and that our main priority is to reduce stress and, of course, one way to do this is to provide distraction.
Though the show has loud music, singing, talking and sound effects the action is mesmerising enough (most of the time) to keep a 5 year old with Autism distracted for long periods of time. Our 5 year old was in turn captivated, amazed and periodically asking to go and get some coke!
Then came the interval - people everywhere and lots of chatter and movement and a lot less to captivate our boy; so what did he do? He ran! And he kept running (like Forest Gump) through the milling crowds; I stayed close behind him just observing and occasionally trying to warn him that he might run into someone (he couldn't hear me - he was running). At one point he stopped but still looked a little distressed, looking around puzzled and I asked "what do you need to do?", he replied "I don't know, I think I'm hot" and then ran back in the direction we had come. Now he was looking for the rest of our group; he ran through the rows of people queuing at the bar and he looked to me like someone running through a forest (he is so small compared with these adults standing in lines like trees). Eventually we rejoined the group, went back in to the show and he settled again.
So my reflection on this trip is a very simple observation:- he didn't need his ear defenders and distracting toys for the show, he needed them for the interval! As obvious as that seems now it wasn't at the time. It makes me wonder how often those of us supporting people with Autism make this kind of elementary mistake? We plan for the events that don't need planning and fail to plan for those that do.
When we returned him to his mum (after a short drive from Manchester to Castleton) he was floppy in her arms, sound asleep, safe and satisfied. We all had a great night and all say a big thank you to Cirque du Soleil for your generosity!
Lindzi Miller and Jo Potts