Spring 2015, Different perspectives on Autism
Welcome to the first ever Aurora newsletter! We are very excited to bring out this first issue! We intend to deliver to you four newsletters per year, with interesting articles on health and much more besides.
We will offer you insights into the work we do. In this first issue you will find an article on the Autism Spectrum by Dr Ava Ruth Baker. We will also give you a little glimpse of how some therapies can be of support.
Another regular contribution you will find in the “Kitchen corner” with information on nutrition, with some really wholesome recipes, shared with us by Debbie ter Borg.
In the “What’s on” column we will announce possibilities for learning and professional development, through courses that are organised either by Aurora or other initiatives in our neck of the wood.
If there is something you would like to know more about, please write to us and we’ll see if we can find the answer to your questions. If there is anything you yourself would like to share, you can also let us know and we’ll attempt to fit it in our next newsletter.
But first, we will introduce ourselves, let you know who we are, what we do, and why we started up almost ten years ago.
A brief history of the Aurora collective.
Close to ten years ago, a small group of independent therapists, working mainly out of the impulse of anthroposophy, decided to meet on a regular basis. Some of us, working at Raphael House Rudolf Steiner School in Lower Hutt, were living with the question of how to serve the children with extra needs. These questions soon expanded to include clients coming from beyond the school’s community. We wondered how best to make the therapies accessible. Was it best for each therapist to have their own practice, or could we work together somehow? And how to do that, with some of usworking privately while others work in employment.
We began to meet weekly as a collective, and focused on Case, and Child Studies: (The Child Study is an important tool used in schools and medical therapeutic centres worldwide, working out of the impulse of anthroposophy.) We resolved to create a space where the client would always be central to the work of the collective. In this way, over time, we might also deepen our own understanding of health and illness, and be a support for each other in this therapeutic work. To this day, that is still the core of what we do.
We are aware that, around the collective of therapists, is another, wider group of people supporting the client in their search for health. This circle is made up of the parents and families, the teachers, colleagues, partners, and friends of the clients that come through our door. These are the people that support the client in their daily rhythms and needs. By doing so, they also support our endeavours to help the client step out of our door again, with renewed confidence into the world.
With this newsletter, we hope to strengthen our connection to that wider group of people in the community, to you. So this is probably a good time and space to say a huge THANK YOU, to all those, who, over the past 9 years or so, have helped us in a myriad of ways. They have helped us with our structure, our vision, and in so many other aspects! We wouldn’t have reached this point, if it weren’t for a whole range of people, coming to our aid whenever we ask. Thank you!
Nurturing Health, Developing Resilience.
We believe that illness is a part of life, and that health is an active striving for balance between states of imbalance, or illness. Health is supported on a daily basis. For example, through being mindful and conscious of what we eat, our rhythms of activity and rest, but also by the quality of our thoughts and feelings. When we do find ourselves more or less out of balance, we seek help, to restore what was lost.
All the therapies offered through Aurora support clients to take an active role in restoring this balance: in acute heath situations, but also with more persistent conditions. Some therapies look at the question of where illness fits in biography: ‘what is it teaching me? how can I grow and learn from it? what are its gifts to me?
Aurora collective offers remedies, which complement mainstream medicine and add an extra dimension to healing. Our general practitioners have additional training in anthroposophic medicine. The supportive nursing therapies (anthroposophic) are offered by registered nurses. The Extra Lesson movement program, music, art therapy and all other therapies of offer, are conducted by practitioners with prior training in a range of therapeutic and educational disciplines.
With our wide range of therapeutic interventions, Aurora therapists provide care for the body and all its physiological processes, for the feeling life of soul and for the sense of self, the individuality of our clients. We believe that the integration of all these levels is what brings health and resilience.
“Approaches to the autism spectrum” – Dr. Ava Ruth Baker, 2015
Update of Keynote presentation given at Kolisko Conference “Connecting with Today’s Children” Cambridge, New Zealand July 2010
Can you imagine what it might be like to be an autistic child at school? Clare Sainsbury writes in her introduction to “Martian in the Playground” (a collection of personal accounts by twenty-six autistic adults of their experiences as schoolchildren):
“Here is one of my most vivid memories of school: I am standing in a corner of the playground, as far away as possible from people who might bump into me or shout, gazing into the sky and absorbed in my own thoughts. I am eight or nine years old and have begun to realize that I am different in some nameless but all-pervasive way.
I don’t understand the other children around me. They frighten and confuse me. They don’t want to talk about interesting things. I used to think that they were silly, but now I am beginning to understand that I am the one who is all wrong. I try so hard to do what I am told, but just when I think I am being most helpful and good, the teachers tell me off and I don’t know why. It’s as if everyone is playing some complicated game and I am the only one who hasn’t been told the rules. But no-one will admit that it’s a game or that there are rules, let alone explain them to me…
I think that I might be an alien put on this planet by mistake; I hope that this is so, because it means that there might be other people out there in the universe like me. I dream that one day a spaceship will fall from the sky onto the tarmac in front of me, and the people who step out of the spaceship will tell me, “It’s all been a dreadful mistake. You were never meant to be here. We are your people and now we’ve come to take you home.””
How teachers (and all of us) meet such children can play a pivotal role in their experience. As Clare continues
“We don’t need ramps or expensive equipment to make a difference for us; all we need is understanding. …
Good experiences with teachers, though much fewer than bad experiences, shone in people’s recollections with extraordinary vividness. … Their thoughtfulness made an overwhelming difference to my life … [As] stood out from many different stories … the presence of even one teacher who was willing to approach a student with Asperger’s with insight and respect could make a dramatic difference to the whole of their school career and even to their life as a whole (even though that student might not have been able to express their gratitude … at the time). Conversely, ignorance and intolerance could scar a child for life.”
Three very different perspectives from which to view and approach autism are:
‘OUTSIDE’ (most professional and lay) perspectives, reveal behaviours. From this vantage, it’s not obvious what causes those behaviours, or which might actually be ingenious coping strategies, rather than behaviours to get rid of. For example, repetitive behaviours (like jumping, spinning, pacing) can often help an autistic person to process information; as can fidgeting, repeating things out loud, or averting the eyes. This is one of many reasons for first listening to
‘INSIDE’ perspectives: accounts by those on the spectrum of their experience, of what autism means to them – individually, as well as ‘pooled’ experience and meaning as shared by the wider community of autistic people.
Could ANTHROPOSOPHICAL perspectives further enhance our understanding of autism? Or even of ourselves? Individually, and as families, communities, society, humanity …
I find myself translating constantly between these perspectives (hence various switches in perspective in this article) as I live all of them daily myself: the inside perspective familiar all my life, through my own place on the spectrum alongside friends and family; anthroposophical because it’s the basis of my life and work; the outside perspective as a common language when talking with those unfamiliar with the other two perspectives, and to describe diagnostic conclusions – since a diagnosis using currently accepted medical terminology is the main gateway to services, and signpost to helpful literature.
A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE offers clues to how ‘outsider’ perspectives have evolved, how ‘insider’ voices have been heard (or not), and what we might learn anthroposophically from such shifts
A common ‘outside’ perspective has been that autistic people are ‘broken’ people who need ‘fixing’ or ‘changing.’ Professionals and caregivers are often keen to help in this way. But I’d like to suggest as a first step, before even considering how to help, that you take a step back, try to get a sense of what it’s like to be autistic, and only then start exploring how to ‘connect’ with the autistic person(s) in your life. Such an approach is in keeping with anthroposophical work: to observe carefully before judging what appearances may mean, and how best to respond. This is particularly important in autism, because ‘behaviours’ as seen from the outside can seem so bizarre and be so misleading if you don’t know what the autistic person may be experiencing on the ‘inside’. In this article, you will need to observe through the words of those quoted: Try to listen deeply to their words, to ‘live into’ their worlds.
To read the whole article, click here:
If you would like to make an appointment with Dr Ava Ruth Baker, you can email her on: email@example.com
How can some therapies support children and adults with autism:
* Music Therapy:
Working as a music therapist, I am often humbled by the honesty and emotion shared in music by people with autism. I work with a person’s communication, and the elements of music, to create music experiences which promote wellbeing.
How might music experiences in a therapeutic relationship promote health and change for persons with autism?
Firstly, by creating a place where the person feels safe and able to engage with another person; where the music offers an experience of being appreciated for how they are in a given moment.
Secondly, music as a motivator for engagement, and through creating music together with the therapist and others, music becomes the means of self- expression, agency and social interaction.
People with autism have taught me the importance of considering a person’s unique dynamic set of tolerances or sensitivities – we all have them. I am referring to sensory experiences, (indicated by one’s preferences and what one might seek or avoid) as well as individual cognitive stimulation needs and emotional needs. I have also learned to respect individual processing times, and be guided by what is interesting and meaningful to the person. These understandings inform my work to support a client towards an optimum state of arousal. (A concept from occupational therapy and sensory integration). Together they indicate how music therapy might support a person to feel in balance and so be open to interaction and learning, i.e. taking on new experiences
Music therapy experiences can provide structured, creative and supportive interactions. The elements of music, (pitch, melody, harmony, timbre, rhythm, form, volume, pace and movement) along with judicious use of calm or stimulation, what is known and or new, structure or opportunity to use initiative, movement or stillness, for example, all influence how a music therapy session can become manageable – therefore pleasant, where the person can experience the “success” of fun, achievement, self-expression and playfulness in music interaction.
Supporting children with autism in play can be a role of music therapy. Play, how we engage with others and our environment is essential as both the means and the context of children’s learning. Inherent in play are a myriad of opportunities for development of cognition, language, communication, social-emotional and sensory-motor domains. Music therapy experiences can be tailored to develop play skills, for example, joint attention, turn taking, verbal and non-verbal communication, initiating behaviour, and reciprocity.
One to one music therapy sessions, group music therapy and community music therapy have an important role in supporting communication and enhancing social participation, an indicator of health and wellbeing.
Kate Sanders O’Connor
NZ Reg. Music Therapist
For more information, you can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org , 04 566 2121, 027 264 2755
* Sculpture Therapy:
When we let our hands be creative in clay, we set in motion a whole range of physiological, emotional and cognitive processes.
- Touch: Maybe we are at first only comfortable touching the clay with just our fingertips, slowly exploring, sensing what this cold wet material feels like, making little marks in it. Then, with the help of a bit of warm water, we can put our palms on it and feel it, slide over it, hold it, make a stronger connection. Slowly we will want to make our mark, transform the formless lump of clay, using our thumbs, fingers and the base of the hands to take hold of the clay and change its shape. Our whole being is involved, through sensing, feeling and doing.
- Movement: Once we are changing that clay, we engage our whole movement system. We might need to make sure we are sitting upright, maybe need to stand up to move a lot of the clay or kneed it. Then our whole arms, shoulders, back etc. are supporting what the hands want to do. With our movement involved, we engage our kinesiology, our automatic nervous system, our sense of uprightness, and balance. We leave our head-space, (thinking is put on the back-burner for a while) while what lives in our unconscious can be explored, find an expression and be transformed.
- Rhythmic systems: When we are engaged like that in the creative process, our heart rate will slow down, our breathing deepens and stress levels drop. Our rhythmic life processes are affected.
- Integration: After we have immersed ourselves in this rich world of senses and movement, we can ‘wake up’ to what our hands have made, observe, name it, and bring consciousness to it, so that we have come full circle in the whole experience: doing, feeling, thinking.
Sculpture therapy is a non-verbal way of communicating, with ourselves and through our work, with the world.
For more information you can contact Lut Hermans on email@example.com or 027 748 1093.
Nourishment for Spring
Spring is here! The Earth is breathing out and there is new life and vitality, renewal and beauty all around us in the natural world. The increasing light is inspiring plants to blossom and hens to lay eggs. We can sense the change deep within ourselves and feel perhaps a little more energy, a “spring” in our step and a lifting of the spirit after the more introspective mood of winter.
Our physical bodies naturally move into a cleansing phase in Spring and we can enjoy and help this process by lightening up our diets a little. (The beauty of Spring nourishes our very souls.Could it be that we have a little less need for physical nourishment just now?) It is a time to be kind to our livers and gall bladders, perhaps by eating less heavy, salty foods and upping the raw component of our meals.
If we take a look at what is happening in our gardens we can glean ideas for composing spring menus.
All the fresh new shoots of perennial plants are there for the plucking: asparagus (if you are so lucky!), herbs like tarragon, sage, fennel, mint, lemon balm, lovage etc, dandelion and nettle greens, rhubarb, sorrel and more.
Tiny new lettuces, self-sown baby silverbeet and young garlic greens are tempting. (For those with no garden this is the perfect time to experiment with growing micro-greens and sprouts, mimicking what is happening in nature in Spring!)
Flowers and buds abound, with brassicas heading towards seed formation (yes you can eat those kale buds and the flowers that follow), with artichokes starting to form their huge buds and plants such as calendula, borage and onion grass etc. generously offering their edible flowers.
On the other hand this is a season with few fruits, some citrus varieties being the only truly seasonal tree fruit, I think, and the first little offerings of young peas and broad beans representing the vegetable “fruits”.
As for root vegetables, the carrots and beets and parsnips are all putting energy into producing stalks for flowers and seeds, leaving our favourite edible roots too coarse to eat. Sweetly pungent and cleansing radishes herald the new season of roots and don’t we look forward to those first sweet baby carrots!
It’s interesting to note that many of the archetypal spring garden edibles are an unusual shade of green, either having gray-green foliage (sage, tarragon, artichoke, nettle, broad bean) or being a more olive-green colour, especially when cooked (asparagus, artichoke, sorrel). And, most wonderful of all, these archetypal vegetables of this season are Spring tonics for us human beings. Some are specific liver, kidney and/or gall bladder tonics, some are blood cleansing and others are just generally purifying and detoxifying. What gifts!
There is an old English saying that goes like this: “He who would live for aye should eat sage in May”. If we paraphrase that for the southern hemisphere it would be something like “If you want to live forever, eat sage in November”! A pot of sage and lemon balm tea anyone??
A recipe for Spring:
Anyone who keeps chickens, or who has neighbours who keep chickens, knows that Spring is a season of plentiful egg production, so here is a recipe for a Spring Pie filled with eggs and Spring greens:
Spring Greens Pie
• Make pastry (Try the recipe below or use you own favourite)
• Mix up filling as follows:
o 3 eggs. – Beat lightly in large bowl
o c. 175g cheese, grated (part crumbled feta is nice too). – Add to eggs
o 1 onion, finely chopped. – Add to eggs and cheese and mix
o Add c. 3 – 4 cups finely sliced greens (Can include puha, dandelion, budding tops of kale, sorrel, spinach, silverbeet leaves, onion weed, sage etc! etc!) and a good grind of black pepper
o Mix everything together well
• Assemble pie with pastry top and bottom in 25 cm diameter pie dish
• Make steam vents
• Bake 5-10 minutes @ 200 degrees C, then a further 20 – 30 minutes @ 180 degrees C.
• Serve warm or at room temperature
100g butter, melted
1 small egg
½ cup yoghurt
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ – 2 cups wholemeal flour (or use part white)
• Beat butter, oil, egg and yoghurt together
• Mix in salt and baking soda
• Mix in 1 ½ cup flour
• Gradually add more flour, using hands to knead, until dough is smooth and no longer sticky
Debbie ter Borg has studied nutrition, and has from a very young age, been interested in “nourishment” in the very widest sense of the word. She enjoys the magical “in depth” and “from scratch” kitchen and garden experiences, which she shares generously with others.
She has founded and worked for 5 years in ‘The Kitchen Club’ at Te Ra School, Raumati South, where she also taught the children in class 5. She has worked with young mothers and other people in many workshops on nutrition, and is a founding member of the Koha Café at Great Start, Taita, Lower Hutt, where she teaches cooking. If you want to get in touch with her with your questions on nutrition, you can email her on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Louise Coigley in New Zealand – March 2016
We are thrilled that Louise Coigley will visitNZ in 2016 to offer two-day workshops, performances and talks in the Wellington area, Christchurch and Mangawhai, Northland.
Louise is a Speech and Language Therapist and Storyteller who works internationally running trainings in the specialist storytelling techniques she has developed over 25 years. Her method, Lis’n Tell: live inclusive storytelling, is used widely in the NHS (National Health Service of UK) and in the Education Service to support children and young adults with complex communication needs. Her trainings evoke powerful personal and professional change for adults from many disciplines. She teaches regularly at Greenwich Medway University and The International School of Storytelling UK.
Lis’n Tell – 2 day workshop in Wellington mid March
This workshop will introduce you to a practical and insightful approach to working with children through storytelling. Louise will present aspects of therapeutic storytelling through rhythm and role, rhyme, repetition and ritual.
Louise will also offer a performance, The Foibles and Fables of Miss Adventures, a solo storytelling performance with a cast of many, as well as Library sessions and shorter workshops for groups who invite her.
Who should be interested in Lis’n and Tell?
All those who work with children with learning and communication problems:- teachers, therapists, SENCO’s, speech and language specialists, intentional communities working with children and adults with learning and communication difficulties.
Enquiries and expressions of interest to;
Judith or John Frost– Evans, In the Belly of the Whale School of Storytelling
Tel: (h) 04 239 8346 (m) 021 1121244 email: email@example.com
ASD ONE-DAY WORKSHOP
Dr Ava Ruth Baker (author of article in this issue) is intending to run a workshop in 2016, focusing on practical strategies to support ASD individuals, with ample time for discussion on any areas of interest or concern raised by participants. Dates and other details will be announced in our next newsletter early 2016.
LIBRARY OF ASD BOOKS
ASK Trust (a charitable trust for and by ASD adults) has a large library of ASD books (over 500 titles), which can be borrowed by post (or in person by special arrangement, as they’re based on Kapiti Coast). The catalogue can be viewed on their website www.asknz.net , and items borrowed by emailing your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. The current cost to borrow is $5 per book, or $30 annually for unlimited number of books (max. two at a time) – plus postage if applicable.
GET IN TOUCH
If you want to get in touch with any of the Aurora Therapists, please visit our website: www.auroracollective.nz. You will find all contact details, descriptions of the different therapies and biographies of the therapists there. You can also contact us via the ‘contact us’ page.
For questions and suggestions for contributions to the upcoming newsletters, you can also email Lut Hermans on email@example.com.
SUBSCRIBE / UNSUBSCRIBE
If you want to subscribe to this newsletter, or you no longer wish to receive it, please send a little message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please feel free to forward this newsletter to anyone you think might be interested.
In our summer newsletter we will bring you information on the senses, sensory integration, stimulation and sensory overload, how we can understand the senses, and support them. Look out for it sometime in February 2016.