Last updateMon, 28 Jan 2013 9pm

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Words can hurt

Jellybeans manage to have an inbuilt honesty when it comes to what comes out of their mouths. Whatever happened to tact and diplomacy? Errrr, wazzzat?? Those words just aren’t in our dictionaries, and if they were, you’d have to explain them carefully because we’d be asking why all the time. I mean why, if we’re supposed to be honest, do we sometimes need to lie to other people? It doesn’t make sense, does it?

But think about this - how many times honestly have you been shocked, mortified or horrified at what’s coming flying out of your jellybean’s mouth like some armed missile. Honesty can sometimes be perceived as offensive or inappropriate and be met with glares and surprised expressions.

How do you deal with a jellybean who mistakes the nearest fat woman in Sainsbury's for someone pregnant ? My son has done this on a number of occasions and whilst I’ve been turning a deeper shade of crimson, hiding behind the baked beans, he’s become engrossed in a conversation with a complete stranger. ‘Are you a homosexual?’ he once asked a very flamboyant young man in a ticket queue at the station.


Stimming gets you into trouble sometimes!

I do have this real desire to push the boundaries, I have a natural curiosity about anything that looks vaguely dangerous and risky. It’s not something that I have to experience only once though, I’m a serial offender. I stim on excitement. I'm sure the marshmallows have all got up to some pretty crazy stuff in their times. The differences are very clear to me now. Marshmallows generally appear to plan their adventures. It’s called Risk Identification. Calculating a risk and thinking about the possible results is not something that jellybeans do well.


Alarm System for a Jelibean

Everyone identifies with red=stop, amber=wait and green=go. It's a system often used in behaviour management. I've devised a method using traffic lights to help jelibeans identify what a situation may be like. It's easy to make a set of your own traffic lights - all you need is a colours or crayons, stiff card,  sticky-back plastic, scissors and some ribbon.

Cut out three circles of each colour, Red, Orange Green. Cover them with clear film (just makes them a little stronger, but this is optional). Punch a hole in all three and thread on some ribbon. Hey presto portable traffic light communication at minimal cost. You can design your own, personalise them and get a jelibean or two to make some too.

Day-trips or visits to family can be both unpredictable and often stressful. Jelibean HATE being embarrassed or shown up in front of others. Embarrassment will often lead to MELTDOWN. Use your traffic lights as a private signal/communication. Maybe your little darling is saying a little too much about dad's visit to the wine bar last week - flash the AMBER disc and that should hopefully stop them in their tracks without anyone else knowing.

Traffic lights can also be used for short cuts in communication. Jelibeans returning home from school may not feel or want to discuss their day with you, they may not be able to remember everything that has happened. Don't ask them if they have stomped through the door with sweaty faces - just show them the discs and one word - RED, AMBER OR GREEN. It isn't rocket science to realise that RED means BAD day. When your jelibean disappears to their room you know why. You can do gentle questioning later.



Traffic lights can also be used in this way:

Explaining that school is always a green zone. It is SAFE, structured, supervised and enclosed. Therefore, the behaviour must remain on green. It's important that in green zones that behaviour is modified. A green zone indicates a good place for your child to be and that's what we are striving to ensure. In order to maintain a place in a good zone, you have to behave. Otherwise, you lose a vital green zone.

Traffic light colours work equally well with behaviour. It should be fairly obvious to most that green is good, amber could be a problem looming so watch out, and red means totally off the scale, unacceptable and dangerous.

In the classroom, my children find it useful to have their own personal red, green and orange cards so that they may quietly alert the teacher to how they are feeling. It's important to share your observations with your child. A restless jelibean doesn't even notice what their body is doing, you are the best person to show them that when those butterflies are making too many flutters in your tummy, it may be because you are upset, so encourage them to show the amber card. By identifying to your child and their teacher/classroom assistant their changes in body language you will be helping the class immensely.

Traffic lights will also enable the child's friends to identify potentially dangerous situations before they happen.

Our local school embraced this system and the class teachers have their own personal set of cards as well and with nothing more than a look and a showing of a card, communication is simple and accurate. Jelibeans don't do verbal communication well especially when under a spotlight in front of a lot of class mates.

One tip you may find useful is that zones can change colour. For example, school, which is always a green, can suddenly turn to red if a day trip out is planned. A school trip is always a red zone for a jelibean. It's a new experience, new surroundings, possibly even a coach trip and a packed lunch and a bag of sweets for the journey and maybe if your jelibeans are like mine, the mobile phone or games console has sneaked in all by itself. These trips cause havoc to a jelibean brain. There is so much to look at, to do, to touch, its just overwhelming. A jelibean brain reaches melt-down quite quickly. So you have to prepare your child for the trip, explain that they have to be extremely well behaved, polite and vigilant. It's all too common for these little jelibean to become so overloaded with all the new experiences, sounds, colours and different people. It's easy to become absorbed and therefore, even easier to become LOST.

Summarising traffic lights.

1. Explain clearly what the colours mean. It's important to remember that a jelIbean's interpretation maybe different from yours.

2. If a potential red situation is approaching or an amber is not converting to green, my advice is to distract your jelibean with a task. Don't tell them what you're doing. As soon as they realise, it will make the situation worse.

3. Scoring can be used as a gauge in progress and rewards can be given. For example, three greens in a row in a week = a note of praise home. Five greens surely entitles your jelIbean to a very special certificate to take home.


Communication tips

As a nurse, I was always taught to watch the body carefully. The body is a SYSTEM, so when my Ward Sister told me to observe it, although she hadn't got a clue that she was talking to a jellybean who was only too willing to watch and learn a SYSTEM, I sure as hell watched it. And I worked it out, with her help.

A sure sign of pain is toe curling as is stroking and touching the forehead a sign of headache. Notice and observe your child's stims, which I'll write about later. You may already have been able to detect some changes in the SYSTEM but look for the others. Notice in particular, as I was taught to do, for a changing of skin colour. Pallor or pale complexion followed by bright red tomato face is an indication that anger is close. Legs swinging, sweaty hands and face, and eye-flicking are sure signs that your jelly bean isn't happy. An irritable, fidgety jellybean is potentially a little time bomb waiting to go off. My advice is to observe your child when they're not looking, make a mental note next time they throw a tantrum, watch for the signs because they're always there.