Did the title of this blog catch your eye?!? Well, I did have an hour with Dr Temple Grandin but in all honesty it was as part of her webinar last week to hundreds of people – and I was one of them!
She has to be on the list of people you want to hear talk about autism. Her own life in fascinating (she talked about the film of her life a few times – Temple Grandin – with Clare Danes playing her), she has achieved an amazing career as a scientist, written a number of books and all of this BECAUSE of autism and not INSPITE of autism.
I also found her completely mesmerising to watch and listen to. The webinar was an hour long and I consider myself very lucky to have been given a complimentary ticket. The title of the webinar was Empowering Autistic Individuals to be Successful. The format for the hour was Temple answered a series of questions that were shown on the screen. In all honesty, some were a bit repetitive but I suppose that helped to reinforce her message.
Below, I have tried to summarise the main points so you can get an idea of messages given by Temple.
- Use methods that work for the individual child. It does not matter what the method is, it is the outcome that is important. For example ‘learning to read’ – whole word method vs phonics – it does not matter as long as it works for that child and the outcome is achieved (the child can read)
- Slow down speech. Give the child/person time to process AND respond. Encourage them to ‘use their words’ when communicating with you.
- Temple (like many autistic people) is a visual thinker. She called this ‘a bottom up thinker’ – seeing the specifics and small details first and then expanding this to be able to think wider. Verbal thinkers, think ‘top down’. They see the bigger picture and then focus on the small details. This links to Central Coherence (something I will talk about in another blog!)
- The importance of visual supports. She said her working memory is poor, like many people on the autism spectrum. Don’t confuse this with memory, which can be almost superhuman! Visuals jog the working memory, support sequencing, promote independence, aid working memory.
- Anxiety around transitions. This can be supported by cutting down on the ‘surprise factor’, giving time to process and familiarise through visiting, videos and websites. If you can’t visit a new place first, look at the website, for example. It is easier to cope and process when there is less of a surprise factor.
- The importance of living independently. Temple talked about the tendency to ‘over protect’ and too many people end up ‘living the label’. Teach children to do life skills such as doing the washing, handling money, going shopping etc. (This links well to the AET Progression Framework Independent living section). Make sure the foundations for life are in place – dressing, washing, using the toilet. Have a gradual exposure to things and be able to stretch that person outside of their comfort zone.
- The importance of promoting special interests and passions. These might turn into career paths – mechanics, architects, drawing, nature etc. Shared interests can help connection with peers (in children and adults). Areas of success can boost self esteem.
I hope this has given you an insight into the webinar I attended. I could probably do another blog on the ‘secondary’ messages! Maybe I will…
One thing I will take away with me from this webinar is that autism act is serving the autistic children and young people with ideas and strategies that compare to the advice given by Dr Temple Grandin; one of the most iconic figures in the autistic community.