Tag Archives: autistic

Autism and Thinking in Layers

As a little girl, there was a single movie screen in my mind where I created one still life picture at a time. There was only room for one picture at a time. Pictures were created by the words people said. It was never a problem to add something more to the current picture.

For example, if plans were made to go to the park I would see myself swinging on a swing. Then, if it started to rain, I would add raindrops to the picture. Raindrops would not change anything at all about swinging on a swing at the park. I couldn’t understand why anyone would say that we could not go to the park because it was raining. It certainly didn’t look that way to me!

I had no idea that others were experiencing the world in a different way.

When I was a teenager I was institutionalized. One day, some girls in the dayroom were busy writing a story. As they talked, their words went up on my screen producing a picture. Then, all of a sudden, the girls changed part of their story. One girl tipped her pencil upside down, erased a few lines, and wrote in a new version.

Normally, this would mean I’d have to destroy the picture on the screen in my head if I wanted to continue to listen to the conversation. I had not yet developed a way to erase my pictures. But that day all of a sudden I realized if my pictures were created in layers, rather than on one page, I would be able to keep up when the story changed. I could trade in an old layer for a new one! It would be my way of erasing and changing something. And, the changing picture would still fit on that one screen I could see in my mind.

I am many years older now and continue to work with these ideas. Over the years I’ve trained myself to create pictures in layers. Learning this skill became my foundation for beginning to live successfully in the world of words. Once I was a teenager who lived in a mental institution. Today, I function quite well in the world both in my personal life and in my professional life having accomplished many things.

Over the past decades, many students I’ve worked with in public schools and clients I’ve worked with in therapy settings have experienced benefit when their autistic way of thinking is understood.

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

This book also has an appendix that contains templates to trace to make your own thinking in layers visual system. I hope you find it helpful. Click HERE to order book.

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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). The Power of Words: How we think about people with autism spectrum disorders matters! Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009c). 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.

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

The title of this blog is the title of my newest book that is now printed and those who have preordered have started receiving their copies. In a matter of days,  all who have ordered should have the book in their hands!

This is the most substantial book I have written to date and it is also the first time I have self published a book. Initially, it was daunting to learn all the details and steps in the process and to hire various people for layout, proofreading and graphic design. Ultimately, I did it!  If you see any mistakes in my book please do let me know so that it can be corrected before future printings. That being said I want to tell you there is already one HUGE mistake. A whole section called Advanced Praise has gone missing.

Here is what happened.

In the process of making a book the manuscript goes back and forth between people who have various functions and the author. Initially, I had several months of back and forth with Susan, my layout person as corrections were made, text rearranged and other sections such as advanced praise, index, appendix, and references were inserted. Once it looked good to us it went to the proofreader I hired. I needed to decide which proofreading suggestions to accept and which to decline as I was given a multitude of choices, depending on how formal I wanted the text to read. (I went informal professional as I want it readable to John Q. Public as that is the most of the people in the world.)

One of the many corrections I accepted was to put the beginning pages of the book with Roman Numerals (APA Style) and to start the text with numbered pages. It took me several weeks to indicate and follow up with layout on the proofreading suggestions I wanted to accept.  Then, a new stage in the book making process was reached. There was no more content change – I simply looked at how the text appeared on each page – margins, headers, subheaders, indents, bold, italics, etc., etc., etc,. This back and forth went on for another month.

And this is where the most unfortunate mistake happened. The section in front of the book called Advanced Praise that was to have no page numbers did not get inserted. And nobody noticed until today when I opened my copy so I could get a list of contributors I wanted to send thank you notes. I discovered the whole section is not there!

It is entirely my fault. When I went with the proofreading recommendation to start with Roman numerals on Table of Contents and the numbers beginning with the first chapter I said nothing about inserting the Advanced Praise section without either style of page numbers in the very front of the book. And even though the final layout that went back and forth for a month or more had this section dropped I never noticed. At this point I was no longer reading for content, but simply looking at pages and comparing all the details of margins, headers, subheaders, indents, bold, italics, etc.for congruency throughout the nearly 300 page book.

I feel awful. I give a HUGE apology to all the 16 people who took the time to read the manuscript and write some advanced praise for my book. I told them that some of the advanced praise would go on the back cover and the rest would go inside the front cover. For some, it would be the first time their name was included in a published book. Even though I can include this section in future printings there is nothing I can do about the fact that it is absent from the first printing. Here is the missing section. If you know any of the wonderful people who contributed please give them a special thank you. I surely do thank each and every one of them.

Advanced Praise Section that inadvertently got dropped from the first printing of Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology:

Endow’s book does an extraordinary job of explaining how the autistic brain thinks and feels and does so without pathologizing autism. Professionals, educators, and families will find the book full of insightful explanations and demonstrative stories that demonstrate how an autistic person processes sensory input and understands information. This clarity allows the reader to then use Endow’s excellent strategies to support effective engagement in classrooms, at home, and in the community while still honoring neurodiversity and valuing the autistic way of being.

– Zosia Zaks, M.Ed., C.R.C., Manager of Education and Programming at Towson University’s Hussman Center for Adults with Autism

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Judy Endow’s new book Autistically Thriving, Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology is a game-changing book!  Judy addresses the complex issue of living as a neurominority in a neuromajority world. Most books focused on helping autistic people are written by neurotypicals. This book has a deeper understanding into what is happening in the autistic brain because of Judy’s own neurology. Judy has developed practical strategies on how to improve flexibility in thinking, retrieval of information, reading comprehension and navigating complex social interactions.  This book details common dilemmas for autistic people such as obsessive thought loops and gives the reader novel ways of changing those thought patterns. Judy’s book is written with clarity and insight. I’m especially impressed with some of the theories Judy has developed that she shares throughout her book.  If I had one book on autism to recommend to parents, teachers, therapists and autistic people themselves it would be this one.

Debra Muzikar,  Author of The Art of Autism: Shifting Perceptions.

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Some books expand your perspective, others add depth to your professional practice. Autistically Thriving does both, and does so with insight, wisdom, and humor. While the value of a neurodiversity approach is well understood, many organizations have struggled with how to put it into practice. Judy Endow’s own experience has provided not only the reason why this understanding is necessary when working with autistic individuals but also the tools to start implementing this approach.

–  CJ Webster, LMFT, Executive Director, Common Threads Family Resource Center

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 Autistically Thrivingis an excellent resource that will be of benefit to autistic people, their families and partners and those working with them. The book is a comprehensive survey of autistic experience drawn from the author’s extensive knowledge and observation of her own life. It offers a thorough understanding of autism from an autistic perspective. I highly recommend this book.

– Yenn (formerly Jeanette) Purkis, Autistic author, advocate and presenter

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Judy Endow is the ultimate expert – both walking the walk of autism and a professional who helps teachers and families understand the neurology of autistic children and adults and how to help them. She explains how autistics gather, process, store and retrieve information, and how their executive and other brain functions work, using non-medical language and many examples. She explains in detail how to provide the supports that allow autistics to develop into their best selves. There is always a neurological explanation when a person with autism doesn’t act as expected, and this book will help you figure it out and learn what to do to help. What a joy to have it all in one book! It is going to become required reading for the psychologists I supervise.

– Sandra McClennen, Ph.D., Psychologist

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Autistically Thriving is an essential resource in understanding students with autism.  Judy Endow blends current research, professional practice and personal experiences for a comprehensive look at the autistic neurology. This combination provides clarity for professionals and family members who strive to truly understand the students with autism in their lives.

– Brenda Vicen, MS/CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist and Assistant Director of School Services, Common Threads Family Resource Center

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‘To be autistic or not to be autistic’, is not the question in this book. One is either autistic or not autistic. This is a world that changes moment by moment. ‘To cope or not to cope’, is not a question in this book either. In order to be a part of here and now one must teach oneself to co exist.

The book draws the reader into its magical depths right from the beginning when we see how the narrator, as a child created one big picture from the words she heard, added more to the same picture, until she got a different way to escape this piling sensory confusion – she practiced creating pictures ‘in layers’ so that she could edit them if necessary. The world of words and pictures is a fluid world where flowing is the part of accommodation, art of explaining the chaos.

If one does not have a process to catalogue the magnified or minimized sensory jargon then according to the book – “it can feel being inside one of those mirror-distortion houses at carnivals.” Very well explained!

As a speaking autistic woman, whose writing is so fluid, she finds her speech is not sufficiently fluid to summon them at her will. This could be difficult to talk those ‘small talks’ that meander like streams without purpose in a social system.

The book includes brilliant poems and my favorites are – ‘Paper Words’ (where she ‘speaks up ink’ and ‘listen people to the ink’) and ‘Getting Out of Town’.

The book explains how some information can be amplified, some become unnoticed and some become distorted while they get selected to be processed. Their processing can be linear, non discriminatory with an out of control selection of a sensory event or totally be mono channeled.

The chapters have sub headings which create an easy finding of topics. The care taken in writing this book, the un-puzzling of a picture called autism, the philosophical pondering in the sections – ‘Is autism a disability of difference’, ‘When autism is a “Difference” and ‘When Autism is a “Disability”, makes us question how in the 21st century people with autism can include themselves in the fluid world of sensory and social flow.

The book is one of the best books on Autism where information and art meet to include each other from the beginning till the end.

Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay, Author of How Can I Talk if my Lips Don’t MoveandPlankton Dreams – What I learned in Special Ed

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The audience for Judy Endow’s Autistically Thrivingis broad: autistic humans, their parents/families, teachers, friends, supporters, and want-to-be-allies. Judy enlightens the reader on autistic information handling (i.e. processing) and how it impacts learning and relationships. She challenges the reader to drop former limited ways of thinking about autism. It’s time to try on a new manner of being, one where the autistic processing style is respected and supported instead of confining autism to defined behaviors that are thought need to be fixed or controlled. Judy takes us through a leap of understanding that could lead to an entirely new frontier of collaborative supports and ease of relationships for people with autism. Anyone who has someone in their life with autism needs to read this book and take it to heart.

– Kate McGinnity, Autism author, consultant/coach, presenter

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Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology helps the reader to develop a greater understanding of the autistic neurology. Judy weaves research, practice and personal perspective in a way that prompts the reader to reflect on the way they teach, converse and understand the perspective of others. This book takes the reader beyond autism, beyond disability and leads us to consider the “why” behind the actions of others. Judy is simply asking those of us with “typical” neurology to do what we ask those with different neurology to do every day, to understand and value the individual’s perspective and their humanity. This is a resource that every educator, parent and autistic should access!

– Lee Stickle, M.S.Ed., Director of TASN Autism and Tertiary Behavior Support and the School Mental Health Project.

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Truly understanding the autistic neurology in a way that goes beyond the diagnostic criteria is essential for providing effective supports to those with autism. In her book, Judy expertly tells the story of autistic people using a wealth of personal experiences and client examples along the way. Even if you think you understand autism, reading this book will provide a more empowered view and a deeper comprehension of the autistic experience. I highly recommend it for anyone touched by autism.

– Kirsten Cooper, MSW, Executive Director of the Autism Society of Wisconsin

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Autistically Thriving: Reading comprehension, conversational engagement and living a self-determined lifeby Judy Endow offers an amazing wealth of information, ideas and concepts that will support any parent or teacher in their effort to understand and plan for autistic neurology.  In this evolving era of Developmental Neuroscience, it is essential for caregivers to listen closely to folks on the spectrum.  The gifted few who are able to articulate how they experience the social world, and how they learned to survive in neurotypical society, have unimaginable stories to tell. In her latest book, Judy Endow has joined the likes of Temple Grandin and Donna Williams, as an ambassador for autistic thinkers. She has written a highly accessible book, sharing not only her own experiences of social memory, reading comprehension and regulating emotions, but also of others along with her solutions. I will read and re-read this book. I will hand it to teachers and quote from it at IEP meetings.  Bravo Judy!

– Kari Dunn Buron,  Autism Education Specialist, Teacher, Author

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Autistically Thrivingis a MUST READ! Judy Endow gives us an insight into the autistic neurology- providing us with a perspective on how to presume competence and support individuals in a new light. “In reality high-functioning and low-functioning are not real labels, having no definition, no skill set lists, and no diagnostic criteria. Yet these words are often used to determine opportunities that will be denied or extended to an autistic and in assigning the correct amount of personal responsibility and blame to an autistic for the way his autism plays out in everyday life.” YES, YES, YES!

– Lisa Ladson, Educational and Behavioral Consultant Co-Author of Lights! Camera! Autism!  Using videotechnology to enhance lives and Lights! Camera! Autism! 2: Using video technology to support new behavior.

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Too often, when professionals speak about autism spectrum disorders, the talk is started with a laundry list of characteristics, challenges and deficits.  I am guilty of this too. These are all provided from the perspective of the clinician or based on the understanding of other professionals. It often looks more like the DSM descriptions without true understanding how this impacts individuals who live with autism.  In her book, Autistically Thriving, Judy Endow invites us to learn about the characteristics and the impact of these characteristics based on information from those who live with ASD.  She provides us insight into the neurology that impacts sensory processing, reading, processing and overall life.  She then provides helpful recommendations on how to address the realities for those who live on the spectrum.  The book is comprehensive and provides meaningful insight and recommendations that can be used in a range of settings.  I have long admired Judy Endow for her honesty and willingness to pull back the curtain on ASD.  This book excels in doing this.

– Cathy Pratt, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Director, Indiana Resource Center for Autism

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“Judy Endow, MSW, LCSW has DONE IT AGAIN!  Autistically Thriving is a must-read  for anyone working with individuals with Autism. Read this book and then read it again! What a gift it is to learn from one of the best!”

– Ellen Eggen, MS, LPC, ATR-BC, Director of Mental Health Services at Common Threads Family Resource Center.

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Autistically Thriving, Judy Endow applies what we know about autism and learning to real life examples to help us further understand the neurology of autism. Useful strategies of the “Why didn’t I think of that?” variety are included that will serve to bridge and improve our relationships with those on the spectrum. Judy’s unique perspective and ability to provide a wealth of content in a concise passage will make this book an ongoing resource, anticipated to be reread often. Thank you Judy, for continuing to share your valuable insights that serve to make us better teachers.

 Julie Arens, M.S.Ed, Autism and Behavior Support Teacher/Diagnostician

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Your book helped me understand autistic neurology. I now realize how little I understood.  Until reading this book, I feel I have not in any way fully understand or appreciated autistic neurology and how to maximize the potential of autism people.  Your book brought this to light with practical, easy to use strategies.  You broadened my understanding!

– Debbie Irish, Chair, Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance

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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). The Power of Words: How we think about people with autism spectrum disorders matters! Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009c). 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 Neurology and Behavior

Autistic people use behavior just like people who are not autistic. Basically, when a problem is encountered, people behave in a way so as to fix the problem. We all do this, whether we are autistic or lack autism! However, we live in a majority-is-the-norm society. This means that the behavior most individuals employ to solve day-to-day problems is considered the norm. We call their behaviors solutions.

Just like everybody else, when autistics come up against a problem, we employ a solution to remedy that problem. Our behavior, even though it is a solution, it is called “a behavior” meaning it is bad behavior. This is how it often works out that those around us want to fix what they have defined as the “problem behavior.”

This is one reason I have never ending employment as an autism consultant to school districts. It is my job to sort this out for staff in a way that makes sense and helps them move beyond the difficulties they experience with autistic students. I find once teachers understand autism neurology they are able to join with their students finding viable alternatives that work in the classroom environment. Here is a familiar example I run into quite often:

Scenario as Reported by Teacher: “My student with autism simply refuses to do any school work. Every time I request he do some work he simply says, “no” and won’t do it. When I persist, encouraging him to try, he just gets up and runs out of the room. If I try to stop him from leaving he hits me, screams and throws things, often destroying the room. What should I do?”

Understand the Underlying Autism Neurology:

  1. Teacher: “My student with autism simply refuses to do any school work. Every time I request he do some work he simply says, “no” and won’t do it.”Underlying Autism Neurology: Often “no” or “I don’t know” is a default response when the autistic neurology experiences a surprise. A neurological surprise is anything unanticipated in the moment. An autistic neurology is a completely different operating system than a typical neurology. Therefore, when a teacher shows up at the side of the student’s desk with work, even though it would not be surprising to most students, it hits the autistic neurology as a surprise. This is a neurological event and as such, not a choice for the student. This isn’t a won’t (as in “I will not do what you ask”), but a can’t – the neurology cannot access anything but unexpected surprise mode. In this mode, most autistic students develop a canned response and often times we hear “no,” “I don’t know,” or some other such phrase. These phrases are solutions because they serve to make the unexpected surprise go away. It isn’t about refusing school work. It is about managing a neurological surprise as expediently as possible to prevent it from getting out of hand.
  2. Teacher: “When I persist, encouraging him to try, he just gets up and runs out of the room.”Underlying Autism Neurology: When the autistic neurology is presented with an unexpected surprise, saying “no” or some other phrase allows shut down so as to protect one self from this neurologic surprise. If shut down is challenged the neurology is forced further along into survival mode – meaning flight or fight. Reasoning is not involved. Flight or fight is an autonomic nervous system response. This particular student’s automatic survival response was flight so he left the room in response to perceived threat. It does not matter that the teacher presenting schoolwork was not an actual threat, but that the autistic neurology often automatically codes unexpected surprises as threats to the system.
  3. Teacher: “If I try to stop him from leaving he hits me, screams and throws things, often destroying the room.”Underlying Autism Neurology: This student’s autism neurology was hit with an unexpected surprise that forced him into shutdown. When shutdown was “challenged” the autonomic nervous system survival mode was further triggered into flight. When flight was prevented the autonomic nervous system engaged in the only remaining survival mechanism – fight. When engaged in this sort of response the autonomic nervous system triggers body physiology to be extremely strong and capable of putting on the fight of one’s life because survival depends upon it.

Solution Based on Autism Neurology: The solution for this school team was two-fold. First, until the presenting difficulty of doing schoolwork is remedied, this student will be given a way to leave the room when he needs to leave so that we do not trigger a survival fight. Because this student loves maps, a story about following the map when needing to leave the room was presented with the map embedded right in the story. I suggested pairing leaving the room practice with the story as many times as needed. After all, we want him to leave and go to the designated safe spot rather than triggering a survival fight.

Then, we needed to get the student on the road to doing schoolwork. The team had been quite stuck in trying to solve the stated problem of refusing to do work and, if pressed, leaving or trashing the room to avoid doing schoolwork. Now the team shifted from managing oppositional defiant behavior of refusal and avoidance to solving for autism neurology. It was so much easier to solve for unexpected surprise and unclear expectations as evidenced by the list of supports they brainstormed! (This list includes using interactive visual schedule, priming, use of visual timer, and using reinforcement.)

Conclusion: It makes sense that when you see behavior in others you assign meaning according to what it would mean were you engaged in that behavior. This strategy serves most teachers well as they share the same underlying neurology as most of their students. However, when working with autistic people remember the neurology imposes a different operating system. Strive to understand it. The more you understand the less often you will become stuck. Besides being kind and being the right thing to do, it is far more expedient to support autistic neurology than it is to assume negative character and ill intentions about your student with autism when he is struggling.

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BOOKS AND DVD BY 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). The Power of Words: How we think about people with autism spectrum disorders matters! Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009c). 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 November 30, 2016.
Click here to comment.

Christmas, Autism and Teaching Kindness

During the holiday season people are sometimes rushed and frazzled due to the extra activities and expectations of the season. Thus, it is a particularly good time to talk about kindness. Many individuals with autism are literal and concrete thinkers, which can make teaching an abstract concept such as kindness a little tricky. Here are some ways to work with an autistic neurology when teaching the concept of kindness:

Identify Acts of Kindness

Even though kindness is an abstract concept we can start teaching kindness by noticing aloud whenever we see an act of kindness by another. This can include anything from holding a door to returning a stray cart in a store parking lot. We can comment on the behavior and identify it as kind.

Model Acts of Kindness

One way to model kind behavior is to treat others with respect. We can be polite to those waiting on us in stores and restaurants. We can say thank you whenever we appreciate the thoughtfulness of others. Be sure to identify these acts as being kind.

We can even model what to do when we recognize our behavior is less than kind by calling a “do over.” Whenever I find myself acting unkind I call a do over. I then simply go back and do it over, pulling up the kinder behavior I wished I would have exhibited in the first place.

Example: I one time said, “don’t be such a slow poke” when my child was having a hard time choosing between breakfast cereals in the grocery store. I immediately called a do over, apologizing and saying my words were unkind. I thought for a moment and then said he could carry both boxes of cereal, take his time choosing and after deciding, return the rejected box to the shelf.

I like modeling do overs because it is a quick way to repair a less than kind situation – something we all find ourselves in from time to time. This normalizes the fact that we are not always as kind as we would like to be along with giving the remedy of what to do when we find ourselves in the aftermath of being unkind.

Use a Visual To Report Observed Kind Acts

Once the individual has an understanding of kind acts I like to make a visual to support us in looking for and identifying kind acts we see others doing. I have used a variety of visual systems, depending on the interests and abilities of the individual. Here are some things i have implemented:

  • Capture a Kindness a Day: Ben loved taking photos with his phone so his assignment was to snap photos of observed kindnesses. At the following appointment we looked at the photos together while Ben told me the kindness depicted in each one.
  • Count up the Kindnesses: Mari put a handful of pennies into her left pocket each morning. Each time she saw an act of kindness she moved one penny from her left pocket to her right pocket. At the end of the day she recorded the number of pennies in her right pocket.
  • Recall a Kindness: Jose and his mom talked about kindness at dinner each night. They each told the other about one kind act they had observed during the day. While mom cleared the table Jose recorded the kind acts of the day on the Recalling Kindness log.

Use a System To Record Kind Acts Engaged In

Once kindness has been identified and able to be seen in others it is time to encourage individuals to engage in their own kind acts. Remember, with autistic neurology, in addition to supporting a concrete, visual and literal style of thinking the neurology often looks for the system. This means we can support this strength by developing a system to highlight kind behavior. Some systematic successes include:

  • The Christmas Kindness Can: A coffee can was covered in bright Christmas paper and labeled the Kindness Can. Slips of paper with prompts of kind acts were placed inside the can. Each morning one slip of paper was pulled out and an opportunity to engage in that kindness was watched for and implemented during the day. This idea can be used for one person, a family, a group or a classroom. One alternative is to create a story about a person engaged in the act of kindness described on the slip of paper drawn. Another alternative is to tell about a time you employed the kindness described on your slip of paper.
  • The Kindness Calendar: Using a monthly calendar, write a specific kind act on each square. The idea is to engage in the act of kindness written on the day’s calendar square.
  • The Kindness Cup: An unpopped popcorn kernel was taken from the jar and put into the candy cane decorated coffee cup after each kind act. This was a classroom project with students and staff contributing. When the coffee mug was full of popcorn kernels the class had a popcorn and candy cane treat.

Reminder

Remember, we are highlighting kindness. It is important that the kind act or deed we engage in, when directed toward another person, is perceived as kind by that person. If in doubt you can ask the person first. This is because a helpful act of kindness is only helpful and kind if wanted or welcome by the other person.

Conclusion
The abstract concept of kindness can be taught to anyone. Start by identifying and modeling acts of kindness. When it comes to a person with autism neurology, it is often helpful to use visuals and to employ a system for engaging in or in observing acts of kindness.

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BOOKS AND DVD BY 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). The Power of Words: How we think about people with autism spectrum disorders matters! Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009c). 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 Dec. 9, 2016
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Autism, Direct Instruction and Having Friends

Social understanding and communication are two areas impacted by autism neurology. The way this plays out is different from one autistic individual to the next. Typically, for autistics I have worked with, this means that they do not always pick up social information from the world around them through observation only as most people do. Instead, they sometimes need direct instruction concerning information their autistic neurology doesn’t allow them to automatically pick up and learn.

I think it is important that those around autistics understand that not having typical social understanding of same age peers is part of what autism means. Many times I have seen well meaning adults blame autistics for behavior that is a result of their brain not picking up and synthesizing social aspects of many things in the way people with typical brains do. It is common for adults to think that since the autistic is smart he should know better and that he is choosing to behave rudely. This misattribution has so many negative and far reaching consequences for everyone involved.

In general, it seems that people looking at an autistic really cannot see the autism. This means it is difficult for most people to know what behaviors are reflective of the underlying autism. If a person has a broken arm we can see the cast and understand the person will not be able to use his arm as typically expected. If an autistic person does not have the social understanding of how to act when losing a game we may see him act as a sore loser. We do not see the differently connected neurological pathways that feed information from a variety of brain areas in a split second that are not connected in the usual manner and therefore cannot be used to pull up good loser behavior. That is, we cannot see the autism at play – we can only see the sore loser behavior.

To help in seeing the autism when it comes to areas of unexpected behavior due to atypical social understanding that is part of the basis of an autism diagnosis, here is an example of direct teaching that took place over several months for a 12-year-old boy to learn the skills involved in being a good loser. Learning these skills allowed him to play games with others his age – something he very much wanted to do.

Example of Direct Teaching on How to Be a Good Loser:

Rodney could only play games if he could be assured ahead of time he would win. He would actually say, “I will only play if you let me win.” Rodney very much wanted to play video games and board games with others and even though he had above average intelligence, couldn’t grasp why other 12 year olds didn’t want to play with him.

Social Story: I wrote a social story as a way to give Rodney the social information around winning and losing when playing a game.

Cartooning: Additionally, each time Rodney had played a game he would relay the information and I would draw it out in cartooning style with the talk bubbles. Once the sequence of events were drawn out we would go back over it and fill in thought bubbles. Rodney was often miffed as to the thoughts and feelings of others. He would sometimes take the cartoon home so he could ask his parents if I had the thought bubbles “right.”

Modeling: Additionally, each time I saw Rodney we played UNO and he won. I was very demonstrative in portraying good loser behavior along with identifying it as good loser behavior.

Visual Support: We even started a chart called How to Be a Good Loser and took turns writing down my good loser behavior.

Video Technology: Then, we would watch a You Tube clip that showed kids playing games, particularly watching for good loser behavior. Eventually we watched both good and bad loser behavior of kids playing games and Rodney became quite good at sorting out which behavior was good and which was not good.

Visual Response Prediction Rating Scale: Because Rodney was fond of science and experiments; we made a loser behavior rating scale where we decided, based on the loser behavior whether he would be invited to play another game with his opponent. Here is a snippet from that scale.

Likelihood of Being Invited to Play Again 

Loser Behavior

Invited to Play Again

Maybe Invited to Play Again

Not Invited to Play Again

“Good game”

X

 

 

“I hate you” and throws game pieces

 

 

X

“I hope I win next time” and kicking the board game

 

X

 

Quitting when it looks like you may lose

 

 

X

“Let’s have a rematch!” said with a voice expecting it to be a fun gam

X

 

 

Play Acting Desired Behavior: Next, Rodney practiced the good loser behaviors as if he were an actor in a play. I wrote a script where the characters, Jack and Jane played UNO with Jack winning the first game and Jane winning the second game. Each character exhibited good loser behavior when they lost. Rodney could do this play-acting, but he would always inform me, “This isn’t a real game. It is reading script.”

Video Technology: Then, we made our own video clips on Rodney’s iPad with him playing the character Jack being a good loser. We watched these video clips many times. It allowed Rodney to solidify the picture of himself using good loser behavior.

Predictability: Finally, I told Rodney that I would let him win game 1, 3 and 5 of UNO, but game 2 and 4 I would play my best and this meant that sometimes he might win and sometimes I might win.

Video Technology/Vicarious Behavior Rehearsing/Priming: Right before game 2 and 4 we would take a break to look at our Jack video clips.

Predictability: Whenever it looked like I was close to winning I would announce it so as to prepare Rodney, though he was keeping track pretty accurately.

Non-Verbal Prompting: The first time I was near winning Rodney announced he no longer wanted to play UNO. I pointed to our chart so he could be reminded of where that reaction was likely to lead. I started watching one of his video clips. He didn’t want to watch it, but because I was watching it he heard himself portraying his good loser behavior.

Allowing Extra Time for Processing During Difficult Moment: I told him to let me know when he was ready to finish the game. He took the iPad and watched the video clip and then said he was ready. It was really hard for him that first time he lost, but he was able to pull up the desired behavior.

Repetition and Practice: Eventually, with more practice, Rodney was able to pull up the good loser behaviors. In the beginning he needed to know before starting the game whether I was going to let him win or not. Eventually, we both played our best, neither one knowing who would win until we came to the end of the game.

Desired Outcome Achieved: Ultimately, Rodney was able to play games with others, which is what he so much wanted to do. One day he greeted me with an impish smile on his face and shyly said Darius had invited him to a sleepover on the weekend so they could play video games. He said, “I hope I win, but if I don’t I’ll be a good loser. I have to because mom says if it goes well I can invite Darius for a sleepover at my house next time.”

In retrospect, I could have added in a reinforcement system when Rodney started losing for real. We often reward ourselves when we do hard things well. Setting this up for Rodney likely would have helped him master the skill sooner. It would have also opened the way for us to talk about how he might chose to reward himself in the future when he does something well that was difficult for him to do in the moment. For example, if he loses graciously while playing a game with a friend, he might get 15 minutes extra of screen time (negotiated ahead of time with his parents). This would be similar to me deciding that on work mornings where I start with several hours of email to answer I will have a bagel with my coffee! We all set up self-reinforcement. Some of us do this without thinking much about it and others need to be directly taught to do this. It is simply another one of those  life long skill that can be directly taught!

It is also noteworthy that many autistics need some sensory modifications to the environment, breaks to regulate their sensory system, instruction on how to play the game and other supports particular to the way autism presents in them. I have used Rodney’s example because it required many different support strategies over a long period of time for him to experience his desired outcome of having friends play games with him. Others I have worked with required both less and more in the areas of support strategies and time to learn new skills. While we can all learn from Rodney’s example and find many useful strategies, how support is given to another person needing to learn a similar skill will work best when it is individualized to the needs of that person.

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BOOKS AND DVD BY 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). The Power of Words: How we think about people with autism spectrum disorders matters! Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009c). 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.