Louise signed up to Auternative Coaching’s Group Parents/Carers’ course in January 2021. I caught up with her six months later to find out how it has transformed her relationship with her son.
What made you sign up to our group coaching course?
I heard about the course and thought it sounded like a different approach that might help me. I was going through quite a difficult time with my son and, having coached people at work before, I thought I’d give it a go.
I’m so glad I did. It’s been quite transformational. Other courses I’ve been on just haven’t made a difference for me. You go for the hour, or morning, and it washes over you and you think that was all very nice. But once you leave you just forget about it and nothing changes.
What was it about the coaching approach that made our course different?
It’s had a fundamental impact, not just on the surface in terms of my son’s behaviour but our relationship and the whole cadence to our family life is better. Both coaches running the course were incredibly good. Having coached people myself I know how difficult it is to listen effectively and really be in that moment. But you were both really engaged.
So you felt able to be really open and honest in the sessions?
Yes absolutely. Often people don’t want to talk about things they are struggling with and, as parents of children with additional needs, we have often been battered and bruised from fighting for our children. And we can also feel quite guilty about how we have responded to our children or feel like we didn’t do what we should have done.
But because of the way you are as coaches you were able to bring people out of themselves and people were very open and honest which I think is really important.
How did this help you, what’s changed as a result?
The whole tone of how me and my son talk to each other has changed. There’s a lot less conflict. Everything is calmer and he knows that he can talk to me now and I won’t get upset or annoyed - which is great for our relationship.
For example before his school would call me to say he’s kicked someone. I’d think right I’ll tell him off and talk to him about the importance of not kicking people.
But now I’m able to work out with him what caused his behaviour and how he can do things differently in the future. Because we all get annoyed, it’s a valid thing, so just saying don’t get annoyed and don’t kick people doesn’t really help him. It’s about helping him know what to do when he’s getting annoyed so that he doesn't end up kicking someone again!
And how has this affected your son?
He’s doing really really well, he’s just great in himself. It’s given me a completely different way of talking to him.
To give you another example, getting up in the morning has always been a bit of a flash point. He would literally not wake up - I'd be trying to pull him out of bed and stuff like that.
And so I said to him what are we going to do about this because you need to get up for school? And he said what you need to do is to come in here 10 minutes before and give me a warning, and then come in 5 minutes before, and then I’ll do it. I’ll get up.
So that’s what I did. And since then it’s been fine! I think that shows the difference in our relationship and how well he’s now responding to solving the problem together and being given some ownership and agency.
So would you recommend the course to others?
Absolutely! I’ve told people, it’s the first course where I’ve felt I had to take ownership and felt able to do so. It’s run by people who actually really understand, and because I noticed changes quite quickly it was quite motivating. The more I did it the more change I saw.
Louise’s tips for improving your relationship with your autistic child:
Model behaviour - Kids learn so much for seeing how you react and respond to things. During homeschooling I was getting really annoyed that my son would literally hide under the table to get out of doing work he didn’t want to do. During the coaching I realised that the way I was behaving when I got an email from work about something I didn’t want to do was making this worse! So I started to change my behaviour to show him that although I wasn’t too happy about being asked to do certain tasks I was going to calmly tackle it and get it done. It might sound like a small thing to do but it made a big difference.
Don’t jump in to solve your child’s problems - As parents I think it’s understandable that we want to protect our children and solve any problems they face. But the coaching course got me to really reflect on how important it is to let our children have some agency on what happens to them and how they handle things. How my son now manages to get up on time is a great example of that!
Find other people in similar situations so you can talk about what you're struggling with. It’s so easy to feel like you’re alone and that you’re the only person having difficulties. But all parents struggle and it’s really helpful to talk to other people who are in similar situations. And ideally I’d recommend talking to other parents as part of a group coaching course - because it’s been a real game changer for me!