7 year old, Keanu learns the why of emotions


Keanu recently received his school mid-year report, which his mother, Belinda, described as being “so good” it made her cry. Belinda told how the previous school was often not able to give Keanu a report grade as he had difficulties engaging with the work and had been suspended multiple times as he had been unable to manage his emotions. Now, one year on from his first engagement with the Autism Association’s School Age Therapy team, Keanu is learning how to manage his emotions and now home and school are much happier places.

As with many people who have Autism, Keanu was having some difficulty recognising and understanding his own emotions as well as the emotions of others. Keanu had limited language with which to convey his thoughts and feelings and this often led to difficult situations at school and at home.  Upon meeting their new key therapist, the family prioritised their main goal for Keanu as learning to identify his emotions to allow him to be happy at school and at home and to make some friends.

Keanu’s therapist, Rachael set out to provide a range of therapy supports at home and in Keanu’s school. At home, Rachael worked with Keanu and his sister, Lukah, using many strategies (including Zones of Regulation) to help support Keanu to identify his emotions and to develop strategies to manage his emotions in different situations. Lukah also learnt new skills, such as key word signs, that she could use to help her brother at home if he started getting upset.  

The bond between the two siblings was obviously close and becoming closer. Keanu describes Lukah as the “only person who understands me sometimes”.

Making good, steady progress 

With the ongoing support provided by Rachael, Keanu’s Therapist, he has made the move from mainstream schooling to Education Support, and continues to make good, steady progress toward goals. In addition to the home sessions, Rachael provides support to Keanu’s school so he is able to have his therapy goals incorporated into his individual education plan. Now due to the great work of his teachers, Keanu is learning how to manage his emotions in difficult situations i.e. when the classroom becomes too noisy or overwhelmingly busy with information. Keanu, using visual supports is now able to let his teacher know when he needs a break and will independently take a break outside – one which often involves movement which helps him to keep calm.

Keanu’s teacher also supports him by giving him movement activities in the classroom such as handing out or gathering up items, opening or closing doors, packing up or taking messages to the office. Similarly, at home, Keanu has learned the beneficial effect of movement and will engage in many activities that involve movement that help him self-regulate – his favourite being the trampoline.

Being a good sport

Now that Keanu is mastering his emotions, he has developed some really good relationships at school. Keanu now has a group of friends at his school, describing them as “my boys”. They engage in pretend-play games such as ‘cops and robbers’ or Superhero games, where they must all work together to achieve a common goal—something which Keanu may have found far too difficult a year ago. They also play turn-taking games—Pop up Pirate and Chicks go Boom (Keanu’s favourite)—where he is now able to cope with “not winning”.  Keanu is acquiring all the skills of being a good sport. He is now able to say “good game” rather than expressing frustration when he doesn’t win the game.   

Keanu’s ongoing achievements of the past year are surely inspirational. From earlier school reports where no grades were given due to his lack of engagement in the curriculum, to today’s much brighter scenario. Keanu is happy at home and school, and is now in a great space for learning and is making new friends.

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