Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Temple Grandin Part 2

Stretch.  Stretch your kiddo with autism.  Make sure they are stretched.  Dr. Grandin came back to this point several times.   She said to push them, but not too hard.  She also used widen and broaden.  She told the anecdote that when she was a teen her mother told her she was going to her Aunt's cattle ranch that summer.  Temple said, "No way.".  Her mom said she could go for a week, or for a month, but she was going.  She went, she loved it, and it inspired the rest of her life.  And she put that all down to being stretched by her mom.

She talked very fast, and although I took six pages of notes I did not get it all.  I plan to buy more of her books, especially one on The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships.  She noted a new book called Asperger's and Self Esteem that she wrote the forward for, which profiles famous folks on the Spectrum.  Einstein, of course, is on the cover.  While she was very pro-autistic folks, and differing ways of being, she was also a strong advocate for training kiddos in manners and social norms.  She made the case for the utility of her Fifties upbringing, and said she was saved from expulsion from school for fighting and aggression issues by finally having horseback riding taken away for two weeks.  She said she switched from aggression to crying at that point in her life as an outlet for her emotions.  Further on the emotion end she discussed fear.  She characterized fear (and anxiety) as the primary emotion of autism, and backed that up by saying her Amygdylla is three times larger than normal.  She noted that for kids, caisen free, gluten free, and/or sugar free diets, and fish oil supplements, can greatly reduce anxiety.  For adults she is not opposed to low dose anti-depressants for anxiety, and wrote in detail on that in her book The Way I See It, second edition.  She has a web site, grandin.com , that I plan to look up soon.  Also fhautism.com, but I didn't catch if that is also her web site, or just a strongly recommended one. 

Now, how do we know how big Temple's Amygdylla is?  Well, she noted she has had many brain scans for scientific purposes.  One large set for a US government study, and another set for the NFL!  Apparently they have a large brain injury program.  She showed several of her brain scans, and they were very cool.  She is very lively, in a completely deadpan way.  She did reveal she was not feeling well, so maybe she smiles more when not in gastric pain.  She had a lot of empathy for non-verbal autistic folks, and went into detail about ways to read their non verbal cues.  She also talked a fair amount about Sensory Processing issues, and that the science behind this is getting clarified and solidified.  Her charts went by very fast, but she had a big one showing sensory issues as a stand alone issue, as well as an adjunct to about ten other diagnosis, including autism and ADHD.  She recommended getting familiar with Google Scholar to get to the good stuff on the internet.  She also made several jokes about the autism percentages in Silicon Valley.

Great ideas that popped up.  Fluorescent lights often drive folks on the Spectrum batty because they flicker and an incredibly high rate.  You can block them with a brimmed hat.  You can also cancel them out by putting an incandescent light on a desk that has fluorescents overhead.  Also tan, grey, or pastel paper to work on can make a huge difference (gonna buy a ream).  The only electronic devices that do not flicker like fluorescents are lap tops and tablets (go I-pad).  Colored glasses (called Irilean) or even cheap colored sun glasses can also knock out the flicker.  Balancing games, and sitting on a bouncy ball can be very helpful.  Do not get hung up on labels, work on the specific problems.  Sounds are better tolerated when the child initiates them.  NO SUDDEN SURPRISES, these cause extreme fright and tantrums.  Weighted vests should be used 20 minute on and 20 minutes off. Oppositional Defiant disorder is caused by stupid math drills.  Always work bottom up, teach specific examples before trying to teach concepts.  Use associative links back to the persons areas of interest to promote learning.  Teach how to do work other people want.  There will always be uneven skill development, bold up the strength areas.  Hands on activities teach practical problem solving skills.  Get kiddos involved with practical skills.  Clubs, hobbies, scouts, classes that really interest the student.  Start building a work history and ability early on, once you find things the person likes and is good at.  Show kids interesting things and places.  Teach with real objects as much as possible.  Use flash cards with pictures and words on the same side.  Kids should be doing project and playing games with other kids where the rules and duties are negotiated by the kids, adults back off. 

Yes, I know I just dumped a bunch of stuff with not much of a frame work to hang it on.  Sorry about that, write or ask if you have any questions.  I wanted to get most of it down while the lecture is fresh in my mind.  I wish I could have hung out with Temple (if she had been feeling better), but her personality did a good job of shining through in the talk.  She may be completely dead pan, almost no facial expressions, little voice inflection, and few gestures, but she made up for that lack with intelligence, wit, and heart.  I will definitely be buying more of her books, and tracking down the HBO movie too.   At the end of her lecture she opened up for questions abruptly, and the hall was silent.  The first person to venture forth was a middle schooler on the Spectrum.  He was clearly uncomfortable walking up there in front of everyone, and his bravery was heart squeezing.  He saw Temple as a hero, and she treated him with great respect and attention.  I don't even remember what he asked, but the whole thing gave me great hope for the future.  It was quite a night, go see her if you ever get the chance.  

Temple Part 1

So, I got in to see the sold out Temple Grandin lecture.  It was sooo cool.  I thought it might not be, since I have read several of her books and seen many interviews, and figured it might be old hat.  No way.  She was engaging and interesting, and had a ton to say.  Her focus in the lecture was on Autism, but she threw in a little animal science as well.  A friend asked if she is the possibility, or the exception, and I say possibility.  If this sounds like Greek, let me explain.  Temple Grandin is an adult with autism.  She is also a Ph D, is very respected in her field, and has written almost a dozen books.  She is internationally known for both Animal Science, and as an Autism advocate.  Her story is fascinating, with a different family she may have ended up in an institution back in the Fifties.  She did not speak until she was three, and had serious behavioral problems.  As an adult she presents as extremely unique, but also down to earth and very funny with a dry sense of humor.  I say she is the "possibility", because she proves that unique individuals, who do not swim in the main stream, can make it in the real world as adults. 

Two of her key points for autistic individuals were: develop your strengths, and sell your work, not yourself.  She also made many minor points, including being held to real world standards, developing an experience and work history, and persisting in a challenging society.  My   favorite line was when she was asked about options for schooling for kids on she spectrum she quipped, "Socializing with teen-agers is not a life skill I needed."  She referred several times to raising kids with autism, and said that you need to "stretch" them so they experience much of the world. 

There is much more to say, but my son needs his earned computer time, so I will post Part 1 now.