Dr. Stephen Shore is a professor at Adelphi University, autism author, music teacher, and international autism speaker. He recently spoke with me about his experience living with autism and offered educational advice for autistic students. Part One of this post offers an overview of his personal schooling and suggestions for families trying to help their children transition into general education settings and get the most out of an I.E.P. conference. His answers from our interview have been transcribed below.
Do you remember your parents telling you, “Look at me when I’m talking to you!” demanding you show them respect? Eye contact and autism is a controversial and complex issue. Therapists, educators, and parents often insist autistic people make eye contact with them. They assume that people cannot listen and understand what they are trying to say unless they are making eye contact. Since communication breakdown is a central issue to autism spectrum disorders, parents and professionals naturally feel that eye contact is an important first step to teaching. But anyone who has talked to autistic individuals understands that this issue is more complex than we realize.
When I first heard about the neurodiversity movement, it made a lot of sense to me and offered immediate advice for teaching my son about autism and helping him grow comfortable with his identity and confident in the pursuit of his dreams. But not all parents and autistic individuals have adopted the neurodiversity philosophy.
This week’s interview is with Gavin, an autism blogger and IT specialist who spoke about his experience and advice for autistic individuals in the workforce. He has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and has two sons who are also on the spectrum. Gavin blogs about some of the positive aspects of autism at Life with Asperger’s with the overall aim “to increase the amount of first-hand knowledge about Asperger’s.” His blog includes several series articles to help parents and children on the spectrum with a variety of topics including autism acceptance, bullying, advocacy, medication, and employment.
“He’s a little autistic, but he’s fine.” You may have heard someone describe an individual with “high-functioning autism,” Asperger’s Syndrome, or PDD-NOS in this way, actually believing they are being complimentary (See how Ben describes this label in my earlier post). The language used to describe verbal autistics (in terms of how they compare to neurotypicals) leads to some common misunderstandings about autism. Individuals with what some refer to as “high-functioning autism” (See Autism Language Mistakes download for why not to use this term), Asperger’s Syndrome, or PDD-NOS often experience regular discrimination due to these misunderstandings.
In my last post, I discussed some of the controversy surrounding Applied Behavior Analysis therapy (ABA) and how Natural Environment Training (NET) might be a nice compromise for parents who want to try the therapy but are apprehensive about its intensity. In this post, I’ll explain our family’s experience with both therapies. While our story isn’t necessarily representative of either mode of therapy, it may offer some useful information for families considering these interventions for their children.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a popular therapy for children and young adults on the autism spectrum. Despite the scientific data supporting the effectiveness of ABA, this therapy has been scrutinized by the autistic community for its widespread unethical administration. The ABA debate can be confusing to parents who are trying to find the best resources and supports for their autistic children. For parents skeptical of ABA therapy, the natural environment training (or teaching) (NET) branch may offer a compromise.
I recently experienced the anxiety autistics and their parents sometimes face when confronted with law enforcement (albeit on a small scale) due to a lack of autism awareness. It reminded me of my neurotypical privilege in yet another aspect of life.
My son, Mikan, is fascinated with maps and geography and has always wanted to travel to other countries. When he was four, he could draw and label the entire United States as well as several other countries (His drawings have always kept the families behind us in church entertained!)
Angela is a 38-year-old mother of five (four of whom are on the autism spectrum) and avid musician. She is currently completing her thesis for a Master’s in Data Analytics and works in Customer Quality, dealing with complaints data in a wide variety of ways.
Angela answered several questions about autism advocacy: » Read more
Learning isn’t always fascinating, exciting, or rewarding for all children. For students with sensory processing issues, the school environment can be frighteningly unpredictable and stressful. Because your children will spend the majority of their waking hours at school, it is critical to ensure their educational environment meets their sensory needs in order to optimize health, safety, and learning potential. The most common issues teachers see in children who have sensory processing difficulties are an inability to focus or to sit long enough to learn. The goal of a sensory-friendly classroom is to create a comfortable and attentive state for a student, which is optimal for learning.