Tag Archives: autism

The Autistic Sensory System and Patterns of Thoughts and Emotions

Often, people do not realize the sensory system includes movement. While it is easy to understand physical movement because we can readily see it, it is harder to understand the many impacts of internal sensory movement that is part of autistic daily life. The unseen areas of sensory movement differences impact thoughts, perceptions, emotions and memories.

Patterns become important to many people with autism. The patterns of movement outside our bodies often allow us access to our own ability to move, think and participate in the social fabric that is the world we live in. I have less of a cognitive load when I can simply discern and hook into the movement and patterns around me. The following example shows the importance of contextual or environmental sensory movement patterns having to do with internal repeating thought and emotion patterns. The myriad ways the autistic sensory system works both in our favor and against us seems to be largely unknown by most humans. Even so, I am not the only autistic who has articulated these things.

Personal Example:

I use the movement of things outside of me for purposes of thinking and of processing feelings. Recently, autistic friends have let me know that most people in the world do not do this and yet, my experience tells me this is a rather common autistic phenomenon.

Thinking

My thoughts are all in colors and pictures. Usually there are sounds attached, but not always. To think I need a way for the colors and pictures to move. When my sensory system is calm and integrated the thoughts sometimes move on their own accord. When my thoughts are not moving or moving too slowly I simply borrow from the archives. This means that my words come from something previously thought about and stored. I just pull from the archives and run the script. Sometimes I wonder if this is simply a form of echolalia.

When I am a little bit disregulated I am able to pull from the archives and run the scripts, speaking aloud their words, pretty fluidly. I doubt most people realize the thoughts are not original, but instead historical. As I become more disregulated I have higher probability of pulling something from the archives that isn’t a particularly good match for the current conversation. I also have an increasingly narrow swatch of the archives available to see and pull from. The best match from the limited swatch is at best not relevant and at worst downright offensive to those around me. It is one reason why I work hard at staying regulated – I want the lowest probability of unintentionally offending friends and co-workers in my day-to-day life.

Emotions

My emotions are also in colors and pictures, sometimes with sound and always with a high degree of movement. The more intense the emotion the more patterned the movement of colors and pictures become. Emotions that arise from interactions with others can get really big really fast. The colors and movement pattern of the emotions are infused with snapshots of the current situation. As the pattern of color movement happens, portions of the snapshot are stretched and highlighted. When the emotions are positive the stretching and highlighting of the snapshots are generally either amusing or very beautiful. When the emotions are negative it makes the snapshots look similar to horror movie scenes with grotesque exaggerations.

The visual emotion scenario my brain creates runs in a predictable sequence over and over, each time through with an increasing vividness. Thus, a good and positive sequence can become quite nice and very relaxing and generate soft feelings towards others that are in the pictures, while a difficult or negative sequence becomes more and more horrifying as the loop cycles over and over. This is how I experience emotions.

The Patterns of Thoughts and Emotions

Besides my thoughts and emotions being comprised of colors and pictures and their sounds and movements they also occur in the context of unlimited patterns and combinations of patterns. I do not have control of the patterns any more than I have control of the colors, pictures, sounds or movement. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I am unaware of any control. I am always hopeful that one day I will be able to exert control over some of this internal thinking and feeling process as I imagine that would make for an easier time interfacing with people around me.

The patterns are important, because whether in thought or in emotion, that is where I can impact a change. When I have a friend who will listen to my thoughts or is willing to hear the same patterned emotional story, after several times through I can latch onto something – usually a snippet of color or movement that comes with their words – that becomes helpful in breaking up the pattern and heading towards a new or different pattern. Practically, this means I am able to shift an emotion or incorporate new words or ideas into my thinking.

Most of my friends are not able to hang in there beyond the second or third pattern repeat. If it is a thought pattern I am attempting to repeat they stop me and tell me I have already told them my views. Sometimes I am perceived as stubborn and con- trolling because I am saying the same thing over without incorporating their ideas. This makes them feel like I am talking at them rather than with them about the topic at hand. As soon as I recognize this I stop, but typically the damage has already been done in terms of how people view me. When I am in the midst of an emotion pattern I repeat the visual loop I am seeing over and over. My friends report they feel they are not helpful as I am just repeating myself and not taking their words into consideration. They tell me they feel they are wasting their time because I am not listening. Typically, they walk away in frustration.

The Resolution of Difficult Thought and Emotion Patterns

Most friends are not able to be helpful to me in interrupting my negative thought or emotion patterns only because they do not see that sticking with me while I replay the pattern might be helpful. Most friends seem to need to be able to make a positive impact the first time through. Really good friends allow a second or third round of my repeating pattern, but then do not see any benefit in continuing on in a cycle they seem unable to be helpful in altering.

Because people are generally not very helpful to me in changing the patterns of negative thoughts or emotions I have other ways that are helpful. All of the helpful things for me involve some sort of movement outside of me that has either nature sound or no sound attached to it. When I put myself in these contexts I allow the thought or emotion pattern to run repeatedly until some element of movement outside that pattern presents itself in a way that my neurology can latch onto. Once this happens, the thought or emotion pattern can start to change. Sometimes this can happen in a few hours, but most of the time it takes several days. It is hard work. There are a few thought and emotion patterns that I have been trying to interrupt and change for years.

If I do not have lots of energy I find it helpful to be outdoors. Sometimes going for a walk, other times just sitting outdoors in solitude watching the patterns of nature is helpful. Eventually, something in nature’s pattern will hook into the thought or emotion pattern and effect a positive change.

If I have more energy I can read a book or engage in creating a work of art. This allows for the same result of something in the pattern of the reading or the act of creating to hook into the thought or emotion pattern to effect a positive change.

The interesting thing about this is that generally I become cognitively aware before my thought or emotion pattern changes. For example, if I misunderstood something with a friend that produced a negative emotion pattern and then discuss it with my friend, I will cognitively understand my friend’s perspective before I am able to interrupt the emotion pattern.

Practically, this means that even though I understand my friend’s words and the words do inform me that the pattern I have running is now faulty, my neurology will continue to repeat the pattern and to experience the negative upsetting emotions until some movement pattern outside me can interrupt and change that internal pattern. My friends sometimes interpret this as me not being able to take their perspective. I know it looks like I am stubbornly hanging onto my false take on the situation even though my friend has told me their take on it. It is exasperating to them. It is to me, too.

Even though I understand their words and their perspective the pattern of thought or emotion is still running. It is more dominant and powerful than I care for it to be and I am not able to will it away. Believe me, I’ve tried! Instead, I need to work with it by finding some other movement to hook into that will serve to interrupt and change the pattern to match my newer cognitive understanding.

Here is a poem from my childhood that illustrates using a movement pattern in nature to be able to think about my thoughts from the day. When the pattern of nature’s movement was over, so was my ability to continue thinking. At the time I wrote this poem I did not have the words to explain it further than the words of the poem. Today I do. That is progress – slow – 60 plus years in the making, but progress in understanding my own autistic neurology! (Note: I no longer see myself as an alien who does not belong on this planet, but did back then.)

Dog Walk Air Colors

brown, soft hush puppy skin folds swaying too and fro as short legged clippety-clops echo off the sidewalk

the pink-yellow air of a going down sun
allow the girl and the dog forward walking room into the future

by providing a reliable unchanging pattern of air color rhythm every night after day, every day after night
predictably reliable over and over, again and again

the girl lent the air colors a space inside her adopting the yellow-pink air
along with it’s early-time night of lavender-blue to herself

then…
tying the dog by his house she went back inside her alien self to hide from a world she didn’t belong to and was not a part of

but one from which she could see and borrow dog walk air colors to become for a moment something bigger than the alien girl that she was (Endow, 2006, p. 100)

Selection adapted from Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology

Note: The author is autistic, intentionally uses identity-first language (rather than person-first language), and invites the reader, if interested, to do further research on the preference of most autistic adults to refer to themselves using identity-first language.

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.

Social Participation and the Autistic Sensory System

Every time autistic people interface with the world outside their skin they bring along their sensory system that is often unstable and foists many unexpected experiences upon them. The solutions we employ to deal with the many sensory assaults we experience in social envi- ronments are coded by others as “behaviors.” This is because other people cannot see the inside workings of our sensory system. They can only see the outward behaviors we display as we respond to our inner experience. The following is about one experience of eating at a restaurant, but it is easy to understand that most social participation for an autistic means managing a sensory system that is often unreliable.

Here is an example from my own autistic life:

Lots of people like to eat out. I do, too. Because of my sensory sensitivities, I have learned to reduce certain input to the best of my ability in restaurants so as to better enjoy the experience.

It is impossible to control for all sensory sensitivities at a restaurant. However, I have learned to scan the place and figure out what I can do to make it the best experience possible. A recent gathering was wonderful because the restaurant was spacious with plenty of room between tables, very few diners, soft lighting, soft music and chairs with arms. The perfect sort of place for me!

When the atmosphere isn’t so perfect, I ask for a booth if the place has booths. A booth ensures that nobody will walk behind me and surprise me, causing a startle reaction. A tall-backed booth greatly cuts down the noise. If a booth is not available, I ask to be seated along the perimeter of the dining room.

If there are blinking lights, TVs or lots of movement, I know I will get dizzy. Chairs with arms are great to help me stay anchored. Even if I don’t get dizzy, I often have trouble feeling where my body is located in crowded noisy places. If I don’t have a chair with arms, I will find something to lean at least one side of me against – wedge in with the table or, if in a booth, lean against a wall or a willing friend.

There usually isn’t much a person can modify about lights in a restaurant, but I try to avoid downlights if at all possible. Sitting on the perimeter of the dining room helps reduce the noise input. There is not the surround sound with a wall behind you!

Friends will often suggest I use my earplugs in a restaurant. I realize they have never tried wearing earplugs while eating! It magnifies the noise of your chewing so much that it is nearly impossible to eat. I control for whatever I can in a given environment and then do my best to cope with the rest. Sometimes I do better than other times.

One time I was on a trip with friends. Each morning we ate breakfast in the hotel dining room before setting out for the day. One particular morning, I couldn’t make up my mind about what to order. The waitress came back several times to see if I was ready to order. My thoughts were “sticky,” meaning I would get part way through a thought of what to order and then lose the thought, only to have it butt in on the next thought that involved the next menu item. It was frustrating. I know it made me look like I needed lots more help than I actually did.

When the waitress returned once again and I still did not have my order ready, I wanted her to understand that I wasn’t trying to be difficult and blurted out as way of explana- tion, “I am really not as stupid as I look!”

The waitress acted all flustered. I felt bad because I had no negative intent towards her – just wanted to offer an explanation of sorts about my situation. In retrospect, I should have left well enough alone, but wanting to smooth over the situation when the waitress was apologizing and saying she didn’t mean to rush me, I very supportively replied, “Oh, don’t worry about it. I know that you are probably not as smart as you look either.”

I tell this story so you can know our good intentions are not always conveyed by the words that come out of our mouths. This is especially true when we are on sensory overload or having trouble with movement in our thoughts or in our bodies. Please remember – we are doing the best that we can, given the neurology of our autism.

Selection adapted from Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology

Note: The author is autistic, intentionally uses identity-first language (rather than person-first language), and invites the reader, if interested, to do further research on the preference of most autistic adults to refer to themselves using identity-first language.

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.

 

Non-Fluid Speech and Autism

I am a speaking autistic woman. Even so, I rarely have fluid access to my speech. Often times I have in mind something I would like to discuss with a friend so as to get their thoughts and ideas on the topic, but even though I know what I want to discuss the words are not available as speaking words. Oh, I know the words – they are in my head – I just cannot get them to come out of my mouth at will.

This often poses difficulties for me. One example is when I am with my friends who I consider to be brilliant in the field of autism. Most of the time I am with them for a purpose so we have an already planned agenda with little time for novel thoughts and musings sorts of discussions. We are all busy people in our professional and in our personal lives. Rarely is there time to get together for no reason at all – the times when I am most able to get the ideas in my head out through my mouth in speaking words.

Because I talk – and I can talk a lot – people who do not know me well are unaware of this difficulty.

People can easily see movement difficulties that are physical such as when a person has difficulty getting through a doorway or get stuck in a repetitive movement. However, nobody can see when the movement difficulty is internal such as words that cannot come out as speaking words at the time you wish to say them (Endow, 2013).

Over the years I have come up with several strategies to encourage the speaking words out of my head. The reason I need several strategies to try is that I never know which one might work when and sometimes, even though I try all the strategies, I still have no success. Here are the three main strategies that sometimes work for me to get the ideas in my head to come out as speaking words:

  • Begin speaking any words. Sometimes this allows the words I really want to speak to hook onto the random words and thus be carried out of my head through my mouth as spoken words. When the strategy doesn’t work at least I get credit for “being social” – an area I can easily get “down graded” in if not putting forth effort.
  • Use a research article that has some aspect I can use as a launching pad. Some- times if I can start speaking about a research article related to my thoughts, the ideas in my head can hook onto this with corresponding words coming out of my mouth. When the strategy doesn’t work at least the conversation was about some new and interesting research.
  • Use written words. Sometimes if I write down the words I wish to speak, then, when I am with the person I want to have the conversation with, I can pop up the picture of the piece of paper I wrote the words on and by seeing this in my head I am able to “read” the words as a launching into the conversation I wish to initiate. When the strategy doesn’t work nobody can tell because they cannot see the picture in my head so I do not get “faulted” socially.

I wrote about this last strategy more than twenty years ago. It was first published as a poem in my first book Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers (Endow, 2006). A few years later this one written poem became the catalyst that allowed the words of an entire new book called Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism (Endow, 2009b) to be written. Here is that poem. Notice the unusual spacing. The empty spaces represent the pause in time it takes, even when writing, for the next word to come in so I might write it down. As you read please contemplate how internal movement differences might impact autistic individuals you know.

Paper Words

Paper words
                can be heard
                              so speak up ink
                                             and say them!

Speaking words
                are burdensome;
                              they get her
                                             lost      and tangled.

When speaking        words
                 two people should
                              take their turns
                                             to say them.

Start words                now 
                 then stop                   and wait
                              and listen                   some
                                             adds up to conversation.

But,     starting words
                 and     stopping them;
                               and                 seeing faces

                 is much          too much
                              to keep track             of
                                              when having                conversation.

So,                  paper words
                 are much preferred.
                                Speak up ink;
                                               now say them!

Listen people
                 to the ink;
                                you won’t get
                                               lost or             tangled!

NOTE: This selection comes from the bookAutistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology.

BOOKS   BY JUDY ENDOW 

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

Autistic Cognitive Processing Differences

Over the past 20 years we have begun to realize that people with diagnosed with ASD have a different cognitive processing style. Professionals have looked at autistic people and by observing their behaviors have come up with at least three theories that together impact reading comprehension in students with autism. Here are those theories along with aspects of their basic definitions:

Central Coherence:

  • the brain’s ability to process multiple chunks of information in a global way
  • and viewing them in context
  • in order to determine a higher level of meaning

Executive Function:

  • the set of skills or abilities involved in organizing cognitive processes

Theory of Mind

  • ·  the ability to recognize the thoughts, beliefs and intentions of others
  • ·  to understand these are different from our own
  • ·  and to use this understanding to predict behavior (Carnahan & Williamson, 2010)

We can now look at these three theories and know that it isn’t all together true that autistic people are lacking in these areas, but instead their brains function differently than the brains of neuromajority individuals. It has been more helpful to me in my practice to figure out how the neurology of the individual I am working with actually handles information and how his automatic style of autistic thinking works. It hasn’t ever turned out to be helpful when I have tried to get individuals with autism to think and handle information in a neuromajority manner.

For many years I have ascertained that it isn’t that I, as an autistic, do not have theory of mind, but that instead, I do not have YOUR neuromajority Theory of Mind. When I am with other autistics I discover we share our own Theory of Mind. Our brains work similarly to one another and differently from yours. Simply put – we have a different operating system. Just like you cannot adopt my Theory of Mind, I cannot adopt yours.

Additionally, when it comes to theory of mind aspects of interoception now inform us that individuals whose sensory system is not giving them typical and reliable feedback do not have the physiological basis – feeling and understanding their own bodily sensations that are connected with their emotions – that is the prerequisite to being able to understand how the thoughts, beliefs, intentions and feelings of others might be different from their own (Mahler, 2018, Personal Communication). Understanding this difference allows us to go on to predict behavior of the characters in a novel and of people in the world around us.

Neuromajority Theory of Mind is based on a shared experience of the functional interoception body mind connection. When experiencing a sensory system that is not integrated, autistics struggle to access participation in this shared experience. Today we can use The Interoception Curriculum: A Step by Step Framework for Developing Mindful Self-Regulation (Mahler, 2019) to support a more functional body mind connection.

Likewise, much of executive function happens differently for autistic people. Previously in this book you have read a few examples of the storage systems of autistic individuals. These storage systems are examples of the rudiments of executive function for that person. It is the way their brain is organizing the information. Left to itself, it is has been my experience that initial styles of organizations, being literal and concrete and starting at a young age, are often outgrown as youngsters age. They simply acquire too much information for their early years storage system to serve them well. When we understand their system we can impact the size, functioning, speed of retrieval, etc. to make it more efficient. In addition we can use the typical supports all human beings use to stay on top of the many things we need to keep organized both in our internal thoughts and in our external lives as we go about our days.

Central coherence allows us to figure out why it is that characters in a novel or people in real life are acting the way they are acting. It requires the ability to process many individual chunks of information in the story or in the context of life, hold all those individual things in place and then match them to the context or backdrop of what else is going on in the story (or life) – all of this to then surmise a higher meaning.

As for myself I have had lots of trouble doing this over my life, but have learned along the way just how my brain does it. Additionally, I have learned how to best support my autistic style of thinking and manner of handling information to be able to comprehend what I read and much of the social aspects that living entails.

Point to Ponder:

I simply think differently than neuromajority people think. It is not an inferior way of thinking. It is just different. Even so, because autistics are measured according our deviation from the typical standard of normal our different ways are often assumed to be inferior or less than.

This is another example of why it is not helpful to think of autistic people in terms of their diagnosis. Because a diagnosis is based on deviation from accepted normal, an autism diagnosis shows a picture of what autistics ARE NOT and highlights what we CANNOT DO as compared to the majority normal. A diagnosis says nothing at all about the human beings we ARE or what we CAN DO.Our abilities and skills often remain unnoticed and untapped.

The majority of the people in the world do not possess our autistic skills and abilities. Because of this they do not notice them and really do not have a good way to understand them. This makes it nearly impossible for neuromajority folks to support autistic skill development in us. For example, if my way of thinking in the movement and sound of color had been understood by those around me and then supported over my growing up years I likely would have been able to produce paintings well before my 50’s (Endow, 2013).

Taken from  Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology. 

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 AdultShawnee 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 DisordersShawnee 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.

Literal Style of Thinking

Autistics are often quite literal and concrete when it comes to understanding words. One of my dear friends on the spectrum was going for a walk with her 9-year-old autistic granddaughter who kicked off her sneaker, carried it for a time and then put it back on. When she stuffed her foot back into her shoe she was left hobbling along and said her shoe hurt. As she was pulling on her shoe trying to adjust it her grandmother said, “Pull up the tongue.” The little girl stopped struggling with her shoe, stuck her tongue out of her mouth and pulled it upwards with her fingers while trying to ask, “Like this?” 

I once was called into a school where a mild-mannered little boy on the spectrum had all of a sudden started stealing things from the teacher’s desk. When they asked him why he was stealing he only said, “I don’t know.” This stealing tended to happen whenever the boy left the room. He had pullouts for Speech, OT, reading group and adaptive PE. In cartooning with this student to get the sequence of events in the right order it was discovered that his teacher often said, “Take care,” when he left the room. In all sincerity he confided, “I do try to take it, Miss Judy. Every time I do.”

Turns out his literal thinking caused him to take whichever object he thought might be “care” when his teacher said, “Take care.” The behavior was due to his neurology having a specific literal and concrete manner of processing words others say to him. So, all in one day he went from being thought of as a budding thief to becoming an endearing little boy trying to please his teacher and follow what he perceived to be her instruction (Endow, 2019)!

Take What?

“Take care,” my teacher

says to me

each time

I leave

her room.

I’d do

what she wants

if only I knew

WHICH

of all of

the things

on her desk

the name

of “Care”

goes to.

Each day I watch

her eyes to see

if I can tell

just where

they might come to look,

HOPING that

she’ll kook at “Care”

so I might

get a clue

of just

which item

she wants

me to take

every day

when

I leave

her room (Endow, 2006).

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.