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Why Do They Do That? Understanding and Supporting People with Autism Spectrum Disorders Barbara T. Doyle, MS Clinical Consultant, Author, Family Member.

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Presentation on theme: "Why Do They Do That? Understanding and Supporting People with Autism Spectrum Disorders Barbara T. Doyle, MS Clinical Consultant, Author, Family Member."— Presentation transcript:

1 Why Do They Do That? Understanding and Supporting People with Autism Spectrum Disorders Barbara T. Doyle, MS Clinical Consultant, Author, Family Member

2 Why Do They Self-Isolate? Can be overwhelmed with stimuli Lack the social skills to interact Can remember many failed social episodes Find it hard to understand language Cannot read the non-verbal cues Cannot follow the shifting conversation Cannot predict the actions of others, so are often surprised (shocked?) by what happens

3 To Address This: Create opportunities to interact with fewer people Keep the interaction about a liked topic or activity Create a social routine that they can follow Have social opportunities in their most comfortable place Control the noise and lighting during social interactions KISS: keep it short, Sweetheart!

4 Why Do They Want Things to be The Same? Cannot predict what others will do May not understand what makes things happen: poor cause and effect understanding Everything new surprises or shocks them May not understand what we say about changes that are coming Memorize their world so they CAN predict Rote Memory is a great strength for them! (same way every time…)

5 To Address This: Use a daily, handwritten, simple schedule list (no pictures or computer needed) Use a Personal Calendar Use Task Lists These are explained in your Visual Strategies handout Try Object Schedules (you have a handout for this too.)

6 Why Do They Ask The Same Questions Repeatedly? A “working memory” issue: cannot remember one thing, while doing something else May not be able to comprehend a familiar statement if there is competing stimuli May be trying to initiate and have no other way (social skills deficits) May be seeking a different answer (poor cause and effect understanding)

7 To Address This: Add information to your answer such as a picture, gesture, object, word card, etc. Eliminate competing stimuli while talking Write down the answer. When they ask again, read the answer to them. When they ask again, read the answer to them. When they ask again… By then, answer will go from working memory to short term Rote Memory (a strength!)

8 Why Don’t They (seem to) Care About Our Feelings? They might care, but can’t show it! Cannot read non-verbal cues: how do they know what your feelings are? Cannot interpret tone of voice and body language: how do they know your feelings? Difficulty taking the perspective of another (brain-based “Theory of Mind”) Explained in your handout “Understanding and Supporting People with ASD”

9 To Address This: Explain this to others!!! Teach the person with ASD what to DO to show caring: give a tissue to someone who is crying, pat a person on the shoulder, make a card or gift for someone Tell them how to respond instead of what to think or feel Compare the feelings of others to their own experiences

10 Why Do They (seem to) Refuse To Communicate? Competing stimuli Word retrieval issues Fear and confusion: primary states of mind Inconsistency of performance across people, places and activities Sensory overload Misreading or missing social cues Massed practice with communication methods Taught to be “responders”

11 To Address This: Teach communication methods in the real time, with the real materials, in the real place, with the real outcomes Learn Structured Waiting: if you wait, the words might come. Clarify with visual aids Control competing stimuli Be responsive to all communicative signals, not just speech

12 Why Do They Flap, Rock, Spin, etc. Repetitive movements are diagnostic May provide some comfort because it is familiar May be a coping strategy May activate parts of the brain needed for comprehension and participation May increase breathing and circulation May combat boredom

13 To Address This: If not harmful, don’t always interfere Take data. Determine the function of the movement. Use the Data Collection Form to look for patterns and trends If data indicates a possible function, try substituting a more typical movement Give time when a person can have freedom of movement Increase ALL kinds of physical activity (this has benefits too numerous to mention!)

14 Why Do They Get Overly Focused? It is diagnostic to ASD. Not done on purpose to annoy May like the familiarity and sureness of the favorite topic (Give me two reasons why, please.) Certain things make sense to the person while others do not Shifting focus at the lead of another is so hard for a person with ASD. Can get “Stuck” on a topic. Might block out other disturbing stimuli when focused on preferred item or topic. Could be a coping strategy

15 To Address This: It is diagnostic and developmental. Don’t describe with mental health terms like obsessive and perseverative Interests are open pathways for learning and socialization. Use, expand, or re-route interests. See your handout on this. Find others who share the interest Share time listening or participating in the interest

16 NOW WHAT? Now that you understand why, what are you going to change about what you do? Take a moment and think or talk about what changes could be made where you work to better accommodate people with autism spectrum disorders.

17 ISBN ISBN ASA Book Award 2006!

18 Thank you for all you do! Let me hear from you! To contact me: Barbara T. Doyle, M.S. Phone


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