My daughter, Julia, and I discovered a public library program called Story PALS back in 2009. The program is designed for reluctant readers ages 6 – 12. A child comes to the library and reads aloud to a dog once a week to make them less anxious about reading aloud in front of people. The dogs come from an organization called…
A woman who worked with a nonverbal, visually impaired young man with autism asked me an interesting question. She was told the young man had low cognitive ability but when he heard music, he came alive. Sitting in his wheelchair, he would rock back and forth in time to the music and hum along to songs. When the music was no longer playing, he would hum the songs and everyone around him recognized the tunes. She was wondering if there was a way she could explore this connection to music in some way to enhance his life and maybe teach him some things too. As a classical musician and former music teacher, my response was an enthusiastic yes!
The positive effects animals have on individuals with autism was recently highlighted in a study from the NIH/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The study found when animals are present, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have lower readings on a device that detects anxiety and other forms of social arousal when interacting with their peers.
The holiday season means more opportunities for socializing with friends, family, and co-workers. No matter where or what the festivities are, chances are you’ll encounter someone on the autism spectrum. Contrary to popular belief, people with autism do want to be included and enjoy opportunities to socialize. What can be difficult for them is starting a conversation or keeping one…
Great strides have been made in reducing the number of nonverbal people with autism from 50 percent to 25 percent. This decline is more than likely due to early intervention programs and the diagnosis of milder forms of autism. Early intervention programs have been promoting language development. Researchers are now saying to better understand and treat this subgroup of nonverbal…
Whether you are a parent or professional, encouraging language development can be a difficult task. Many children with autism don’t seek out interaction with people and language delays/difficulties can impede the acquisition of speech. A lack of speech along with the ability to express wishes or thoughts can result in challenging behavior.
The other challenge with communication is a lack of nonverbal cues such as pointing or using facial expressions. Even before language develops, toddlers use nonverbal techniques to get their message across. Eye contact, eye gaze, and hand gestures can give an adult cues about what the child wants.
People on the autism spectrum tend to learn best using visual supports rather than through auditory input. Seeing it, rather than saying it, helps the person retain and process information. Temple Grandin, the most famous woman in the world with autism, describes being a visual thinker in her excellent book Thinking in Pictures.
Visual supports can be used to: create daily/weekly schedules, show sequential steps in a task such as a bedtime routine or getting dressed, demonstrate units of time, make a “to do” list, or to aide communication.
There are many treatment options and teaching strategies in the field of autism spectrum disorders which assume that something must be changed about the person with ASD: their behavior, their responses, their thoughts, or their communication skills. The intent of this article is to introduce a broader, more inclusive, and possibly courageous, approach. We begin by first acknowledging that with the autism spectrum comes a different style of communication – different from the widespread style of communication that most (non-autistic) people are familiar with and unconsciously expect. Then consider the idea that miscommunication and misunderstanding often result from a mismatched style of communicating – and finally, that all of us are responsible when desiring improved communication.
Speaking in sounds, movements, through the feel and theme of songs, jingles and advertisments was my first language. Affirmation was a structure that made sense, to use a jingle to affirm a feeling. So someone says, ‘we’re going’ out and I say ‘Gilligan’s Island’ to me this is an affirmation, just they are speaking interpretively and I’m speaking in theme and feel. Statements made sense because I was all self/no other, and all other/no self.
As part of a qualitative methodology course at the University of Ottawa in the Faculty of Education, graduate students were invited to conduct a “pilot research study” employing one of the five traditions of inquiry identified by Creswell (1998). Struck by the phenomenological approach, I chose an “incident” of interest to me – the case of a boy with Asperger’s syndrome who had used a ventriloquist’s puppet to communicate in an unusual way with his family, friends and ultimately – himself.