Reflections on Learning

Also known as … wait? It’s MY fault he’s not learning?

I recently attended a webinar by Presence Learning that was part of their Agents of Change series. Before I go any further, I’d like to suggest that each one of you (if you’re an SLP or Teacher) go to their website and sign up for the newsletters so that you also receive notifications of their free CEUs. The information presented is typically very useful AND they’re repeating the series called Greatest Hits Summer Series (Grandin, Prizant, Robertson, Burns, and more).

Okay…Now that that’s done (You DID do it, right?)… here are my thoughts about one I attended recently.

The seminar I attended recently was called Uniquely Human: A Different Way to See Autism and Create Pathways to Success. Dr. Barry Prizant was the speaker (for those who recognize the name but don’t really know who he is check out the SCERTS model of teaching for kids with autism).  I’m not going to get into is SCERTS EBP, is Uniquely Human based on research, or is Pluto a planet, or anything like that today…the pseudoscience vs EBP post will just have to wait (and NO I’m not saying SCERTS is pseudoscience or that Pluto is a planet). But I did want to touch base and share with you some of the tidbits of information Dr. Prizant shared with us (in no particular order)**.

1) Autism is not a disease. It’s a way of learning. It does not need a “cure.” It needs acceptance, empathy, and understanding.

2) Professionals (SLPs, Psychologists, Teachers, etc.) need to change our attitudes about ASD and begin building trust with the students and families. Trust comes from acceptance, respect, and understanding, not from pushing programs.

3) Professionals often judge behavioral patterns as inappropriate without finding out the reason for the behavior. It is essential to find out the communication intent of the behavior before deciding if it’s inappropriate. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism, an attempt to communicate, or a distress signal. When we misunderstand behavior we believe it’s the student who needs to change – in reality it’s more likely that we need to change (ooph… that’s a bit uncomfortable isn’t it?). What this means, is that rather than categorizing behavior as desirable or undesirable, we need to look at it with support and empathy.

4)  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AUTISTIC BEHAVIOR.  (yes, I just yelled that!). It is HUMAN behavior. It is our job to find out the WHY of the behavior.

5) We need to build understanding, compassion, appreciation (yes, appreciation for the uniqueness of the student – and appreciation for what that student is dealing with such as sensory, learning, etc.), and support (for student, family, and other professionals).

6) We, as professionals, need to recognize there is no such thing as a “difficult parent.” Parents are dealing with the challenges of their child day-in and day-out…they are advocating for the child they love. When we misunderstand parent responses, we create difficulties with collaboration between professionals and parents.

7) ASD is NOT a tragedy or a disease. It doesn’t require a cure, it doesn’t warrant pity. It is a shared HUMAN experience.

8) If a student is not making progress it is NOT his or her fault. It is not the parent’s fault. IT IS OUR FAULT. (oooh. Are you still with me here or did that grate a little???) The student cannot make progress if we do not provide appropriate supports, if we choose the wrong program, or if we view the student as “too impaired to learn.”  ALL students can learn if WE meet their needs. Not all programs fit all students. (Personally, I think this is the toughest for most of us to really figure out. Many of us tend to get sucked into “the program” and forget that we are dealing with a CHILD…not a program. It’s easy to get involved in completing the program and not realize that we need to change because it’s not working or it’s working too slowly [yes, it’s possible to make some progress but not enough progress quickly enough]).

9) Echolalia is not just “meaningless parroting.” Many times echolalia serves a communication purpose – and we need to truly explore it and see what the intent is…not just put it down as meaningless.

There’s so much more that the presentation provided. I strongly recommend that you take advantage of the free webinar, earn a few CEUs, and listen for yourselves. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think of either Presence Learning, Dr. Prizant, or what your school does well for the kids with ASD. Leave me a comment here!

Until then….Adventure on!


**disclaimer: This is MY understanding of the content provided by Dr. Prizant. Dr. Prizant did not review this information for accuracy.

9 thoughts on “Reflections on Learning

  1. Indeed, Mary, I agree with your summary of Dr. Prizant’s webinar. Many of my favorite students have been on the “spectrum”. It is very rewarding to celebrate as a team when an obstacle to learning has been effectively addressed.

  2. Preach, sister. Some of these points are hard for so many educators to accept, especially when it comes down to us having to change our way of teaching children to meet their needs. There is so much room for professional development in the area of educating ASD students!!! Considering prevalence and the number of these students in general education, ALL educators need it!

    • Agreed Jenn. I think it’s hard for educators to accept that we need to change how we teach to meet the needs of the kids regardless of their diagnosis. I am constantly fighting the battle of changing OUR approach for kids with ASD, ED, LD… we can’t cookie cutter an approach when it comes to kids.

  3. I saw this webinar, too, and shared it with my colleagues at my schools. I am hoping that ALL teachers will eventually see this presentation as I think we ALL need those reminders. I thought Dr. Prizant did a wonderful job of sketching out the important aspects of working with children (and their parents) with autism and even though I knew most of these, the way he presented them made me think of them in a new way. Thanks for the synopsis and the plug for these webinars, Mary – I have enjoyed them as well and am looking forward to watching the ones I missed over the summer.

  4. Mary, thanks for sharing your review of the webinar! You did a very nice job summarizing my main points. As an aside, SCERTS is evidence-based (supported as effective by peer-reviewed, published research as well as by clinical/educational practice).

    I’d also like to point out that the seminar is based on our book that will be published in August, 2015 by Simon & Schuster. For a description and a listing of advance reviews by researchers, well-known clinicians and people with ASD, go to:

    • Thank you for your comment Dr. Prizant. I am definitely looking forward to Uniquely Human being published. I’m hopeful to have a full review of that book as well. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation.

      My comment regarding EBP and SCERTS was based on a (much) earlier post about Psuedoscience and the need to employ critical thinking when evaluating/using various programs. I plan on doing a series of posts exploring various programs and whether they meet the criteria for EBP or psuedoscience (SCERTS, PROMPT, Talk Tools, etc). The comment was not intended to question the validity of SCERTS, and I apologize if that’s what it sounded like. I’m looking forward to reading the research from SCERTS (and am hoping to attend a seminar/training at some point).

      • Thanks, Mary. No, it did not sound that way, but since you brought it up, I thought I’d add that point. SCERTS Collaborator, Dr. Amy Wetherby, published an article in Pediatrics recently on 82 children demonstrating the efficacy of SCERTS. We also have articles on

        Here is a link to an article I wrote a few years ago about EBP that might be of interest and your followers. Also, we are now in discussions with PresenceLearning for a free intro webinar on The SCERTS Model, followed by a multi-session fee-based in-depth training on SCERTS with my collaborators later in 2015-2016. Stay tuned!

        Click to access asq15_evidence-based_practice_fall_2011.pdf

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