Tag Archives: movement

Autism and Movement Fluidity in Thinking

One of the hardest things about my autism is the unreliable fluidity of my own thinking. Sometimes my thoughts are fluid and sometimes they are not. When my thoughts are fluid I can easily think through task-oriented things such as making a meal, writing an article, or cleaning the house. I can make a mental (or written) list and follow it. I can think of a main idea and sub topics. I can gather supplies and start.

When my thoughts are not fluid life is a bit different. When it comes to meals, rather than eating dinner, I will eat one thing at a time. I might eat a banana. Then an hour later I might put a frozen turkey burger in the microwave and eat that. Later still I might put a bag of frozen vegetables in the microwave and eat just those vegetables. It works for me. When it comes to writing or cleaning the house I am not able to engage when my thoughts are not fluid. Well, technically, I could engage, but have learned that it is a huge waste of time. My best strategy is to put it off until my thoughts are more fluid.

Because it does not work in life to simply put off doing many things because my thoughts are not fluid I have figured out strategies to keep my thinking as fluid as possible. Many of these strategies are sensory related. The more disregulated my body becomes the less fluid my thoughts is the general rule. Even so, it is not consistent across the board. There have been occasions where I was quite disregulated and had fluid thoughts. There have also been occasions when I have been well regulated and my thinking fluidity was anything but fluid!

Helpful Activities Toward Impacting Movement Fluidity in My Thinking

  • Maintaining General Over All Sensory Regulation: I spend several hours every day to maintain regulation as best I can. Typically I have a current routine that works well for a couple of years and then what works for me to bring daily sensory regulation to my system changes.
  • Walking: Many times walking seems to serve as an oil of sorts for my thoughts – i.e., walking helps my thoughts to move along as my feet take steps.
  • Writing: Sometimes I can kick my thinking into movement if I begin to write words. This strategy is especially helpful when my brain is stuck on a phrase that keeps repeating in my thoughts. I find that if I write down a repeating phrase each time it comes up that after a few times I can continue on with the written phrase. Sometimes I continue on in writing and other times the thought fluidity is sparked enough that I can continue on with my thinking without the need for written support to aid the thinking fluidity.
  • Art Endeavors: Creating anything artful that shows movement such as painting, quilling, quilting, knitting, crocheting, photography, etc. is quite helpful to get sluggish, non-fluid thoughts moving better. The practical problem with this strategy is that even though I have many sorts of art endeavors I enjoy, they are packed away on shelves inside a large walk in closet. When my thoughts are not fluid I do not have the capability to get out the supplies I need for any given project. I have tried over the years to outsmart this by having a great organization system with totes/boxes clearly labeled. While this has made for a neat storage closet it hasn’t been helpful in terms of being able to get out needed supplies to engage in an art project when my thoughts are not fluid, i.e. when I need it most is when I can’t do it.
  • Reading: This strategy doesn’t consistently work, but it is so easy to pick up a book to see if reading will work. I can know after reading a few pages whether or not it will work. I always have several books I am in the process of reading so have lots to choose from at my fingertips when I am home! I have also found that if I read every day it seems to be helpful in terms of keeping my thoughts more fluid.

Additional Information

The problems I experience with fluidity in thinking seems to be a movement related issue. It has so many parallels to physical movement only instead of my body moving, the movement has to do with the physical movement in my brain that happens when thinking. The impact of movement fluidity in thinking used to be a small factor in my life. It seemed that as long as my body was in a good place with sensory regulation my thinking fluidity was pretty good. This has changed with age, especially over the past few years.

Additionally, the problems I experience with fluidity in thinking are not the same as experienced by older adults in general. When movement fluidity in thinking becomes glitchy – jumping, stopping, slowing with irregularity in pace and intensity – I can impact it towards good by employing the previously stated measures. If I do not actively use these strategies my thoughts become fewer and fewer along with body movement becoming less and less. This gets scary so now that I have figured out what to do I do so.

Poverty of Information Currently Available

During the past few years (I am 61 as I write this blog) my thinking fluidity has become more front and center in needing to be managed. The ideas stated here have been the ones that have worked the best for me. There is so little written about autism and aging. There are so many autistics aging. It seems I am foraging into new territory to write about this topic.

I also wonder about the impact of autistic burnout factor that many of my aging autistic cohorts have written and discussed. This burnout has to do with becoming physically unable to keep up the pace of acting as if we are not autistic so as to fit into the world around us. After decades of making ourselves appear to be of typical neurology so that we can work to pay the bills and interact in community settings to raise our kids many of us slowly come to experience burnout. Some of us have come to a grinding halt and others of us experience this burnout more slowly over time, but all of us have found it necessary to pull back, retreating from the demands of our world. I wonder if there is an intersection or overlap of autistic burn out and difficulty maintaining thinking fluidity or perhaps if uneven movement fluidity in thinking is part of autistic burnout.

Looking to the Future

I would love to hear from others as to the presence/absence of increasing difficulty with thinking fluidity as aging occurs along with any helpful ideas you are willing to share from your own experience. In addition, if anyone knows of anything written about this topic of movement fluidity in thinking being impacted as autistics age please share. I haven’t yet been able to find any resources about this topic. Looking forward to hearing from my comrades – feeling the need to age gracefully together, learning from one another and forging new territory for those coming up behind us.

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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.

Autism and Changing Classroom Strategies

The field of autism is very new – not even 100 years old yet! This means we are constantly learning new things. It also means that those of us in the field of autism will likely need to change the way we deliver help to those who seek it and change the way we teach our students. It has happened to me and to most of my colleagues in the field.

We now know that what works for most children to learn does not always work for autistic children. In fact, it can be detrimental to their learning. Here are two examples:

  • Requiring children to look at you when you are speaking to them
    ~
    For most children this will allow them to better attend to what you are saying because the act of looking while listening often gives you their undivided attention.

    For many autistic children looking at people speaking to them is problematic. Many autistic people will tell you eye contact is painful. Even when it is not downright painful, eye contact can be a problem for many autistics in that the information picked up is too intense, which can then trigger shut down.

    Whether painful or too intense, eye contact with an adult speaking to an autistic child will not insure that child’s undivided attention. In fact, demanding eye contact of an autistic will most likely be counter-productive to your goal of having them take in the information you are saying to them.

  • Requiring children to stop moving about when you are speaking to them or when you want them to do seat work at school
    ~
    Most children are able to better concentrate on the task at hand if they have still bodies.

    For autistic children the opposite can be true for a variety of reasons. For some, processing information – this includes thinking – can only happen when physical movement of the body occurs. Thinking is neurological movement of ideas and facts in the brain. Autistic wiring means that sometimes it takes physical body movement to spur on the neurological thinking movement necessary to allow academic completion of tasks.

    Many autistic children employ a repetitive movement such as flapping of the hands. We now know that hand-flapping can be a tool to keep the sensory system of autistics better regulated. Many report the calming effects actually allow them to be part of the world around them. Others report that hand-flapping allows excess emotion to be drained out of the body which avoids shut down from overwhelming physical sensations that intense emotions can bring to an autistic body.

    Whether regulating, calming or avoiding shutdown, hand-flapping or another repetitive movement (sometimes called stims) for many autistic students, is their ticket to be able to concentrate on the task at hand. Having a quiet body or quiet hands, while helpful for typical students, is often counterproductive for autistics when it comes to hearing instruction or concentrating on academic tasks during the school day.

Maya Angelou said that when we know better we do better. I think this is an important concept to apply to the changing field of autism. As we become better informed by the children who grew into adults and are now well able to communicate their perspectives from living in a body headed up by autistic neurology, we can throw out some of those ideas and practices we once thought were helpful.

Often times I see people in the field of autism hang onto the way they always thought or the way they always did things. Change is difficult. Sometimes people get into dichotomous right/wrong arguments over things such as eye contact and hand-flapping.

I get this. For me, if I learn something new that changes what I do to make things better for children today I also think, “What might have happened for Tellis or Maddie or Carlos or Jack if only I had known?” It is hard to entertain having been wrong, especially when you know it may have negatively affected the lives of children. I think this is why some people fight so hard to prove their old thinking and old ways are right and the new ideas or new information is wrong. And yet, it often isn’t a matter of right or wrong, but instead, a matter of becoming better informed over time.

I would like to encourage all of us who feel badly or are embarrassed about what we believed about autism or about the strategies we may have tried in the past to remember to be kind to ourselves. Most of us have done the best we could with the autism information we knew at the time. Remember, relatively speaking, the field of autism is new, being less than 100 years old. Thus, we can expect to shift our thinking and change our practice strategies based on new information.

As long as we continue to update our information along with seeking out and learning from the experts – those who live the autistic life – we can know that as we learn, discover and grow we can update our teaching strategies, improve our service delivery and make better progress on behalf of those we serve who live with autism. As teachers and practitioners we will become better and better interfacing with, helping and teaching our autistic students. Together, with autistics informing us as we go, the world can become a better place for us all.

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REFERENCES

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.

Endow, J. (2009). The Power of Words: How we think about people with autism spectrum disorders matters! Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC.

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

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

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

Originally written for and published by Ollibean on August 8, 2015
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