Feb 05

Temple Grandin: the movie

Posted: under communication, disability issues, education, employment, interventions, life on the spectrum, parenting, sensory processing, socialization.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,  February 5th, 2010

You’ve probably heard of this movie.   If not, or if, having heard of it, you had reservations about it (I did), here’s the good news: it’s better than you think.  It’s an incredible, brilliant movie that shows Temple Grandin’s triumph over both the problems autism gave her, and the society that did not have a clue and did not believe autistic people had a future.   And it shows the value of her life’s work, her designs for livestock management.  Because of her, half the livestock facilities in the world–not just here–handle their stock more humanely.  And–(yes, there’s more) it shows how she thinks–because it is a visual medium, a movie can show the pictures she thinks with. Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb 04

College: Third Week & solo

Posted: under communication, life on the spectrum, parenting, socialization.
Tags: , , , , ,  February 4th, 2010

We’d planned to have a parent ride the buses with M- and be available nearby on campus for the first month…but a combination of things (including M- commenting on the way home one night in the second week that he thought it would be more fun when he could go alone)  led to this morning…we dropped him off at the bus station 20 miles closer to the city, where the express bus runs to downtown.  From there he would transfer to a local headed back north and end up at the campus.   He was supposed to call us from campus when he arrived, which should’ve been about 8 am.

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Jan 22

College, First Week

Posted: under communication, education, life on the spectrum, parenting, socialization.
Tags: , , , ,  January 22nd, 2010

One of the things many parents wonder about–and worry about–is whether their kid with disabilities will be able to go to college.   It’s pretty easy, sometimes, to come up with a firm “No, sorry, this child will simply never be able to attend college” and at that point concern can shift to other ways to prepare the child for adult life.  And sometimes it’s pretty easy to see that a given child will be able to–colleges now accommodate students in wheelchairs, for instance, much better than they did fifty years ago, when simply being unable to walk unaided barred wheel-chair bound students who could not reach classrooms or labs or rooms in the dorms.

It’s the borderline ones–the “maybe” cases–that cause parents the most angst.  I know, because I have one of those.    And yet…in time, with enough hard work from everyone involved…sometimes “maybe” turns to “yes.”   Yesterday we had a taste of “yes.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Jan 08


Posted: under education, parenting, socialization.
Tags: , ,  January 8th, 2010

If you can’t drive, and probably won’t ever drive, then learning to use public transportation is a necessity.   We’ve worked on this since our son was quite young, and by the time we faced the “how to get him to his classes in the city” he had been on buses, trains, subways, and airplanes (oh, and ferry boats) so we did not expect much difficulty with this. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep 03

Mr. Responsibility

Posted: under employment, socialization.
Tags: , ,  September 3rd, 2009

One of the things people sometimes complain of with persons on the spectrum is their “rigidity” and their strict interpretation of,  and adherence to, rules.   Rules they’ve internalized, that is.  But the flip side of “rigidity” is “reliability”–a trait prized by employers.    I was strongly reminded of that today, when our son left me an email (at 7:30 am, that I didn’t see until much later) that he was going out with the man who takes him to interview for other jobs–and I knew he needed to be back in the afternoon to work a shift at his current job.

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Aug 28

Indirect Communication

Posted: under life on the spectrum, parenting, socialization.
Tags: ,  August 28th, 2009

This evening our son came over to the house around 7 pm.    I was polishing silver.  He said “Hi” and I said “Hi” and he wandered around in a vague sort of way.  I asked if he’d eaten supper yet and he said yes, he’d had spaghetti and meatballs.  I finished the spoons I was working on, put them away, and went back to my study to get some work done until Richard came in from the land, since M- hadn’t said he wanted anything and he often uses Richard’s computer (it has broadband.  His house doesn’t.)

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Mar 15

Rude Words

Posted: under communication, life on the spectrum, parenting, socialization.
Tags: , , ,  March 15th, 2009

When our son was just beginning to be verbal, and able to say words with a consonant on each end,  one of his therapists suggested we introduce him to rhyming words as a way of training his ear and his speech…extending the consonants he could say,  and so on.

This certainly helped, and he began to try out combinations himself (which was good) except for one little problem.   If you start rhyming one-syllable words in English…starting from harmless familiar words like for instance “bit” and “pit” and “sit”….you end up with words that are considered inappropriate for small children to say.   The child may never have heard those words, the ones that rhyme with “sit” and “bird” and so on, and have no idea what they mean…but if your larger-than-average, older-than-average-when-learning-to-talk autistic child says them,  social disapproval rains down all over the scene.   And autistic kids don’t need any more social disapproval than they get already.

So the day came when our bright-eyed little guy very proudly (and it was an accomplishment–he had just managed the /sh/ sound the week before)  went through his “–it” words and added “sh*t.”

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Jan 06

Reciprocity & the Social Contract

Posted: under interventions, life on the spectrum, opinion, socialization.
Tags: , , , ,  January 6th, 2009

The basis of a healthy social contract between individuals is reciprocity.  At root, individuals bond–as family members, friends, lovers–because they give each other pleasure.  The more pleasure–and the more equal the sharing–the closer the bond.

The game starts at birth.   Adults must start it, as they are the more competent partner (or should be.)  Given the average infant, the average advice on child-rearing results in a baby who soon realizes that people make him feel safe and comfortable and happy.  Within weeks, the baby is responding to this with signs of happiness as well as notices of “something’s wrong, fix it!”    Caring adults are then rewarded by the baby’s joy.  They like the smiles, the coos, the wiggly arms and legs, all the signals that the baby is happy and likes having them around.

Adults then intensify their attempts to get these happy reactions from the baby, repeating the ones that work–because they’re enjoying the baby just as the baby is enjoying them.    Before the average baby is a year old, he knows that adults take pleasure in him–some of the time–and can tell when he’s pleased an adult.   Average babies begin consciously seeking to please their adults at least some of the time–more if the adults are also playing fair, not demanding more than the baby can give.  (Adults have longer attention spans, and often want babies to interact longer than the baby can.)

This is the basis of healthy social motivation.

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Dec 24


Posted: under life on the spectrum, socialization.
Tags: ,  December 24th, 2008

A word of hope:  the same kid who, at six, could still not stand the noise and confusion of a typical birthday party, may be able to attend the holiday party at his job and later gleefully announce “We had Chinese food for free!”

There were a lot of years in between and a lot of work, but gradually, step by step, tolerance for noise and confusion and strangers led to where we are now:  he likes parties.  He likes parties here, he likes parties at friends’ houses, he likes parties at restaurants…parties with and without music (including music way too loud for me!)

True, he needed assistance in buying a present for the office party (parent conference with supervisor over what would be best), and some assistance in obtaining/wrapping/presenting it, but he did it, and he’s happy about it, and so are we.

I could grieve about all the parties he missed when he was little…but it seems more useful to be glad that he now thoroughly enjoys them.   The long-term goal trumps short-term disappointments.

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Dec 21

Behavior Analysis

Posted: under communication, socialization.
Tags: , , ,  December 21st, 2008

Years ago I took a graduate school class in Animal Behavior.   The study of animal behavior had made great leaps forward in the decade before, after pioneer students of animal behavior learned how to analyze animal behavior in detail.   The study of human behavior lagged badly…it’s now catching up, but still bedeviled by the very assumptions we were taught to avoid when studying animal behavior.

All behavior, we were taught, is meaningful–it means something, it communicates something about the subject.  Probably not what you first think of, either.   For instance, most of us interpret behavior in terms of a critter’s conscious intent:  we think of a cow or a horse or a small child as “stubborn” when they don’t do what we want.  We may think they’re “trying to make me mad.”   In autistic terms, we fail to demonstrate a theory of mind–the understanding that reality, to the other person or animal, is not necessarily our reality.

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