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.
Students with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, PDD and other diagnoses that fall within the autism spectrum experience significant challenges in communication and social skills. In addition, they may demonstrate behavior challenges that can prevent successful participation in school and family activities.
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.