Feb 04

Mapping Development 101

Posted: under communication, interventions, life on the spectrum, opinion, parenting.
Tags: , , ,  February 4th, 2009

Uneven development across various cognitive domains is more common than most people realize, but people with autism usually show extreme unevenness.    Anyone working with autistic children needs to be aware of these extremes–and mapping developmental levels in each domain can help target interventions to that particular child’s actual needs.    These interventions should not be aimed at raising the child’s gaps to equal his talents–or stifling the talents to the level of the gaps.  Instead, the goal should be to scaffold progress in each domain from where the child actually is, at the best rate that the child can manage in each.

I learned this first as a tutor, coming in to rescue a child who had started failing in a subject or had some other problem.   To do my job, I needed to find out what the child knew, what the child thought he/she knew, and what had gone wrong–as fast as possible and while building a working relationship with that child.

How do you approach this problem?   It starts with careful, precise observation of the child’s current behaviors in each domain.  Big sheets of graph paper help both the mapping and charting progress.   An ordinary “baby book” that gives general information about normal development allows parents to do at least a rough approximation themselves.

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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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