Autism expert Dr. Temple Grandin shared a wealth of insights on the autistic brain in a recent webinar with PresenceLearning. Full of sound advice, and at turns personal and humorous, Dr. Grandin’s presentation was as practical and no-nonsense as she is.
Here are five tips to help your child or students with autism:
- Focus on the problem. Too many people focus on the label or diagnosis of autism, but the problem is that autism is a very broad spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, a person can be very severely afflicted, and on the other, a person could be considered quirky, weird, or even a genius. Top down thinking doesn’t work. Address the specific problems that a child has.
- Build on strengths. Those with autism have uneven strengths. They may excel in one area, such as art or math, but be unable to understand other areas. Temple Grandin, an art mind and visual thinker, could not do algebra and struggled terribly with French. However, she was able to build on her strengths in drawing and science to become extremely successful in animal science and designing slaughterhouses.
- Be consistent. Parents, teachers, and caregivers need to communicate and be on the same page about problem behaviors and consequences. Temple shared an anecdote about how she knew when she was growing up that if she acted a certain way in school, there would be no television at home that night. In addition, therapy must be consistent too. Parents, grandparents, aides, and caregivers can all practice the same speech therapy exercises and techniques, for example, that a licensed speech therapist works on with the child.
- Stretch kids. Children with autism need to be stretched outside their comfort zones to become independent. Often this involves social skills: learning how to introduce themselves, order at a restaurant, or shake hands. It’s important that you don’t surprise children with autism. For instance, rather than taking them to McDonald’s and expecting them to order right off the bat, prepare them. Practice ordering at home. Let the child watch you order. Build up to it.
- Help students get real world experience. Work skills are important for all students, but even more so for those on the spectrum. From as early as middle school, Dr. Grandin encourages parents and teachers to get creative in helping students gain these critical skills. Setting up chairs for events, farm work, retail jobs, even running errands or helping an elderly neighbor all build skills and instill responsibility.
Click here to read a recap of the webinar.