To create a safe space for all, it’s important to reframe how we define people as either hyperactive or energetic.
The term hyperactive has a negative connotation. In some cases, our education system has associated being “overly active” with a lack of focus and impulsivity, deeming it something that needs to be addressed by a psychologist or neurologist. Sometimes I wonder why we think all students should be able to learn sitting at a table or in a desk for six hours a day. But here we are, another negative term.
Nothing wrong with being energetic or enthusiastic or on the go. Most people say I seem to always be on the go; I wonder if they believe me to be hyperactive? There are all kinds of energy drinks, bars and foods that nutritionists, coaches and fitness trainers are suggesting we try. So there must not be anything wrong with being energetic!
Most employers are looking for enthusiastic people. They want people to be eager and passionate in their jobs. So enthusiasm is okay, too.
So how do we help our kiddos and teens that come across as energetic and enthusiastic and are therefore labeled as hyperactive? How do we help them be more focused, not distracted and not so impulsive so they are not called hyperactive?
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Tips to help autistic children who come across as energetic and enthusiastic:
- Help our students, teens and adults stay organized
- Help them develop routines
- Help them follow safety rules and develop appropriate social skills
- Help them to break down large tasks into more manageable tasks
- Help them manage frustrations
- Help them reduce distractions in their environment
- Provide warnings before changes/transitions. They may need time to shift their attention
- Provide them with choices
- Provide break times at work and in school
- Develop a consistent daily exercise program for them (Hiking, biking, swimming, soccer, rugby)
- Help them eat nutritionally. Feeding the brain is important
- Identify their interests, as they are more likely to stay engaged for longer if interested in the topic, activity, lesson or task
- Explore medication effectiveness
- Explore Neurofeedback
- Work with an occupational therapist and physical therapist to identify interventions and strategies for self-regulation
When your child, teen or adult with autism is interested in life’s activities; when they understand the social expectations of each social activity; when they get good sleep, eat well, exercise consistently; when they understand their energy levels and can find ways to modify this in different situations; when they are organized and able to complete their routines; people will say, “Wow, he is on the go, enthusiastic and energetic.”
Using these tips can help your autistic child build self-esteem and support change in other people’s perceptions about him/her.
This article was featured in Issue 121 – Autism Awareness Month