Teaching vs Doing

As I ponder the accommodations we make for children on the spectrum, the old saying “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime” comes to mind.

There is a fine line between helping kids to accommodate by doing things for them, albeit with good intentions, versus teaching them the skills for acclimating to circumstances.


More Holidays Around the Corner

With Halloween now behind us, the rest of the holiday season is now in front of us. The holidays are meant to be times when families and friends come together to enjoy each other and just the opposite may be the case in families who have children on the spectrum.

It takes special consideration, thought and proactively preparing for the holidays to make them an enjoyable experience for everyone. So, now is the perfect time to start planning.  It’s a constant balancing act between the needs of the child or children with special needs and the rest of the family. There are no right and wrong answers and what might work for one family may not work for another.

Below are some things to consider:


From Signs & Pictures To Speech

Parents often ask me whether teaching sign language or using pictures to help their child communicate will inhibit their child’s ability to speak? The answer is NO!  In fact, just the opposite happens.

It may seem counter intuitive, but research supports the fact that by learning to communicate with signs or pictures, a child is actually more likely to speak if they are able to do so.  Pictures or signs can’t make a child talk, but they can facilitate the communication process, leading to speech.

Did you know that many children on the autism spectrum have oral-motor problems that make it difficult for them to coordinate the movements of their mouths to make the sounds of speech? This is often called apraxia or dyspraxia and although not unique to children on the spectrum, it is often seen in this population.



With the recent surge in teenage suicides reported on the news, our national attention to bullying has increased.  It is an especially sad subject, especially, because it is so preventable.
You may remember in a previous blog I addressed the issue of being proactive (“…address something before it happens, rather than waiting to react to something after it has already happened.”)  It’s critical to deal with bullying proactively to prevent these extreme reactions.  But, even before dealing with the bullying, per se, children would need to know they are being bullied.


Halloween Thoughts and Suggestions

With only two days to go until the trick-or-treaters are out and about, I thought a few thoughts about Halloween might be in order.

Remember, Halloween is meant to be a fun holiday for kids but that doesn’t mean it will be as many parents who have already been through this know. Many kids with Autism or those with sensory issues may find this holiday particularly difficult.

Let’s look at the various confounding issues that this holiday presents:

Let’s start with SOUNDS:  Spooky sounds, unusual sounds, loud sounds, sounds that seem to come ‘out of no where’ as you approach people’s homes and the ever popular “BOO! intended to scare the ‘heebe geebees’ out of you, can be rather upsetting to those who are easily overwhelmed or over stimulated by such input. Wearing earplugs, ear buds can be helpful here.


Fake It ‘Til You Make It

In my last blog I addressed the idea of “faking it.” This is a concept that I have often used when teaching social skills, especially for those kids (mostly adolescents) who say they just don’t care or don’t want to engage with others.

Using the concept of being an actor like in a TV show or movie (using characters the child is familiar with when possible) I explain that to ‘fit in’ in a particular context, there are expected roles that we each play.  Remember, I am always going to look at the unique needs of the individual and am not forcing any child to engage in ways that they wish to avoid. I respect neurodiversity, but I also believe that we need to help kids learn the skills they need to live in the current world.


Process vs. Content: Teaching “How” vs. “What”

Process versus content. It is not the language often spoken of in the world of ASD, but I think it is a highly relevant issue to address. It’s the idea of ‘how’ to do something, more than ‘what specifically to do.’

I know that many individuals need direct instructions on the specifics, of what to do, so don’t get me wrong and misinterpret what I am saying here. It’s always going to be about the unique needs of the individual. But, for too long, I had families come to me with concerns that their child was not spontaneous and only used rote phrases, even when their language suggested they were capable of more.

Let’s put the idea of “process versus content” to use in an example of greeting someone. This is an area that many children with ASD have difficulty with and may need assistance in learning.  The process is teaching a child how to greet another person while the content is telling them exactly what to say; “Hi.”


Sometimes, Simpler is Better: One Tool for Many Purposes

For years, parents would be surprised when I told them that the computer game I was using with their child during therapy wasn’t some special “speech therapy program.” It was the same one they could buy at any store that sold children's computer programs.

I would tell my clients (their parents actually), that they didn’t need to invest in expensive products or programs for their children. The games and activities that were already in their home that other children used were just as good as, if not better in some cases, then the “special” products. Often it was the ‘typical’ program that had the familiar T.V. or movie characters that yielded the most interest from the children.


Communication Shutdown-November 1, 2010

This idea was just too unique not to pass on…
On November 1st, people around the world may have the opportunity to step into the shoes of someone who has social communication problems.  At least that’s the intent of an Australian not for profit organization called


Neurodiversity-Variation Rather Than Deviation

I recently read an interesting interview with Ari Ne’eman, the first presidential appointee to the National Council on Disability (NCD) who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2000. Currently, at the age of 22, he is one of the youngest appointees in history.

Mr. Ne’eman is the Founding President of The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), a non-profit organization run by individuals on the autism spectrum to “…advance the principles of the disability rights movement in the world of autism.”

He is a proponent of the neurodiversity movement in which the idea is to promote the acceptance of autism as a variation rather than a deviation in society.