Category Archives: Hidden Curriculum

Meaningful Employment Project Needs Your Vote to Win a $25,000 State Farm Grant

Common Threads Family Resource Center in McFarland, Wisconsin, USA is a wonderful organization meeting the complex needs of individuals on the autism spectrum and other significant challenges. I  work for and have been connected with Common Threads for many years and am so happy to let you know we have been selected as one of the 200 finalists in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist® program! Our submission, along with the other finalists, are live on Facebook and anyone who gets the State Farm Neighborhood Assist Facebook application can log on and vote for our cause. I am asking you to please vote for our MEANINGFUL EMPLOYMENT project, but first, let me tell you a bit about this venture.

Common Threads has developed the beginnings of a transition program for the teens we currently serve. The next step in our dream is to get a licensed commercial kitchen installed so the students in the cooking/catering class might go on to the next level. Karl, one of our employees, runs a small catering business in his after work hours. He is also part of our cooking class team. Karl submitted the paper work to State Farm Neighborhood Assist contest. We were just notified that our project is one of the 200 finalist projects! From this pool of 200, just 40 causes will ultimately be funded with $25,000.

This is where you all come in. The 40 causes to be funded will be determined by popular vote. MEANINGFUL EMPLOYMENT, our project, will use the grant money, should we win, to set up our licensed commercial kitchen. Since opening it’s doors in 2006 Common Threads Family Resource Center has always been part of the solution, filling the gaps in our community when it comes to services and programming for children, teens and adults with autism and other significant mental health issues. Please join with Common Threads to be part of the solution for youth needing MEANINGFUL EMPLOYMENT.  Not only can we rally together around this effort, but we can also encouraging others to join us in support by voting. Feel free to forward this on to friends, family, and neighbors! All voting is through Face Book. Thank you!

To support Common Threads and vote,

  1. Visit the State Farm Neighborhood Assist Facebook app by clicking here https://www.state-assist.com/cause/1501729/meaningful-employment
  1. Then click on the “Vote” button to show your support for our project MEANINGFUL EMPLOYMENT. Please click the box to indicate you want to use all 10 of your daily votes.
  1. Please vote EVERY DAY. The voting phase is open from May 14 – June 3 and any Remember to check the use all 10 VOTES button each day 

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REFERENCES

Common Threads Family Resources Center, located minutes from Madison, WI, offers school and mental health programs geared toward individuals affected by autism, behavioral disorders, and mental health challenges. Our experienced and talented team of professionals creates a daily environment of acceptance and growth where students and clients flourish. http://www.commonthreadsmadison.org

State Farm Neighborhood Assist is a crowd-sourced philanthropic initiative that lets communities determine where grant funding is awarded, exclusively through Facebook. The initiative utilizes the State Farm Youth Advisory Board to vet submissions for causes and allows Facebook users who download the free State Farm Neighborhood Assist application to vote for the final 40 grant winners. The program has been inspired by the incredible number of neighborhoods that are coming together to solve a problem or improve their community. https://apps.facebook.com/sf_neighbor_assist/

 

The BIG Deal About Small Talk

As an adult with autism small talk is the most difficult of all communication and yet it is likely the most important communication skill when it comes to developing real relationships with other human beings.

I think of small talk as all the word fluff that people “lacking” autism (love to say it that way!) seem to require. I was reminded again last night when a dear friend popped out to chat online with me. Here is how our conversation started:

Susie: hey

Judy: what

Susie: “what?”  geez, was just saying hi

Judy: STARTING OVER!

Judy: hi back

Judy: PS Forgot the fluff. Guess I skipped too much blah blah blah. Forgive me?

Susie: LOL no worries

Because Susie is a good friend the conversation moved on. But, consider this – Susie has known me for years. She understands I am not wired to automatically engage in small talk just like I understand Susie is wired to expect small talk to occur. Since there are more Susies than Judys in the world the onus is on me. If I want real friendships I need to engage with other people in a way that shows them I value their friendship. This makes small talk a BIG deal!

People expect small talk. It is part of that ever illusive hidden curriculum – all information neuro majority people are wired to naturally pick up so never need to be taught. Autistic people, on the other hand, have a neurology that does not permit them to automatically pick up all the hidden curriculum that everyone else knows, but nobody has ever taught – such as small talk (Endow, 2012). And because small talk is expected it is a BIG deal in the social arena when you don’t deliver it!

Small talk is also a BIG deal in when it comes to business relationships.  It is difficult for me to understand why, when a boss says, “Time is money” meaning that workers should not waste time he would then EXPECT all workers to engage in a certain amount of small talk with every business transaction (Myles, Endow & Mayfield, 2013). This just goes to show that small talk is a very BIG deal!

Small talk is such a BIG deal that we are even expected to carry on with perfect strangers using small talk!  This is particularly befuddling to me, but it is true that the expected polite thing to do is use the fluff words of small talk everywhere you go. Yesterday I did errands and watched for the small talk. It fell out of the mouths of the grocery checker, the postal worker and the bank teller (even it was the drive through!).

Because small talk is such a BIG deal I have made it my business to learn about it and become proficient enough to use it so as to fit more comfortably into the world around me, having more positive encounters with strangers and business people along with better relationships with close friends. Here are some things that have helped me:

black circle  Watch for small talk:  For many weeks I intentionally watched for small talk when going on errands, working and spending time with friends. Once I started watching for it I was able to identify it. This helped me to understand what sorts of things were considered small talk.

black circle  Find appealing aspects of small talk:  For example, even though I find small talk difficult I do very much enjoy the predictable repeating pattern – basically, you can count on small talk to be part of most conversations so the pattern repeats with each conversation regardless of the conversation partner.

black circle  Identify the small talk topics:  The topics I have identified include the weather, the weekend and compliments.  It has been helpful to me to know these topics that usually come at the beginning and sometimes at the end of a conversation are small talk in that I don’t need to pay close attention or remember all the details. This allows me to focus the more important words that usually follow the small talk in business transactions (Myles, Endow & Mayfield, 2013)

black circle  Writing Scripts Ahead of Time (Endow, 2006, pg. 52): My brain cannot retrieve something it hasn’t stored. Writing scripts ahead of time allows my brain to store the generic small talk fluff words so that I can pull them up and use them without needing to waste the energy it takes to create my portion of each small talk transaction that my brain otherwise reads as novel. I have scripts for the weather with a multiple-choice feature to accommodate current weather events.  Here is one small talk weather script I use: “How are you liking this (heat, cold, wind, rain, sunshine)?

black circle  Play acting scripts: It will not work to simply repeat rote small talk scripts.  You will come off looking very odd. I have found it helpful to think in terms of play-acting (Endow, 2012). This allows me to match the information of the script to the real life setting.  For example, to a friend I might ask, “So, what’s the scoop on your weekend?”  With a business acquaintance I might ask, “Did you have a nice weekend?”

black circle  Build word sandwiches:  Whenever I have something important to say I pop up a picture of a sandwich. This shows me that my important words are the filling, but I need to build the sandwich, with the bread being the small talk words. The sandwich pop up reminds me to start and end my important words with small talk. It is amazing how much better people like my ideas when I sandwich the idea in small talk!

In conclusion, remember: if you teach communication or social skills to folks on the autism spectrum please embed the art of small talk along the way. As autistics, our learned communication strategies fall flat with out small talk. Many of our learned social skills put us in a position next to other human beings because we have learned their ways and are able to look like them. But if we have not learned the art of small talk we appear awkward, are easily dismissed and sometimes teased. Once we have learned the art of small talk we have a choice of when and where we wish to exert the often enormous amount of energy it takes to use it. It has been a huge positive in my life to have this choice. Therefore, I encourage you to please teach us the art of small talk because it is a BIG deal.

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BOOKS  BY JUDY ENDOW

Endow, J. (2019).  Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology. Lancaster, PA: Judy Endow.

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006).  Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2013).  Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2009).  Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009).  Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2010).  Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013).  The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Originally written for and published by Ollibean on September 22, 2014

An Odyssey: Learning the Hidden Curriculum

Learning the hidden curriculum social rules of society remains a struggle for autistics long after they grow up. For example, even though I am an almost 60-year-old woman with autism, over the past few years, I have learned a lot of new-to-me hidden curriculum items. The hidden curriculum refers to all the social information that everybody seems to know but isn’t directly taught to anybody. Here’s an example:

Don’t scratch your privates really means don’t let anybody see you scratch your privates.

Guessing at Hidden Curriculum Rules
Once I amassed a volume of hidden curriculum items I began being able to “guess” at some of these new-to-me hidden curriculum items when in novel situations. For example, in the swimming pool locker room, I saw a woman put her towel on the bench before sitting down. A week later, I saw two other women do the same. As a result, I guessed there was a hidden curriculum item about not sitting naked on the locker room bench – likely for sanitary reason, I assumed.

Guessing Wrong!
Then I discovered sometimes I guessed wrong!

I was visiting my friend Brenda for the first time at her new house. Upon arrival, Brenda showed me around. The hallway bathroom was for my private use she said, opening the door of the hallway closet that stored the extra soap, shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, etc., added, “Go ahead and use whatever you wish.”  Since I have always brought my own toiletries I wondered why Brenda was doing this.

That night when I bathed, I saw a heavy-duty loofa brush hanging in the shower which was also fully stocked with a variety of soap, shampoo and body wash. Hmmmm … Brenda had indicated that this was my shower. It wasn’t like anyone else was going to be using it while I was there. Also, even though she had never before opened the cabinet of toiletries telling me to use them, she had done so this time.

I thought about this and came to the conclusion that maybe in her new home Brenda wanted to make sure her houseguests were really clean. It all made sense. Having just moved in, everything was new and clean, so why not expect your houseguests to stay extra clean too, I reasoned.

I do not like the way loofa brushes feel, and this heavy-duty brush had quite stiff bristles. But I wanted to be a good houseguest, so I decided that no matter how much it hurt, I would use it. The first day I only used the brush on my arms. But even though it was very stiff and scratchy, each day thereafter I used it a little more, thinking I would get accustomed to it and, above all, wanting to be a good house guest.

Discovering New Rules
During this visit, I was working on the 2011 Hidden Curriculum Calendar for Older Adolescents and Adults. Consequently, Brenda was pointing out hidden curriculum items as she thought of them so as to be helpful to my project. Imagine my surprise when Brenda one day asked, “Do you have the one about not using the loofas and bath brushes in someone else’s shower?”

Totally perplexed I burst out, “What about it?”

Well, we both wound up laughing hysterically about this! What a relief not to have to use that stiff body brush and to know that Brenda wasn’t going bonkers about me being clean enough! I learned it is important not to assume any hidden curriculum. I replaced my erroneous hidden curriculum item about complying with the personal cleanliness standards your hostess puts upon you even if it seems excessive with this one:

A guest in not meant to use the bath brushes, loofas or sponges in a host’s shower as these are considered personal items. It is permissible to use bottled shampoo, conditioner and body soap. If in doubt, ask your host.

Strategies for Learning New Rules
So, even though today I am a grown woman who travels about speaking and consulting, having autism means that I have a neurology that doesn’t permit me to automatically pick up all the hidden curriculum rules that other people “just know.”

Here are a few strategies I discovered for learning the hidden curriculum:

1.  Learn key phrases others use when they are about to deliver hidden curriculum information such as

    • I shouldn’t have to tell you, but…
    • It should be obvious that…
    • Everyone knows…
    • Common sense tells us…
    • No one ever…(Endow, 2012)

2.  Watch for nonverbal reactions of disapproval from others such as a look of disgust or bewilderment. You might use one of the Hidden Curriculum On the Go app on your iPhone, iPod, iPad or other device to get a hidden curriculum item a day to become more informed about hidden curriculum. Then, when people give you strange looks you can use your knowledge of hidden curriculum items to become a detective. I have pieced together the strange looks with social convention violations on my part after amassing hidden curriculum items. These apps (one for which I wrote the content) are:

Hidden Curriculum for Kids
Hidden Curriculum for Adolescents and Adults

3.  Pause and Match – intentionally pausing before responding to people to determine if my literal take on the conversation matched the topic of conversation. (Endow, 2012)

Example: When a person says he doesn’t know why the cop gave him a speeding ticket he is not looking for the literal explanation of a speeding ticket is issued when a driver exceeds the posted speed limit, but instead the intent is to communicate his displeasure at having received the ticket and hoping to garner your sympathies.

4.  Laugh Along – Sometimes people laugh when I make a hidden curriculum mistake because it is funny.

“If somebody starts laughing, I immediately laugh along. Most times I don’t understand why I am laughing. Luckily, it usually doesn’t matter because most people like to laugh with you. Funny thing is that the other person usually makes enough of a comment that I come to understand why we are both laughing. If not, I can usually figure it out later, or if I trust the person enough I can let him or her in on the secret that I don’t have a clue why we are laughing. Then, once the situation has been explained, we both have a really good laugh together!” (Endow, 2012, pg. 51-52)

5.  Practice Discovering Hidden Curriculum
“Consider engaging in a repeating experience of your own, such as going to a gym, mall, movie, bowling alley, and so on. Each time you repeat the chosen activity, intentionally watch to see what hidden curriculum items you might discover. Start your own list to keep track of the new items you discover.” (Endow, 2012, pg. 69)

Summary
Hidden curriculum does not come easy to autistic neurology. Even so we can learn to discover the hidden social rules in the world around us. Today I am much smarter about hidden curriculum and commit far fewer social blunders than I used to. Not only does this allow me to feel more comfortable social situations, but understanding all these hidden social rules is often a deal breaker in terms of being accepted and in getting along in so many areas life, impacting friendships, education and employment.

REFERENCE

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

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BOOKS  BY JUDY ENDOW

Endow, J. (2019).  Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology. Lancaster, PA: Judy Endow.

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006).  Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2013).  Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2009).  Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009).  Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2010).  Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013).  The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

 Originally written for and published by Ollibean on August 2, 2014

Speeding, Autism and No Ticket Issued!

In the past few years I have had two encounters with the police while driving my car. The first time I pulled into a school parking lot, answered an email on my Blackberry, gathered my stuff together and let out a little scream, as I didn’t expect to see a police officer standing at my car door!

“Good afternoon officer. How might I help you?” I inquired, knowing that it is very important to always be polite to a police officer.

“Do you know why I am stopping you?”

“No, I do not,” I replied honestly.

“Do you know the speed limit on this road in front of the school?”

“Yes I do,” again, my honest reply.

“And what might that speed limit be?” questioned the officer.

“It is 25 mph,” I responded confidently.

“I clocked you at 33 mph. Is there a good reason you were speeding?” the officer asked.

I was getting increasingly nervous, but knew I needed to tell the truth. I said, “No, I do not have a good reason for speeding.”

“Are you coming to pick up a sick child?” asked the officer.

“No, my children do not go to this school.” I did not know why the officer was asking me this question as it didn’t seem to have anything to do with speeding.

“Perhaps you are in a hurry returning from your lunch break,” the officer offered. It seemed this officer was trying to be friendly with me, which was a bit weird to my way of thinking.

Being as polite as possible in light of my increasing nervousness I responded, “No, I am not late. In fact, I am early. That is why I was answering an email and didn’t notice you standing at the door.”

Acting a bit annoyed with me the officer asked for my driver’s license. While I was fishing it out of my purse he asked one more time, “Do you have any good reason for speeding?”

I knew exactly how this officer felt because I too was becoming a bit annoyed. Again, I tried to give my explanation in the very politest voice I could muster. “Officer, I have no good reason for speeding.  I am not coming to pick up a sick child. I am not coming back from lunch. I am a consultant to this school district. I come here every month. I always arrive early. I am aware of the speed limit. I have no good reason at all for speeding, but do in fact have a bad reason for speeding. I simply wasn’t paying close enough attention. I know that is bad of me as a driver and I totally deserve a speeding ticket because I disobeyed the law. I am very sorry. I will pay closer attention from now on.”

The officer took my license and after a few minutes returned telling me I had a clean driving record and he saw no reason to issue a ticket. He admonished me to pay closer attention in the future especially when driving near schools.

I said, “Are you sure? I did break the law. I will gladly pay a fine.”

Ignoring me the officer told me to have a nice day and to drive carefully. I was very puzzled over his behavior, even though I was glad that I didn’t get a speeding ticket. That night I asked a friend who explained to me that the officer likely didn’t want to issue me a ticket if I could tell him a reasonable explanation for my speed. She said given my situation, even though many people would have the same explanation, they would never say so to the police officer. Seems that most people make up a story – they actually lie about speeding and the police officers are used to it.

I know my autism gifts me with literal thinking and a kind of honesty most others in the world do not have. I know this doesn’t always work out well for me, but I do not understand why people often consider this trait a deficit in regards to me as an autistic person. I sincerely believe it is a bad policy to lie, especially to a police officer. In this instance abiding by the saying, Honesty is the best policy, worked well for me. End result: No speeding ticket.

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BOOKS  BY JUDY ENDOW

Endow, J. (2019).  Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology. Lancaster, PA: Judy Endow.

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006).  Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2013).  Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2009).  Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009).  Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2010).  Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013).  The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Originally written for and published by Ollibean on October 9, 2014