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.