Information for teen parents

How do we support young people in our community?

We want to be transparent in the approach we take with supporting young people in our community, as we believe it works.

 

We do not believe in punishing young people when they are not following the rules or are struggling. Instead, we focus on understanding the reasons why they are struggling and work together to see what we can put in place to support them.  

Our community is for young people only so it is a safe space for them. But when we are struggling to know how best to support a young person, we may contact you so we can work this out together. 

Our approach is based on our extensive partnership work with autistic young people, in addition to the CPS Model (Dr. Ross Greene), the Low Arousal Approach (Professor Andy McDonnell) and the PANDA Approach (The PDA Society). Please take the time to read this (or watch the videos) if you can, as understanding our approach is really important. 

One thing to mention is that while we believe in this approach, it isn't always possible to follow it! This approach is only possible when we are not highly stressed ourselves, and when we have all of the information to effectively problem solve together. We will always try our best to follow this approach, but we know we won't get it right every time. When we don't get it right, we are happy to apologise and work together to see what we need to do differently.

The NEST Approach

Nurture

If needed, help a young person to become more relaxed

If someone is upset/ stressed/ having a meltdown, focus on helping them to feel calm as people cannot think logically at this time. If you feel they are not in fight/ flight mode at the moment, skip to step 2: Empathise.

Appear Calm: You know once they are more relaxed, you can start to have conversations about what happened and how you can help. If you don't look relaxed, this can make a young person more stressed due to the emotional contagion effect. Knowing that things will be ok once they are relaxed, try your best to look relaxed, to stop the young person from becoming more stressed.

Reduce demands: Only one person should respond to them at a time, and try not to tell them what to do.

Be flexible with the rules: Learning happens when people are calm. If you focus on things they are doing that you aren't happy with right now, this may make them more stressed.

 

In Spectrum Gaming when a young person is highly stressed, we sometimes allow them to swear and break other rules as long as it isn't impacting on other members, with the objective of allowing them to become relaxed. A safe place for this is in DMs.

Avoid power struggles: People need control when they are struggling, so do not take it from them unless you need to. While you are hoping for control so you can help, this can be counter-intuitive.

Use Distractions: Invite them to watch a video, listen to a song or play a game together. They might say no or react negatively, but if they don't this could be just what they need.

 

Where can I learn more about this step? 

  • Studio 3 has a range of free webinars around the 'Low Arousal Approach'. We have adapted the fundamentals of the low arousal approach for digital settings, which is how the above approach was developed. There is a free webinar from Andy McDonnell himself talking about the Low Arousal approach that I highly recommend. Please go to ‘2nd June’ on this page to find it: https://www.studio3.org/free-webinars

  • The PDA Society offers a wealth of information and resources around Pathological Demand Avoidance. Check out their website here: https://www.pdasociety.org.uk/

  • One particularly helpful resource from the PDA Society is their 'Helpful Approaches for Parents/ Carers' sheet. We believe the PANDA approach that is shared here works for all autistic young people, so this is an integral part of our approach: https://www.pdasociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Helpful-approaches-for-parents-and-carers.pdf

Empathise

If someone is struggling, assume there is a good reason why. We should try and learn what their reasoning is.

Even if you think you know what an issue is, you should always take this step. Feeling listened to is the most important part of this process, so it is helpful to take your time here. We recommend a two step process here:

1) Initial enquiry/ starting the conversation

  • "I saw... is there anything I can help with?"

  • "I saw that you are struggling with... at the moment"

  • "You looked quite upset in... earlier, can I ask if everything is ok?"

  • "It looks like... is difficult at the moment, would you like to talk about it?"

2) Understand more

Do some reflective listening and ask clarifying questions. Focus on understanding the who, what, where and when of the problem. Ask what they're thinking while facing the problem too.

Showing you are listening in an empathetic way takes practice. There are 3 ways you should try and do this:

  • Try and understand their perspective, and show you are trying by asking questions that show you have processed what they have said and would like to understand more

  • Stay impartial and out of judgement. Even if you feel they are in the wrong, act neutral

  • Recognise and communicate their emotions

Where can I learn more about this step? 

There are two YouTube videos that we love which give a strong picture of what empathy is, and how people can get it wrong when they try to be empathetic:

Sharing Concerns

Why do you want to problem solve with them? What is the impact of what has happened?

Example starting phrases:

  • "I am worried about..."

  • "I am wondering if..."

When talking about concerns, they are normally in one of two categories:

  • How the problem is affecting them: It ALWAYS affects them in some way, so make sure to always include the problem they have to show you care about them

  • How the problem is affecting others: This may involve speaking to others to understand their perspective. Speaking with everyone involved then impartially sharing people’s perspectives with each other can really help to improve mutual understanding. But make sure they know in advance that when you share another person’s perspectives, you aren’t taking sides but are trying to enable reflection.

Check they understand your concern and that you have been clear. It is helpful to not start talking about solutions yet or judge/ lecture them

Where can I learn more about this step?

The Lives in the Balance website offers a huge amount of advice and resources around the CPS model, which this step is adapted from: https://livesinthebalance.org/our-solution/

Teamwork

Now you have fully explored the issue, you can get to problem solving!

Initial enquiry

Raise the concerns that were identified in steps 1 and 2 e.g. "I wonder if there is a way..."

Then:

Let the young person have the first opportunity to propose a solution, but remember this is a team effort so you should work it out together

When you are problem solving:

  • Don't just put the onus on the young person. It is likely it isn't just them who may need to make changes, but also others involved in an issue and Spectrum Gaming too! If feedback means we may need to make changes to how Spectrum Gaming runs, share this with the team and we can look at this in more detail

  • Work out the probability of the solution being successful. If you think it is improbable, say this and see if you can work out something else

  • Remember you should focus on solutions that focus on meeting needs/ fixing underlying reasons. Adding punishments or telling people off are not long term solutions so should be avoided.

  • You don't have to come up with solutions straight away. If you need more time or want advice from the team, that is ok. Let them know you need more time and will come back with ideas when you are ready.

  • Make sure the proposed solutions are possible from both sides, and address everyone's concerns

This step always ends with agreeing to start this process from the beginning if your proposed solution does not stand the test of time.

Where can I learn more about this step?

The Lives in the Balance website offers a huge amount of advice and resources around the CPS model, which this step is adapted from: https://livesinthebalance.org/our-solution/

Key Concepts

Our approach is based on our extensive partnership work with autistic young people, in addition to the CPS Model (Dr. Ross Greene), the Low Arousal Approach (Professor Andy McDonnell) and the PANDA Approach (The PDA Society).

There are a few key things that make this approach a success:

Understanding of lived experience of autism

When it comes to problem solving, it is important to look at issues though the wider autism lens, to work out the best possible long term solutions that focus on meeting needs, rather than just focusing on the behaviour you can see. By using this lens, you are also recognising that autistic people often also have traits of anxiety, depression, trauma and more as a result of living in a society that often isn't suited to their needs. If you would like to understand this wider autism lens, we recommend watching this video: 

 

"Kids do well if they can"

We don't believe any young person deliberately struggles, there is usually a reason why (though we might not always know what this reason is). we believe reasons for young people struggling always come under one of three categories:

1. They have stressors that need to be reduced

Society can make things very difficult for autistic people. This means people can go through very upsetting/ difficult experiences which affect how they are each day. But of course everyone can have a bad day for a variety of reasons:

  • Lack of sleep

  • An upsetting personal situation

  • Having an argument  

  • Hearing bad news

  • Illness

When someone is highly stressed, doing what you can to reduce this will make their day more manageable.

2. They have unmet needs that need to be met

This is where your wider autism lens is helpful for identifying any unmet needs, and working out what can be done to meet them.

3. They have difficulties as a result of their spiky profile. We can support them to build on these skills OR put support in place for them so they do not become a barrier.

  • For some people, SG is the only place to socialise with others. Young people may still be learning how to interact with/ build friendships with others.

  • Quite a lot of young people are also completely new to Discord and Minecraft servers, so it is a big learning process! 

  • Every autistic person has a spiky profile: they have unique strengths in some areas, but unique difficulties in some areas too. They may have a ‘lagging skill’ or may not have the ‘tools’ that are needed to resolve a situation.

    • Some of these skills can be learned with support, but others are part of a young person's innate strengths and difficulties. Identifying which of these applies can help to work out what support is needed.

    • We can help young people to build skills, or put support in place so their difficulties do not become a barrier.

The importance of partnership working

We believe problem solving together, with an equal relationship is an essential part of resolving issues with young people. This means being able to admit getting things wrong, apologising and being willing to learn from young people. 

Even if we are struggling to identify the best solutions and meet all needs a young person has, this can be trumped by trust, connection and positive relationships.

Young people understanding themselves and their own needs

When problem solving together, it is really helpful for young people to understand themselves and their own needs. In order to help with this, we have 'autism chat' on our Discord communities where young people can discuss autism and ask questions about it. I have also made two videos for young people themselves to watch to increase understanding of autism and of autism and anxiety:

Seeing autism through the social model, not the medical model

In most spaces and places autism is seen as a negative thing. If you Google autism, you see websites and articles focused on 'treating' and 'reducing symptoms' of autism. In a lot of online spaces, the word autism is used as an insult. Even in most educational and health settings autism is seen as something to try and fix/ change.

But Spectrum Gaming proves that most people are wrong. Autism is not a 'disorder' or a 'burden', it is simply a difference. Just like ever other brain type (yes, that includes 'normal' brains too!), the autistic brain has its negatives and things that make life more difficult. But autistic brains also have many positives that others may never have the opportunity to experience. 

The key to happiness for everyone is to focus on your positives, and then either working on or making adjustments for the difficulties that you experience. The difficulty is, the world is made for the 80% of people who are neurotypical ("normal"), and the other 20% of people (with neurotypes which include autism, ADHD, dyslexia, Tourette's Syndrome and more) are expected to conform to a world that is not made for them, meaning in most environments you don't get much opportunity to show your true strengths or prove your potential. 

Even when autistic young people are struggling in school, feel misunderstood by others or are struggling with day to day anxieties, we know each and every one of them is brilliant, they just may not have had the opportunity to prove it yet. ​

There is another big difficulty autistic people face, which is that most people are afraid of difference (especially other young people). If you have an interest that is different from most, you may be judged for it. If you have sensory differences or are feeling anxious, people often lack empathy and put you through difficult experiences that you are not ready for. If you talk, act or behave in a different way, people may misunderstand or mistreat you because of their own ignorance or insecurities. 

As you can see, most of the difficulties that are faced by autistic people aren't caused by autism, but by society itself. The happiest, most successful autistic people are the ones who have embraced their differences, despite what they have been told by others. Rather than trying to 'fit in' and be like everyone else. They have focused on living a life that works for them, where they can focus on their strengths and be around others who embrace and encourage difference. Famous people like Eminem, Satoshi Tajiri (the creator of Pokémon), Henry Cavendish (scientist), Steve Jobs (founder of Apple) and many more are all autistic, have faced huge challenges and have overcome them while remaining authentic and letting the world see how amazing they are, despite what society tells people who are different. 

At Spectrum Gaming, we want to prove to young people that who they are is ok. They can be themselves, but still develop meaningful connections and achieve what they would like to. Not just is our community a space where young people can be themselves, but it is run by passionate autistic adults who can hopefully prove our message to young people and give them hope for the future. As we said earlier, every autistic young person is brilliant and can achieve amazing things, even if they don't believe it right now while they are trying to survive in a world that is not made for us.