Sunday, September 18, 2005

Autism Spectrum Disorder Program

Over the weekend classes were held at Antioch for the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) program . Featuring some of New England's leaders in the field John Moran, Tersa Bolick, Elsa Abele, Tracy Gilman, Katherine Shultz Ransom and Larry Welkowitz. Each providing their insight and knowledge in their area of speciality. The group of students is also made up of wide variety: para professionals, school counselors, psychologists, ABA specialist, special education teachers, administrators and parents all exchanging their experience. I apologize if I missed anyone. ( for further information on the program contact Shelly Viles at Antioch New England in Keene NH (

This log will be an outlet for some of my theories and to make comments that I have about topics that arose.

Poor or no eye contact is often a characteristic associated with this population. One of the reasons could be linked in the way that they retrieve information. How often have you asked someone a question and there eyes immediately shout up towards one side of their brain. It is as if their eyes can look inside their head for the answer. When we do this maybe we need a break from the sensory piece of looking at someone while we find the answer. A similar break from distraction, like when you become lost while driving, you turn down the radio to better focus your energy on the task at hand.

My son who has PDD-NOS when he becomes overwhelmed, he chooses to part take in his favorite activity which at the time happens to be monopoly. This provides him with some degree of comfort or something to occupy his mind. Similar to Dustin Hoffman when he starts to repeat the Abbot and Costello "Who's on First" Routine in the movie Rainman. Both being very linear always going pass go or back to first base.

When I first started working at an elementary school I noticed how accepting children are of each other in the primary grades (1st and 2nd). I remember a child coming up to me on the playground with another student who had just moved from another country and did not speak the language. The child said "she doesn't speak what I speak but we're still friends." How come if verbal communication is not a necessity for kids then why are kids on the spectrum so quickly unaccepted. I think it has to do what I feel is one of the first discriminating factors for children which is age. As a child the older you are the better you are. How often do we here only 7 years old can come up the slide or be in the club. Since kids on the spectrum have pervasive developmental delays, their behavior is often years behind their classmate, opening up the door to discriminate against them based on ageism. A first grader who tantrums like a two year old may be looked upon as being a baby. We all know that the only one who lets the babies in the club are those kids who want to baby the baby. These children need to learn to asses the situation and talk the talk. They need to observe and be able to mimic people who are successful at it.

There are two people who I know that are especially good summing up a social situation, my friend Kav and my brother Dave. I will start with my brother who was hired to coach Lax on the west coast. He drove across country on one of his stops he was in Tennessee. He walked into a bar and was surrounded by the biggest bunch of good old boys you ever saw. He immediately assessed the situation. Here he was a yankee in the deep south with one of the strongest Boston accents on record. He determined they must be Tennessee Volunteer Football fans so he yells "Alabama Sucks." The clientele started buying him drinks and treating him like one of their own.

Kav was done on Martha's Vineyard as a guest. His friend brought him to the local dive that was known for it's tough characters. His friend's advice was "don't mess with the locals!!!" The next thing you know Kav is in the corner arm wrestling some guy. They both had a great night and didn't have to sit there feeling intimidated. Exemplifying the usefulness of knowing the surrounding social situation and what the appropriate behavior would call for. {Sorry to end with a dangling participle but my editor and chief (a.k.a. my wife) is asleep}.


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