What I've Learned from Adults with ASD
April showers and Autism Awareness Month are drying up. That does not mean that autism goes away or that we are not still aware of it. What is does mean is that for the next 11 months we work even harder to make people aware of autism and all of its implications until April rolls around again.
Two weeks ago in my blog, "Hooray for Hollywood," I promised to share three major language areas of dysfunction the adult world of autism has shown me that we need to address over and over and spread like a cloud of cotton candy to our younger clients. Yes, cotton candy-that wispy, sugary, pink, confectionery cloud of air that is irresistible to children and envied by adults. Every child wants some, so we need to give them an abundance of cotton candy in the form of sweet therapy throughout their childhood. Then, just perhaps, they can go with ease and confidence into the world of adulthood.
If you watched Adam, Temple Grandin, Dear John, or Mozart and the Whale, you saw adults with ASD as they struggled with at least three major areas of dysfunction in their lives. We can learn from this and from the other films that were mentioned in my blog of April 14.
Of course, most of these films feature high functioning/Asperger's people who can and should be expected to fit into society. The SLP is a major part of the team to make sure this transition is successful.
In each of the above mentioned films and as I personally witness with my son and other adults with ASD, the three major areas of language dysfunction that limit relationships are:
- Social Manners: otherwise known as etiquette, this might come as a surprise. But believe me, it is one of the major areas that will make or break a relationship on the job or in the individual's personal life.
- Perseveration: this is so annoying to the listener, so misunderstood by the lay person, and so difficult for the person with ASD to learn to self-monitor.
- Anxiety: it will never be overcome but it can be controlled.
- Let us, as SLPs, assist in teaching those with ASD while they are young and love cotton candy. We don't want these children to grow into adults who can only envy those who taste the sweetness of life.
It IS in the realm of wonderful speech therapy to assist teaching Social Manners, to reduce Perseveration, and to help control Anxiety.
- Starting as young as possible, the child with ASD needs to:
- understand Social Manners, the importance of them, and use them;
- diminish Perseveration, see it in themselves, and monitor it;
- find avenues to calm Anxiety over a variety of environments.
April showers bring May flowers so I am going to help therapy bloom for your clients by blogging various strategies for teaching Social Manners, reducing Perseveration, and calming techniques for Anxiety. These are the seeds to success. Oh, they don't grow overnight but each bud is rich in color, beautiful in fragrance, and rewarding to every member of the team. Together, they make a stunning bouquet.
"Speech pathologists make good things happen."