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Family Parenting School Teenagers

Navigating Vocational Pathways for Young Autistic Individuals 

Navigating the transition from adolescence to adulthood is a significant milestone for all young people, and it holds unique challenges for those on the autism spectrum. For some individuals and their families, this journey may include finding suitable vocational education and training (VET) opportunities that align with their skills, interests, and strengths.  

In this post, we’ll explore the importance of vocational pathways for young autistic individuals, their challenges, and practical strategies for unlocking doors to a fulfilling future. 

Understanding the Importance of Vocational Pathways

VET opportunities are not just pathways to employment; they are gateways to further education, skill development, independence, confidence, and a sense of purpose.  

According to Seek.com, vocational training provides practical, industry-specific training that offers a direct route to employment in some of today’s most in-demand professions. For example, this could be in fields like plumbing and carpentry, healthcare, information technology and even hospitality.  

Vocational Pathways for Autistic Individuals - image of a young girl in a workshop making something from wood with her teacher assisting

For young autistic individuals, meaningful work goes beyond a pay check; it provides an essential platform for skill development, social interaction, and self-expression.

Challenges to Finding Suitable VET Pathways

Young autistic individuals are bound to face some challenges in their search for suitable VET pathways.  

Autism presents differently in individuals, but it’s fair to say that these challenges could include difficulties with social communication, sensory sensitivities in the workplace, and a need for tailored support structures. Stigma and misconceptions about autism within the job market can also further complicate the process.  

Addressing these challenges requires an approach that involves collaboration between individuals, families, educators, and their employers. 

Strategies for Success

Finding suitable vocational pathways can present challenges for autistic individuals and their families, but there are ways to help aid in their success.  

Let’s step through some now:

1. Early Exploration and Skill Development

Encouraging early exploration of interests and skills is a key first step when identifying suitable vocational paths. And it starts with a conversation. Ask your autistic teen or young adult what they enjoy doing and what they feel they do well. You can also observe them and take note of specific tasks or activities they undertake confidently and well.  

Finally, its important to understand the role that schools and support networks play by providing exposure to various activities and helping individuals discover their passions. In addition, through the collaboration of parents, educators, and support professionals, plans can be put in place that align with career aspirations helping pave the way for success for autistic individuals.  

2. Building Social and Communication Skills

Social and communication skills are critical to success in the workplace.  

"One of the core criteria for autism is defined as persistent difficulty with social communication and social interaction… Some people on the autism spectrum might find it hard to hold a conversation, or even start one. They can also have difficulty understanding facial expressions and inferring communicative intent based on context."

Targeted interventions, social skills training, and mentorship programs can enhance these skills, providing young autistic individuals with the tools they need to navigate professional interactions. However, we believe the most important way is for them to practice in a supportive environment where they feel comfortable expressing themselves. This can include social activities (like what we offer here at Ignition Gamers) or roleplaying (like mock interviews) with a parent, carer or close friend.

3. Preparing for Change & Self-advocacy

When searching for suitable vocational pathways for individuals with autism, two crucial elements stand out: self-advocacy and adaptability. Helping your autistic young person to self-advocate is crucial for them to confidently express their needs, preferences, and strengths in the workplace. It’s a skill that empowers them to communicate effectively with employers and support networks, ensuring their unique abilities are recognised and utilised to their fullest potential. 

Equally important is their readiness for change. As autistic young people start their vocational pathway, being prepared for unexpected shifts will help them build resilience and adaptability. Three ways you can encourage this skill development are: 

Equally important is their readiness for change. As autistic young people start their vocational pathway, being prepared for unexpected shifts will help them build resilience and adaptability. Three ways you can encourage this skill development are: 

  • Practising assertive communication: Encourage them to articulate their needs and preferences in real-life, everyday interactions. 
  • Foster self-awareness: Work with your autistic young person to identify their strengths and challenges and encourage them to advocate for support when needed.  
  • Encourage flexibility: Engage in activities that promote change and adaptability, like trying new experiences, problem-solving challenges or navigating changes in routines. This helps build resilience and confidence in handling unexpected situations.  

These skills help autistic individuals embrace new challenges and navigate transitions confidently, laying the foundation for long-term success in the Workforce.  

4. Searching for VET Pathways

There are many options when it comes to finding VET opportunities for young autistic people. And, now that you’re more aware of their strengths and interests, together you can use this knowledge to explore job resources like: 

As part of your search, you’ll need to consider course options, such as the course duration, whether the study is full-time, part-time, or online, and the availability of practical training or work placements.  

We recommend making the most of the information sessions and open days hosted by VET providers. These days are the perfect opportunity for autistic individuals and their families or carers to learn more about the courses, facilities, and support services

5. Be Ready for the Workforce

Entering the Workforce is daunting for most young people, but for those on the autism spectrum (and their parents or carers), it can be extremely overwhelming – especially if they’re not prepared. 

Here are five practical ways you can help your autistic young person get off to a great start: 

  • Develop a Resume: Help them create a resume highlighting their unique skills, experiences, and accomplishments. Think about hard skills (technical or specific abilities) and soft skills (such as communication, teamwork and problem-solving). Don’t forget to include education, qualifications, and positive qualities. 
  • Practice Interviews: Preparing and practising for an interview can help autistic individuals to feel more confident. Role play that involves answering interview questions and explaining their strengths and positive traits can be very valuable.  
  • Job Search Strategies: Teach your autistic young person how to search for jobs, whether online, asking people they know or researching companies they’re interested in. This can help them gauge the types of available jobs and identify ones they may be interested in.  
  • Financial literacy: Help them with budgeting, handling money, and figuring out any employee benefits to ensure they can be financially steady and independent at work. 

6. Tailored Support Structures

Starting a VET course, undertaking a work placement, or getting a job is only the first hurdle for people living with ASD. Managing the study or workplace environment can present additional challenges; sometimes, extra support is needed.  

Registered training organisations and employers are often able and willing to provide tailored support or workplace adjustments. Such supports may include written instructions, using to-do lists, providing a workplace buddy or mentor, and providing sensory-friendly areas for you to work in. If needed, seek support from your VET or employment provider to help you identify and advocate for the tailored support that is needed. 

Vocational Pathways for Young Autistic Individuals – it's a collaborative effort!

Finding suitable vocational educational and training opportunities for young autistic individuals is a collaborative effort that involves understanding, support, preparedness, and advocacy.  

As we work towards a more inclusive society, we must recognise the unique strengths and capabilities that autistic individuals bring to the workforce. By unlocking the doors to meaningful work, we empower our autistic youth to navigate their journey toward independence, self-fulfilment, and a future filled with possibilities.  

Ignition Gamers proudly provides services to help autistic young people develop confidence and build their social skills. If you’ve got a young gamer with autism who would benefit from joining our program please get in touch via hello@ignitiongamers.com.au or fill out our online enquiry form.

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Family Parenting School Teenagers

Supporting Autistic Teenagers Through School

As the school year unfolds, parents, teachers and support networks play a pivotal role in ensuring the success and well-being of autistic teenagers. Navigating the educational system can be a unique challenge for parents and students, requiring a thoughtful and supportive approach. In this post, we’ll explore practical strategies and tips to help you, as parents or caregivers, to support your autistic teenagers at school.

Understanding Individual Needs 

Autism is a condition that affects how a person thinks, feels, interacts with others and experiences their environment. It can be easy to assume that all autistic teenagers face the same challenges in school. But this isn’t the case. Autism presents differently in everyone, so your support starts by recognising and understanding their individual needs.  

Your teenager has distinct strengths, challenges, and preferences. Collaborating with educators and support staff to create a personalised plan can be instrumental in addressing specific requirements to ensure a more productive and inclusive learning environment. 

Building Effective Communication Channels 

How many times have you heard the saying’ communication is key’? As parents, we can honestly say we’ve heard it too many times to count. The reality is that communication is the cornerstone of any successful support system. Establishing open and consistent lines of communication with teachers, support coordinators, and school staff is crucial.  

Regular meetings, such as parent-teacher conferences and Individual Learning Plan (ILP) reviews, provide opportunities to discuss progress, set goals, and address any concerns. 

Advocating for Inclusive Education 

Australia strongly emphasises inclusive education, aiming to provide equal opportunities for all students. The ACT Government has developed an Inclusive Education Strategy and Action Plan to strengthen inclusive education across all ACT public schools. As part of this plan, Inclusion Coaches will begin working across the Tuggeranong region in 2024, with expansion to other schools in the near future.  

Despite this plan, parents and caregivers must continue to advocate for their autistic teenagers by actively participating in school committees, promoting awareness, and collaborating with educators to foster a more inclusive and supportive learning environment. This ensures that the school community understands and accommodates the diverse needs of autistic students. 

Supporting Social Integration 

Navigating social interactions and developing key social skills can be challenging for autistic teenagers. Social skills for autistic teenagers include: 

  • working out what other people are thinking and feeling 
  • understanding facial expressions and body language 
  • adjusting to new social situations 
  • solving social problems, like what to do when you disagree with someone 
  • understanding unwritten social rules 
  • sharing interests with other teenagers. 

Parents can work with school staff to implement strategies that support social integration, such as social skills training, peer mentoring programs, and creating sensory-friendly spaces. Encouraging extracurricular activities, like social groups, outside the school environment and tailored to individual interests can also facilitate positive social connections and enhance overall well-being.  

Ignition Gamers is an excellent example of a social activity for autistic teenagers or young adults who love gaming! We have regular sessions each week where individuals come together to have fun and develop the skills we’ve just mentioned. You can read what we’re all about HERE

Addressing Sensory Sensitivities 

Sensory sensitivities are a common aspect of autism, and the education system acknowledges the importance of addressing these sensitivities to create an optimal learning environment.  

Collaborating with teachers to implement sensory-friendly strategies, such as providing sensory breaks, using noise-cancelling headphones, or creating quiet spaces, can significantly enhance the comfort and focus of autistic teenagers during the school day.

In accordance with the Expert Panel’s recommendation to provide safe and appropriate sensory spaces, the Education Directorate invested $ 6.452 million in infrastructure improvements between 2016 and 2019. This investment has supported 53 ACT public schools to have safe, calming sensory spaces. These spaces are designed to support students in relaxing, reducing anxiety, and regulating their sensory needs when they feel overwhelmed or need a safe place to go throughout the day. 

Source: education.act.gov.au 

Promoting Independence and Self-Advocacy 

Fostering independence is key to supporting autistic teenagers during their school years and beyond.  

Encourage self-advocacy by teaching them to articulate their needs, preferences, and challenges. This skill enhances their confidence and equips them with tools to navigate various situations independently. As teenagers transition into higher grades, developing these skills becomes increasingly important for future academic and personal success. 

Using Technology for Learning 

Australia embraces technology integration in education, providing a valuable resource for autistic teenagers. Explore assistive technology tools that cater to individual learning styles and preferences. Educational apps, interactive online resources, and communication aids can enhance the learning experience and empower autistic teenagers to engage more effectively with their studies.  

If you’re thinking about using an app, we recommend talking to teachers, therapists and other professionals to help you choose the one that best suits your child’s needs. And remember, what works well for one teenager…might not work well for another.  

Promoting Mental Health and Well-being 

Data from surveys shows that up to 46% of children on the autism spectrum between 3-16 years and 70% of children aged 10-14 experience at least one mental health condition. 

Source: Autism Spectrum Australia 

Our education system strongly emphasises supporting students’ mental health and well-being – but it’s far from perfect, which is why it’s so crucial for parents and caregivers to collaborate with teachers, school counsellors and mental health professionals to create a comprehensive support plan. This may include strategies for managing stress, fostering emotional resilience, and promoting a positive attitude towards learning. 

Refer to the Mental Health and Well-being Guide from Autism Spectrum Australia for more guidance.  

Supporting autistic teenagers at school 

The school year involves collaboration, understanding, and a commitment to creating an inclusive and supportive educational environment. By recognising the individual needs of your teenager and embracing effective communication, and advocacy for inclusive education, parents and caregivers can empower their teenagers to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. Together, with your support network, you can navigate the unique challenges and celebrate the achievements of your autistic teenager throughout their educational journey.  

Earlier in our article we mentioned the importance of helping autistic teenagers to develop key social skills. If your child is between the ages of 14-35 and loves gaming – online gaming or role-play tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons – let’s chat! Our sessions generally go for two hours, and we’ve seen some remarkable transformations in our participants. Plus, you’ll have access to our extensive network of health professionals. Enquire today and book a free call

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Parenting

Supporting Your Child After Their Adult Autism Diagnosis 

Receiving an autism diagnosis for your adult child can bring a myriad of emotions – from relief and validation to uncertainty and concern. While the diagnostic journey may have challenges, it’s also an opportunity for growth, understanding, and discovering the right support for yourself and your child. In this blog post, we’re exploring the various aspects of navigating life after an autism diagnosis for your adult child, offering insights, resources, and guidance for parents and caregivers.

Understanding the Adult Autism Diagnosis

The first step on this journey is to understand the autism diagnosis itself.  

Many adults receive an autism diagnosis later in life, often after years of navigating a world that may not have fully understood their unique experiences. Sometimes, they may come across information or hear about other people’s experiences and think, ‘That sounds like me’. It may also be someone close to them or a health professional identifying certain characteristics common for people on the autism spectrum.

According to BetterHealth, autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects how the brain processes information. Common characteristics can include: 

  • Difficulty with social interactions and relationships 
  • Varied speech patterns, literal interpretation 
  • Engaging in repetitive actions or routines 
  • Fixation on a certain subject or hobby 
  • Heightened or reduced response to sensory stimuli 
  • Resistance to changes in routine or environment. 

Learning about autism, its characteristics, and how it manifests in adulthood is a crucial foundation for parents to be able to provide meaningful support. Check out resources like thespectrum.org.au or amaze.org.au. You can also seek out local support groups within your community or online.   

Validation and Embracing Neurodiversity

For both parents and their adult children, an autism diagnosis can be a powerful tool for validation. Understanding that there’s a neurological basis for how your adult child experiences the world can also bring a sense of relief. This is especially true for parents who have wondered if there has been ‘a reason’ for the characteristics and behaviours they’ve witnessed for many years – most likely since childhood.

When we talk about embracing neurodiversity, we mean acknowledging and celebrating the diverse ways individuals’ brains work. It’s about recognising the strengths and challenges associated with autism and appreciating the value of different perspectives.

Open Communication

Communication is key during this period of adjustment. Creating a safe space where your adult child feels comfortable expressing their thoughts, feelings, and concerns is essential. Open conversation fosters understanding and helps both parties navigate the changes that may come with the diagnosis.  

Here are a few tips to help you achieve open communication: 

  • Talk to them as you would any other adult, not a child 
  • Be clear, concise and say what you mean  
  • Practice being an active listener, ensuring that they feel heard 
  • If you ask them a question, always wait for a response 
  • In group settings (family events, at a school or with health professionals), never speak as though they’re not in the room.  

An autism diagnosis in adulthood is something that you’ll both have to navigate together, and one of the best tools available to you as a parent is open communication.  

Exploring Personal Strengths and Interests

Autism often brings with it a unique set of strengths and interests.  

Encourage your adult child to explore and embrace these strengths. Whether it’s a passion for a specific subject, artistic talents, or a deep dive into a particular hobby (like gaming or esports!), these interests can become sources of joy, fulfilment, and even potential career paths. 

Seeking Professional Guidance

After an autism diagnosis, seeking professional guidance is beneficial for both the individual and their parents or caregivers. The diagnosis can bring with it a range of emotions as well as life changes for all parties, as well as the extended family. Having support to navigate this transition can assist you in learning about the right support for your child and help them immensely with their daily functioning.  

Connect with healthcare professionals, therapists, and support groups specialising in autism. These professionals can provide valuable insights, resources, and strategies for navigating various aspects of life. 

If you’re in Canberra, like we are, check out the following organisations: 

Building a Supportive Network

Building a supportive network is essential for both parents and their adult children.  

Connect with other parents who have experienced similar journeys. Online communities like the Canberra Autism Spectrum Parents & Relatives (CASPAR) Facebook group, local support groups, and advocacy organisations can offer a wealth of information, shared experiences, and a sense of community. 

For your adult child, take into account their unique strengths, talents and what they enjoy and seek out support groups or social activities where they can connect with others who have similar lived experiences.  

"At Ignition Gamers, gaming is only the beginning. It's the shared interest that brings our participants together. But, it's the friendships, confidence and sense of belonging that keeps them coming back."

Transitioning into Independence

For many parents, the idea of transitioning their adult child with autism into greater independence can be both exciting and challenging. In the back of our minds, we’re constantly worrying about what happens if or when we can’t be there for them anymore.  

After an autism diagnosis, this worry is often heightened, so it’s important to approach this transition with patience, understanding, and a collaborative mindset. Gradual steps, such as exploring vocational opportunities, independent living skills, and community engagement, can contribute to a successful transition. At this point, you can help them start to build those long-term skills and supports for living a more independent life now and into the future.  

Addressing Mental Health

Many autistic adults may also navigate mental health challenges. It’s essential to prioritise mental well-being and address any co-occurring conditions.  

Autism-in-Adults-Ignition-Gamers

Work closely with your mental health professionals who have experience in supporting individuals with autism. Encouraging and assisting your adult child to identify when they need support and teaching them how to seek it is another step towards achieving greater independence.  

Encouraging Self-Advocacy

Empower your adult child to become their own advocate. Encourage them to articulate their needs, preferences, and boundaries in various settings.  

 Reframing autism describes self-advocacy as ‘not just taking control of our own lives and deciding what we need, it also means that we have the skills and confidence to assert our needs and request the accommodations that will meet our needs’.  

 Self-advocacy is a valuable skill that fosters independence and helps navigate societal expectations. 

The Journey After an Adult Autism Diagnosis

Receiving an autism diagnosis for your adult child is the beginning of a unique, often challenging, but meaningful journey. It’s a journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and growth.  

As a parent or caregiver, your role is vital in providing support, understanding, and encouragement. Embrace the individuality of your adult child, celebrate their strengths, and work together towards a future filled with possibilities.  

Remember, you’re not alone on this journey – a supportive community and resources are available to guide you every step of the way. 

If you’re keen to explore how Ignition Gamers can allow your adult child to connect with other like-minded individuals and receive the support they deserve, we’re here. Book a free chat to see if we’re the right fit, and even try out our program with a free trial session. We’d love to hear from you.   

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Parenting Family

The Unseen Heroes: The Impact of Autism on Siblings 

Parenthood is an incredible journey, and when you have an autistic child, that journey takes on unique challenges and rewards. But when you give a lot of your attention to your autistic child, it’s equally important to recognise the significant impact autism has on their siblings. In this post, we’re exploring the impact of autism on siblings, including looking at their experiences, challenges, and the essential role they play in the lives of their brothers and sisters on the autism spectrum. 

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) 

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a complex developmental condition that is typically life-long.  

Autistic people experience difficulties with communication, social interaction and restricted/repetitive interests and behaviours. These are often accompanied by sensory issues, such as oversensitivity or undersensitivity to sounds, smells or touch. All of these difficulties may lead to behavioural challenges in some individuals.  

Source: Autism Awareness Australia 

Autism is a spectrum that varies significantly in its presentation and severity from person to person. This variation often becomes a defining factor in the sibling dynamic. 

The Sibling Experience 

Like parents, siblings of children with autism find themselves on a journey. It doesn’t matter if they’re an older or younger sibling; they’ll experience love, compassion and shared moments with their autistic sibling. But they’ll also face other feelings, challenges and responsibilities that set them apart from their friends.  

Here are some of the key ways that having an autistic sibling can impact their lives: 

Increased Empathy and Understanding 

Siblings of children with autism tend to develop a deep sense of empathy and understanding. Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place. When you see another person suffering, you’re able to put yourself in that person’s shoes and imagine yourself facing the same feelings and experiences that they’re going through.  

Younger and older siblings of autistic children learn to interpret their sibling’s nonverbal cues and unique ways of communicating. For younger siblings, it’s an important skill that will prove valuable for life. And in older siblings, this understanding will enable them to provide emotional support and assistance when needed.  

Greater Patience 

Remember that old saying, ‘patience is a virtue’? Well, it seems that this quality is less and less present today. People often want things done fast and are more likely to become frustrated when they’re not. Patience is another important quality that siblings of autistic children are more likely to develop.  

Autism can lead to repetitive behaviours and meltdowns, which require patience and understanding. Siblings often become adept at remaining calm and supportive in challenging situations. This is especially true for older siblings, who can be seen as role models for their younger autistic brother or sister and, in some circumstances, need to provide support to help their sibling better manage their sensory sensitivities and emotional meltdowns.  

According to BetterUp, being patient has many lifelong benefits, including improved relationships, the ability to deal with stressful and difficult moments in life, the ability to make rational and realistic decisions, and better focus on your goals and dreams. Patience is a quality that improves our personal lives and can significantly impact our working life’s success. 

Enhanced Advocacy Skills 

Many siblings become advocates for their autistic brother or sister. Over the years, older and younger siblings learn to navigate the educational and healthcare systems alongside their parents as they attend appointments and meetings, advocating to ensure their autistic loved one receives the best possible care and support.  

They can also take on the advocate role in school, employment and relationships. And they’ll likely help their autistic sibling with homework, support them in finding a job, or provide guidance to navigate social situations.  

As most siblings, whether older or younger, outlive their parents, having an advocate who has your back becomes more and more important to autistic people later in their lives. By being strong advocates, siblings can support their autistic brother or sister to access the support they need and to lead a fulfilling and more independent life.  

Unique Bond 

The sibling relationship in families with autistic children can be profoundly close. Siblings often share unique interests and activities with their autistic brother or sister, fostering a bond unlike any other. Older siblings often introduce their brother or sister to new interests that become a shared passion. 

Whether it’s a love of music, painting or bonding over online gaming and esports, these shared interests are a source of fun and connection for siblings.  

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the sibling relationship in families with autistic children is always easy.  

Challenges Faced by Siblings 

Growing up with an autistic sibling can be an enriching experience. But there are also challenges that should be acknowledged and openly discussed and addressed as a family.  

Limited Attention  

One of the biggest challenges faced by siblings is they tend to lack attention from their parents or carers. As a parent, it’s natural to zero in on the issues and hurdles your autistic child faces. But sometimes, you miss that your other children might also be going through tough times.  

Siblings of a young autistic person can feel resentment about the amount of time and energy their parents devote to their sibling, leaving them to feel as though they’re being neglected or that their sibling is being ‘favourited’. These feelings are likely to be experienced in their own unique way by both younger and older siblings. That’s why parents should try to find a balance by allocating time for each of their children. For example, set time aside each day to check in with each other individually and participate in something that they love doing.   

Social Isolation 

Siblings may experience feelings of isolation or embarrassment due to their autistic brother or sister’s challenging behaviours or communication difficulties. It’s also fair to say that children aren’t always kind, so hearing that ‘your sibling is a freak’ or being repeatedly asked ‘what’s wrong with your brother/sister’ can be tough for any young person to face.  

That’s why siblings of autistic children are more likely to experience challenges in their social lives. They may have increased feelings of loneliness and find themselves withdrawing from friendships and other activities.  

Greater Expectations and Guilt 

In families with autistic children, it’s common for everyone to chip in and offer support. But what often goes unnoticed is the extra load that older and even younger siblings bear when they have a brother or sister with autism. They might grapple with their own feelings, take on extra chores, or even put their favourite activities on hold. 

Sometimes, these siblings may find themselves grappling with moments of resentment or frustration toward their autistic sibling, and that can be tough to navigate. They might also feel extra pressure to excel in school and keep modelling good behaviour to make up for it. 

One situation that’s worth mentioning is when older siblings leave home. This transition is a big deal for any young adult, and it can be an emotional rollercoaster. For many older siblings, who often play a caregiving or protective role, leaving home can be both a relief and emotionally challenging. It can feel like they’re letting go of some responsibilities or even like they’re abandoning their autistic brother or sister. These emotions can be intensified because of the strong bond they share with their autistic sibling, often leading to feelings of guilt as they embark on their own journey. 

Supporting Siblings of Autistic Children 

Recognising the unique challenges that siblings of autistic children face is your first and most important step. Once you’ve got that down, you’ll discover many strategies and resources to make this journey easier as a family. 

So, here are our six top tips to help you on this journey: 

1. Open Communication: Encourage open and honest communication within your family. Siblings should always feel comfortable discussing their feelings, both positive and negative. Be conscious of making time each week just to spend time with them. 

2. Sibling Support Programs: Many organisations and websites, like Autism Awareness and Raising Children Network, offer online information and resources for parents who need support for siblings of autistic children. In addition, organisations like Siblings Australia offer programs and support for siblings of children and adults with a disability, including one-on-one support.  

3. Respite Care: Respite care services can offer siblings a break when needed, allowing them to engage in activities or simply have time for themselves. If you’re in the ACT, consider contacting services like The Ricky Stuart Foundation, which has two respite houses in Canberra to help autistic children and their families. One family left the following review, which we’re sure you’ll relate to: 

Emma Ruby House has been so valuable in providing our family with some time away from the caring role, enabling us to spend some quality time with our other child, whilst providing my daughter with quality disability care and life experiences. I have always been comfortable knowing that my daughter’s disability and medical needs are being well taken care of.” 

Rob S. 
Emma Ruby House Guest

 4. Quality Time: Allocate one-on-one quality time with each child, including siblings without autism. This helps ensure that all children, even adult children, feel valued and cherished. 

5. Education and Understanding: Help younger siblings understand autism by explaining it in an age-appropriate way. Our biggest tip here is to normalise it! Explain that we’re all different – physically and how our brain thinks. This can alleviate misconceptions and fears. You might find this resource helpful as a guide for these conversations: Talking to Children About Autism 

6. Seek Professional Help: If necessary, consider family counselling or therapy to address any emotional issues that may arise within the family. Don’t feel like you’re failing because you’re seeking help! We also recommend that you approach this proactively rather than reactively. It’s often more beneficial to receive support at the beginning of this journey rather than waiting until a point where issues arise that negatively impact your family and life.  

The impact of autism on siblings is complex 

While siblings with an autistic brother or sister may face challenges, they also experience immense personal growth, unique bonds, and life skills that benefit them throughout their lives. It’s common for siblings to be the ‘unseen heroes’ within the family as they often unknowingly contribute to their sibling’s well-being, care and development and fulfil a greater role within the household – all while facing their own challenges.  

To make this journey smoother for them, parents and caregivers should provide the support, understanding and resources to help siblings navigate their journey as well as they can. As a parent, by acknowledging the needs and experiences of siblings, you can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for your entire family, ensuring that every child, regardless of their abilities, feels loved and valued. 

Should you wish to discuss this article, or you’re interested in chatting with us about how Ignition Gamers can support your family, please contact us via hello@ignitiongamers.com.au or book a free chat.

Categories
Parenting

Parenting a Neurodivergent Child – Why YOUR Self-Care Matters 

Parenting a neurodivergent child is a rewarding but demanding and challenging journey. Children diagnosed with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, and other learning difficulties often need significant support from their parents or caregivers. The unique needs and experiences of neurodivergent individuals mean as a parent, you must be more resilient, patient, and compassionate when meeting their emotional, physical, social and learning needs.  

So when so much of your time and energy is spent caring for your child, it’s easy to forget about your own wellbeing. But self-care is essential for parents of neurodivergent children. In this blog post, we’re exploring the importance of self-care and giving you seven practical tips to help you prioritise your wellbeing while supporting your child. 

Why Self-Care Matters for Parents of Neurodivergent Children 

Parenting a neurodivergent child can be emotionally and physically draining. The constant demands, appointments, and advocacy for your child’s needs can leave you overwhelmed and burnt out.  

New Curtin University-led research has found: 

‘…that 80 per cent of caregivers experienced poor wellbeing, high levels of stress and poor mental health. More than 22 per cent also experienced negative stigma from their local community, increasing the feeling of social isolation.

Many parents don’t realise that self-care isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. Here’s why it matters:

You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup

Cliché as it may sound, it’s true. If you’re not caring for yourself, you’ll have less to give to your child and your family. By prioritising self-care, you’ll be better equipped to provide the support and understanding your neurodivergent child needs. 

Stress Management

Parenting a neurodivergent child comes with unique stressors. Self-care techniques such as relaxation exercises, mindfulness, meditation, or even a simple walk can help you manage stress effectively. 

Modelling Healthy Behaviour

By practising self-care, you’re setting an example for your child. Observing your actions will teach them the importance of caring for their wellbeing.  

For example, there is an indication that mindfulness is effective for children on the autism spectrum, as it increases self-insight and reduces rumination and emotional reactivity. As a caregiver, modelling your own mindfulness strategies sets an excellent foundation for helping your neurodivergent child embrace mindfulness-based practices and therapies. 

7 Practical Self-Care Tips for Parents of Neurodivergent Children

Now that we’ve established why self-care is essential let’s explore seven practical tips to help you prioritise it in your daily life: 

 Schedule Regular “Me” Time 

Getting caught up in your child’s schedule, therapy sessions and school meetings is so easy. However, carving out dedicated time for yourself is essential. Schedule it on your calendar just like you would any other appointment. Make it non-negotiable whether it’s a few hours or even 30 minutes a day. And don’t be afraid to ask other family members or friends to help you.  

Connect with a Support Network

You’re not alone on this journey. Reach out to support groups, online communities, or other parents who are going through similar experiences. Sharing your challenges and triumphs with others who understand can be incredibly therapeutic.

For example, if you live in Canberra, there is an online group specifically for Canberra autism spectrum parents and relatives. With over 3.7k members, the group is specifically for people in the area who are relatives of, or are in an unpaid caring role for people on the autism spectrum and for those who are on the autism spectrum themselves. It is a place to connect with other people in the community, share information, useful links, handy hints – even good shows coming up on TV – anything that adds value to the community! 

Delegate When Possible

It’s okay to ask for help. Enlist the support of friends, family members, or trusted caregivers to share the responsibilities of caring for your child. Delegating tasks can free up time for self-care without feeling guilty.

Prioritise Sleep

Quality sleep is a cornerstone of self-care. Ensure that you’re getting enough rest to recharge your energy levels. If you have difficulty falling asleep, try meditation, sleep stories or white noise like that offered by the popular Calm app. If sleep issues are typical for your child, consider creating a sleep routine that benefits both of you.

Engage in Stress-Relief Activities 

Find activities that help you relax and relieve stress. This could be practising yoga, going for a run, journaling your thoughts, or enjoying a favourite hobby. Even short breaks during the day can make a big difference. Check out this article on 15-Stress-Reducing Activities You Can Do at Home for more ideas. 

Set Boundaries

Establishing healthy boundaries is vital. Communicate your needs to your child, partner, and anyone else involved in your child’s care. Let them know when you need time for self-care and ask for their support in respecting those boundaries.

Seek Professional Help

Don’t hesitate to consult a therapist or counsellor if you’re feeling overwhelmed or struggling to cope. Professional support can provide you with valuable tools and strategies to navigate the challenges of parenting a neurodivergent child. 

Parenting a Neurodivergent Child? Make Self-Care Your Priority

Parenting or caring for a neurodivergent child is a journey filled with love, challenges, and growth. While your primary focus naturally revolves around providing the best possible support for your child, it’s essential to recognise that self-care isn’t a selfish act; it’s a vital one.  

By taking care of your own wellbeing, you’ll be better equipped to support your child and family more effectively. Always remember that you’re an essential part of your child’s support system, and taking care of yourself allows you to be the best parent you can be. 

So, parents of neurodivergent children, listen up: your wellbeing matters, too. By practising self-care, you can continue to be the loving and supportive parent your child needs while maintaining your own physical and emotional health. It’s a win-win for both you and your child!  

Don’t forget – we’re here to help! If your neurodivergent teen or young adult loves gaming and they’re NDIS-supported – they can join us! While they’re busy making new friends, building their skills and doing something they love, you can schedule some much-needed ‘me time’. Sounds good, right? 

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Parenting

Transitioning Autistic Teenagers for Life Beyond High School: A Parent’s Guide

As a parent of a neurodivergent teenager, the journey through high school and beyond can bring excitement, apprehension and various challenges. As your teenager approaches graduation, it’s natural that you’ll start wondering how to best support them through their transition to adulthood. Your guidance and support will play a pivotal role in helping your child access the support and opportunities that allow them to live a fulfilling and more independent life beyond high school. This post dives into helpful tips and real-world insights, crafted especially for parents of autistic teenagers during this incredibly important phase of your child’s journey.

Understanding Your Teenager's Strengths and Interests

As parents, we often believe we know our children better than they know themselves. But, in reality, what we think we know, isn’t always the complete picture.

The first step in preparing your neurodivergent teenager for life beyond high school is better to understand their unique strengths, interests and talents. To do this, you’ll need to take the time to have open conversations with your child about their aspirations, hobbies and passions.

Transitioning Autistic Teens to life after high school - Photo of a mother talking to her daughter outdoors

Within the neurodiverse spectrum, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) presents differently in everyone, but it isn’t uncommon for a diagnosed individual to have difficulty in their verbal or non-verbal communication skills. That’s why one conversation won’t be enough for most parents, so we encourage you to start talking with your child months before graduation.

Simply Spectrum provides valuable tips that may help you during these conversations, like:

  • Making an effort to initiate the conversation
  • Starting the conversation by talking to them about something they like or enjoy
  • Picking the best time to have a conversation (in the car is sometimes a great place as it’s not confrontational)
  • Remaining patient and showing empathy
  • Remembering that they’re still kids and they’re still development
  • Make a note of what works, what doesn’t work and use this for future conversations.

These discussions will provide valuable insights into potential career paths, areas of study, or vocational pursuits that align with their strengths.

Exploring Post High School Options

Once you clearly understand your teenager’s strengths and interests, it’s time to explore various post-high school options. These options could include pursuing higher education, vocational training, or for some autistic teens with low support needs, even entering the workforce.

It’s essential to consider your conversations with your child to determine the most likely path to success – something they’re good at and enjoy. My Way Employability is a good resource for exploring the strengths of your autistic teenager.

If you have difficulty identifying suitable options, visit the careers advisor at your child’s school. They’ll be able to talk to you and your child and uncover suitable possibilities after high school.

You might find it helpful to break your child’s goals into long-term and short-term ones. Raisingchildren.net.au provide valuable examples of how this can be achieved. For example, a long-term goal might be to gain employment in IT and to accomplish this goal, they might need to:

  • Establish a strong support network (mentor, family and friends)
  • Undertake further skill development, education or training
  • Participate in a Dandelion Program which embraces, supports and expands the skills of neurodiverse people to help them secure long-term, fulfilling IT careers.
  • Participate in work experience, volunteer work or an internship
  • Attend a club or social group to help them build soft skills like teamwork, problem-solving and social skills
  • Write a resume
  • Establish a support network
  • Sign up for the Disability Employment Service
Transitioning Autistic Teens to life after high school - Image of a teenage boy sitting at his desk with a notebook and desktop computer

There’s always a possibility that your autistic child will be faced with a bias or discrimination as they navigate life beyond high school. Many parents fear disclosing their diagnosis to peers, teachers or managers for this very reason. On the other hand, it could also limit your child’s ability to access the support they need, and their behaviours or difficulties might be misinterpreted. Many education programs and support services offer specialised support programs for autistic teens and young adults, which can greatly enhance their chances of success.

We encourage you to create a supportive environment that encourages their growth and development. Foster a sense of autonomy by involving them openly in decision-making and encouraging them to take ownership of their goals and aspirations while providing guidance and assistance when needed.

Developing Essential Life Skills

Preparing your autistic teenager for life beyond high school goes beyond academics. Equipping them with essential life skills is crucial for their independence and self-sufficiency.

Start by teaching practical skills such as budgeting, time management, cooking, and personal hygiene. Then, it makes sense to help them further develop their soft skills like communication, teamwork, friendships and physical health.

Autistics’ Guide to Adulthood is a free resource that you might find helpful. It has been co-designed by autistic adults and professionals and provides ten life-skills modules that can be accessed at your own pace and in a safe and fun online environment. Work through them with your child and remember open conversations and active listening will help you make the most of the content.

We also can’t pass up the opportunity to promote what we do here at Ignition Gamers. Social interactions and effective communication are vital aspects of navigating the adult world. Online gaming and esports benefit autistic teenagers with a passion for gaming. From participating as part of a team, building their social skills, managing their emotional regulation and further developing their cognitive and communication skills – our program starts with gaming but is so much more.

And we’ve seen firsthand how our clients have developed the confidence and skills to achieve their goals. For some, this has been moving on to further education and, for others, gaining meaningful employment.  

Developing a range of life skills will empower your teenager to navigate daily challenges and responsibilities confidently. Still, it will also improve their chances of success with study or in the workplace.

Advocating for Support Services and Encouraging Self-Advocacy

Throughout your teenager’s journey, it’s important to advocate for the support services they may need. Research available resources in your community, such as counselling, therapy, or mentorship programs. These services can provide valuable guidance and emotional support as your teenager navigates the challenges of adulthood.

One option worth considering is school leaver employment supports and education, which are National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) supports available to students in their final year and preparing to leave secondary school. These supports help your child to develop the skills and confidence to move from school to employment with individualised support for up to 2 years after finishing school.

NDIS participants with an employment goal as part of their plan may also be able to access funding as part of their Capacity Building Budget. This could be used for an employment assessment, counselling, or other individualised services to assist your autistic child in finding and keeping a job.

Transitioning Autistic Teens to life after high school - Image of a teenager in an office, he's on a laptop with a whiteboard behind and sticky notes

We’ve also collated a list of 11 helpful resources for autism employment that you’ll find valuable.

It’s also important to empower your autistic teenager to become their advocate. Teach them to express their needs, preferences, and boundaries effectively. Encourage them to seek support, if necessary, in educational or work settings. Developing self-advocacy skills will enable them to confidently navigate various situations and environments.

Promoting Health and Well-being

A holistic approach to preparing your autistic teenager for life beyond high school includes promoting their physical and mental well-being. For autistic people, self-care is critical due to the sensory sensitivities and differences common among individuals on the autism spectrum.

Please encourage them to participate in activities they enjoy, as well as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and getting sufficient sleep. Stress-management techniques, like deep breathing exercises or mindfulness practices, can be beneficial. After all, a healthy body and mind are essential for navigating the challenges of adulthood.

Life Beyond High School for Autistic Teenagers

As parents of autistic teenagers, you play a pivotal role in guiding your child toward a successful and fulfilling life beyond high school. By understanding their strengths, exploring post-high school options, developing life skills, and fostering a supportive environment, you can empower your child to embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead confidently.

Remember, each journey is unique, and your unwavering support will impact their path to adulthood. Together, you can lay the foundation for a future filled with growth, achievement, and happiness.

If you’d like to discuss any of the information in this post or want to understand how Ignition Gamers can help your neurodiverse teenager or young adult, book a free chat with us. We’d love to hear from you.