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Teach Social Skills As Values, Not Like Computer Programs

Photo © 2C2K Photography | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Black-and-white photo of two young embracing Black children, one with a shaved head, light button up shirt, and dark pants, the other with a  white horizontal-striped tank dress and long box braids.] Finn Gardiner expectedly.org Applied Behavioral Analysis’s simplistic definition of social skills does both autistic people and the general public a disservice. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) taught me that social skills were context-free rules I had to follow: forcing my hands to be quiet, staring back at eyeballs that bored into mine, contorting myself to make myself look less autistic at the expense of my happiness and overall well-being. I wasn’t allowed to be who I was, so I didn’t see the benefit in making a good impression on other people.  I easily understood abstract concepts such as justice and equality as a child, but I didn’t understand social skills…

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Forcing Friendships Doesn’t Equal Autistic Youth Gaining Social Skills

My son’s first friendships were with family. [Image of a hug between Mu and his adult big sister. His back is to the camera. His sister is smiling. Posted with the permission of the subjects. Image by their father, Nuri Cevik.] Kerima Çevik theautismwars.blogspot.com “How do I handle my child seeing the children of every new family who moves into the neighborhood surrounding us included in outdoor play knowing he is being excluded from the group?” I saw another parent posting this question as one of the most frequent questions autism parents ask as their kids become preteens and teenagers, and I cringed a bit. It is a common concern for all families with autistic youth trying to navigate a world where they are often othered and mistreated. My son and I also see them when we hang out on our deck or the backyard in the summer, or on…

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The Trouble With “Social Coaching” Tech for Autism

M. Kelter theinvisiblestrings.com MIT researchers recently announced that they are developing a wrist watch which analyzes a conversation, then provides feedback about the emotional content of the discussion. Though the watch is still early in development, MIT’s press for the device suggests it may one day provide autistics with a better way to grasp the subtle nuances of communication — basically, as a social coach. Photo © AndreaVallejos | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Photo of a metal toy robot.] Similar efforts have emerged in the world of social robotics, where it is postulated that autistic children can learn to socialize with the help of mechanical “friends,”that is, robots programmed to teach kids to identify emotions, facial expressions, and so on. Like the watch, these coaching devices are envisioned as being able to bring autistics in line with conventional standards of daily social behavior. I have no doubt that the intentions here…

How to Be Socially Awkward, or, What I Learned In Social Skills Class

N. M. Silber extemporarysanity.wordpress.com We want April — Autism Acceptance Month — to matter, to help further acceptance and understanding of autistic experiences, happiness, and rights for autistic people of all ages and abilities. We will be publishing your Autism Acceptance posts and pictures all month long. If you want to participate, contact us at thinkingautism at gmail dot com. -TPGA Editors Warning: snark ahead. Over the years many people have “explained” the autism spectrum to me, for which I owe them a debt of gratitude. Without their thoughtful help I would never have guessed that I was cognitively impaired and lacked empathy. Who knew that I would never grasp the subtleties of language or concepts, like irony, sarcasm, or satire? More than anything, though, I deeply appreciate how their expertise helped to blend in flawlessly in social situations. Rather than just staying at home and doing things that make…

When Autism and Schizoaffective Converge

Cissi Tsang www.samarobryn.com There have been various studies and speculation abounding regarding the relationship between the autism spectrum and the schizophrenia spectrum. That is not surprising because there are some similarities in behaviours between the two. Both conditions feature such things as social withdrawal, difficulty with empathy and difficulty with reading verbal and non-verbal cues. What happens if both conditions collide and exist together within a person? This is an area that is not often explored. It is almost as if the population of people who have both an autism spectrum diagnosis and a schizophrenia spectrum diagnosis do not exist in the minds of most people. However — such people do exist. I am one of them. I have Asperger’s syndrome, as well as Schizoaffective Disorder. How can it be, though? I must note that the DSM-IV-TR does note this possibility. Although rare, it does happen. With this article, I…

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Have You Seen Flummox and Friends Yet?

Shannon Des Roches Rosa www.squidalicious.com Have you seen the pilot episode of Flummox and Friends yet? Or — back up — did you hear that Christa Dahlstrom created a show just for quirky kids and the people who love (and/or identify with) them? Here’s how Christa described the show in a recent BlogHer interview: “Flummox and Friends is a live-action comedy for quirky kids about navigating the social and emotional world. We’ve just released a pilot episode that anyone can watch for free online. The main characters are a trio of inventors and their next door neighbors. We think of it as The Big Bang Theory meets Pee Wee’s Playhouse.  “The show is targeted at kids aged 6-11, especially those who struggle with the unspoken rules of social interaction. We see it as a show that parents and kids can enjoy watching together and that education professionals can use support…

Getting Through the Holidays!?

We chose the punctuation above for a reason — cautious optimism and the hope that, with the right guidance and attitude, we can make it through the winter holidays, possibly even with some happy memories. So if you, your families, and your friends are hunkering down for the holidays; and if you, like some of us are also a bit … stressed about changes in routine, location, or faces — consider what the wise folks below have to say about navigating this most tumultuous time of the year. And if you have any advice, please leave it in the comments below! Happy Holidays, friends. -The Editors —- Self-advocate Annabelle Listic: …it is especially important, during the holidays, for any autistic person to have:  A way to communicate basic needs, emotions, opinions (a travel dry erase board, sticky notes with simple language on each, a typing program on a phone, tablet,…

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How Apps Can Support Social Skills

Shannon Des Roches Rosa www.squidalicious.com www.blogher.com Sometimes I think social skills apps are redundant, since iPads are themselves such social magnets. These tablets can motivate people of all abilities to interact, and give them a common ground for communicating. But as social skills are multi-faceted, and since different folks need support in specific areas, I am grateful for the variety of apps that allow me to turn my son Leo’s iPad into a custom social skills springboard. Leo doesn’t always use apps developed specifically for fostering social skills. Instead, he relies more on apps created for communication and labeling purposes. Leo has a strong social urge, but he’s often overwhelmed by the factors involved — simultaneously processing names, body language, and words. He appreciates apps that simplify the socialization process, streamline his choices, or help him learn to identify people consistently. Leo needs practice and options for learning to recognize…

On Not Passing, Failing to Pass, and Social Skills

Michael Scott Monje Jr. mmonjejr.blogspot.com Think Inclusive had a very interesting guest blog about passing, the pressure to do so, and the choice not to last week. I loved it. It was exactly as confrontational as it needed to be, refusing to pull punches about important issues. Around the same time I found that, I also ran across Stuart Duncan’s post, where he talks about the issues revolving around “getting fixed” by therapists. As I considered the points being made in both posts, something started to eat at me, and I didn’t quite know what my problem was, at least not until I found this article over on Brenda Rothman’s Mama Be Good on how the autism narrative gets framed. Then it all fell into place. Rather than rehashing her argument, I’d like you to just go read it. Go ahead. It doesn’t take long. Okay. Now, here’s the thing:…

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Interview: Christa Dahlstrom of Flummox and Friends

Flummox and Friends creator Christa Dahlstrom recently sent out the following tweet: “People of Twitter: I am engaged in the making of a TELEVISION PROGRAMME for NERD YOUTH and I REQUIRE YOUR ASSISTANCE.” We recommend you heed her rallying cry and hop over to the Flummox and Friends Kickstarter page — Christa and her crew are poised to deliver a smart, sassy, infinitely engaging and very necessary show for kids who are, well, flummoxed by social dynamics. We talked to Christa last week about  why Flummox and Friends needs to happen and how it will change the world when it does. Tell us what Flummox and Friends will be like. The show is a live-action comedy, along the lines of a contemporary television comedy rather than an instructional video or typical kids’ educational show. The main focus of the show is Professor Gideon T. Flummox of Flummox Labs and his…