Meeting News

Focus on strengths when treating autism

NEW ORLEANS — To better communicate and treat individuals with autism, clinicians and parents should focus on their strengths, which are often overlooked, according to Temple Grandin, PhD, of Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado.

Grandin, who delivered a presentation here, was diagnosed with autism and did not speak until age 4 years. Based on her lifetime experience with autism, she provided recommendations for different ways to approach children, adolescents and young adults with autism.

“Don’t get hung up on labels,” Grandin said. “Too many kids get a label and they become their label.”

Instead, Grandin stressed the importance of developing a child’s strengths and building on them.

According to Grandin, it is helpful for individuals with autism to learn trades and work toward specific goals, and to limit their screen time and teach them turn-taking.

During teachable moments, when a social or manners mistake is made, Grandin suggested gently pushing children past their comfort zones while not allowing them to become reclusive.

For individuals with autism, it takes time to respond and access information, she said. In addition, some experience fragmentation of visual images, with signs of visual processing problems including fear of escalators, hate of fluorescent lights and difficulty catching a ball, despite a normal eye exam.

Grandin also noted that words may vibrate and jiggle on the page, causing poor reading skills; she recommended experimenting by printing words on pastel paper or changing the computer background.

Furthermore, environmental enrichment is an effective, evidence-based treatment for autism; Grandin said to keep changing stimuli and stimulate two senses simultaneously.

Other recommendations Grandin offered were to:

  • Use a variety of teaching methods;
  • Perform hands-on activities that teach practical problem-solving skills;
  • Develop friendships through shared interests;
  • Not overgeneralize when addressing behavior problems, and instead determine if the problem is biological or behavioral;
  • Be aware hidden painful medical problems in non-verbal individuals can cause severe behavior problems; and
  • Suggest parents work together with teachers to make sure the rules are the same at home and school, and that they are consistently enforced.

Grandin’s presentation included photos of detailed construction and engineering drawings and elaborate garments she created, which illustrated how she used a goal-oriented approach, trade skills and focused on what she excelled at to maximize successes in her life.

“Autism is not my primary identity,” Grandin said. “I want to show what I do.”– by Amanda Oldt

Reference:

Grandin T. My path through life with autism. Presented at: U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress; Sept. 16-19, 2017; New Orleans.

Disclosure: Grandin reports no relevant financial disclosures.

NEW ORLEANS — To better communicate and treat individuals with autism, clinicians and parents should focus on their strengths, which are often overlooked, according to Temple Grandin, PhD, of Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado.

Grandin, who delivered a presentation here, was diagnosed with autism and did not speak until age 4 years. Based on her lifetime experience with autism, she provided recommendations for different ways to approach children, adolescents and young adults with autism.

“Don’t get hung up on labels,” Grandin said. “Too many kids get a label and they become their label.”

Instead, Grandin stressed the importance of developing a child’s strengths and building on them.

According to Grandin, it is helpful for individuals with autism to learn trades and work toward specific goals, and to limit their screen time and teach them turn-taking.

During teachable moments, when a social or manners mistake is made, Grandin suggested gently pushing children past their comfort zones while not allowing them to become reclusive.

For individuals with autism, it takes time to respond and access information, she said. In addition, some experience fragmentation of visual images, with signs of visual processing problems including fear of escalators, hate of fluorescent lights and difficulty catching a ball, despite a normal eye exam.

Grandin also noted that words may vibrate and jiggle on the page, causing poor reading skills; she recommended experimenting by printing words on pastel paper or changing the computer background.

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Furthermore, environmental enrichment is an effective, evidence-based treatment for autism; Grandin said to keep changing stimuli and stimulate two senses simultaneously.

Other recommendations Grandin offered were to:

  • Use a variety of teaching methods;
  • Perform hands-on activities that teach practical problem-solving skills;
  • Develop friendships through shared interests;
  • Not overgeneralize when addressing behavior problems, and instead determine if the problem is biological or behavioral;
  • Be aware hidden painful medical problems in non-verbal individuals can cause severe behavior problems; and
  • Suggest parents work together with teachers to make sure the rules are the same at home and school, and that they are consistently enforced.

Grandin’s presentation included photos of detailed construction and engineering drawings and elaborate garments she created, which illustrated how she used a goal-oriented approach, trade skills and focused on what she excelled at to maximize successes in her life.

“Autism is not my primary identity,” Grandin said. “I want to show what I do.”– by Amanda Oldt

Reference:

Grandin T. My path through life with autism. Presented at: U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress; Sept. 16-19, 2017; New Orleans.

Disclosure: Grandin reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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