Friday, October 10, 2008

Reverse IEPs


We know about IEPs - Individualized Education Plans. These are ways we customize education to a student, including an Aspie or autist. We provide accommodations like frequent breaks, allowing stimming, allowing the child to clutch a favored object that brings him/her peace, etc. These are ways we try to get the child to integrate into society better.

One of the most important aspects of integration is learning to get along better with others as much as possible. An Aspie or autist child may best be persuaded to "get with the program" by showing appreciation for the accommodations s/he's been given. In other words, s/he can think of it as accommodating them in turn. That also helps everyone understand that to be autistic or Aspie is not to be inferior, just different.

Just as we ask blacks to be culturally sensitive to whites and vice versa, we can ask autists and Aspies to be sensitive to the distinctive needs of NTs. For example:

  • NTs tend to attach emotions to words. It's a bit like a clock which is five minutes ahead so you mentally turn the time back five minutes. In the same way, think of what you want to say, then mentally make it softer. For example, maybe you want to say "This food is really bad." NTs feel better if you instead say "This food is basically good, but could use just a little more seasoning, and it might be better if it had a bit more sauce."

  • NTs aren't as sure that you like them, and they want to reassured when you talk to them. So, you might be too busy to talk to an NT right now, but also add something like "But I'd love to talk to you later...say, after math class?" Be specific about liking them and that will help them feel better.

  • NTs don't always like to acknowledge all of what's on their minds, so even if they're thinking one thing, they may something they think you'll like a little more. Here the clock is going in the opposite direction. Try to add more meaning to what they say. For example, if an NT says "You might want to spend a few minutes more on your science studying" s/he is probably thinking - and wants you to think - "You definitely need to spend a good deal more time studying science because you could be in serious trouble otherwise".

  • NTs like to spread out their thinking to cover several different things at the same time. They like to "multitask," which means they try to pay a little attention to their homework, a little more to IMing, a little more to their music and a little more to the TV - all at the exact same time. That means many things. One thing is that if you want to talk to an NT, s/he is more willing to talk to you even if s/he's busy. But if you want the NT to only talk to you for a few minutes - like if it's really important - you'll need to ask for that.

  • NTs aren't always very good at exact details. Many NTs like to look at things in general. For example, they may know we fought a war against Nazi Germany and the man in charge there was named Adolf Hitler, but they may not know that, for example, he first wanted to be an artist. It's good to want to let them know these facts, and it helps if you can show how it relates to NTs' general knowledge: "Did you know Hitler first wanted to be an artist? He was rejected from the Vienna Academy and that's part of why he seemed so angry at the Austrians and conquered Austria first when he got into power." NTs will appreciate that more.

Obviously, this is a partial list. What would you want to add?

And now a few hat tips around the blogosphere....

First off, I'd like to give a shout-out to Tanya Savko, who shared with us her victory in helping an autistic teenager learn responsibility. Good for you, Tanya and double for giving us the example!

Secondly, StatMom wants to give the world a message of peace and understanding, straight from her kids. Read it now (please).

Thirdly, JoeyAndyDad points out here how autism - especially in a child - can be a valid reason for a handicapped parking placard. We know how many able people abuse handicapped parking spaces. One of the reasons why it's so bad is that it especially hurts autists and Aspies, whose situations are not as easily visible as, say, crutches or a wheelchair.

Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow!


Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Hi Jeff,

Another terrific post! I think all of the material will be so helpful for Nigel to refer to. And thanks for the link! I think Nigel was as happy with himself for completing the job as I was with him for doing it. Take care.

Casdok said...

I love your reverse IEP thoughts. Great post.

Sharon said...

Wow Jeff - good stuff! My 15 yr old Aspie son just started high school this far so good (fingers crossed & holding breath.)

I like your thoughts here as it relates to the overall outcome - I actully shared your blog with my son and he commented, "I like his ideas mom!"

I truly appreciate different ideas to brainstorm with my son's educators....thanks!