You've had the best adventures over the summer holidays... but now school is back, your child is not feeling well...
Tummy aches, head aches, sickness, stress and panic attacks ... why?! They were fine before! Why? Because over the summer holidays, they were able to recover and process the world and learning in a way that best suits them... with time out, and fewer unregulated demands...
✨It’s perfectly understandable when children complain of seemingly new symptoms just before school starts. It’s not a bad thing-it’s an opportunity to help them✨
As an autistic adult, I can confirm that I was the same, as an autistic teen and older child. I’d be relatively ‘ok’ (pain and discomfort wise) throughout summer and then I’d get all sorts of tummy, back, head aches and ‘floppy arm’ ‘gloopy stomach’ symptoms(as I’d call it) the moment school came around.
✨The pains were all real and all valid, and was all communication of a bigger problem✨
Parents, you know why it didn't hurt as much during summer? I was empowered and comfortable all summer- I was safe.
✨Suddenly all of that changes and I have to go back to the place that hurts me✨
-A place that doesn’t understand or accept me.
-A place that made me feel ill with anxiety and a place that gave me such severe shutdowns that I was in constant pain.
-A place I was negatively labelled and thought of as stupid, rude, attention seeking, worthless, helpless, naughty, hopeless and selfish.
-A place that made me feel so, so bad about myself and my self worth.
No wonder I suddenly felt ill at the prospect of going back to that place, after the wonders of a summer holidays in an empowering environment surrounded by love and understanding.
Of course it was painful going back to that place, that they call school?
Anxiety and fear manifests physically, more commonly in autistic individuals. It’s physically, emotionally and mentally painful and draining.
-During the summer holidays, i wasn’t being forced to mask and hide my Autism in an unfamiliar space with unfamiliar people.
-I wasn’t coping with stressful changes in poor environments that lacked understanding.
-I wasn’t set homework or essays or exams. No, over the summer, I could be free to learn and develop in ways that suited me (121 role modelling and interest based learning).
-I wasn’t surrounded by the playground bullies and sneering peers who would smear sandwiches in my face and throw toilet roll at me.
-There were no back handed compliments or mate crime.
I wasn’t verbally abused or gaslighted to believe I was crazy and insane for being different.
-I wasn’t over stimulated in an unaccepting environment with misunderstanding pupils and teachers who inadvertently unintentionally gaslighted me.
-I felt safe and empowered during those glorious 6 long weeks of summer holidays-I was physically and mentally at my best over the summer holidays
_because my mind and body had recovered from the sensory, mental and emotional trauma of attending school-and I had 121 role modelling nearly everyday.
reminder: ✨a child or teen complaining of feeling ill or in pain at start of new term of school is not necessarily attention seeking, or attempting to ‘skive’ for the sake of it✨
there’s a reason-and that reason could be more than just ‘schools boring and I want to have fun’-
the true reason could be more heartbreaking than previously considered.
✨Of course-You’re the parent and you know your child best-you best know when they are ‘pulling the wool over your eyes’, but when you’re uncertain, please consider there could be more to it✨
Please Consider your child is in actual pain - not just physical - but mentally and emotionally too. Consider the root causes-and then try to help them. The best we can do is try-there is nothing wrong with trying even if your uncertain of how to communicate or best help.
-If your child says their stomach hurts, ask them how school was today? Who did they see? what work did they struggle with? What did they enjoy or do well? (specifics-in maths/English/lunch time/playtime) Be specific, praiseful, and avoid Shame or pressure.
-Find ways to communicate with your child- communication devices, drawing, mining, role lay with dolls or puppets, and consider asking manageable, safe, non judgemental and non invasive questions, that make it clear there is no blame or lecture coming-you’re just there to listen, make them feel safe and maybe advise.
So, Your child is struggling with school and new pains? Why?
They had a meltdown?
Got told off?
Found something hard?
-Let them know that it’s not they’re fault that they don’t feel safe and you’ll try to help them learn better ways to cope with the stresses and strains of school life.
Try to understand the root of some of your child’s ‘bad behaviours’, and you may realise they’re not being bad at all-they’re not feeling safe and therefore not able to stay in control of their actions.
-Communicate and find out if you can What they are expecting to happen today? Who will they play with at break time? What will they do at break time? Where will they sit at lunch? Do they like their teacher and classmates? How do they feel during maths/English/PE/lunch time/ break time?
Let them know that them trying is valid and appreciated too.
Just let them know that You’re there for them. No matter what, you’re trying your best.
✨Just think for a moment- how often do you hear a child openly tell you about a problem they are having?✨
“My teacher is not nice to me” “I’m in pain”
“I’m being bullied”
“I didn’t like this change”.
“My friend broke up with me”
“I couldn’t go to the toilet all day and it hurts”
“I feel scared of pressure and failure”
It’s a rarity, in neurotypical children, let alone autistic children, I believe.
-Children tend to avoid opening up about problems because they simply don’t know yet that they need to-they’re children-they haven’t yet had the life experience to encourage them to do so. Which is why it must be encouraged and role modelled to be open about feelings from a shame free place from an early age.
-Additionally, Autistic Children may not make the connection as to how they’re feeling or why they’re not feeling well, so the root cause can be harder to diagnose.
✨for me as a autistic kid, Alexithymia and poor interoception and potentially poor processing speeds made me incapable of making connection of when I was stressed or in pain, or pinpoint why✨
The fact I managed to even mention to parents that I had ‘gloopy stomach’ or ‘give away knee’ or ‘floppy arm’ is a great step in the right direction, considering I didn’t always make the connection I was in pain. All these pains referencing my ulcerative colitis, constipation, IBS and severe shutdowns and joint weakness.
- for me, pain has to be severe or distressing and distraction worthy before I think to mention it - a level 6/10 minimal -so it’s worth treating! Many autistic people have similarities to me, in this way. Does your child?
-The main issue for me though was simply not making the connection to express the pain I was in, and the consequential shutdown of capabilities that made it impossible to verbalise my pain.
✨How could I openly tell someone I had a problem I needed help with if I couldn’t mentally make that connection?✨
I remember what it was like as an autistic child vividly- I was stressed and so overloaded with severe anxiety and shutdowns about school during the last few school years.
(Which is why we gave me mental health days to recover lost abilities from shutdowns-I had every Friday off school to recouperate, therapy and support. It changed my life and made a world of difference. I started getting less pain, less symptoms it was an enormous change for the better).
✨As parents- you do your best and you also know your child best✨
So when, at the beginning of term your child starts complaining of a new pain when they’ve been fine all through the summer holidays, please consider, there’s more to it than simply wanting more holiday time.
-There could be a real and valid problem that your child is yet unable to express- and the prime could be real no matter how oddly described or sudden and rare.
-try to safely establish what these problems may be, in a way that safely empowers your child.
✨It may not be easy, it may be very challenging, but the positive outcome will likely be worth it in the end. There’s no shame if it’s super difficult. You’re not a failure if you try your best-& you certainly are trying!✨
Understanding the root cause of different defence mechanisms, behaviours and communication is key, to empowering a safe accepting environment to best learn and develop.
✨You know your child best, and you try your best, so never give up, on learning the root causes of what your child is communicating! You got this✨
Can anyone relate? Let’s chat!
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