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I remember when Emily was about 4 years old, I was trying to get her ready to go shopping. She was upstairs sitting on a window seat, gazing out towards the garden, completely in her own world. As I tried to move her to go and put her coat on, she got more and more stressed, aggressive and loud! I sat down on the bed and thought for a minute. What must it feel like to have no idea what was happening next, but be pulled and pushed towards it (however gently)? I decided to try something and went downstairs to get her coat and bring it to her, to give her a visual clue as to what was happening. This worked!!! And so was born the pictures, timetables and lists in the Ashby household! Autistic children tend to find it incredibly difficult to navigate their way through the day, especially if they have no language. So, if they are not thinking in language, how are they thinking and how best can we help them? “I think in pictures. Words are like a second language to me…when somebody speaks to me, his words are instantly translated into pictures… One of the most profound mysteries of autism has been the remarkable ability of most autistic people to excel at visual spatial skills while performing so poorly at verbal skills.” (Temple Grandin) Using the internet, there is absolutely nothing that happens in a day that cannot be created visually for your child. START SIMPLY AND JUST USE PICTURES

Start by creating a board of something that really motivates your child. It may be what you plan to have for lunch, what is going to happen at Grandma’s house or a play session in the garden. Cut out the images and bluetac them to the board and then you can use them again. BEDTIME ROUTINE Bedtime tends to be one of the most stressful times of day for parents and children alike, so creating a board of exactly what is going to happen is a really good start to a peaceful bedtime.

PICTURES AND WORDS Eventually, when your child’s understanding of language increases, you will be able to use pictures and words with them. Start to use these more complicated boards, at first, for things that your child does regularly. If the event is a new experience for your child, still use only picture boards.

Be creative and use images that your child recognises. You could take photos of all their things and make the boards really personal to them. If your child is able to engage with you during this process, include them in a way they find easy and fun. JUST WORDS Once your child’s vocabulary increases and their ability to communicate with you is developing, they may be able to just use words and start to create these boards themselves, with your help. Every Sunday evening, in our house, Emily sits down at her laptop and types in all the things that are going to happen over the next week and then prints off her timetables. She also loves writing in her diary.

The most important thing is that you and your child find a way to communicate with each other and have fun. Whether you use pictures, pictures and words or just words, your child’s world will open up for them, if you start creating and being inventive. Take care. THE AUTISM NANNY

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