The way SLPs work with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Conditions has shifted in many ways, hasn’t it?Here are a few of them:
1. Eye Contact
Eye contact was heavily emphasised and worked on as an exclusive goal. “Look me in the eye”, “look at my face”, holding bright stuff near the face etc. all of which coming from the premise that if one doesn’t look in the eye, he/she is not paying attention.
Now we know from reading books, blogs and messages from Autists that making eye contact can be quite painful and strenuous to look at the speaker, shift gaze between the person and the teaching material very swiftly like neurotypicals do. Maintaining constant eye contact is not a prerequisite for paying attention.
Infact, I have learned to pay attention to the teensy and subtle cues that tell us that the child is listening, co-creating and participating. Sometimes, one needs to look through and beyond the facade of stimming, rocking, flapping etc.
Making eye contact develops as autistic individuals feel the trust and acceptance of people around them. It then becomes natural, authentic (not forced) and part of ‘good practice’.
2. Balancing the ‘managing the behaviour’ paradigm with just ‘letting them be kids’
“Appropriate and Effective are not the same thing”- Dr. Karen Dudek, SLP. I once heard a teacher, passing by the hall way exclaim “You are not walking, you are hopping” to an autistic child.
Desirable, appropriate/typical social behaviour is not always congruent. It is natural for kids to run in the hall, talk when they are not supposed to be talking, and of course we don’t want them to be doing this excessively. But it’s okay for them to be silly and expressive some of the time. Just like the neurotypical kids are given a margin, my hope is that we give the autistic kids too their margin to be kids.
We are making the shift from a ‘business-transaction’ like conversation to a mindful, conversation around behaviour. Every behaviour doesn’t need correction.
3. Reason with them
Presuming that we presume competence in every kid on the spectrum, it’s fair for them to be told ‘why’ we are working on a certain concept or why they are being taught something. For example, why do we have to define, describe something, why should you instruct someone..reasoning with them makes interventions more successful.
Knowing the ‘why’ behind doing various tasks helps them fit the information learned into their ‘pattern’ of storing and applying.
Even in the mainstream education, there is often a disconnect between the child and what is being taught. Often times, children do not know why they are being taught what they are being taught.
4. Accepting all forms of communication
Typing/spelling/facilitated communication have liberated many non-speaking autistics from being locked inside. Although some of these such as RPM are cited as controversial, many SLPs and families have found success with these methods.
One of the shifts we need to make is to be open to all channels of human connection and communication. Don’t be too quick to dismiss something because it is not cited as ‘Evidence-Based’. Parents’ intuition needs to be trusted above all.
5. Inclusion is mutual
Inclusion isn’t a one way thing. We meet at a junction where neurotypicals become more aware, accepting of Autistics and vice versa. But in reality, Autistics are expected to learn and master every skill that would deem them fit to survive in a neurotypical dominated society.
Our interventions should also shift from totally directing it at Autistic children to directing some time, energy and effort to create inclusive mindset in neurotypical children.
Picture below: Here is Appu’s acrostic for Autism. He is a nonspeaking child on the spectrum, a master of his own kind! Finally, what do we know about Autism? Not enough! Appu’s acrostic reveals just that! I’ve figured the only way to know better is to be open to learning more from the Autistic people themselves.
A -Always misunderstood
U -Under someone’s thumb
T-Teachers can’t understand
I -Ill at ease
S -Smarter than you think
M – Most talented
Thank you Appu for sharing your valuable views with us!
Blog Posts AAC Acceptance alternative communication autism acceptance Autistic Viewpoint behaviour eye contact NonspeakingAutism Paradigm Shift PresumeCompetence SpeechLanguagePathologists Working with autistic children
Namaste visitors! I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with an integrated work approach. I share my own views and work experiences with children and young adults who have received a diagnosis of Autism, Down’s syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and other conditions and disabilities through this blog.