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.
“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!)
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.
Most autistics struggle with sensory processing issues on a daily basis, and they need a safe place to provide respite from stressful and overwhelming environments. A sensory-friendly home is an environment optimized to meet the sensory needs of an autistic child and is crucial to decreasing stress and increasing functionality and overall happiness. » Read more