Gunilla Gerland: 5 Secrets to Success for Professionals in the Autism Field
While at the Autism Europe Conference, I had the great pleasure of listening to Swedish lecturer Gunilla Gerland speak about being a professional in the autism field. Having grown up with Asperger Syndrome in an unsympathetic environment, she had great insights. She wrote a book called Secrets to Success for Professionals in the Autism Field. Gunilla talked about essential tools such as visual aids and how we don’t use them enough with very verbal people.
Five main secrets for success for professionals in the Autism Field
1)Be ethical in how much of your own views you impose on your students or wards. We also have to be ethical with them and not steer people. Those in our care must be allowed to chose their own view points and follow their own belief systems
2) See people from a developmental perspective. For example, Theory of Mind can allow us to see that a student might be delayed in some areas, so a 15 year old can be like a 3 year old in some respects.
3)Challenging behavior is normal in young children, all young children regardless of their status is going to engage in some forms of behavior we might find challenging. As a person ages, they need to become motivated not to engage in challenging behavior.
4)Professionals shouldn’t nag. They have to build trust with the people they are supporting. If you overdraw on the “trust account”, you will have trouble. When the trust is strong, Gunilla says, you can “offer him a mile and he’ll only need an inch”. Communication must be transparent. Tell a person what is going on and remember that people with autism are adept at picking up on nonverbal communication. Your fear and anxiety can be felt.
5)Empower people to make informed decisions by giving the possible outcomes of a decision they want to make. We don’t always know what is best for a person and have to let people make their own mistakes. This is how we learn and grow.
To learn more about being a professional in the autism field, read Gunilla’s book. She also has a Professional Reflection Tool in her book, a practice everyone should be following in order to improve their practice and self-assess.
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