Not long ago I posted a video of a lecture by Temple Grandin. Temple is autistic, a designer of livestock handling facilities and a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. She is an icon in the Autistic Community. Her life has been a beacon and an inspirational story and recently her story was told in a biopic produced by HBO. She is the author of several books on autism and the autistic spectrum.
Yesterday I came across this amazing one-on-one interview with Temple. The video is a re-broadcast of an hour long intimate discussion with Temple about her life, her work and her journey with autism. If you are at all interested in the area of ASD you will want to watch this!
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Here’s a different look at Asperger’s as explained by Brain on the kids show Arthur!
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- ARTHUR Explores Asperger’s Syndrome in a New Episode on Monday (susanheim.blogspot.com)
- The New Autism Spectrum Disorder (NASD) in the DSM-5: Autism Minus Intellectual Disability (autisminnb.blogspot.com)
- “Parenthood”: Sex, Drugs, & Asperger’s (blisstree.com)
Kim Peek was the inspiration for the movie Rain Man starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. Peek, who passed away last year at the age of 58, lived with his father Fran. Peek suffered from a brain development disorder known as agenesis of the corpus collosum. Malformation and absence of the corpus callosum are rare developmental disorders that result in a wide spectrum of symptoms, ranging from severe cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism to relatively mild learning problems.
While Kim was able to perform extraordinary mental feats, particularly related to memory of historical facts, he struggled with many of the day to day tasks of life. This is a fascinating short video of Kim’s visit to London and his explanation of his condition. Enjoy!Vodpod videos no longer available.
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- Man Who Inspired ‘Rain Man’ Dies At 58 (npr.org)
- “I have so many things in me that you can’t even guess them all.” – Kim Peek. (althouse.blogspot.com)
I love using technology to engage and reach people in therapy. For me, it started with the relaxation cassette tape! I frequently use the internet,email, PowerPoint narratives and mp3’s and even Twitter and this Blog with clients. A Minneapolis center is experimenting with Ipods as an intervention tool with ASD youth. The wonderful book “Getting IT” is a must for anyone interested in using technology with children and youth in the areas of mental heath and disability. I thoroughly recommend it.
This story from Reuters
Sue Pederson knows that the teenage boys in her treatment program have trouble making conversation. They may not know what to talk about; or once they get started, when to shut up.
That’s one of the striking features of people with Asperger’s syndrome: they struggle with the social skills that come so naturally to others.
But about a year ago, Pederson, a psychologist, and her colleagues at the Fraser Child & Family Center in Minneapolis found a new way to reach these students — right through their headphones.
They’re using iPods, which play music and videos, to teach them how to fit in.
It may have started out as a form of entertainment, but Pederson says this kind of technology is turning into an unexpected boon for children and teenagers with special needs. The devices, it turns out, can be crammed with the kind of information they need to get through the day. While it’s still experimental, she said, “I think it’s going to spread like wildfire.”
With Asperger’s, a form of autism, people lack the inner voice that tells them what is, or is not, appropriate behavior. At Fraser, Pederson’s staff came up with the idea of programming iPods to act as an electronic substitute for that missing voice.
In this case, the staff helped students create a series of short videos and slide shows on how to behave in different social settings. Some are barely 30 seconds long: How to carry on a conversation (“Let the other person talk AND change the topic…”); how to respect other people’s boundaries, and think before they speak (“Use your filter!”)
In the world of special education, these scripts are known as “social stories,” used to teach basic social skills. “It’s a mental checklist for things to think about when you’re interacting with other people,” explained Mandy Henderson, who works with Fraser’s Asperger’s program.
As part of the Fraser project, the students can transfer the videos onto their iPods, and replay them over and over, to drive the lessons home.
Jack O’Riley, of Eagan, said it’s just what his 15-year-old son P.J. needed. “This really hit the mark,” he said. Like many kids with Asperger’s, P.J. is baffled by the normal rhythms of social interaction: in conversation, he may blurt out too much information, or say nothing at all, his father says.
At the same time, P.J. is easily distracted and has a hard time staying on task, another common trait of Asperger’s. For years, O’Riley posted laminated signs around the house to remind his son how to get through the day — take a shower, brush his teeth, get ready for school.
Now, with the videos developed at Fraser, “we can plug this stuff into his little ‘extended memory,'” O’Riley said. P.J. is building a library of videos on his iPhone, so they’ll be at his fingertips. “He can pull up a topic on his ‘to do list’ and find everything he needs to know,” his father said.
Sixteen-year-old Myles Lund of Lakeville, another student in the Fraser program, said he’s learned to use the iPod to help control his emotions by playing his favorite music. “It helps take my mind off of it,” he said. At the same time, Myles, who says he rarely initiates a conversation, agrees the videos can help in social situations. “I just pull out my iPod and go through a list of things to talk about.”
The staffers at Fraser came up with the idea after they noticed how students with Asperger’s would use iPods as a calming device, to block out noise or other distractions. “We just started thinking how else can we use this technology,” said Pederson. They got a $7,500 private grant to buy the iPods and other equipment, and started experimenting.
Jim Ball, an adviser to the Autism Society of America, said similar projects are popping up around the country. Some people are designing adaptations for smart phones, Palm Pilots and other devices to fill the same need, he said.
“This is just another way of prompting kids when they’re in situations when they don’t know what to do,” said Ball, who works with autistic children in New Jersey. “The technology gives them the ability to be independent.”
Ball noted the devices could work especially well with Asperger’s kids, because they’re often far more comfortable with electronic gadgets than they are with people. “It’s a machine; they don’t have to react to it, they don’t have to understand it,” Ball said. “They just need to know how to work it. And they do.”
Another advantage, especially for teenagers, is that they won’t stand out using this kind of device, noted Pederson. “If you walk into a family reunion and you’ve got a teenager with an iPod, nobody bats an eye,” she said.
Barbara Luskin, a psychologist with the Autism Society of Minnesota, agrees. “Adolescents with Asperger’s, like all adolescents, don’t want to look different,” she said. If the device just blends in with everyone else’s, she said, “you’re much more likely to use it.”
So far, there appear to be few commercial products aimed at this market, but that may be changing. The Conover Co., a special-education software company in Appleton, Wis., recently adapted its “Functional Skills System” for the iPod Touch. But the package, which sells for $3,500, is mainly marketed to schools and other organizations.
Fraser, meanwhile, is hoping to get another grant to expand its iPod program.
Ball, of the Autism Society, predicts this is just the beginning. “I think that technology is limitless in its potential for working with kids,” he said.
Music affects all of us, and we can attest to it’s appeal to our emotions. Now researchers have developed a program designed to help children with ASD better understand emotions, and learn to recognize emotions in other people.
The children use a method of music education known as the Orff-Schulwerk (schulwerk is German for schooling) approach, which was developed by 20th-century German composer Carl Orff. This approach to music learning uses movement and is based on things that kids intuitively like to do, such as sing, chant rhymes, clap, dance and keep a beat or play a rhythm on anything near at hand.
The 12-week program uses elements from the Orff method — including games, instruments and teamwork — and combines them with musical games. The idea is to pair emotional musical excerpts with matching displays of social emotion (happy with happy, sad with sad, etc.) in a social, interactive setting.
Istvan Molnar-Szakacs, a researcher at the UCLA Tennenbaum Center for the Biology of Creativity and member of the of the Help Group–UCLA Autism Research Alliance, stated, “The purpose of this work is to provide a means for awakening the potential in every child for being ‘musical’ — that is, to be able to understand and use music and movement as forms of expression and, through that, to develop a recognition and understanding of emotions.”
Molnar-Szakacs also said that participating in musical activities has the potential to scaffold and enhance all other learning and development, from timing and language to social skills. “Beyond these more concrete intellectual benefits, the extraordinary power of music to trigger memories and emotions and join us together as an emotional, empathic and compassionate humanity are invaluable”
The goal of the research is to evaluate the effect of the music education program on outcomes in social communication and emotional functioning, as well as the children’s musical development.
I am constantly delighted and enthralled by the children, young people and adults with ASD with whom I have the opportunity to work. There is a frankness and depth in these conversations that blows my socks off just about every time we get together.
Here are some of the ASD resources that I use and recommend to my clients and patients as well as my colleagues.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but rather some of those I have found most useful or been described as most helpful. Please have a look and see if you think they may be of use to you or someone you know. There are others listed in my “Highly Recommended Books and Resources” Link to the right of this page.
and there are so many others! I’m just realising that this is an entire post topic in itself. Stay tuned. Any others you like” Any questions? Leave a comment!