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"The Autistic Brain"
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When I was in elementary school during the 1950’s all children were taught basic social skills the same way. When I visited a friend’s house and I made a table manners mistake, I was corrected by my friend’s mother. The methods and rules were the same at home, at the neighbors, and at school. All corrections were calm. There was no screaming or yelling.
1. Use Teachable Moments
When a mistake in social manners is made, never scream “NO, stop it, quit it or cut it out.” Instead give the instruction on a calm voice. Some examples are:
2. Most important skills taught under age 8
3. Excessive praise is bad
When I was very young, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) methods were used to teach me to talk and lots of praise was used. This was required to get my speech started. By age four I had learned to talk and ABA methods were phased out. After I learned to talk, constant praise was stopped. Praise was reserved for something really special such as a really fabulous art project or singing at a concert. The following activities and behaviors were not praised. In the 1950’s, children were expected to do the following. This may not work for a nonverbal child.
Saying please when making a request and thanking another person for doing something I requested was always emphasized. In many situations, saying thank you was a form of praise. At the dining room table, my sister would ask me to pass the serving dish of green beans. When I passed it, she said thank you. To effectively teach children the parents also have to practice good manners and say please and thank you.
4. Temper Tantrums
When I had a temper tantrum at home or at school the penalty was no TV for one night. Mother and my elementary school teachers worked as a team. If I had a temper tantrum at home, she put me in my room and let me scream it out. Thirty minutes later when I was calm, she invited me back to join the family, but there was no TV tonight. Mother always handled it calmly.
5. Oppositional Behavior
Provide choices to help prevent oppositional behavior where a child always says No. Below are some examples:
Dr. Grandin did not talk until she was three and a half years old. She was fortunate to get early speech therapy. Her teachers also taught her how to wait and take turns when playing board games. She was mainstreamed into a normal kindergarten at age five. Oliver Sacks wrote in the forward of Thinking in Pictures that her first book Emergence: Labeled Autistic was “unprecedented because there had never before been an inside narrative of autism.” Dr. Sacks profiled Dr. Grandin in his best selling book Anthropologist on Mars.
Dr. Grandin became a prominent author and speaker on both autism and animal behavior. Today she is a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. She also has a successful career consulting on both livestock handling equipment design and animal welfare. She has been featured on NPR (National Public Radio) and a BBC Special – "The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow". She has also appeared on National TV shows such as Larry King Live, 20/20, Sixty Minutes, Fox and Friends, and she has a 2010 TED talk. Articles about Dr. Grandin have appeared in Time Magazine, New York Times, Discover Magazine, Forbes and USA Today. HBO made an Emmy Award winning movie about her life and she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016.
When she was young, she was considered weird and teased and bullied in high school. The only place she had friends was activities where there was a shared interest such as horses, electronics, or model rockets. Mr. Carlock, her science teacher, was an important mentor who encouraged her interest in science. When she had a new goal of becoming a scientist, she had a reason for studying. Today half the cattle in the United States are handled in facilities she has designed.