Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism & Aspergers Syndrome are on the Autistic Spectrum, this is a developmental condition affecting the way the brain processes information. It affects the way a person communicates and relates to others.
children,girls,kids,people,persons,Photographs
People with Autism & Aspergers Syndrome find it difficult to read signals; i.e. facial expressions, tone of voice and body language; that most of us take for granted. People with autism often have an accompanying learning disability.

People with Aspergers Syndrome and High functioning Autism generally do not have an additional learning disability; in fact they are often of above average intelligence. People with High Functioning Autism have similar traits to those with Aspergers Syndrome, although people with Aspergers Syndrome generally have an awareness of their disability and that they are ‘different’ from others, coupled with a desire to ‘be like everyone else’ i.e. have friends, a girl/boyfriend or a job – this awareness and desire can often cause problems for the individual.

People with Aspergers Syndrome and High Functioning Autism share many of the same characteristics of Autism, but each person is an individual and their Autism and Aspergers Syndrome will affect them in an individual way, thus requiring an individual approach.

*from http://www.asdcare.com/whatis.htm

Living Out Loud*

‘Living out loud’  is something that we can do very easily as parents and teachers that can help our children to learn and understand a great many things.  Living out loud means verbally documenting things that you are doing, as you do them.

To role model problem solving skills to children you can talk yourself through each step.  For example… you are working on the computer and you accidently delete the last paragraph of the email you are writing.  Say “Oh no!!  I have just lost all of the work that I have done by mistake.  I am not going to get mad or frustrated, I will just go to edit then press undo changes and it will all come back.’  This is what you would have done anyway but when you say it out loud your child can see that you too make mistakes, problems can be solved and that you did it without getting angry.

To show sequence you can document each part of a task.  When you are doing somethign like laying the table you can talk through each stage with your child.  For example ‘First I am going to get the cutlery out of the drawer.  I think I need a knife and fork for everyone and there are three of us so three knives and three forks.’ etc.

When you want to increase your child’s awareness of other people’s emotions and what affects these emotions, living out loud is a great strategy to use.  ‘Yay!  We managed to get ready and out of the house in only 30 minutes… that makes me really happy because I know we are not going to be late!’

*Adapted from Myles, Adreon & Gitlitz

Working on ASD Time*

For children and young people with Autism Spectrum Disorders the world, and especially the classroom can be a confusing place.  Part of the reason for this is that they may have an ‘internal clock’ that differs from the other children around them.  In the book ‘Simple Strategies that Work’ (AAOPC Press), Brenda Myles talks about ‘ASD Time’ as meaning “Twice as much time, half as much done”.  This is because these students often need more time to orientate themselves, process the information you have given and gather the relevant materials.

So, how can you modify things to ensure they are successful?

  • Reduce or eliminate handwriting:  Most of our ASD students have great difficulty with any extensive handwriting and, as a result they cannot do their best work when they are asked to write.  Dictation and keyboarding are helpful.  Please see the LS team for other ways to assess alternatively or provide alternative means of communicating their knowledge.
  • Avoid rushing: Feeling overwhelmed, freezing, panicking or having a meltdown could all be reactions to being rushed.  Using a ‘Time Timer’ or some other visual reminders and aids will help students to plan their time.  Be realistic about the age and stage of the child in your expectations for planning time.

* Adapted from Myles, Adreon & Gitlitz

Superflex!

For the past week or two we have been learning about ‘flexible thinking’ using Michelle Garcia Winner’s ‘Superflex’ curriculum with the Grades 2 through 4 students. 

The programme centres around a mythical town called ‘Social Town’.  The greatest superhero that ever was used to live her but he has gone missing!!! In his absence, the ‘Unthinkables’ have been trying to take over the town one person at a time by invading their brain and causing them to forget to think about how other people think about them.  When we forgot to consider what other people are thinking about us it can cause us to act in ‘weird’ ways.

The goal of the programme is to get students to recognise undesirable behaviours in themselves and adapt the behaviour accordingly so that people are only having good, positive thoughts about them.  One example of this would be when a kid knows that they are being called for dinner but are so engrossed in whatever they are doing that they do not answer or stop their activity.  We call that ‘Rockbrain’ and we teach strategies for them to have flexible brain.

Rockbrain

Not all students will grasp all elements of the curriculum or, they will grasp it but find it difficult to put into practice.  One way that we can make it easier for them is to use the terminology consistently, at home and at school.  This is the main reason for the homework which is attached to the end of each ‘lesson’ (not session).  This will enable you to become familiar with the ‘Superflex’ characters and terminology so that you can support your child at home.

I will be in my room for the majority of the parent conference time.  If you would like to pop in to see me and have a look at the programme then please feel free. Alternatively, please do not hesitate to arrange an appointment time if you would like more of a discussion.

Please stop blurting out!!!*

Thereare a number of reasons why students may ‘blurt out’ the answer at school or at home.  It may be because they have not yet developed patience and/or turn taking skills.  It may be because they have poor impulse control and they cannot hold the answer in but it maybe because of your eyes!

Students who have Autistic Spectrum Disorders, communication issues or any related disorders may not have a very well developed understanding of eye gaze. 

Many teachers use their eyes to silently communicate which table or person they are talking to when they ask a questions.  We then expect that individual(s) to provide an answer.  Students who struggle to attend to class and/or those who find it difficult to pick up on social cues or gather information from people’s eyes will not necessarily see you doing this or understand it and so may blurt out an answer.

If this is a problem in class, or indeed in a busy household. the easiest thing to do is to use the name of the person you are talking to.  When correcting a student who is blurting out it is important to make it clear that you were using your eyes so that they learn to ‘read’ your eye gaze.  For example ‘I am looking at(student’s name) and I am talking to (student’s name).  I am not talking to you right now.  You may also want to remind them to think and to listen with their eyes as well as their brains and ears.

*Adapted from Michelle Garcia Winner’s ‘Social Thinking’ curriculum.

 

Living Out Loud*

‘Living out loud’  is something that we can do very easily as can help our children to learn and understand a great many things.  Living out parents and teachers that loud means verbally documenting things that you are doing, as you do them.

To role model problem solving skills to children you can talk yourself through each step.  For example… you are working on the computer and you accidently delete the last paragraph of the email you are writing.  Say “Oh no!!  I have just lost all of the work that I have done by mistake.  I am not going to get mad or frustrated, I will just go to edit then press undo changes and it will all come back.’  This is what you would have done anyway but when you say it out loud your child can see that you too make mistakes, problems can be solved and that you did it without getting angry.

To show sequence you can document each part of a task.  When you are doing somethign like laying the table you can talk through each stage with your child.  For example ‘First I am going to get the cutlery out of the drawer.  I think I need a knife and fork for everyone and there are three of us so three knives and three forks.’ etc.

When you want to increase your child’s awareness of other people’s emotions and what affects these emotions, living out loud is a great strategy to use.  ‘Yay!  We managed to get ready and out of the house in only 30 minutes… that makes me really happy because I know we are not going to be late!’

*Adapted from Myles, Adreon & Gitlitz

More about Executive Function

I came across and lengthy but deeply interested article on Executive Functioning.  I think that we are going to hear more and more about this topic and working memory in the future as not only is it intimately linked with a number of conditions like Autism and ADHD but there are also thoughts that it could acccount for misdiagnosis of some conditions.

As the article explains, there is no actual existing diagnosis of ‘Executive Dysfunction’ but as the area of neuro science becomes more sophisiticated it is probable that this may change.

Read the article, which includes a really comprehensive breakdown of each executive function and see if it makes you go ‘Wow! – He is describing me/my husband/my wife/my son…’ etc.

Dr Packer’s Executive Function Overview

Using Multi-Sensory Teaching Methods

Studies from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development have shown that for children with difficulties learning to read, a multisensory teaching method is the most effective teaching method.
This is especially crucial for a dyslexic child. But what does it mean?

Using a multisensory teaching approach means helping a child to learn through more than one of the senses. Most teaching in schools is done using either sight or hearing (visual or auditory sensations). The child’s sight is used in reading information, looking at diagrams or pictures, or reading what is on the teacher’s board. The sense of hearing is used in listening to what the teacher says. A dyslexic child may experience difficulties with either or both of these senses. The child’s vision may be affected by difficulties with visual tracking, visual processing or seeing the words become fuzzy or move around. The child’s hearing may be satisfactory on a hearing test, but auditory memory or auditory processing may be weak.

VAK Modalities

Multisensory methods are also known as VAK Modalities:

The three modalities of learning styles have been summarized by the acronym VAK, for:
Visual,
Auditory, and
Kinesthetic:

1. Visual: That which you see.
2. Auditory: That which you hear.
3. Auditory-Digital: Your self-talk.
4. Kinesthetic: The tactile … where the child touches and handles objects.

The best teaching method is to involve the use of more of the child’s senses, especially the use of touch and movement (kinesthetic). This will give the child’s brain tactile and kinesthetic memories to hang on to, as well as the visual and auditory ones.

An example

An example will make this clear. The majority of dyslexic children experience confusion over the direction of ‘b’ and ‘d’. They can both be seen as a stick with a circle at its base. But on which side does the circle sit? A teacher might give the child a tactile (touchy/feely) experience of the letter ‘b’ by getting the child to draw the letter really large on the carpet. This will involve the child using their arms, their sense of balance, their whole body. They will remember the day their teacher had them ‘writing’ on the carpet with their hand making this great big shape, and can use that memory the next time they come to write the letter.

Some teachers purchase letters made out of sandpaper so that the children can run their fingers over the letter ‘b’, giving them a strong tactile memory. The thought of it sends a shiver down my spine!

Writing the letter ‘b’ in cursive handwriting on paper and with a big movement in the air puts a quite different slant on this letter. The letter starts on the line and rises to begin the down-stroke: there is nowhere else to put the circular bit but ahead of the down stroke.

Use plasticine, play-dough or clay

Yet another way to give a strong tactile memory of ‘b’ is to make the letter out of plasticine, play-dough or clay.

A commonly used ‘trick’ to remember the direction of ‘b’ and ‘d’ is to show the child the word ‘bed’ on a card. This word begins with ‘b’ and ends with ‘d’, so that if you draw a bed over the letters, the upright part of ‘b’ will become the head of the bed, and the upright part of the ‘d’ will become the foot. You can draw a child lying on the bed to complete the picture. This gives a strong visual memory for the child to use each time the letter has to be written.

You can also show the child how to hold up their index finger on each hand, with the thumb and second finger touching, making the word ‘bed’, but without the ‘e’. If they learn to do this, they can make this shape discretely with their fingers each time they need a reminder in class.

The net result of these activities will be that a child has a visual memory from seeing the letter, an auditory memory from hearing the sound it makes, a tactile memory from writing the letter in cursive handwriting, in the air, and from touching the sandpaper letter, and a kinesthetic (body movement) memory from having drawn the letter really large on the carpet. Altogether a multisensory experience!

This tried and tested method has been used successfully for a long time, and its success lies in the fact that the dyslexic child is not limited to visual and auditory experiences but can make use of other areas of the brain in trying to establish clear memories of letters, words and numbers that are difficult to remember.

John Bradford (with apologies for my drawings!)
2008

References
• VAKT Reading Method – Visual-Additory-Kinesthetic-Tactile Method – V.A.K.T.

• Every Student Benefits From Multisensory Education (Orton-Gillingham)

• NICHD Reading Research Offers Crucial Data for Educators

• Dyslexia Action Literacy Resources (UK)

• Free ‘b’ and ‘d’ Exercises

Feedback

• I was on your site today. I am a great-grandparent by marriage working once a week with a soon to be 9-year old. These two little “tricks” will help me immensely as I work with Maranda. Thank you, thank you!
Sending smiles! (A.R.O.)

• You mentioned that some parents/teachers had the children use sandpaper letters to give them another sensory approach to letters and you cringed at the thought. I am a Montessori pre-school teacher and the sandpaper letters (and numbers) are part of pedagogical materials that Montessori designed. These letters and numbers are made of sandpaper that are the equivalent of an emory board used to file your nails – very fine sandpaper. In addition to using the fingers directly on the sandpaper, velum paper can be placed over the letters to help the pre-schooler “feel” the letter as they trace over the letter, sending a vibration up the arm and to the brain. If you are not familiar with Maria Montessori, she initially developed her materials and methods to foster learning and self-esteem to children that were deemed “unteachable” and realized they would work for “normal” children. (M.P.)

• I would like you to know that I have tried the suggested method of ‘bed’ with one of the children and it has helped him tremendously. (D.M., India)

• We have made words and letters in various ways and used plasticine. This was quite successful but it does go hard after a while. We have also used pipe cleaners. These are easy to bend into shape and very tactile. They can be carried with us on holiday etc and are not messy or sticky. My 11-year old daughter enjoys making letters with pipe cleaners. When making words she uses only one color. She has a very good visual memory and can recall the color used and how it felt. When she has made words or letters we feel them with our eyes open and closed. She seems to be able to store the words in her memory best with her eyes closed. (R.H., Switzerland)

• I was working with a child who found it hard to form the letters in the correct way, they were upside down, backwards, bits were missing etc. He did not have a strong grasp of how letters should look. I took some pipe cleaners and used them to form the letters (in both upper case and lower case form). The letters for the lower case were a little difficult as we bent them to show the letter in its cursive form.
The child said the letter name and letter sound as we did this. Once we had worked through all of the letters, the child drew around each one and illustrated it. The child had to think of an original illustration that they would remember (e.g. not a for apple). We then stuck on the pipe cleaners onto the correct page for each one. This was made into a book for the child to take home and use whenever he needed to remind himself how the letters should look. Because the pipe cleaners were stuck onto the page, he could trace over it with his finger which helped improve his memory of how it should look. He now does not have a problem with drawing the letters. (J.S., Sheffield, UK)

www.dyslexia-magazine.com

Autism Speaks

 

Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism.

Here is the weblink and a great reference for parents, teachers, support staff and friends:

Autism Speaks


Great article on getting your child back into the routine of the new semester after Holiday.

Here is an interesting article posted from LDonline (learning disabilities online) linked to ADDitude Magazine.

The Learning Support Department wishes you and your family a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011.

http://www.additudemag.com/adhdblogs/10/8233.html

Sportsmanship vs The Destroyer of Fun

D.O.F. The Destroyer of Fun

In the Learning Support Baseroom, social skills instruction is currently taking place 4 days a week with 2 groups of students. In social skills we adapt curriculum from Michelle Garcia Winner and Stephanie Madrigal’s Superflex curriculum, incorporate social skills instructional videos from Model Me Kids and My School Day, as well as teach our own adapted curriculum to best meet the needs of our students.

 Many of these lessons and stories are not just appropriate for students accessing learning support services.  All students in the Elementary School environment can take some benefit to the ideas, suggestions and skills that are being taught.

This month and into March, the First Graders are learning about friendship.  A brief overview of the Superflex curriculum was shared with all First Grade teachers during their team planning time in order to give them some opportunity to use the terminology and stories in conjunction with the Friendship unit.  If you have a child in that grade level here at ISM, you may hear them mention the names, “Superflex, Rock Brain, Brain Eater”.

With annual Sports Day here at ISM, we take the opportunity to teach and remind all students of good sportsmanship and enjoying a full day of wonderful, physical activities that the PE department has taken much time and planning to provide.

Sports Day is a good opportunity to discuss the Superflex Character named The Destroyer of Fun (or D.O.F. for short!), pictured below.  This villain affects people during sporting events, during games and whenever there are competitive activities.  D.O.F. can invade a person’s brain and when this happens, that person becomes extremely competitive and insists on going first all the time, hates losing,  may cause tantrums or may cause a student to get mad at less able team mates.  When taken over by D.O.F. a person also plays only what he wants to play and has to win all the time.

If you suspect D.O.F. is invading your child’s sporting event, family game night, or activities at home you can remind your child to use the following ‘flexible thinking strategies’ to help rid your family of this evil villain:

  • talk about the goal of playing games and sports (to have fun, exercise your body and mind, do something together with friends/family) the focus or goal is not always winning.
  • it is okay to wait for your turn.  You may want to go first, but sometimes you have to wait.
  • if you are only concerned with yourself (winning, going first, playing only what you want to play) you will lose team mates, family and friends will stop playing with you.
  • sometimes you win and it is okay to be excited to win.  Sometimes you do not win and it is okay to not win every time.

Remember to use the vocabulary above so that when we ask students for examples of ‘Unthinkables’ that they have defeated, they can relate to the correct experience.

Thanks to www.socialthinking.com

OK – let’s get it done! Organization

Thanks to the National Centre for Learning Disabilities for the following article.

If you’d just get organized!

How can you find anything in here?

The report is due tomorrow? And you haven’t started it?

How could you forget to turn in your homework? I helped you with it!

What’s one thing that makes for a parent’s unhappy day? Getting a phone call or email from school, informing you that your child — who may spend lots of time doing homework – hasn’t turned anything in for six weeks. This wake-up call may be your first indication that your child is having trouble in school. The information is doubly disconcerting when you find, buried in your child’s heavy backpack, lots of completed homework that was never turned in.

A talk with your child and your child’s teacher may reveal that missing homework is only part of the problem. Your child may also be late with assignments, late to class, frequently without necessary supplies, and missing library books. Although your child is intelligent and wants to do well in school, something is getting in the way. Particularly for children with learning disabilities (LD) or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), that “something” is organizational skills.

You Know Your Child!

Of all the brain-based habits of thought known as executive skills, organization looms especially large, particularly for children with learning disabilities. Disorganized children with LD or AD/HD are often called lazy, unmotivated – even defiant. You may be one of the few people in your child’s life who understands that learning disabilities complicate children’s development of organizational skills.

All the executive skills are related. The child who doesn’t start the report until the night before it’s due may have difficulty estimating how long a project will take. Your child may panic when a task seems difficult. Your child may get overwhelmed trying to juggle multiple projects, or simply not know how to plan, begin, and follow through with the steps required to get an assignment done. These are all aspects of organization, that crucial skill that enables us to do what needs doing – whether it’s baking a birthday cake, pulling together an agenda for a meeting, or completing a science project.

Your child may well understand the value of being organized but may not have the slightest idea how to get that way. That’s where you can provide invaluable assistance and encouragement.

Helping your child learn organizational skills may be quite a challenge for both of you. There is no blueprint for organization. What works one year or for one class will not work for another. Still, if you stay flexible, you can help your child recognize, improve, and work around his or her organizational challenges.

Short-Term Strategies

To help your child, think first of short-term strategies that focus on particular tasks or assignments. When your own project deadlines loom and you have no plan to meet them, you probably feel out of control, maybe even panicky. Disorganized children feel that way too. They may feel helpless in the face of any task that isn’t easy and short. As school gets more challenging, these children’s frustrations escalate and their self-esteem plummets. Juggling multiple projects becomes so difficult that children may opt out and simply drop everything. You can help your child avoid this destructive pattern.

Begin by convincing your child – through your patience, encouragement, and good example – that organizational skills will help him feel better about himself. No one likes to feel out of control or on a slippery slope to failure. Your child wants to become more independent, wants you to stop nagging about schoolwork, and longs to avoid the fallout from those discouraging parent-teacher conferences. Help your child see that the smallest improvements will make his or her life easier.

Remember that there is only one criterion for an organizational system: it needs to work for your child. It’s crucial for you and your child to communicate openly and for you to approach the problem without being critical or blaming. Partnerships between parents and teachers are essential to help children succeed; your partnership with your child is also essential. Even younger children need to take part in finding solutions. No system will work if your child doesn’t buy into it.

The Power of Encouragement and Example

Organization is about thinking. What is the most efficient way for me to get this project done on time? What will help me remember to do my homework and turn it in? How can I quickly find the materials I need? Rest assured that you can help your child improve her or his organization with simple, gradual strategies.

You don’t need to spend money on a multitude of folders or the latest software. Your most precious asset is your matchless insight into what makes your child tick. Help your child find what will work. Help your child be flexible, since children’s preferences change as do teachers’ requirements. Look for quick, easy ways to begin organizing: a simple planner that you and your child check daily, a routine for filling and emptying a backpack, a schedule for daily homework, study, and review.

Show your child the importance of organization in daily life. Encourage planning at home by posting a family calendar and involving your child in keeping it current. Show your child how one family member’s obligations affect others in the family. A dental appointment, a school conference, and choir practice can’t all happen at the same time without considerable planning. Emphasize how planning saves time. A shopping list gives direction to a trip to the supermarket.

If you’re a person who relies on lists, a datebook, or a PDA, talk with your child about how your personal organizing system works (or falls short). Be honest about your own organizational frustrations, so your child will understand that organization is a skill that many people – even adults – struggle to master.

The Comfort of Routines

All of us develop routines and habits to get us through the day. Your child will benefit greatly from knowing what to expect during a typical school day and week. Keeping track of homework and assignments by writing in a planner every day (or making daily entries on an online calendar) gives your child a visual reminder of what needs doing.

A planner of some kind is vital for organization. You probably know best which kind will work for your child, but discuss it together. If the planner you start with doesn’t work, help your child make the necessary changes. Staying organized means creating a system and sticking with it. The system best suited to your child may not be one you could follow, and your child’s preferences may change with age.

Your great advantage as a parent is your intimate knowledge of your child’s personality, strengths, and challenges. Consider how your child thinks and works. What makes your child feel good or bad? Some children love different-colored file folders and a rainbow of highlighters and sticky notes; others get nervous just looking at them. Getting organized has to make your child feel better.

Turn Big Tasks into Little Steps

Help your child learn to plan by showing how to reduce tasks to their smallest parts. Most teachers provide guidelines for homework and larger projects, usually with interim deadlines. They may distribute checklists so children can check off a step when it’s completed. You, however, know your own child best. If the interim steps provided by a teacher are still too big for your child to tackle without extreme stress, help your child simplify and break down each step. If your child needs more deadlines to feel able to progress on a task, add more deadlines to the teacher’s list. Guide your child to focus on one task at a time.

Introduce your child to the satisfaction of checking off completed tasks. Help your child break out of the thicket of requirements for a complex project. Together, and with the advice of your child’s teachers, set realistic goals. Encourage all positive signs. Don’t expect perfection or even consistency. Each movement forward takes away a little anxiety. Reduce your child’s stress (and your own) step by step.

Attitude Is Everything

As best you can, stay constructive in your attitude toward your child’s organizational difficulties. Don’t criticize. Refuse to allow yourself to think of your child as lazy, unmotivated, or incompetent. Give your child some positive things to say to herself:

  • I’ll get it done.
  • I’ve done my best.
  • Good job!
  • This is easier than it was last week.

“This is easier than it was last week.” Music to your ears! Organizational skills are critical for success in school and in the larger world. Kids with LD need extra support, guidance, and practice as they learn to organize and plan. You are your child’s most valuable partner in this endeavor.


Bonnie Z. Goldsmith has worked in the field of education throughout her professional life. She has wide experience as a writer, editor, and teacher.

This article is made possible by a grant from Oak Foundation.

Young, Autistic and Stagestruck

Young, Autistic and Stagestruck is a Channel 4 documentary from the UK that follows a group of young people aged from around 12 to 25.  The group of young people face different challenges posed by their Autism Spectrum Diagnosis as they embark upon a unique project to write and act in their own stage show.

This is one of the most moving, funny and inspirational documentaries I have ever seen!  The children are wonderful but it is the parents of the children featured that really take my breath away.

We have it available within the department along with a number of other documentaries, films and first-person accounts of children and adults with a variety of learning challenges from ADHD to dyslexia.

If you would like to have copies of Young, Autistic and Stagestruck or any of our other resources please email reillya@ismanila.org with your area of interest.  I will then email you back with the titles we have an arrange a time for you to bring in a portable hard drive or USB drive and I will upload them for you.


Is It Asperger’s Syndrome or ADHD?

Are your child’s symptoms related to ADHD or Asperger’s syndrome? Learn more about the differences between warning signs, diagnosis, and treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Asperger’s syndrome.

http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/7952.html

Some parents wonder whether their child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) may have some form of autism. And they wonder for good reason: Most families of children with Asperger’s syndrome (AS), an autism spectrum disorder, receive an ADD/ADHD diagnosis — or misdiagnosis — before a pediatrician concludes that it’s AS.

The symptoms of autism spectrum disorders and ADD/ADHD overlap. Most children on the autism spectrum have symptoms of ADD/ADHD — difficulty settling down, social awkwardness, the ability to focus only on things that interest them, and impulsivity.

A mother I recently met with summed up her confusion and eventual enlightenment: “John is smart, and quick to learn something new, if he is interested,” she says. “But he has a terrible time focusing on things he isn’t interested in. When this happens, he starts rocking or pacing around the room. For years, we thought it was ADD/ADHD, but, at his last evaluation, his teachers suggested that he might have a form of autism. After seeing a pediatrician, he received a diagnosis of Asperger’s. Knowing he has it — and working to relieve the symptoms — is a relief.”

Asperger’s Syndrome Cause, Warning Signs, and Symptoms
Cause of Asperger’s Syndrome: Researchers don’t understand what causes Asperger’s syndrome, although there seems to be a strong genetic component. Although AS is on the autism spectrum, the symptoms are often milder than the symptoms of classic autism in younger children. Children with AS, like all individuals on the spectrum, have difficulties in three areas: communication, social interaction, and restricted interests.

Signs Your Child May Have Asperger’s Syndrome: More severe forms of autism are often diagnosed in the first two years of a child’s life, but AS is usually diagnosed at a later age. A major reason for that is that children with AS develop language skills more or less on time. While they may have moderate delays in the development of speech, the majority of such children communicate by age three.

Asperger’s Syndrome Symptoms Checklist
A child with AS might have some or all of the symptoms listed below. Symptoms are often less severe than in a child with autism.

Impaired communication — verbal and nonverbal

· Speech development may be normal or somewhat delayed, but difficulties arise in the functional and social use of language for communication

· Impaired use of nonverbal behaviors, including eye contact, body language, and social expressions

Restricted repertoire of activities and interests

· Narrow interests that are abnormal in intensity and focus (a single TV show, say, or an unusual object, like a vacuum cleaner)

· Rigid adherence to nonfunctional routines and rituals (following a strict protocol when leaving the house to go to school)

· Stereotyped repetitive motor mannerisms (pacing)

Poor Social Interaction

· Failure to develop age-appropriate peer relationships (inability to understand the social give-and-take of friendships)

· Failure to seek out others to share enjoyment, interest, and achievements (not sharing a good grade on a test or a just-finished painting with a family member)

· Lack of social and emotional reciprocity (not enjoying being with others just for the sake of being together)

Why Parents Miss Signs of Asperger’s Syndrome
Parents may be slow to pick up on AS in their child. Its subtle combination of symptoms leaves parents wondering if anything is wrong or if the symptoms are part of their child’s personality. A child with an unusual special interest, like the Titanic, may seem delightful to an adult, but odd to another 7-year-old. When a child goes to preschool, social difficulties become more evident. Typically, AS kids are unable to make friends. They have a hard time reading other people or understanding humor.

Most children with AS want to make friends, but they don’t know how. Their poor conversation skills and difficulty reading social cues can lead to loneliness and depression as they go through middle school.

Asperger’s Diagnosis and Treatment
Getting Evaluated for Asperger’s Syndrome: Parents who suspect that their child has Asperger’s syndrome should consult with a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, a child psychiatrist, or a psychologist with expertise in the autism spectrum. The evaluation will likely involve observing your child and talking to you about his development. You may be asked about your child’s social interaction and communication skills. Your child may undergo several tests to determine her level of intellect and academic abilities, and to assess her abilities in the areas of speech, language, and visual-motor problem-solving.

Parents can assist the doctor’s evaluation. Write down any symptoms you have noticed, key personal information (any major stress or recent life changes), a list of medications, vitamins, and supplements your child takes, and questions you want to ask the doctor.

Treatment Plan for Children with Asperger’s Syndrome: Most children benefit from early, specialized interventions that focus on behavior management and social-skills training: learning how to interpret gestures, eye contact, tone of voice, humor, and sarcasm, for example. Cognitive behavior therapy may help them manage obsessive behavior and anxiety.

About half of children with AS will be treated with medication. While stimulant medications, like Ritalin, are among those most commonly prescribed, caution is advised. Stimulants are less likely to be effective than in children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD alone, and more likely to cause side effects.

Accommodations for Asperger’s at School
Schools are getting better at providing services for children with Asperger’s syndrome. Many schools offer pragmatic language therapy, which helps a child learn the basics of social interaction. Look for “friendship groups,” or a “lunch bunch.” Parents should make sure that social skills accommodations are part of their child’s individualized education program (IEP).

Because AS children have a greater capacity to lead an independent life than children with more severe forms of autism, parents and their professionals who work together can help AS kids learn to advocate for themselves as they approach adulthood.

Is It Autism or ADHD?

http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/6594.html

Suspect that your attention deficit child may also be autistic? Here’s what you need to know about diagnosing and treating autism in ADHD children.

What Is Autism?
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that affects boys four times as often as girls. Autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) are usually called Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) by physicians. PDD is a group of three conditions — autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, and Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. The conditions are characterized by problems communicating and relating to others, and a need to follow rigid routines and to engage in repetitive behaviors or language.

Some pediatricians are knowledgeable enough to diagnose PDD, but the majority need the support of a specialist, especially if a child has already received an ADHD diagnosis.
The Similarities Between ADHD and Autism

The overlap of ADHD symptoms and autism symptoms have confused many families. When a child can’t sit still for homework or a meal, or stay put in class, when he fidgets or talks too much and too insistently, most parents and educators, tutors, and coaches think, “This kid must have ADD!”

The first explanation most doctors arrive at is also attention deficit disorder. The condition is familiar, it’s been around for a long time, and there are effective strategies to manage it. It is important to remember, however, that almost any psychological or developmental disorder of childhood can look like ADHD, with or without the hyperactivity. Kids under stress, due to learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, or sensory integration problems, may exhibit the same symptoms. It takes a skillful evaluation to tease out explanations for the behaviors.

Diagnosing Autism

©iSTOCKPHOTO/HOHENHAUS
Diagnosing ASD requires an evaluation by a developmental pediatrician, child psychiatrist, or pediatric neurologist. Most insurance companies, and virtually all public schools, require a written evaluation by a specialist before they provide, or pay for, the services autistic children need.

Because autism cannot be diagnosed by medical testing, screening and diagnosis involve interviews, observation, and evaluations. Even when a professional ventures an opinion, he will often hedge by saying, “Well, he is quirky and has some typical behaviors, and they are somewhat consistent with a diagnosis of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder.” This kind of talk is frustrating to the parents and the child, but it’s sometimes unavoidable. Another evaluation in a year often clarifies things, and sometimes a child doesn’t need a diagnosis, as long as he is getting the help he needs.

Managing Autism Symptoms

ADDitude Magazine
Usually a child who has been diagnosed with ASD is not given an additional diagnosis of ADHD. This is not to say, however, that children on the autism spectrum don’t benefit from the interventions that help ADHD children without autism.

Most parents and pediatricians prefer to start with non-medical therapies to manage symptoms that hinder social and academic success and lead to a turbulent home life. The mainstay of treatment for ASD is behavioral therapy, which reinforces wanted behaviors and discourages unwanted ones. Posting lists, rules, and schedules to keep ASD kids organized can be helpful. Checking off checklists can give autistic kids a sense of accomplishment when they complete tasks.

Physical exercise is a good intervention for attention deficit children and children on the autism spectrum, all of whom seem to have boundless energy. Channeling excess energy into a physical activity, such as swimming or karate — which doesn’t require a lot of interaction with other kids — allows them to burn it off without the pressures of socializing.

Autism Medication Options

If behavioral and educational interventions aren’t sufficient, medication may help. Because children with ASD have unpredictable reactions to stimulants, the most common class of medicines used for ADHD children, they are less likely to be prescribed for autistic children. Most pediatricians, and virtually all child psychiatrists, feel competent in prescribing stimulants for ADD. A pediatrician may refer a child with ASD to a psychiatrist or a psycho-pharmacologist as the dose is increased.

A class of medicines called atypical neuroleptics are often effective treatments for motor restlessness, repetitive behaviors, and sleep disturbance in children with autism. These include aripiprazole (Abilify), quetiapine fumarate (Seroquel), and risperidone (Risperdal, the only one of the three that is FDA-approved for treating behaviors associated with autism). A good response to an atypical neuroleptic may eliminate the need for a stimulant.

Every child with autism will benefit from the support of a developmental and behavioral pediatrician or a child psychiatrist with training in the autism spectrum. Having a specialist who understands what it’s like to live with an active autistic child (is there any other kind?) is a bonus for parents, as well.

What is Pragmatic Language?

Social Language Use (Pragmatics)

You have invited your friend over for dinner. Your child sees your friend reach for some cookies and says, “Better not take those, or you’ll get even bigger.” You’re embarrassed that your child could speak so rudely. However, you should consider that your child may may not know how to use language appropriately in social situations and did not mean harm by the comment.

An individual may say words clearly and use long, complex sentences with correct grammar, but still have a communication problem – if he or she has not mastered the rules for social language known as pragmatics . Adults may also have difficulty with pragmatics, for example, as a result of a brain injury or stroke.

Pragmatics involve three major communication skills:

  • Using language for different purposes, such as
    • greeting (e.g., hello, goodbye)
    • informing (e.g., I’m going to get a cookie)
    • demanding (e.g., Give me a cookie)
    • promising (e.g., I’m going to get you a cookie)
    • requesting (e.g., I would like a cookie, please)
  • Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation, such as
    • talking differently to a baby than to an adult
    • giving background information to an unfamiliar listener
    • speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground
  • Following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as
    • taking turns in conversation
    • introducing topics of conversation
    • staying on topic
    • rephrasing when misunderstood
    • how to use verbal and nonverbal signals
    • how close to stand to someone when speaking
    • how to use facial expressions and eye contact

These rules may vary across cultures and within cultures. It is important to understand the rules of communication.

An individual with pragmatic problems may:

  • say inappropriate or unrelated things during conversations
  • tell stories in a disorganized way
  • have little variety in language use

It is not unusual for children to have pragmatic problems in only a few situations. However, if problems in social language use occur often and seem inappropriate considering the child’s age, a pragmatic disorder may exist. Pragmatic disorders often coexist with other language problems such as vocabulary development or grammar. Pragmatic problems can lower social acceptance. Peers may avoid having conversations with an individual with a pragmatic disorder.

Pragmatic Language Tips

Parents, cargivers, families, and teachers can help individuals use language appropriately in social situations ( pragmatics ). Some general suggestions to help develop skills in three major pragmatic areas are listed below.

Using Language for Different Purposes

  • Ask questions or make suggestions to use language for different purposes:
Desired Language Function Suggested Question or Comment
Comment “What did you do?”
“Tell me about…”
Request “Tell your friend…”
“What do you want?”
Question “Ask me”
  • Respond to the intended message rather than correcting the pronunciation or grammar. Be sure to provide an appropriate model in your own speech. For example, if an individual says, “That’s how it doesn’t go,” respond, “You’re right. That’s not how it goes.”
  • Take advantage of naturally occurring situations. For example, practice greetings at the beginning of a day, or have the individual ask peers what they want to eat for dinner or request necessary materials to complete an project.

Changing Language for Different Listeners or Situations

  • Role-play conversations. Pretend to talk to different people in different situations. For example, set up a situation (or use one that occurs during the course of a day) in which the individual has to explain the same thing to different people, such as teaching the rules of a game, or how to make a cake. Model how the person should talk to a child versus an adult, or a family member versus a friend of the family.
  • Encourage the use of persuasion. For example, ask the person what he or she would say to convince family members or loved ones to let him or her do something. Discuss different ways to present a message:
    • Polite (“Please may I go to the party?”) versus impolite (“You better let me go”)
    • Indirect (“That music is loud”) versus direct (“Turn off the radio”)
    • Discuss why some requests would be more persuasive than others

Conversation and Storytelling Skills

  • Comment on the topic of conversation before introducing a new topic. Add related information to encourage talking more about a particular topic.
  • Provide visual cues such as pictures, objects, or a story outline to help tell a story in sequence.
  • Encourage rephrasing or revising an unclear word or sentence. Provide an appropriate revision by asking, “Did you mean …. ?”
  • Show how nonverbal signals are important to communication. For example, talk about what happens when a facial expression does not match the emotion expressed in a verbal message (e.g., using angry words while smiling).

From asha.org

Turn the White House Blue for International Autism Awareness Day-April 2, 2011

My fellow Americans and friends,

I am very excited to share the upcoming chance for us to support the UN World  Autism Day on April 2, 2011.

  Turn the White House Blue

Last year, the autism community and Autism Speaks lit more than 200 buildings and landmarks blue to mark the UN World Autism Awareness Day – April 2nd. This year, hundreds of buildings and landmarks – including the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls, 30 Rockefeller Center, Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil, the Sydney Opera House in Australia – and many more iconic buildings will go blue for autism.

The White House already recognizes breast cancer and AIDS annually, now it’s time for them to show their support of autism in a very visible way. President Obama has pushed for more autism funding and we know he is serious. Please ask him to light the White House blue this year to show the entire world!

We need your voices, your friends, family, and the entire autism community to urge President Obama to make the easy choice to light the White House blue on April 2nd! Click the link to urge President Obama to support autism awareness and light the White House blue.

To urge President Obama to support autism awareness and light the White House blue, use one or all of our easy tools below!

3 SIMPLE SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS TO HELP US TURN THE WHITE HOUSE BLUE!
Urge the White House to turn blue with one or ALL of these tools located on the Autism Speaks webpage:

Click here to access the Autism Speaks Light It Up Blue tools.

 

Sense and Sensitivity

Janis Rogers looks at how we can understand and support sensory perception difficulties in children with autism

Many of us who live and work with children who have autism are well aware that they perceive the world very differently to those of us who do not have autism. Yet we may give this very little thought as we strive to support the social communication, interaction and imagination needs we most commonly associate with the condition. However, these perceptual differences can have a significant effect on a child’s behaviour and concentration levels, and can severely impact on his/her capacity to learn.

While the sensory systems may be functioning normally, the brain can misinterpret the signals it receives

We all perceive through our senses; our brains receive and interpret signals from our sensory organs, such as eyes and ears, so that we can make sense of the world. For children with autism, though, while the sensory systems may be functioning normally, the brain can misinterpret the signals it receives from them, causing the world to be perceived very differently. Accounts from people who have autism suggest that, most commonly, children are either hypersensitive and perceive the world at a very high level of intensity (sitting down can feel like falling and a tickle may feel like a punch), or they are hyposensitive and perceive the world at a very low level of intensity (food can have very little taste and hot and cold may feel the same).

Children with these sensory perception difficulties learn how to self-regulate the sensory input they receive. Self-regulation is something we all do, perhaps by chewing a pen or playing with our hair. But children with sensory perception difficulties can have much more intense levels of sensory input, so their methods of self regulation can also seem much more intense. Those who are hypersensitive become “avoiders” and spend the majority of their time trying to avoid the sensory input that, for them, is painful or distressing. Those who are hyposensitive become “seekers” and generally search for the sensory input they are craving. Either way, the results often include unusual, extreme or unpredictable behaviour and a lack of focus on the task in hand.

In order to get a better understanding of what these children might be experiencing, think about how you would feel and act if, as someone who hates spiders, you were told that you had to sit in a room full of them, or if, as a caffeine addict, you were not allowed to have a cup of coffee. In the first scenario, you might cover your eyes, refuse to enter the room, or decide to kill all the spiders. In the second scenario, you might pace up and down, leave the room in search of a coffee machine or find yourself constantly thinking about coffee. These behaviours (withdrawal, refusal, aggression, repetitive actions, absconding and distraction) are exactly the same types of behaviour that children with sensory perception difficulties routinely display. While we may see their behaviour as challenging, for some people the sound of a vacuum cleaner or a certain type of fabric touching their skin is their equivalent to a room full of spiders, or, perhaps, the taste of salt or jumping on a trampoline is their equivalent to having a cup of coffee. They are not being deliberately naughty or defiant; they are simply self-regulating their sensory input, and if they are unable to do so, it will become the centre of their focus to the detriment of everything else.

When children have sensory perception difficulties, it can be obvious from their behaviour what the difficulty is. For example, if they constantly have their fingers in their ears, it is likely that they are perceiving sounds at a hypersensitive level. Yet sometimes, the cause may be less obvious. It may even be that they are trying to self-regulate sensory input that we haven’t perceived ourselves. Children who are hypersensitive might have toileting difficulties, for example, because they have issues with the smell of the toilet. They might find assemblies difficult because of the feel of the wooden floor on their bottom, or they might appear to dislike someone because of the pattern on their shirt. Children who are hyposensitive, on the other hand, might bite, hit, flick, run, climb or spin in order to gain sensory input.

There are, though, lots of things we can do to support children with sensory perception difficulties. If you are unsure what the areas of difficulty are, you should refer to a qualified professional, such as an occupational therapist, who is trained in identifying and supporting sensory perception difficulties. Depending on the child’s level of ability, you can also ask him/her questions about what sensory experiences they find difficult.

It is important to accept that the child has a genuine need and, if necessary, make allowances

It is important to accept that the child has a genuine need and, if necessary, make allowances. Don’t insist that they sit through the whole of assembly; allow them to go for a walk or a run around the playground during a lesson and then return to their work. Surely it is better to have a child work for ten minutes, run around for five minutes and then work for a further ten minutes, rather than having a child who is unable to work at all for 25 minutes because they need to self-regulate.

You can incorporate sensory sessions into the day to enable input through a number of different sensory systems, for example, by playing with sensory toys, water or sand. You need to ensure that children have ready access to any equipment they might need to help them self-regulate in a more socially acceptable manner. So things like ear defenders and wobble cushions need to be out and readily available.

You should never try to completely stop a child from carrying out self regulatory behaviour. If such behaviour is quite disruptive, you will need to set clear boundaries about when, where and for how long it can be carried out. In school, you might agree that a child is not allowed to throw his/her koosh ball during lessons, but that s/he can do so for five minutes in the playground between lessons. At home, a child may only be allowed to spin around for five minutes at any one time, and only in their own bedroom. The child will need to be supported in understanding these boundaries, and visual supports, such as symbols, visual schedules and a kitchen timer can be very useful. Setting boundaries in this way will reduce the child’s level of anxiety about when they will be able to self-regulate and ameliorate the need for them to constantly avoid or seek out sensory input.

As we have seen, the impact of sensory perception difficulties on children with autism can be immense. However, by supporting children with this area of difficulty, in the same way that we support them with the other areas of difficulties that we more commonly associate with autism, we can reduce their anxiety and significantly increase their capacity to learn.

Further information

Janis Rogers worked as special needs teacher and head teacher for many years. She now provides training, consultancy and support on SEN and autism:
www.SENsible-educationservices.co.uk

 

Wow!!!

Please see this article to meet a young 12 year old man from the US with a massive IQ, a university education and an understanding of theoretical and astro physics that sets out to ‘expand’  Einstein’s theory of relativity!

Oh… and Jacob has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Social Competence and the Child with Learning Disabilities

The article below, written by the wonderful Rick Lavoie discusses the social competence needs of children with learning differences.  Please visit www.ldonline.org

By: Rick Lavoie (2005)

Since the inception of the field of learning disabilities in the l960s, helping professionals have concentrated their resources and energies in the remediation and improvement of academic skills. Countless hours of classroom time have been devoted to the children’s mastery of the skills related to language arts, mathematics and science. Finally, in the mid-l980s the field began to recognize the critical importance of social skills in the development and ultimate success of individuals with learning disabilities. Research and observation clearly demonstrates that individuals with learning disabilities tend to be less accepted by peers, interact awkwardly and inappropriately in social situations and are socially imperceptive. The goal for these children is to achieve an appropriate degree of social competence. Social skills are a collection of isolated and discrete learned behaviors.

Social competence refers to the smooth sequential use of these skills in an effort to establish an ongoing social interaction. There are two schools of thought related to the nature and causes of social incompetence. Proponents of the first hypothesis argue that social skill deficits are the result of the same neurological dysfunctions that cause academic problems. The second hypothesis holds that the social disabilities are caused by the child’s chronic school failure and the rejection that often results. These researchers feel that the child has been unable to practice these social skills because of this isolation.

The cause of social incompetence is far less important than its effect. School-aged children and adolescents need to be accepted and supported by their peers. Their social incompetence often prevents them from establishing and maintaining such relationships.

Consider the comments of Doreen Kronick, noted expert in learning disabilities and related social deficits:

To become a friend means to become interested in, and somewhat knowledgeable about the other person’s interests, be sensitive to their needs and feelings, compromise on activities, laugh off differences, be supportive, allow the other person freedom to interact with others and spend time with themselves, be elated by their successes, share their sorrows sensitively, be able to communicate your pleasure, displeasure and anger without such communication being destructive to either party, and change and grow as your friend changes and grows. I wonder whether many learning disabled adolescents possess the sensitivity, empathy, flexibility, maturity, and generate sufficient interest and excitement to maintain such friendships. Common questions related to social skill development.

Common questions relating to social competence

Does formalized research support the concept that individuals with learning disabilities have deficient or ineffective social skills?

Yes. The research indicates that individuals with learning disabilities:

  • are more likely to choose socially unacceptable behaviors in social situations
  • are less able to solve social problems are less likely to predict consequences for their social behavior
  • are less likely to adjust to the characteristics of their listeners in discussions or conversations
  • are less able to accomplish complex social interactions successfully (i.e.. persuasion, negotiation, resisting peer pressure, giving/accepting criticism, etc.)
  • are more likely to be rejected or isolated by their classmates and peers
  • are more often the objects of negative and non-supportive statements, criticisms, warnings and negative nonverbal reactions from teachers
  • are less adaptable to new social situations are more likely to be judged negatively by adults after informal observation
  • receive less affection from parents and siblings
  • have less tolerance for frustration and failure
  • use oral language that is less mature, meaningful or concise have difficulty interpreting or inferring the language of others

Do all individuals with learning disabilities experience social skill difficulties?

No. Research and observation indicate that some learning disabled students have a degree of social competence that is equal to or superior to their peers. However, social skill deficits create major obstacles for a significantly large subgroup of learning disabled students and adults.

What factors or characteristics may contribute to an individual’s social skill deficits?

There appears to be four characteristics that are shared by many individuals with learning disabilities who also have pronounced social skill deficits.

  • Cognitive traits: Social skill deficits are more common among individuals with certain language processing deficits or measurable cognitive limitations.
  • Severity of Learning Disability: Social skill deficiencies are more prevalent among individuals with severe or complex learning disorders.
  • Gender: Females are more likely to experience social adjustment problems than are males.
  • Hyperactivity: Individuals with ineffective impulse control tend to have more pronounced social skill problems.

What techniques are effective in the evaluation and monitoring of social skill deficits?

Before a skill can be effectively remediated, it must first be assessed and evaluated. Currently, there is no widely-accepted assessment tool that can provide the parent or professional with this critical information. There are, however, a number of techniques and strategies that can be utilized to secure a valuable “snapshot” of the individual’s social capabilities and deficiencies.

Sociometric devices. These instruments are designed to evaluate an individual’s relative popularity within a peer group. They generally consist of a survey wherein all members of a group are required to place the names of their colleagues in rank order based upon traits such as popularity and cooperation. In effect, sociometric devices use a polling procedure to determine the social acceptability of individuals within the group. These devices generally provide a valid instrument for determining social competence. However, they tend to be somewhat reactive and often reflect the constantly changing “in group/out group” dynamic that is common among school-age groupings.

Teacher-ranking systems. This strategy requires the teacher to record and measure the frequency of each child’s social interactions with classmates. Such systems can be valuable but, much like sociometric devices, provide no diagnostic information related to the quality of the interactions. Behavior-rating scales. These checklists are completed by parents, teachers or peers and are used to measure a specific child’s social behavior. They are valuable in determining the specific social skill deficits that require attention and remediation. They also provide data for a comparison of a child’s social skills in a variety of disparate settings, for example, the home, the classroom, and the playground.

Interviews. This strategy is often quite effective for students with learning disabilities as it does not require extensive reading or writing skills. It also allows for a more intimate look at a child’s social competence because it encourages anecdotes and the citing of specific situations and incidents.

Observation codes or checklists. Observation code strategies consist of highly-formalized observation measures. The examiner observes the child in a structured, social setting such as a reading group, scout troop meeting, or cafeteria, and objectively records the specific social behaviors of the child. The codes focus upon a small cluster of observable behaviors, for example cooperation, self-talk, and sharing; they can be quite valuable in diagnosis of skill deficits as well as evaluation of training effectiveness.Observation checklists are conducted in a similar manner and, again, focus upon a small cluster of observable behaviors.

The social autopsy

A social autopsy is an innovative strategy wherein an adult assists a socially deficient child to improve social skills by jointly analyzing social errors that a child makes and designing alternative strategies. The accompanying video outlines the basic philosophy and procedures involved in the social autopsy process. The video format does not, however, allow for a detailed explanation of the fine points of this unique strategy.

Below are some reflections upon this field-tested and highly successful procedure. In order to ensure the success and generalization of the social autopsy procedure, the process should be taught to all adults who have regular contact with the child, for example, bus drivers, administrators, grandparents, cafeteria workers, and baby-sitters. In this way, the child will participate in dozens of autopsies daily, in a variety of settings. This intense exposure will foster growth and generalizations of target skills. Use social autopsies in order to analyze successful social interactions on occasion. When the child has been particularly appropriate in a social setting, assist him in examining and identifying the behaviors that contributed to these positive situations. In this way, he is more likely to repeat those behaviors in other settings. The success of the autopsy approach is linked to the fact that it provides the child with the three things that special needs students require in order to develop and learn:

    • practice, or drill
    • immediate feedback
    • positive reinforcement.

Keep in mind what the social autopsy process is…and what it is not:

IS IS NOT
a supportive, structured constructive strategy to foster social competence a punishment
a problem-solving technique negative
an opportunity for the student to actively participate in the process controlled/conducted exclusively by the adult
conducted by any significant adult in the child’s environment a “one-time” cure for the target behavior or skill
most effective when conducted immediately after the social error
generally held as a one-to-one session

 

The autopsy process is particularly effective in enabling the child to see the cause/effect relationship between his social behavior and the reactions of others in his environment. During autopsies, the child may have difficulty analyzing and identifying his own feelings and emotions. For example, the child may report that he is “mad” at his friend when, in fact, he is actually jealous. The Kline scale, developed at Riverview School by consultant Adam Kline, can be a useful tool to assist the child in identifying and classifying his feelings. A copy of the Kline Scale appears at the end of this booklet. Students with social competency problems also have paralinguistic (non-language) deficiencies that can be effectively isolated and remediated via the social autopsy approach. Among these deficiencies are:

    • Kinesics (inability to read body language of self or others). Manifestations may include: failure to respond to facial expressions of others; inability to “read” feelings and attitude of others; incorrect use of gestures.
    • Proxemics (inability to understand how physical space communicates with others).Manifestations: stands too close in social situations; stares; avoids eye contact; touches inappropriately.
    • Vocalics (inability to understand how volume pitches of voice communicates to others). Manifestations: misinterprets sarcasm; talks in monotone; talks too fast or too slowly; talks too loudly or too softly.
Excerpted from Teacher’s Guide Last One Picked …First One Picked OnLearning Disabilities and Social Skills with Richard Lavoie – 1994

Insightful article

Priscilla Gilman presents an extract from her book ‘The Anti-Romatic Child’. A very interesting read…. here

When Should You Tell a Child They Have Asperger’s?

John Robison
John Robison is the author of “Be Different,” a must-read for all Aspergians, those raising a child with Asperger’s syndrome, and anyone who works with Aspergians or those who fall on the autism spectrum. It is filled with practical advice and tips about how those with Asperger’s and autism can learn to fit in and use their special gifts to their advantage. Like Temple Grandin, who called Robison’s book “an essential guidebook for anyone who has difficulty fitting in,” Robison is very involved in shaping the direction of research on many fronts and is quickly becoming a go-to authority on the subject of Asperger’s.

He is also the author of “Look Me in the Eye,” a memoir about growing up with Asperger’s unknowingly and finally emerging as a fully realized adult. The book quickly became a New York Times bestseller and was covered by People, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Post, NPR’s “Diane Rehm Show,” CBS News, the Boston Globe and more.

 

Parents often ask me when they should talk to their kids about Asperger’s or autism. I don’t think there is a hard and fast answer, but in my opinion, the time to discuss brain differences is when the teen years are close. Before then, most kids won’t be able to grasp the idea of why and how their brain is different from other people’s. Any attempt to “label” them runs the risk of being counterproductive and damaging to their vulnerable self-esteem. So what should a parent say to a young child with Asperger’s? And how can they guide their child through the difficult early years in a way that most helps them grow into a happy, productive adult? Here are a few tips derived from my own life as a free-range Aspergian and my experience raising my son Cubby, who’s now a fine young adult Aspergian himself.

1) In the early years, the most important task is developing communication skills. In today’s interconnected world, the ability to communicate effectively is the most important skill you can give a child, after he masters the basics of hygiene and behavior. Study after study has shown that kids with autism who receive intensive therapy — 20 to 40 hours per week — have far better outcomes as adults as compared to kids who are left to develop on their own. There are many cases of five-year-olds who could barely hold a conversation developing fully normal speech as adults, thanks to early intervention. There seems to be a critical window of time prior to age 10 during which kids can pick up these vital skills far more easily. If the window of opportunity is missed, the result may be lifelong communication impairment and significant disability. Some kids with autism prefer to relate through speech, while others choose written communication. Ideally, you’ll help your child build his strength in both areas.

2) Find your child’s unique strengths, and build them up. Young children are diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s when they can’t accomplish or perform a task as well as their peers can and an adult takes notice. The child may not be able to make friends, or she may fail at school or something else. Besides a diagnosis, these failures lead to weak self-esteem, frustration and alienation. How can you combat those emotions in a child? In my opinion, the surest antidote to failure is success. If you can help your child find what she is really good at, you will have given her a wonderful gift that will last a lifetime. To do that, kids should be exposed to the maximum range of experiences. For example, I was technology-minded, and my parents took me to museums, bought me books on science and helped me experiment with chemistry sets, radio kits, home-built cars and all sorts of scientific toys until I found my strengths — electronics and mechanics. My skills in those areas led me, as an adult, to my work, to my hobbies and even to my friends. There’s no way to know what your kid may like unless he sees it. It’s sort of like offering strange but tasty foods: you can ask all day and get a no, or try it and get a yes and a smile. Once you find their gift, encourage it however you can and give it room to flourish. You’ll be amazed with the results.

3) Teach your child the art of peaceful coexistence. Parents talk an awful lot about helping their kids make friends, something all of us aspire to do. However, there is a social skill that’s even more important, and it’s actually easier to learn: how to not make enemies. In my book “Be Different,” I describe several strategies that will help an Aspergian achieve this all-important goal. For example, kids must learn to listen first, and then respond to what other people are saying and doing. They can’t barge in and try to take over the group, as much as they may want to. Kids need to learn to look and act like the group they want to be part of. That may mean dressing a certain way, or even sitting in a particular place in class. When you learn to blend in, people like you better, and life goes a lot smoother. Young people with autism have no instinctive understanding of social rules. They must be taught, explicitly, how to behave in common situations. I write about using Emily Post as a guide, but for young children, more basic instruction is needed. In particular, adults should recognize that people with autism have fundamental difficulties seeing the other person’s point of view, which makes manners especially difficult to grasp. All my life, Asperger’s has made it tough for me to understand other people. That left me isolated and alone for much of my youth. Fortunately, that situation did not last forever, because “difficult” is not the same as “impossible.” Once I knew what was different about me, I charted a course of self-improvement and change, the results of which are simply astonishing. From that perspective of adult success, I wrote “Be Different” to help today’s young people benefit from the lessons I’ve learned. With that insight I hope they go on to even greater success than me.

Link to article here

Eye contact. Important?

A wonderful article from a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome regarding eye contact.

Very interesting.



Unpopular children: Why don’t they like me?

A new theory claims that being an unpopular child is a learning difficulty, just like dyslexia – and the good news is that it can be treated

By Tanith Carey

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Forever alone: having good relationships with peers is essential to self-esteem and success 

Forever alone: having good relationships with peers is essential to self-esteem and success.
At the age of nine, Victoria is the type of child who the other girls in her class describe as “a bit weird”. There’s something about her body language – and the way she “hovers” at the edge of their games, but doesn’t join in – which makes them uncomfortable.

From time to time, Victoria also pipes up with “funny” things at unexpected times in lessons. Her teacher recently complained at parents’ evening that she started volunteering where she was going on holiday in the middle of a maths class. Behind her back, although never to her face, the other children complain that Victoria is a “show-off” because she talks “at” them instead of listening to what they say. So at break-time, Victoria often finds she has no-one to play with. For Victoria’s mother, Amanda, it’s painful to watch. “Because Victoria is bright, I used to think she was just grown-up for her age, preferred talking to adults and that she’d grow out it. But now it’s so heartbreaking to see her being left out of all the parties and sleepovers I know are happening in Year Four. She tells me she prefers adults and she doesn’t care what people think of her, but I feel like I am a failure. I worry for her future, too. Girls her age can be very judgemental – and once you get labelled as weird it’s hard to escape that tag.” Every parent wants their child to be popular. And whatever they may say, deep down every child wants friends.

But much more than just being a popularity contest, all the research – including a recent study for the Children’s Society – has found that having good relationships with peers is one of essential elements for self-esteem, happiness and success in life. Yet until now, it’s always been assumed making friends is something that young people should learn to do by themselves – even if some are naturally better at it than others. Now that idea is being turned on its head by a new approach that treats problems forming social relationships in the same way as a learning difficulty, like dyslexia. Just as those children can’t make sense of the letters they see on a page, unpopular children also have problems understanding and interpreting social cues others use. Considering that 55 per cent of communication is facial expression and body language and 38 per cent is voice tone and volume, it can leave them at a serious disadvantage. Because while it takes an average youngster three seconds to work out those signals, children with social deficits take longer. But in the same way as techniques have been developed to help with those with academic learning difficulties, there are now skills that can aid children with poor social interaction, according to American child communication expert Michelle Garcia Winner, who first devised the Social Thinking programme to teach “bright but socially clueless students” at high schools in California. Her methods aim to help children become aware of how to act “acceptably” to others. Her ideas are rapidly gaining currency here and are being taught to teachers and parents at the New Learning Centre in North London. Crucially, Social Thinking is not just used not just to help children on the autistic spectrum, but also less popular youngsters, who have not been diagnosed with any problem but who, without guidance, may never learn the rules of friendship.

Garcia Winner says: “Concepts like how to share, how to co-operate and when to say the expected thing are complicated and sophisticated ideas. Some children may need more help understanding these concepts than others. Their brains may not be making all the connections. They know why they like other children, but they may not realise what they are expected to do for other children to like them back in return. Yet even if they don’t get it by intuition, we can teach children how to be ‘social detectives’ – to think about how others see them and to use their eyes, ears and brains to learn what is expected from them.” With Social Thinking techniques, youngsters are taught that in the same way that they can be smart at maths, computers, music or English, they can also have “social smarts”, which can be improved through practice. Part of the approach is to teach children that if they act in ways that make others feel awkward, such as speaking at the wrong times, or becoming obsessive about certain subjects, others will avoid them.

Parent educator Noel Janis-Norton believes it is revolutionary because it actively teaches children how to make others comfortable around them. She believes the approach will help “a sizeable minority” who are social outsiders. Janis -Norton says: “Having poor social skills is a learning difficulty that needs to be addressed. These kids are also wrongly seen by teachers as deliberately obstructionist in class – for example, because they don’t understand that a suggestion is actually an instruction. In fact the part of their brain that is supposed to interpret these signals is wired differently. When they realise this, both teachers and parents often feel very guilty that they once got so angry or impatient with them. But it’s like getting angry with someone with a limp. Luckily the brain is very malleable. Whenever we learn, we are changing the brain. It can be as simple as teaching children the best way to use eye contact or what body language to use in the playground. “For example, many of these kids will be left on the fringes of games because they will be looking away from the group they want to be part of, instead of registering their interest. Simply teaching kids to turn their body and shoulders towards the group can be enough to let others know they want to be accepted.”

Looking back at our own schooldays, most of us remember the loner in our class who nobody wanted to play with at break-time. But Janis-Norton is hopeful it’s a curse that shouldn’t befall future generations. “It’s tragic how many children have been ostracised because of this neurological trait in the past. Yet so many other children can be spared from suffering in the same way.”  

To view the article and reader comments go here.

For further reading on Social Thinking, Michelle Garcia Winner’s books ‘You Are A Social Detective’ and ‘Thinking About You and Thinking About Me’ are available from thinkingbooks.co.uk. For more information log onto www.socialthinking.com. For information about Social Thinking courses, contact New Learning Centre www.tnlc.info

No more ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’

Article on the move to eliminate the term Asperger’s Syndrome from the DMV.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/AutismSymptomsDiagnosis/aspergers-syndrome-set-lose/story?id=13674552

Special Needs Summer Education Alternatives

Courtesy of ADDitude Online Magazine

Without structured educational activities during summer break, children with attention deficit (ADD/ADHD), learning disabilities, and other special needs often suffer learning loss. Try this plan for an alternative summer school to keep your child learning while still making time to have fun.

As soon as school is out for the summer, our kids shove their backpacks under the bed and rush outside, anxious for an extended recess. But, especially for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), a summer of no work and all play can lead to learning loss.

“Many children with learning disabilities and ADD/ADHD lose ground during the summer months — particularly in academic skills in which they are below grade-level standards,” says Sandra F. Rief, M.A., author of How to Reach and Teach Children with ADD/ADHD. “But it’s important to offer them a fresh environment, with learning experiences different from those they’re exposed to during the school year.”

“Parents try to make their kids do better by pushing the school model on them,” says Laura Grace Weldon, author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. “Think of learning as custom-designed, hands-on, interest-based fun.”

I try to do that for my fourth-grader, Natalie. This year, for the fourth year running, she’ll attend “Hannah School,” named for the tutor who will be teaching her and her friend Harry. Natalie never complains about going, and the benefits are reflected in her back-to-school assessments.

Special Needs Alternatives to Summer School

My daughter’s personalized summer school, Hannah School, runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. four days a week. Working around vacations and other activities, we get in about six weeks each summer. Unlike hour-long, sit-down sessions, the four-hour time blocks allow for frequent breaks, multisensory and experiential learning, and field trips!

Because Natalie shares tutoring with her friend, Harry, each session is an anticipated play date. Weldon sees advantages to group learning: “As children discuss problems, innovate, create solutions, and move forward, they gain comprehension. They also develop social skills and maturity.”

Near the end of the school year, our tutor spends part of a day in Natalie and Harry’s special-education classroom, and meets with their teacher to learn about strengths, weaknesses, and learning goals.

Last summer, Hannah School started each day in a study room at the public library. Having a door to close gave the trio privacy and allowed them to express their excitement without muffling their voices. They had access to library books, computers, and special programs. A big plus was the park, one block away.

Creative Ways to Prevent Learning Loss

Natalie and Harry worked on the same academic skills they would work on at school, but they worked much differently. They practiced math facts while on a swing. They used flashcards to learn words by sight, but they didn’t sit face-to-face with the teacher to see them. Instead, when Hannah said a word, they raced to find the right flashcard among the many spread around the room. In addition to academic basics, the kids’ learning followed their own interests. Harry took home books about trains, while Natalie chose books about dogs. “School” also meant concerts in the park and lunches at Subway.

“When children study something they are passionate about, a range of similar topics opens up,” says Rief. “They wind up developing skills that are transferable to other subjects.”

That may be true, but Natalie and Harry can’t wait to get back to school this summer because it’s fun.

For full article go here

Learning About Emotions

Gametime with Zeebu offers a couple of interactive games to use with children to help theem develop an understanding of emotions and facial expressions.  ‘Zeebu’ is an interactive teachng program with puppets, DVDs etc that is aimed at children with an autism sepctrum disorder but the online games are free and fun!

WONDERFUL opportunity for parents!

International School Manila is excited and delighted to announce a free workshop for parents delivered by the renowned communication expert Michelle Garcia Winner on Monday 5th September at 8-10am.

Michelle is coming over from the US to deliver a weekend long workshop and then spend two days exclusively with ISM families and teachers.

The work of Michelle and her colleagues is often referred to and shared on this blog.  We use Social Thinking materials in school with our LS students and the Superflex curriculum in particular is much loved by many in the Elementary School community.

The parent workshop is for any parent who would like to know more about communication with children.  Does your child struggle to:

  • join groups and make friends
  • follow conversations
  • accept the ideas of others
  • deal with disappointment
  • take risks
  • read body language and facial expression?

If so, then this group will be of interest to you.  Please contact Angela Reilly on reillya@ismanila.org to register your interest and visit www.socialthinking.com to learn more about Michelle’s work.

 

ADHD Back-to-School Prep: 10 Talks to Have for a Great School Year

ADHD Back-to-School Prep: 10 Talks to Have for a Great School Year

The beginning of the school year is a great time to sit down and have conversations with your ADHD child and the other important people in his life to make sure you’re all on the same page when it comes to managing his ADHD symptoms.

As the year moves on, teachers, parents, and really everyone becomes so busy that the importance of having these conversations starts to slip down on the agenda. It may seem like an added back-to-school burden, but having these conversations now will not only bring you peace of mind, but set the tone for a successful school year for your student, his teachers, other parents, and everyone else who surrounds him.

Not sure where to start? Use the following topics as your guide for who to call, and what to discuss:

Check in with Your Child
Accentuate the positive
If your child has attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD), she may have low self-esteem, in addition to symptoms of ADHD. To succeed in school, she must not only adhere to academic and behavioral standards, she must believe in herself.

Educate your child about attention deficit disorder and present the upside of ADHD. For example, ADHD in children often correlates with traits including creativity. As she meets new faces and new challenges at school, help your child remember that she is a valuable member of her classroom community — in spite of, or because of, her ADHD, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities.

Ask your child about his friends
A child with ADHD may need your help in identifying classmates with whom he could develop constructive friendships. During the first weeks of school, ask your child to describe his classmates, and listen for clues about personalities that might complement his own.

Children with ADHD tend to form quick alliances with children they find exciting or interesting. Encourage your child to get to know the self-contained and studious kids, who might admire his imagination or boldness and who might also be a calming influence.

Help your child learn to appreciate the teacher
Your child may feel that teachers are the enemy. Help her find something to appreciate about her teacher. All children, and especially children with ADHD or dyslexia, should have a sense of teachers as humans, not merely as authorities. When your child thinks, “She’s strict, but she’s cool,” what she means is, “We can work together.”

Check in with the Teacher
Talk with the teacher
Have a conversation with your child’s teacher during the first week of school. Without coming off as pushy, clarify the specifics of your child’s situation. Make sure she knows about your child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or 504 Plan, if there’s one in place. Any mandated services or accommodations should begin immediately, and the classroom teacher is the one who can make sure that happens.

If you don’t already have an IEP, set up a time to discuss one with the teacher and school representatives. Writing an IEP together at the beginning of the year will help set the tone and goals for your ADHD child’s education.

Have a second conversation with the teacher
About a month into the school year, ask for a second meeting (if the teacher hasn’t called for one sooner). Don’t wait until parent-teacher conferences to get her take on how things are going. The earlier you are aware of the teacher’s perspective, the sooner you and your child with ADHD can avoid scenarios that interfere with learning. Keep parent-teacher communications. Many teachers prefer e-mail as a way to share information.

Check in with the Doctor
Talk with your child’s doctor
If your child is taking ADHD medication, or if you are considering a trial of ADHD medicine, have a conversation with the prescribing doctor in late summer to make a plan for the beginning of school. If this is the first time your child will be taking medication, you may want to start giving him the medicine soon after this appointment, so you’ll be able to fine-tune the medicine’s dose and timing before classes begin. If your child has taken medication before, he can resume shortly before school starts.

Have a second conversation with the doctor
After a few weeks of school, you should have another conversation with your child’s psychiatrist or prescribing doctor. In this conversation, perhaps held over the phone, you and the doctor can review the information you get from your child, his teacher, and your own observations to decide whether the current course of ADHD medication is right.

Talk with Other Parents
Share your child’s ADHD with other parents
The new school year brings new chances to talk with other parents at drop-off and pick-up, playdates, back-to-school night, and other events. How much should you say about your child’s ADHD diagnosis? This is a personal choice, which you might base on your ease in discussing such matters, your child’s wishes, and your sense of how the information might be received.

In general, it’s likely that you’ll find the other parents to be supportive. If you share your struggles, you are inviting other parents of children with dyslexia or ADHD to share with you—and to lean on you, as well. If your child knows that you believe in speaking openly, he is less likely to feel that he is bearing a shameful secret.

Talk with Your Family…and Yourself
Talk with your family
Have conversations with everyone in your family. Such talks can, of course, occur at any point, but the start of the school year is a good time to review certain understandings. ADHD affects the family dynamics. Your child has ADHD, but you, your spouse or one of your relatives may also have it. Share your experiences with each other. Have your child describe what his symptoms of ADHD feel like. Ask him to tell everyone what kind of support is helpful. Have family members talk about what their challenges are and what support they need. If everyone puts their heads together, positive things develop.

Talk with yourself
Alone, or with your spouse, review what you’ve learned about your child with ADHD in the last year. What helped him toward success in the previous grade? What made success difficult? As your child grows, your knowledge of him grows. Maybe an old idea needs revision. Keep a current, holistic, and detailed impression of your child in mind as you move forward. Know that you may face some new challenges this year, but empower yourself as the expert on your child and trust that you’ll make the right decisions.

Social Thinking-Social Learning Tree

Visit this amazing site for original post and more

 

 

STreetinyExploring Social Learning by Starting at our Roots

By Michelle Garcia Winner, CCC-SLP

Learning evolves. The brain’s capacity to acquire new knowledge helps determine how and what we intuitively learn. Some learning happens as a matter of cognitive, social, and emotional development, i.e., from the “inside out,” while other learning happens “from the outside in.” For those of us who are neurotypical, social learning helps us bond with our caregivers early in life then paves the way for language development, more advanced relations, and an understanding of abstract social concepts that grows through experience and maturity.

 

Social learning is typically a process that evolves naturally, starting from birth and continuing across the life span. Children move from primarily adult-based interactions to observational discovery of their peers as the prelude to play. Play as a developmental milestone also encourages other relevant skills to emerge, such as cooperation, perspective taking, and emotional regard for others. Not coincidentally, as children develop the ability to cooperate and play in a group they are readying themselves to learn in a classroom, when at five years old they enter school. As children grow and move from second to third grade, internationally the curriculum shifts from rote learning in a group to critical thinking in a classroom.  At this point children are expected to not only relate well person to person on the playground, but also determine the motives of a character in a storybook as well as make predictions about how characters are thinking and feeling. Alongside this academic and cognitive shift, a similar social/emotional change occurs. Children’s goal oriented play (tag, Four Square, etc.) evolves into deeper levels of personal connection, where children playfully relate to each other through conversational initiations and maintenance. Subtle but persistent advances in social development serve as the engine for subtle but persistent social emotional development. These advancing concepts are applied not only to our social interactions and group participation but also in the ways we interpret and respond to the curriculum within our coursework.

Given that neurotypical children advance socially and emotionally in an ever expanding snowball of social cognitive achievement, how do we – the adults who steer children’s social, emotional, and academic learning – develop and map out treatment for those who are born to social learning challenges? One answer lies in starting from our roots and understanding how social learning unfolds from the ground up.

The Social Learning Tree

Consider social learning using the analogy of a tree which develops a strong root system and trunk before it can grow healthy branches and leaves. As we adults strive to develop a pathway for problem-solving the treatment needs and goals of our students, it is often observed that our social treatments typically start at the specific skill rather than by exploring strategies to teach students to better think socially which ultimately fosters social skill development. More sophisticated social learning requires one to acquire a range of social thought processes that synchronize to form the core of the social mind.  Using these thought processes we then determine which social skills to use based on what we know about the person(s), the situation and most importantly, how we want them to react to us in that situation if indeed we are seeking a reaction at all!

Treatment plans for children who struggle with social learning often are created by observing and/or assessing a student’s conversational and play weaknesses and then developing plans that attempt to remediate these (skill) challenges. We describe this process as “teaching in the leaves.” However, with regard to social learning, the ability to competently produce advanced or more progressive social thinking and related social skills grows out of a strong root system and a solid trunk, from which sturdy branches develop that produce healthy leaves. We describe this process as “teaching at the roots.” After all is said and done, effective social thinking and related social skills are those that can be applied across situations so that our students can use their social thinking while writing a paper for a class, interpreting content based instruction as well as using this knowledge within direct social interactions.

When we stop long enough to consider the learning process, we can all easily acknowledge that learning doesn’t start with a skill. Yet, that has been precisely where our focus has been in teaching “social skills.” For example, children do not learn “eye contact.” They slowly and progressively learn to think with their eyes, to look at a situation and consider what people are doing within that situation to gauge how to interact or respond. A more effective pathway toward social learning is to start by teaching our students a process that leads to not only specific skill development, but equips our students with the ability to use this social knowledge to branch out into other social directions – to functionally use social thinking and possibly related social skills as the situation requires.

To help educators and clinicians better understand how social learning grows and matures we created the Social Thinking-Social Learning Tree, a visual representation of the process. Each part of the tree corresponds to a key part of the social evolutionary journey. As such, this learning map can be used to structure social learning curriculum that makes sense from a developmental standpoint.

The Root System Supporting the Social Learning Tree

We start at the roots, the foundation from which all our social learning grows. Research indicates that social development appears to begin prior to birth and emerges in the early days of life as babies actively pursue social learning through their daily experiences (Hirsh-Pasek & Golinkoff, 2003). At this level social learning is typically delivered neurologically, on a developmental trajectory. As the young brain matures it maximizes this learning through experience and incidental practice. At the root level, social thinking and social learning involve:

  1. Joint attention, which includes reading intentions of others and paying attention to others and the environment (Jones and Carr, 2004)
  2. Emotional sharing and reciprocity (Prizant, Wetherby, Rubin, Laurent, & Rydell, 2006)
  3. Central coherence – getting the gist of a message, determining relevance (Plaisted, 2001; Happe & Frith, 2006; van Lang, Bouma, Sytema, Kraijer, & Minderaa, 2006)
  4. Theory of mind, which involves interpreting that you know something different from me (Baron-Cohen, Leslie, & Frith, 1985; Flavell, 2004; Hale & Tager-Flusberg, 2005; Frith & Frith, 2010)
  5. Executive functioning, the ability to process and respond to many stimuli simultaneously (Hill, 2004; Happe, Booth, Charlton & Hughes, 2006)
  6. Sensory integration, the ability to integrate the signals coming into our sensory systems, which keeps us aware and active at a level where we can comfortably participate as needed in the environment
  7. Cognition
  8. Language

While these components have been studied and explored in isolation as well as in contrast to other cognitive functions, it is interesting to note that only more recently is research demonstrating a mutual interdependence among these social learning components (Pelicano, 2010; Sodian & Frith, 2008).

The Trunk of the Social Learning Tree

The roots merge to form the trunk of the tree. The trunk represents an understanding of and ability to dynamically and synergistically apply the concepts of the root system in daily life. The developmental processes that occur at the root level stimulate our brain in such a way that we learn to interpret socially based information and participate in a range of ways in specific situations because we demonstrate an understanding of other’s thoughts, intentions, emotions which help us relate and respond to others. The ILAUGH Model of Social Thinking (Winner, 2000) summarizes these key components of social learning; all of which are to be working fairly well in a child prior to his fifth birthday and based on his or her own intuitive social learning. However, we often see these same components lagging or lacking in development for our students born to weak intuitive social learning abilities. Many readers are already familiar with the ILAUGH Model of Social Thinking but for those unfamiliar, a brief review is included at the end of the article.

The Branches of the Social Learning Tree

Information channeled through the ILAUGH model (tree trunk) provides the necessary support for the growth of a variety of social interactions as well as other concepts that relate back to key social knowledge (the branches). Having established a strong root system and trunk, the branches support the emergence of new, more refined concepts and skills. That said, each branch, some of which are listed below, is dependent upon elements of the ILAUGH Model.

  1. Reading comprehension of literature (analyzing the protagonists and antagonists in a story, predicting their future actions, interpreting their meaning, etc.)
  2. Written and oral expression (writing to support main ideas, summarizing, being sensitive to one’s audience, taking the perspective of the teacher to better understand expectations, etc.)
  3. Self and project organization (time management, planning and preparations, managing homework assignments, etc.)
  4. Playground play/hanging out
  5. Conversation
  6. Participating as a member of the classroom or a group

The Leaves on the Branches of the Tree

The leaves relate to definable concepts and skills we use to engage in each of the larger concepts that are represented by a branch. For example, the leaves on the branch related to playground play would involve all the different concepts/skills one must use to play such as turn-taking, allowing a person to choose a game, coping with rule changes, determining if the group welcomes you, using language that keeps others having good thoughts about you to avoid being rejected or taunted, etc. Thus, it is often in the leaves that we observe the problems and write treatment goals to address the weak growth of the leaves, which may not be the most effective or efficient treatment choice. 

Treatment Based on the Social Learning Tree

As we explain the Social Learning Tree, most people can understand the developmental and cumulative trajectory of social learning from roots through the trunk, branches and then to the leaves. Yet, ironically most social skill programs are set up to address a leaf in the tree and do not work on helping students strengthen their root system and trunk. When a treatment is focused in the leaves and branches it is our experience that learning is more superficial. Students may not internalize that the information they are learning can be useful when engaged in their language arts curriculum or has anything to do with how they are interpreted as they share space in a classroom. On a related note, we see students fail to generalize their social skills to other situations because they have not first acquired core understanding of social learning concepts. Without the support the root system and trunk provide, the leaves have little chance to stay healthy and grow.

It is our belief that we should look at how social learning unfolds naturally in neurotypical students and then use this developmental pathway to teach in a more thoughtful format, one that will help our students with social learning challenges acquire a more solid foundation and depth to their knowledge rather than just master “skills.” Social Thinking and other related treatment concepts that foster a more robust root and trunk system provide valuable models upon which treatments can be based. These include Carol Gray’s Social Stories™ that have been widely used since Gray originated them in 1991, Carol Gray’s Comic Strip Conversations (Gray, 1994), Tony Attwood’s work on emotion recognition and regulation (Attwood, 2004), Kari Dunn Buron and Mimi Curtis’ 5 Point Scale (Buron and Curtis, 2003), the SCERTS model by Barry Prizant and his team (Prizant et.al, 2006), and Stanley Greenspan’s DIR®/Floortime™(Greenspan and Weider, 2003).

Our goal in developing the Social Thinking-Social Learning Tree, as well as the myriad Social Thinking materials, worksheets, books, and presentations is to demystify the process of social engagement and social interpretation. By doing so, we help adult educators, caregivers, and policy makers better understand how we can get to the root of the social learning challenges our students and clients face, and teach more efficiently and effectively from there.

Brief review of the ILAUGH Model of Social Thinking

I = Initiation of Language. Initiation of language is the ability to use one’s language skills to seek assistance or information. A student’s ability to talk about his own topics of interest can be in sharp contrast to how that student communicates when he needs help. Students with social cognitive deficits often have difficulty asking for help, seeking clarification, and initiating appropriate social entrance and exit with other people.

L= Listening With Eyes and Brain. Most persons with social cognitive deficits have difficulty with auditory comprehension. Listening, however, requires more than just taking in auditory information. It also requires individuals to integrate information they see and hear around them, such as the context of the situation and nonverbal cues from others, to fully interpret the spoken or unspoken message. Teachers depend heavily on the notion that all students are able to attend nonverbally to the expectations in the classroom. Being a “good listener” includes not just paying attention to what is being said, but more importantly, attending to the verbal and nonverbal cues that surround the words.

A = Abstract and Inferential Language/Communication. Communicative comprehension requires both literal and figurative interpretations. To be successful in interpreting abstract communication, an individual needs to pay attention to four aspects of communication:

  1. what the listener knows about the speaker and his/her motive for communicating
  2. in what context the message is being shared
  3. the literal words used
  4. 4. the nonverbal ways the message is coded along with related physical gestures

Abstract and inferential meaning is often conveyed subtly, through verbal and nonverbal communication coupled with social knowledge of the people and situation. This skill begins to develop in the preschool years and continues across our school years as the messages we are to interpret, both socially and academically, become more abstract. Interpretation depends in part on one’s ability to “make a smart guess.” It also depends on one’s ability to take the perspective of another. Abstract and inferential language interpretation is heavily woven into our language arts, social studies, and science curriculums. It is also a skill set heavily applied in play and conversation.

U = Understanding Perspective. This is the ability to understand the emotions, thoughts, beliefs, experiences, motives, intentions, and personality of yourself as well as others. Students intuitively begin to acquire this skill in early childhood development. Neurotypical students acquire a solid foundation of perspective taking between the ages of four to six as they discover how to manipulate and understand other people’s minds. Children continue to refine their knowledge of others’ minds across their lives.  The ability to take perspective is key to being part of any type of group (social or academic). It is integral to academic subjects that require understanding other people’s minds, such as reading comprehension, history, social studies, etc. It is also key for formulating clear written expression. Weakness in perspective taking is a significant part of the diagnosis of social cognitive deficits.

G=Gestalt Processing/Getting the Big Picture. Information is conveyed through concepts and not just facts. Being able to relate the little bits of information to a whole is gestalt processing in a nutshell. When individuals participate in a conversation they intuitively understand the underlying concept being discussed. This knowledge helps them stay on track, make relevant comments, know when they’re veering off topic. When reading, one has to follow the overall meaning (concept) rather than just collect a series of facts. Like the other elements mentioned above, conceptual processing is another key component to understanding social and academic information. Furthermore, conceptual processing and organizational strategies (as well as other executive function tasks) go hand in hand.  Weakness in one area is usually accompanied by weakness in the other. Children who struggle to relate parts of a project to each other, or manage their time to get assignments done by the deadline are typically weak in gestalt processing. Challenges in this skill can greatly impact one’s ability to formulate written expression, summarize reading passages, and manage one’s homework load.

H= Humor and Human Relatedness. Most of our clients have a very good sense of humor, but they feel anxious since they miss many of the subtle cues that help them understand how to participate successfully with others. It is important for educators and parents to work compassionately and with humor to help minimize the anxiety these children are experiencing. At the same time, many of our clients use humor inappropriately; direct lessons about this topic are often required.

Human relatedness is at the heart of social interaction. While virtually all of our clients desire some form of social interaction, they have difficulty relating to others’ minds, emotions and needs. Establishing the concept of human relatedness and what it means to be part of the flowing give and take of human relationships is essential before trying to make headway in any of the above lessons. First we must establish a connection of our own with our students.

Find additional articles and information at our Social Thinking website:www.socialthinking.com.

STreeFinal

Bibliography

Attwood, T. (2004). Exploring feelings: Cognitive behavior therapy to manage anxiety. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons, Inc.

Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A.M., & Frith, U.  (1985). Does the autistic child have a ‘theory of mind’? Cognition, 21, 37-46.

Buron, K. & Curtis, M. (2003). The incredible 5-point scale. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

Flavell, J. (2004). Theory-of-mind development: Retrospect and prospect. Merrill Palmer Quarterly, 50 (3), 274-290.

Frith, U. & Frith, C. (2010). The Social brain: Allowing humans to boldly go where no other species has been.  Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B, 365, 165-175.

Gray, C. (2010). The new social story book: Revised and expanded 10th anniversary edition. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons Inc.

Gray, C. (1994). Comic strip conversations. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons, Inc.

Greenspan, S. & Wieder, S. (2003). Engaging autism: The floortime approach to helping children relate, communicate and think. Jackson, TN: Perseus Books.

Hale, C. & Tager-Flusberg, H. (2005). Social communication in children with autism: The relationship between theory of mind and discourse development. AutismVol 9 (2),157-178.

Happe’, F., Booth, R., Charlton, R. & Hughes, C. (2006). Executive function deficits in autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Examining profiles across domains and ages. Brain and Cognition, 61, 25-39.

Happe’, F. & Frith, U. (2006). The weak coherence account: Detail focused cognitive style in autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Jan: 36 (1), 5-25.

Hill, E. (2004). Evaluating the theory of executive dysfunction in autism. Developmental Review, 24 (2), 189-233.

Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R. & Eyer, D. (2003). Einstein never used flash cards. New York: Rodale Press.

Jones, E. & Carr, E.G. (2004). Joint attention in children with autism: Theory and intervention. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities19(1), 13-26.

Plaisted, K.C. (2001). Reduced generalization in autism: An alternative to weak central coherence. In J.A. Burack, T.Charman, N. Yirmiya & P.R. Zelazo (Eds.), The development of autism: Perspectives from theory and research. (pp. 149-169). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Prizant, B., Wetherby, A., Rubin, E., Laurent, A., & Rydell, P. (2006a). The SCERTS model: A comprehensive educational approach for children with autism spectrum disorders. Vol 1, Assessment. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

Prizant, B., Wetherby, A., Rubin, E., Laurent, A., & Rydell, P. (2006b). The SCERTS model: A comprehensive educational approach for children with autism spectrum disorders. Vol II, Program Planning & Intervention. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

van Lang, N., Bouma, A., Sytema, S., Kraijer, D., & Minderaa, R. (2006). A comparison of central coherence skills between adolescents and an intellectual disability with and without comorbid autism spectrum disorder. Research in Developmental Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 27 (2), 217-266.

 

 

Social competence and the child with learning disabilities

From www.ldonline.org

By: Rick Lavoie (2005)

Since the inception of the field of learning disabilities in the l960s, helping professionals have concentrated their resources and energies in the remediation and improvement of academic skills. Countless hours of classroom time have been devoted to the children’s mastery of the skills related to language arts, mathematics and science. Finally, in the mid-l980s the field began to recognize the critical importance of social skills in the development and ultimate success of individuals with learning disabilities.

Research and observation clearly demonstrates that individuals with learning disabilities tend to be less accepted by peers, interact awkwardly and inappropriately in social situations and are socially imperceptive.

The goal for these children is to achieve an appropriate degree of social competence. Social skills are a collection of isolated and discrete learned behaviors. Social competence refers to the smooth sequential use of these skills in an effort to establish an ongoing social interaction.

There are two schools of thought related to the nature and causes of social incompetence. Proponents of the first hypothesis argue that social skill deficits are the result of the same neurological dysfunctions that cause academic problems. The second hypothesis holds that the social disabilities are caused by the child’s chronic school failure and the rejection that often results. These researchers feel that the child has been unable to practice these social skills because of this isolation.

The cause of social incompetence is far less important than its effect. School-aged children and adolescents need to be accepted and supported by their peers. Their social incompetence often prevents them from establishing and maintaining such relationships. Consider the comments of Doreen Kronick, noted expert in learning disabilities and related social deficits:

To become a friend means to become interested in, and somewhat knowledgeable about the other person’s interests, be sensitive to their needs and feelings, compromise on activities, laugh off differences, be supportive, allow the other person freedom to interact with others and spend time with themselves, be elated by their successes, share their sorrows sensitively, be able to communicate your pleasure, displeasure and anger without such communication being destructive to either party, and change and grow as your friend changes and grows. I wonder whether many learning disabled adolescents possess the sensitivity, empathy, flexibility, maturity, and generate sufficient interest and excitement to maintain such friendships.

Common questions related to social skill development

Does formalized research support the concept that individuals with learning disabilities have deficient or ineffective social skills?

Yes. The research indicates that individuals with learning disabilities:

  • are more likely to choose socially unacceptable behaviors in social situations
  • are less able to solve social problems
  • are less likely to predict consequences for their social behavior
  • are less likely to adjust to the characteristics of their listeners in discussions or conversations
  • are less able to accomplish complex social interactions successfully (i.e.. persuasion, negotiation, resisting peer pressure, giving/accepting criticism, etc.)
  • are more likely to be rejected or isolated by their classmates and peers
  • are more often the objects of negative and non-supportive statements, criticisms, warnings and negative nonverbal reactions from teachers
  • are less adaptable to new social situations
  • are more likely to be judged negatively by adults after informal observation
  • receive less affection from parents and siblings
  • have less tolerance for frustration and failure
  • use oral language that is less mature, meaningful or concise
  • have difficulty interpreting or inferring the language of others

Do all individuals with learning disabilities experience social skill difficulties?

No. Research and observation indicate that some learning disabled students have a degree of social competence that is equal to or superior to their peers. However, social skill deficits create major obstacles for a significantly large subgroup of learning disabled students and adults.

What factors or characteristics may contribute to an individual’s social skill deficits?

There appears to be four characteristics that are shared by many individuals with learning disabilities who also have pronounced social skill deficits.

  • Cognitive traits: Social skill deficits are more common among individuals with certain language processing deficits or measurable cognitive limitations.
  • Severity of Learning Disability: Social skill deficiencies are more prevalent among individuals with severe or complex learning disorders.
  • Gender: Females are more likely to experience social adjustment problems than are males.
  • Hyperactivity: Individuals with ineffective impulse control tend to have more pronounced social skill problems.

What techniques are effective in the evaluation and monitoring of social skill deficits?

Before a skill can be effectively remediated, it must first be assessed and evaluated. Currently, there is no widely-accepted assessment tool that can provide the parent or professional with this critical information. There are, however, a number of techniques and strategies that can be utilized to secure a valuable “snapshot” of the individual’s social capabilities and deficiencies.

Sociometric devices. These instruments are designed to evaluate an individual’s relative popularity within a peer group. They generally consist of a survey wherein all members of a group are required to place the names of their colleagues in rank order based upon traits such as popularity and cooperation. In effect, sociometric devices use a polling procedure to determine the social acceptability of individuals within the group.

These devices generally provide a valid instrument for determining social competence. However, they tend to be somewhat reactive and often reflect the constantly changing “in group/out group” dynamic that is common among school-age groupings.

Teacher-ranking systems. This strategy requires the teacher to record and measure the frequency of each child’s social interactions with classmates. Such systems can be valuable but, much like sociometric devices, provide no diagnostic information related to the quality of the interactions.

Behavior-rating scales. These checklists are completed by parents, teachers or peers and are used to measure a specific child’s social behavior. They are valuable in determining the specific social skill deficits that require attention and remediation. They also provide data for a comparison of a child’s social skills in a variety of disparate settings, for example, the home, the classroom, and the playground.

Interviews. This strategy is often quite effective for students with learning disabilities as it does not require extensive reading or writing skills. It also allows for a more intimate look at a child’s social competence because it encourages anecdotes and the citing of specific situations and incidents.

Observation codes or checklists. Observation code strategies consist of highly-formalized observation measures. The examiner observes the child in a structured, social setting such as a reading group, scout troop meeting, or cafeteria, and objectively records the specific social behaviors of the child. The codes focus upon a small cluster of observable behaviors, for example cooperation, self-talk, and sharing; they can be quite valuable in diagnosis of skill deficits as well as evaluation of training effectiveness. Observation checklists are conducted in a similar manner and, again, focus upon a small cluster of observable behaviors.

The social autopsy

A social autopsy is an innovative strategy wherein an adult assists a socially deficient child to improve social skills by jointly analyzing social errors that a child makes and designing alternative strategies.

The accompanying video outlines the basic philosophy and procedures involved in the social autopsy process. The video format does not, however, allow for a detailed explanation of the fine points of this unique strategy. Below are some reflections upon this field-tested and highly successful procedure.

In order to ensure the success and generalization of the social autopsy procedure, the process should be taught to all adults who have regular contact with the child, for example, bus drivers, administrators, grandparents, cafeteria workers, and baby-sitters. In this way, the child will participate in dozens of autopsies daily, in a variety of settings. This intense exposure will foster growth and generalizations of target skills.

Use social autopsies in order to analyze successful social interactions on occasion. When the child has been particularly appropriate in a social setting, assist him in examining and identifying the behaviors that contributed to these positive situations. In this way, he is more likely to repeat those behaviors in other settings.

The success of the autopsy approach is linked to the fact that it provides the child with the three things that special needs students require in order to develop and learn:

  1. practice, or drill
  2. immediate feedback
  3. positive reinforcement

Keep in mind what the social autopsy process is…and what it is not:

IS IS NOT
a supportive, structured constructive strategy to foster social competence a punishment
a problem-solving technique negative
an opportunity for the student to actively participate in the process controlled/conducted exclusively by the adult
conducted by any significant adult in the child’s environment a “one-time” cure for the target behavior or skill
most effective when conducted immediately after the social error
generally held as a one-to-one session

The autopsy process is particularly effective in enabling the child to see the cause/effect relationship between his social behavior and the reactions of others in his environment.

During autopsies, the child may have difficulty analyzing and identifying his own feelings and emotions. For example, the child may report that he is “mad” at his friend when, in fact, he is actually jealous. The Kline scale, developed at Riverview School by consultant Adam Kline, can be a useful tool to assist the child in identifying and classifying his feelings. A copy of the Kline Scale appears at the end of this booklet.

Students with social competency problems also have paralinguistic (non-language) deficiencies that can be effectively isolated and remediated via the social autopsy approach. Among these deficiencies are:

  • Kinesics (inability to read body language of self or others). Manifestations may include: failure to respond to facial expressions of others; inability to “read” feelings and attitude of others; incorrect use of gestures.
  • Proxemics (inability to understand how physical space communicates with others). Manifestations: stands too close in social situations; stares; avoids eye contact; touches inappropriately.
  • Vocalics (inability to understand how volume pitches of voice communicates to others). Manifestations: misinterprets sarcasm; talks in monotone; talks too fast or too slowly; talks too loudly or too softly.

Excerpted from Teacher’s Guide Last One Picked …First One Picked OnLearning Disabilities and Social Skills with Richard Lavoie – 1994

 

Book Review: Ten Things your Student with Autism Wishes you Knew

This 117 page book is packed full of tools for working with all children, not just those diagnosed with Autism.

Please visit Ellen’s site for more information on her work with Students who have Autisim:   www.ellennotbohm.com

1. Behavior is communication. All behavior occurs for a reason. It tells you, even when my words can’t, how I perceive what is happening around me.

Negative behavior interferes with my learning process. But merely interrupting these behaviors is not enough; teach me to exchange these behaviors with proper alternatives so that real learning can flow.

Start by believing this: I truly do want to learn to interact appropriately. No child wants the spirit-crushing feedback we get from “bad” behavior. Negative behavior usually means I am overwhelmed by disordered sensory systems, cannot communicate my wants or needs or don’t understand what is expected of me. Look beyond the behavior to find the source of my resistance. Keep notes as to what happened immediately before the behavior: people involved, time of day, activities, settings. Over time, a pattern may emerge.

2. Never assume anything. Without factual backup, an assumption is only a guess. I may not know or understand the rules. I may have heard the instructions but not understood them.

Maybe I knew it yesterday but can’t retrieve it today. Ask yourself:

  • Are you sure I really know how to do what is being asked of me? If I suddenly need to run to the bathroom every time I’m asked to do a math sheet, maybe I don’t know how or fear my effort will not be good enough. Stick with me through enough repetitions of the task to where I feel competent. I may need more practice to master tasks than other kids.
  • Are you sure I actually know the rules? Do I understand the reason for the rule (safety, economy, health)? Am I breaking the rule because there is an underlying cause? Maybe I pinched a snack out of my lunch bag early because I was worried about finishing my science project, didn’t eat breakfast and am now famished.

3. Look for sensory issues first. A lot of my resistant behaviors come from sensory discomfort.

One example is fluorescent lighting, which has been shown over and over again to be a major problem for children like me. The hum it produces is very disturbing to my hypersensitive hearing, and the pulsing nature of the light can distort my visual perception, making objects in the room appear to be in constant movement. An incandescent lamp on my desk will reduce the flickering, as will the new, natural light tubes. Or maybe I need to sit closer to you; I don’t understand what you are saying because there are too many noises “in between” – that lawnmower outside the window, Jasmine whispering to Tanya, chairs scraping, pencil sharpener grinding.

Ask the school occupational therapist for sensory-friendly ideas for the classroom. It’s actually good for all kids, not just me.

4. Provide me a break to allow for self-regulation before I need it. A quiet, carpeted corner of the room with some pillows, books and headphones allows me a place to go to re-group when I feel overwhelmed, but isn’t so far physically removed that I won’t be able to rejoin the activity flow of the classroom smoothly.

5. Tell me what you want me to do in the positive rather than the imperative. “You left a mess by the sink!” is merely a statement of fact to me. I’m not able to infer that what you really mean is “Please rinse out your paint cup and put the paper towels in the trash.” Don’t make me guess or have to figure out what I should do.

6. Keep your expectations reasonable. That all-school assembly with hundreds of kids packed into bleachers and some guy droning on about the candy sale is uncomfortable and meaningless to me. Maybe I’d be better off helping the school secretary put together the newsletter.

7. Help me transition between activities. It takes me a little longer to motor plan moving from one activity to the next. Give me a five-minute warning and a two-minute warning before an activity changes – and build a few extra minutes in on your end to compensate.

A simple clock face or timer on my desk gives me a visual cue as to the time of the next transition and helps me handle it more independently.

8. Don’t make a bad situation worse. I know that even though you are a mature adult, you can sometimes make bad decisions in the heat of the moment. I truly don’t mean to melt down, show anger or otherwise disrupt your classroom. You can help me get over it more quickly by not responding with inflammatory behavior of your own. Beware of these responses that prolong rather than resolve a crisis:

  • Raising pitch or volume of your voice. I hear the yelling and shrieking, but not the words.
  • Mocking or mimicking me. Sarcasm, insults or name-calling will not embarrass me out of the behavior.
  • Making unsubstantiated accusations
  • Invoking a double standard
  • Comparing me to a sibling or other student
  • Bringing up previous or unrelated events
  • Lumping me into a general category (“kids like you are all the same”)

9. Criticize gently. Be honest – how good are you at accepting “constructive” criticism? Thematurity and self-confidence to be able to do that may be far beyond my abilities right now.

  • Please! Never, ever try to impose discipline or correction when I am angry, distraught, overstimulated, shut down, anxious or otherwise emotionally unable to interact with you.
  • Again, remember that I will react as much, if not more, to the qualities of your voice than to the actual words. I will hear the shouting and the annoyance, but I will not understand the words and therefore will not be able to figure out what I did wrong. Speak in low tones and lower your body as well, so that you are communicating on my level rather than towering over me.
  • Help me understand the inappropriate behavior in a supportive, problem-solving way rather than punishing or scolding me. Help me pin down the feelings that triggered the behavior. I may say I was angry but maybe I was afraid, frustrated, sad or jealous. Probe beyond my first response.
  • Practice or role-play – show me—a better way to handle the situation next time. A storyboard, photo essay or social story helps. Expect to role-play lots over time. There are no one-time fixes. And when I do get it right “next time,” tell me right away.
  • It helps me if you yourself are modeling proper behavior for responding to criticism.

10. Offer real choices – and only real choices. Don’t offer me a choice or ask a “Do you want…?” question unless are willing to accept no for an answer. “No” may be my honest answer to “Do you want to read out loud now?” or “Would you like to share paints with William?” It’s hard for me to trust you when choices are not really choices at all.

You take for granted the amazing number of choices you have on a daily basis. You constantly choose one option over others knowing that both having choices and being able to choose provides you control over your life and future. For me, choices are much more limited, which is why it can be harder to feel confident about myself. Providing me with frequent choices helps me become more actively engaged in everyday life.

  • Whenever possible, offer a choice within a ‘have-to’. Rather than saying: “Write your name and the date on the top of the page,” say: “Would you like to write your name first, or would you like to write the date first?” or “Which would you like to write first, letters or numbers?” Follow by showing me: “See how Jason is writing his name on his paper?”
  • Giving me choices helps me learn appropriate behavior, but I also need to understand that there will be times when you can’t. When this happens, I won’t get as frustrated if I understand why:

1. “I can’t give you a choice in this situation because it is dangerous. You might get hurt.”

2. “I can’t give you that choice because it would be bad for Danny” (have negative effect on another child).

3. “I give you lots of choices but this time it needs to be an adult choice.”

What can video games teach your child?

Learning through video gaming is an engaging way to inntroduce and develop skills in children like persistance, task initation, reading, organisation and time-management.

This week I stumbled across this brilliant site – www.learningworksfor kids.com  this stie identifies which games promote which skills.  The website is focused on the skill so you can select from a sidebar which skill you wish to focus on and the site will tell you which games will help to develope that. 

The site also includes a questionnaire to direct you to the correct games.  The site is going to be upgraded again in 2012 to bring you even more amazing features.

Enjoy! Go here to visit the site.

Children’s Books on Special Needs

Explaining a disability to your child or his classmates, friends and young relatives can be a challenge for parents. These books discuss special needs in a kid-friendly way that can shine a positive light on a tricky topic.

1. Asperger Syndrome
Cover image courtesy of Jessica Kingsley PublishersAll Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopmann; 65 pages.

Each glossy page has a color photo of a cat in an appropriate pose, with a short bit of text describing an Asperger’s behavior. Simple language and big letters make this a nice choice for explaining AS to young siblings or classmates. It may also be a good little volume to pass on to older relatives who don’t quite know how to handle your child’s quirks, and aren’t quite willing or able to read those reams of reports and research you’ve been passing their way.

2. Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Cover image courtesy of Jessica Kingsley PublishersAll Dogs Have ADHD by Kathy Hoopmann; 65 pages.

This sequel to All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome (see above) takes the same approach, matching adorable animal photos with the particular traits of children with the disorder. It’s an extremely accessible formula, and one that has the potential not only to inform, but to make kids with ADHD feel better about themselves by comparison to such cool critters.

3. Down Syndrome
Cover image courtesy of Five Star Publications Inc.I Just Am: A Story of Down Syndrome Awareness and Tolerance by Bryan and Tom Lambke; 85 pages.

If you’re looking for a book to explain Down syndrome to children or teens — anyone, really, who responds to photos and captions better than long detailed text — I Just Am is an excellent choice. Through photos and good-humored captions, Bryan Lambke tells about his life as a person with Down syndrome, and a person with two jobs, and a person with two girlfriends, and a person who loves nachos and pizza, and asks “If this isn’t ‘normal,’ what is?” Accompanying the photo essay are short fact round-ups about Down syndrome and an essay by the daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, who tells of their joyous acceptance of her baby sister with DS.

4. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Cover image courtesy of Jan Crossen9 Lives, I Will Survive (Compare Prices)
9 Lives, Cat Tales (Compare Prices)
9 Lives, Full Circle (Compare Prices)

These three chapter books follow the story of Joshua, a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, from his birth family through foster care and to his adoptive forever family. As he grows up, his behavior becomes increasingly irresponsible and puzzling, until an FASD diagnosis puts the pieces together. The books, a fictionalized account of Crossen’s own son’s story, are written for young readers and those with a lower reading level, with Joshua as a friendly narrator.

5. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Cover image courtesy of Better Endings, New BeginningsMy Invisible World: Life With My Brother, His Disability, and His Service Dog by Morasha R. Winokur; 64 pages plus photos.

A book written for kids by a kid, My Invisible World is a sister’s story of her brother with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. The simple, straightforward text conveys good information about FASD and what how hard an “invisible disability” it can be, and also shares the experience of being a sibling of a child with special needs in a way that transcends this particular disabiity. Also along for the story is Chancer, the brother’s service dog, whose part in the family is sweetly documented.

6. Food Allergies
Cover image courtesy of Gina ClowesOne of the Gang: Nurturing the Souls of Children With Food Allergies by Gina Clowes; 44 pages.

Helping young children understand what it means to have food allergies without scaring them silly is a tough line to walk. This sweet picture book by Gina Clowes of Allergy Moms discusses some of the downside of having to watch what you eat, but emphasizes all the great things food-alllergic kids can do with their friends — and in life, too, with some famous food-allergic adults pitching in. It reminds me of those old Mr. Rogers photo books that applied his gentle approach to explaining disabilities and life issues to kids. That’s about the highest compliment I can give a book like this.

7. Learning Disabilities
Cover image courtesy of Jill LaurenThat’s Like Me!: Stories About Amazing People With Learning Differences by Jill Lauren; 40 pages.

Kids with learning disabilities need role models to let them know they can achieve, and this book offers fifteen stories full of the needed inspiration. Some tell of young people succeeding on their own terms, others of adults who have gone on to success in fields like explorer, trapeze artist, veterinarian, and race-car driver. There’s an introduction by children’s book illustrator Jerry Pinkney, who has dyslexia, and a space at the end for kids to write their own stories.

8. Mental Health
Cover image courtesy of PriceGrabberDon’t Feed the Monster on Tuesdays!: The Chldren’s Self-Esteem Book by Adolph Moser; 55 pages.

Talking to your child about mental-health issues can be tricky. How do you explain to a child, especially a learning-disabled or language-challenged one, that the way he or she is thinking is wrong, without lecturing, confusing, or criticizing? It’s so easy to add to bad feelings while you’re trying to relieve them. That’s where Don’t Feed the Monster on Tuesdays! and other books in Adolph Moser’s day-of-the-week series come in. Written for kids, with simple language and colorful pictures, it explains the problem and offers practical suggestions for solving it. Other titles deal with stress, anger, grief, lying, and violence.

9. Sensory Processing Disorder
Cover image courtesy of PriceGrabberThe Goodenoughs Get in Sync: A Story for Kids About the Tough Day When Filibuster Grabbed Darwin’s Rabbit’s Foot and the Whole Family Ended Up in the Doghouse: An Introduction to Sensory Processing Disorder and Sensory Integration by Carol Stock Kranowitz, illustrated by T.J. Wylie; 89 pages.

Filibuster’s a dog. Darwin’s a boy. And the Goodenoughs are a family with a spectrum of sensory problems that make them perfect for explaining sensory integration to children and helping them feel better about the way their own bodies work. Kranowitz, author of The Out-of-Sync Child, wrote this book for children ages 8-12, but it breaks things down pretty nicely for their parents, too, with smaller-print sections kids are allowed to skip.

10. Tourette Syndrome
Cover image courtesy of Five Star Publications, Inc.Tic Talk: Living With Tourette Syndrome: A 9-Year-Old Boy’s Story in His Own Words by Dylan Peters, illustrated by Zachary Wendland, painted by Kris Taft Miller; 50 pages.

In clear, simple first-person prose, with help from his buddy Zach’s illustrations, Dylan Peters tells about being diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, his fear of telling his friends about his condition, his worries about what they must think about his tics, and his eventual decision to make a presentation to his third-grade class. The way his friends accept him makes this a good choice for sharing with your own child’s classmates — and the tips for teachers at the back of them book can help them be a little more sensitive, too.

http://specialchildren.about.com/od/goodbooks/tp/Special-Needs-Children-s-Books.htm

Autistic Girl Expresses Unimaginable Intelligence

Meet Carly, a young girl with Autism who for the first time expresses her voice in a shocking way! What an inspiring story which provides evidence that we don’t have all the answers on Autism.  

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Ocean Heaven -Free viewing in January

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There will be a free viewing of the movie Ocean Heaven this month on the following dates and times at the EDSA Shangri-la.

January 21 9:00 pm

January 22 1:30 pm

January 23 6:30 pm

January 25 6:00 pm

January 27  1:30 pm

January 28  3:30 pm

January 29  8:30 pm



Ocean Heaven is a heartwarming film about a Dying Father and his fight to help his  autistic son. You can view the trailor above. The free viewing is courtesy of Ateneo as part of the Chinese New Year Celebration.

Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison

Look Me in the Eye Book Trailer

A must-read book that provides a first-person insight into the world of Asperger’s.

Structured Playdates

Structured Play Dates for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

By Charro Gonzales

I have a child who was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism when she was 9 (speech and language disorder when she was 2 and PDD-NOS when she was 7).   She had been attending speech therapy since she was 2 and some occupational therapy for sensory issues when she was 7.  Like many parents of special needs children, my husband and I were always on the lookout for opportunities to help our child.

This was the reason why I attended the International Autism Conference held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila on February 3-5, 2010.  There were a lot of excellent presentations but the one that totally caught my attention was that of Dr. Pamela Wolfberg, a professor of special education at the San Francisco State University and the creator of the play therapy model called the Integrated Play Groups (IPG) model.

My daughter and what I have later read about Dr. Wolfberg’s IPG motivated me to develop what I call the Structured Play Date (SPD), which I conceptualized as a home-based intervention that parents like me could implement to help our children with autism spectrum disorders acquire social skills.  That was my final paper for my Masters in Education, major in Special Education which I completed in May 2012.

To give my concept more breadth, I ran 10 sessions of the SPD over 3 months on a 5-year old boy with autism, together with his mom, caregivers and playmates (they were volunteers).  Towards the latter part, I let the mom ran the sessions because that was the idea after all—to empower the parents.  My anecdotal reports and feedback from the boy’s mom, and caregivers, and unsolicited comments made by his teachers and speech and occupational therapists, show that there were positive shifts in the child’s behavior (and his peers too), in the aspect of making and/or prolonging eye contact, attending to play interactions, and initiating play through gestures and/or vocal utterances that approximated words.  The results were really quite encouraging!

I know that it’s still too premature to make any conclusions so I hope to run more of the SPDs with other children with autism spectrum disorders.   It’s really very challenging because of the very personal and individualized nature of the SPD itself, where the setting (the child’s home) is as critical as his parents’ participation and the availability of playmates are concerned.   I have encountered parents who were hesitant to invite playmates because they didn’t want them to know that their child has autism.  I know that that would continue to be the biggest hurdle—acceptance.

For more information on the Integrated Play Groups, please visit http://autisminstitute.com/index.htm .

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Current Movies Feature Asperger’s

Two Current Movies Feature Asperger’s

Joyful Noise (Trailer below)

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Trailer below)

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*Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close garnered two Academy Award nominations including for Best Picture. Not writing about on “The Journey with Grace,” but Meryl Streep delivered her ever-classic and flawless performance on The Iron Lady. That’s another one worth catching when out on a winter’s eve.

Raising Cubby by John Elder Robison

Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives

by John Elder Robison (Goodreads Author)

The slyly funny, sweetly moving memoir of an unconventional dad’s relationship with his equally offbeat son—complete with fast cars, tall tales, homemade explosives, and a whole lot of fun and trouble   Misfit, truant, delinquent. John Robison was never a model child, and he wasn’t a model dad either. Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of forty, he approached fatherhood as a series of logic puzzles and practical jokes. When his son, Cubby, asked, “Where did I come from?” John said he’d bought him at the Kid Store and that the salesman had cheated him by promising Cubby would “do all chores.” He read electrical engineering manuals to Cubby at bedtime. He told Cubby that wizards turned children into stone when they misbehaved.


Still, John got the basics right. He made sure Cubby never drank diesel fuel at the automobile repair shop he owns. And he gave him a life of adventure: By the time Cubby was ten, he’d steered a Coast Guard cutter, driven a freight locomotive, and run an antique Rolls Royce into a fence.


The one thing John couldn’t figure out was what to do when school authorities decided that Cubby was dumb and stubborn—the very same thing he had been told as a child. Did Cubby have Asperger’s too? The answer was unclear. One thing was clear, though: By the time he turned seventeen, Cubby had become a brilliant chemist—smart enough to make military-grade explosives and bring state and federal agents calling. Afterward, with Cubby facing up to sixty years in prison, both father and son were forced to take stock of their lives, finally coming to terms with being “on the spectrum” as both a challenge and a unique gift.


By turns tender, suspenseful, and hilarious, this is more than just the story of raising Cubby. It’s the story of a father and son who grow up together.


Praise for John Robison’s first book, Look Me In the Eye:
“Lean, powerful in its descriptive accuracy and engaging in its understated humor…Emotionally gripping.” —Chicago Tribune
“A fantastic life story told with grace, humor, and a bracing lack of sentimentality.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Endearing…Robison is a natural storyteller.” —Boston Globe

Hardcover, 384 pages

Expected publication: March 12th 2013 by Crown (first published January 15th 2013)

ISBN 0307884848 (ISBN13: 9780307884848)
.

edition language: English

‘Autism doesn’t hold me back. I’m moving up the career ladder’

Driven new generation of people with the condition are showing employers there is no limit to what they can do

Amelia Hill

The Guardian, Friday 8 March 2013 19.13 GMT

Autism Doesn’t Hold Me Back – Video “Disability in the workplace-We’re not rainmen”

Jonathan Young has big plans for his career. The business analyst at Goldman Sachs is on the autistic spectrum. But this, he says, is not something he allows to hold him back.

“I’m the company’s global go-to guy for all the information used in every single one of our internal and external presentations,” he says. “I’m moving up the ladder every year in terms of responsibility or promotion. My ambition is to maintain this momentum. In 10 years, I want to be someone fairly big.”

He is part of the most visible generation of young people with autism our society has ever known. Diagnosed early, this generation have been educated to expect not just a job when they leave school but a career on a par with their “neuro-typical” contemporaries.

The confidence and determination of these graduates – some of whom are educated to PhD level – are forcing the pace of change in organisations previously inaccessible to those with autism. Businesses, from City law firms and banks to global healthcare companies, have begun to open their doors to young people once thought able only to do lowly jobs.

Young first went to Goldman Sachs as an intern in the National Autistic Society’s specialist employment programme, Prospects. His time at the investment bank was such a success that the two-month internship swiftly became a full-time, permanent post.

“When I arrived, this role was a part-time job but I built it up into a key, full-time post and made it my own,” he said. “Autism doesn’t hold me back because I have had the correct support from a young age. It’s key to have that support, both in education and in the workplace, but I don’t require anything complicated: people just have to understand that I’m different.”

For all his confidence, Young admits that he considers himself fortunate. “I never lose sight of the fact that I’m lucky to have a job that allows me to use all my intelligence and stretch my potential,” he said.

Prospects has placed young people with autism in companies including Thomson Reuters, the law firms Clifford Chance and Ashurst, the technology and business consultant Cartesian, and John Lewis.

Penny Andrews got her job as a library graduate trainee at Leeds Metropolitan University in August without any help from a charity or specialist employment agency.

Having beaten 200 applicants to the job, she believes she has proved herself to be the best candidate. “Sometimes I feel people think I should be grateful that I have a job but I’m performing a useful task and doing it well, so they should be grateful to me,” she said. “After all, they wanted me badly enough to employ me a month before I had finished my degree in IT and communications with the Open University.”

Far from feeling that her diagnosis of Asperger’s is something to be “got over”, Andrews maintains it gave her a lead over the other candidates. “I was completely open about my autism throughout the interview process and even asked for a few special conditions to take account of my Asperger’s, such as working from 8.30am to 4.30pm,for example, so I don’t have to take the rush-hour bus home, taking extra breaks in a special quiet area if I need quiet, and not having to answer telephones.”

They are small adjustments for her employers to make, she said, compared with the advantages her Asperger’s gives them. “I’m more focused, intense and honest than a neuro-typical person,” she said. “I do things thoroughly and pay proper attention to detail. I’m always switched on: even when I’m not at work, I’ll go to events that are relevant. Libraries are one of my autistic specialities and I harness that at work.”

Employers’ attitudes might be changing but there is a lot of ground to make up. Just 15% of those with autism have full-time jobs, according to research by the National Autistic Society (Nas), while 9% work part-time. These figures compare unfavourably with the 31% of disabled people in full-time work in the UK. More than a quarter of graduates with autism are unemployed, the highest rate of any disability group. Nevertheless, employers are increasingly coming round to the arguments from disability advocates that employing those on the spectrum is not about charity or social responsibility – but the empirical benefit of taking on people with unique skills.

Tom Madders is head of campaigns at the society and responsible for its Undiscovered Workforce campaign to get young people with autism into employment. He talks of a “vast pool of untapped talent” among those with autism.

“When someone has the intellectual ability and ends up doing a job like working in a supermarket, it’s heartbreaking. It’s such a waste because although everyone with autism is different, the things they bring that are additional to the rest of us include a very high concentration level, very good attention to detail and analytical skills that are key in data analysis and when looking for anomalies in complex spreadsheets,” he said. “Why would employers want to miss out on those skills? In addition, those with autism have very specialist areas of exhaustive interest which, if these can coincide with the job in hand, can be extremely useful. They’re much more reliable in terms of timeliness and absenteeism and very loyal. Often, they’re very happy in jobs other people find boring.”

William Thanh’s boss at the Paul bakery in London is so impressed with his work that she wants to increase his hours. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

William Thanh has such severe autism that he can only communicate through his iPad. But his work at the Paul bakery in London is of such high quality that the manager, Salina Gani, is keen to increase his hours.

“When we decided to take on three young people with autism last year, we thought there would be limits to what they could achieve,” said Gani. “But these young men have shown us that we shouldn’t assume anything on the basis of their autism alone. Yes, they need work that’s repetitive and structured, but much of the service industry is like that anyway. We would gladly take them on full-time and increase the numbers of people with autism working for us across all our outlets.”

At Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals in London, an initiative was set up two years ago to help people aged 18 to 30 with autism gain work experience. Of the 20 or so interns who completed the scheme, four have jobs at the hospital. The third cohort of about 16 young people to begin this year will be twice as large as that in the first year.

Staynton Brown, associate director of equality and diversity at the hospital, dismisses any suggestion of the initiative being a philanthropic one. “This is not a charitable gesture,” he said. “We want to make sure we have the most talented workforce possible. It’s in our interests in multiple ways. For a start, this hospital serves a very diverse population and we want to do that to the best of our ability, which is more likely to happen if our workforce is used to working alongside a diverse group of colleagues.

“We’ve all benefited from the changes we’ve incorporated to accommodate those with autism. By clarifying the way we give information to and help introduce the interns into the hospital, we’ve made communication clearer for everyone, which leads to better patient care.”

William Elliott, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, agreed. “Employers are thinking more diversely about their workforce because they want to get the best talent through the door. We’re increasingly recognising those talents can be found within this historically underrepresented group.

It’s a lot easier than most people think to integrate someone with autism into the workplace. It just takes a good manager who is prepared to give some time to bring that person on, an approach which will be of benefit to every new employee.”

Project Search, a programme supported by the Office for Disability Issues, helps those with autism find – and keep – permanent employment in companies including GlaxoSmithKline and the security firm G4S. About 30% of Project Search graduates have been taken on by their host employers. An additional 30% are signed up by other employers.

“People are being recruited on Project Search before they have even finished the programme because, far from being seen as a charity scheme, these young people are rightly regarded as a talent pool, like student nurses,” said Anne O’Bryan, who runs the European arm of the programme.

Some of the improvements can be traced to government policies. The Autism Act 2009 – a response to poor employment rates for people with autism – was the first disability-specific legislation to be passed by the government.

In 2011, the Department for Work and Pensions and Nas published a guide for employers, Untapped Talent. But David Perkins, manager of Prospects at Nas, said the government had done as much harm as it had good. “Unfortunately, things really haven’t improved in terms of employing people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome over the last few years,” he said.

Prospects has helped place 30% of its clients in work – 18 people in 2012 and 15 in 2011. But these figures, said Perkins, are down on the three years before. He blames the government’s Work Programme.

“It has been detrimental in helping people with autism to find employment because it really doesn’t reflect the specific needs and difficulties people with the condition might have in terms of employment,” he said, pointing out that some Work Programme providers were getting just 3.5% of clients into jobs.

“Funding for courses such as our own – which is 10 times more successful – is extremely limited, and those with autism who want to work continue to struggle to get adequate support to allow them to do so,” he said. “As things stand, there is so little help out there for the around one in 100 adults with the condition, that finding sustainable employment for people with autism is an uphill battle.”

But Peta Troke of Autism Plus is more optimistic. “The job market is opening up to people with autism in a way it never has before,” she said. “There’s a ‘can-do’ attitude around people with autism now. There’s a spark.”

Unrealised potential

• Only 15% of adults with autism in the UK are in full-time paid employment and only 9% are in part-time employment.

• 26% of graduates with autism are unemployed, by far the highest rate of any disability group.

• Of those who do not currently have a job, 59% do not believe or think they will ever be able to get one.

• According to the National Autistic Society, most of the 300,000-plus working-age adults with autism want to work but are held back by a lack of understanding of autism and a dearth of specialist employment services.

• With help from the National Autistic Society’s employment support service Prospects, 70% of adults with autism were able to find a job.

• Only 10% of adults with autism receive support in finding work but 53% would like it.

• 79% of adults with autism who receive out of work benefits say they would rather work.

• 37% of adults with autism have never had a paid job after the age of 16 and 41% of people over the age of 55 have spent a period of more than 10 years without a paid job.

• 51% of adults with autism in the UK have lived through a period in which they have had neither a job nor access to benefits. Of those, 10% have been in this position for a decade or more.

• Of those who have worked, about a third said that they had experienced bullying and felt that they had received unfair treatment or discrimination as a result of their disability.

• Job applications and interview processes can be particularly challenging for people with autism, as the condition can affect the ability to communicate. Often “good communication skills” are described as a prerequisite in a job specification, even when the role does not directly require them – which can discourage people with autism from applying. Research by Jemma Buckley

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/mar/08/autism-career-ladder-workplace

Max From NBC’s ‘Parenthood’ Talks Asperger’s

Max Burkholder plays Max Braverman on NBC's "Parenthood." (Mitchell Haaseth/NBC)

When NBC’s “Parenthood” premiered in March, viewers quickly learned that 8-year-old Max Braverman has Asperger’s syndrome. Since then, autism has emerged as a central part of nearly every episode of the drama, which focuses on the experiences of three generations of a California family.

The Asperger’s storyline follows the family’s journey to accept Max’s diagnosis and help him progress, all while dealing with their own emotions. The show’s heavy focus on life with a developmental disability is believed to be a first and so far audiences both with and without ties to autism seem to be responding.

“While not all parents are dealing with autism or Asperger’s, what I do find is all parents are dealing with something with their kids,” says Jason Katims, the show’s creator who himself has a son on the autism spectrum.

At the heart of the “Parenthood” drama is actor Max Burkholder, 13, in the role of Max Braverman. Nearly halfway through the show’s second season, Burkholder opens up to Disability Scoop about what it’s like to play a character with Asperger’s.

Disability Scoop: How did you land the role of Max on “Parenthood”?

Max Burkholder: I went in to audition and I really liked it a lot, so I was hoping that I would get called back. I had no idea what autism was before so I wanted to be able to learn more. It’s hard sometimes thinking of stuff that a person with autism might do in any given situation, but it’s still really fun.

Disability Scoop: What’s it like to play a character with Asperger’s syndrome?

Max Burkholder: It’s quite a bit harder because I have to figure out a way of expressing what Max is feeling without making it seem that he doesn’t have Asperger’s.

Disability Scoop: What goes through your mind to get into character?

Max Burkholder: I just think what Max might be feeling. He has special interests, like he loves bugs, anything about bugs. So whenever there’s something about bugs I try to seem really interested. But he doesn’t like to be touched so I make myself think that if this person touches me, it’s going to hurt a lot.

Disability Scoop: How do you make sure that your portrayal is realistic?

Max Burkholder: Every couple of episodes I get together with an Asperger’s doctor, the director and the executive producer and we talk about what Max might do in the given situations in the script. I get new ideas about what to do during the scenes — how he would act, what he would say — because a lot of ad libbing happens on the show. As I do more and more, I start to understand more about what Max might be feeling.

Disability Scoop: What have you learned about autism since taking on the role?

Max Burkholder: It’s different for every person, but it’s really just being a little more sensitive than you normally would be to things like sight, sound and touch and they can’t really understand facial expressions and social cues.

Disability Scoop: In real life, are you anything like the character you play?

Max Burkholder: I tend to obsess over things as well. I obsess over video games. In that way, I’m kind of like Max. Another big similarity is I don’t like my food to touch. Some big differences are I don’t mind being touched and I can change the topic of my conversation and I can read expressions.

Disability Scoop: What’s the most challenging scene you’ve had to do on this show?

Max Burkholder: At one point I had a hissing cockroach right in front of me during a scene where I was eating and I just had so much trouble keeping it down. It was not a fun day.

Disability Scoop: Have you gotten any feedback about your portrayal of Max?

Max Burkholder: I recently got a letter from a girl who has Asperger’s and she thought that I was doing well and I was really excited. It’s pretty touching when someone who actually has the syndrome thinks I’m doing a good job at portraying it.

Disability Scoop: Do you know what comes next for Max or is there anything you’d like to see him do?

Max Burkholder: We usually get the script only a few days before we film, so I don’t know what’s coming next. If I had to guess, I’d probably say he gets better. I’d like to see him conquer some of the harder things that people with Asperger’s go through like not being able to read social cues.

http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2010/11/09/parenthood/11084/

 

Whole Body Listening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wholebodylistening

 

 

Tumble Books

Tumble Books is a huge online resource of books which can be read or listened to online. Many of the books have quizzes and questions afterword to help explore children's comprehension of the book. To access this students must use the log-in name and password given to them by the school. Please see the LS teacher or classroom teacher for more details.

Brain Pop

Brain POP is the home of fun learning! This site offers student the chance to explore many aspects of the world around us in a lively and exciting way. To access this students must use the log-in name and password given to them by the school. Please see the LS teacher or classroom teacher for more details.

Dance Mat Typing

BBC School's Dance Mat Typing is THE place to go for the least boring way to learn to touch type! This site takes student's through basic typing skills via a host of fun songs and crazy characters. No passwork required!