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Aspie working with autistic children.

Discussion in 'General Autism Discussion' started by Stik, Sep 15, 2015.

  1. Stik

    Stik Well-Known Member

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    Quick history ... I'm recently diagnosed and dove head first into learning everything there is to know about autism, plus some. I started working with people with disabilities before my diagnosis four years ago because I felt the need to be around these people. I didn't know why I just knew I felt better around them. It opened my eyes to autism and my real identity. It's my fourth year working for the public school district and I left my old classroom that I felt quite comfortable in to be in an autism classroom (4th & 5th grades). I just finished my sixth day and I know things need to change for these kids. It's starting to feel like my life purpose.

    I don't know where to start and could use some advice. I'm having a hard time with the no stimming rule. I don't get why we're supposed to discourage it, especially if it's not harmful to anyone. I think if we say no, the kids are just going to keep coming up with new ways to stim and that could lead to violent behavior. These kids have a very hard time communicating and, to me, it seems like stimming could be a form of communication.

    Thoughts? Advice on how to talk about it with the teacher in a way that's not saying HEY, YOU'RE DOING THIS WRONG! Do you agree with me or disagree and why?
     
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  2. Ylva

    Ylva Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I think stimming can be self expression. It is hardly self-aware enough to be outright communication. Even if I am one hundred percent aware I'm stimming – and I usually am – it's not something I do on purpose.

    On the other hand, stimming is body language, so it's certainly communication in that sense. It's pretty much a steady newsfeed of how the person feels. Probably individualized to the point that you have to learn them for each person, although I'm sure some of it is pretty general. For instance, I drum my fingers in the air for "thoughtful". Maybe others do too.
     
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  3. royinpink

    royinpink Well-Known Member

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    1) Talk about replacing self-harming or dangerous stims with healthier ones. This puts the conversation into the "if it's not hurting anyone, why stop it, and maybe they could even do something useful in the process (like knit a scarf, lol)" arena which is less likely to challenge either of your beliefs about what stimming is for and if it's good or bad.

    2) There is loads of information about there about "behavior as communication" and the purpose of stimming. You could try backing up your feeling with research to make it more credible. In fact, this stance is common among people who work with older teens and adults on the spectrum. Unfortunately, it has not made it into special ed and care for autistic children in general.

    3) You could disclose to speak from the authority of someone on the spectrum, but you'd have to weigh the risks and benefits first, i.e. whether they would accept that kind of authority (why anybody thinks they are an authority on others' experience, I don't know, but in this case I suspect it has to do with the medical model of disability...and privilege).

    That's all for now...

    ETA: When I have really disagreed with remarkably dense people working in education, who knew I was on the spectrum, it has helped to be like, "Yes, I realize it [hitting someone, in this case] is unacceptable behavior, but she really cannot control her sensitivity to touch. I know this because I could do the exact same thing if I were surprised by unexpected touch--and have, in the past. She needs to learn how to redirect and cope with her sensitivity, not be punished for it. We both want something to be done about it. I agree with you on that. But I think this will be a more effective and supportive way to achieve that." As it turned out, the situation was more complicated, but this was enough for the guy to give me a chance to talk to the girl first and figure out what had happened from her perspective and what could be done. I think he was really surprised that I could have ever acted similarly because I "seem so normal" and that made him stop and think.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2015
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  4. Stik

    Stik Well-Known Member

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    Thank you two for responding. It really is helpful to read your ideas. It's also nice to know I'm not crazy for wanting to change people's view on stimming. Sometimes I doubt myself.

    The knitting example made me giggle because I knit sometimes for the same reason. I find it keeps my brain calm by keeping me focused on knitting rather than everything else. Drawing helps too. You just made my brain explode with ideas. Thanks! Keep bringing the suggestions :)
     
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  5. Stik

    Stik Well-Known Member

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    Oh, another thing ... I was told today that it is too dangerous to have them in their "own little world" because they become unaware or their surroundings. Which I totally agree with certain situations. Then I was told that stimming causes "them" to space out and that's why it's discouraged. I feel like being focused is being confused with being in you're own little world. Knitting helps me focus and I am actually able to listen to someone better when I'm drawing or playing with something in my hands.

    I also have to tell a kid not to bite the collar of his shirt. That's hard to do when I do it myself. I've always liked biting on a piece of fabric like my shirt and a corner of a pillow or blanket. Just makes me feel like a hypocrite.
     
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  6. AsheSkyler

    AsheSkyler Feathered Jester

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    Stimtastic has plenty of chew toys. Perhaps the chewers could be persuaded to preserve their clothing in favor of gnawing on chewable jewelry? I don't expect the school to buy it, but it would be reasonable to ask them to allow it. I can't find the link to the article where it said a study proved that repetitive motions like finger-tapping increased concentration, but there is this article showing how repetitive movements ease anxiety. And stimming often is quite repetitive. There was also a similar condition that tried to integrate stimming and other sensory input into a person's routine because it was as vital to their well-being as sleeping or eating. The big challenge there was teaching them when to do it appropriately, much in the same way it's not a good idea to fall asleep while driving down the interstate. Perhaps you can convince the school somehow that stimming is just another natural function for wellness like combing hair or brushing teeth?

    I like to keep my hands busy too. Draw, crochet, make something, sort something, anything to help me focus. And if I'm drawing, crocheting, making, or sorting, I like to have somebody to talk to, music to listen to, or a movie to watch so I can focus on my primary task. I had one little prick try to tell me I was behaving dangerously by doing that but quite a few debunked him as a brainless troll.
     
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  7. Ylva

    Ylva Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I remember primary school. Of course I was prevented from stimming ("Sit still, will you!" at the slightest movement), and to cope, daydreaming became my stimming. Seriously, I can't deal with how messy my brain gets from all the sensory crap, I had to tune out. It kept me sane. (It didn't help that girls were chewing gum, boys were chatting in what they believed to be "low" tones, the teachers voice was droning and annoying, the gas lights above me were clicking and I was constantly being gaslit about it…)

    So anyway, yes stimming is a way to stay memtally present. It miraculously allows me to process spoken words. When my brain is like "ooh 'pernicious' what a word what a word what a wonderful… what could it possibly mean? Oh my god, I shouldn't be distracted by this thought, must stop stop stop, hey that reminds me of Thomas the tank engine for some reason, I wonder why—" I can literally flick my fingers to stop it. I suppose it is grounding.

    If I or anyone looks more glassy-eyed when they stim, it is not because of the stimming, but because we are at a place where we need to stim. If we're in a place where everything is okay, where there is nothing to tune out, we will not go glassy-eyed and we will not stim. Typically.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2015
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  8. Progster

    Progster Gone sideways to the sun V.I.P Member

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    I think that stimming should be discouraged only if it is doing harm to the person or to other people. For example, I used to have a student who stims. She used to wiggle her fingers a lot, and I never used to stop her or even comment on that. But then, she started to pick at some marks on her thigh. That was diffeent, because she was actually pulling down her jeans in order to get to these, and she could hurt herself, so I told her that she should do that in private. Her mum also asked me if she should stop her stimming, and I told her, only if it is harming herself or others.
     
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  9. Warmheart

    Warmheart Something nerdy this way comes V.I.P Member

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    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Respect The Stim! :):):)

    [​IMG]
     
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  10. royinpink

    royinpink Well-Known Member

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    I actually stole the knitting example from another autistic whose article I read the other day, haha. A student at my old school also convinced the headteacher that letting him doodle in class was okay because "His drawings are so amazingly detailed!!" and "It seems to keep him calm." She said she wouldn't allow it for any other student, but in his case, it seemed to do more good than harm.

    Funny, I always doodled in class but never got caught. I guess that happens when you are labelled 'gifted' rather than 'impaired,' though. And my public school may not have been as strict.
     
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  11. royinpink

    royinpink Well-Known Member

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    I have heard of cases where kids become so obsessed with their stims and uncomprehending of the outside world that they just want to do it ALL the time. I agree that in such cases you'd want to rule out other things that could be stressing them out and making the environment difficult for them, but after that... I guess I would still want to distract them with something interesting to make them WANT to learn rather than 'forcing' them to not stim, which seems like it would only backfire, to me.

    ETA: It seems to me that the special ed people are committing the error of thinking "one form = one function." It's a common way of thinking about communication and behavior, but totally wrong. You can do one thing for a whole variety of reasons, and that is true of stimming too. But I wouldn't want to make the same mistake in reverse and assume it ALWAYS helps someone focus. Sometimes people use it to dissociate. They may choose different stims or stim 'more intensely' to do so. But it does happen.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2015
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  12. Ylva

    Ylva Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I don't know how it would be to have stimming as a hobby.

    What I do have misgivings towards is professionals' definitions of "comprehension". Same as I find it annoying when someone asks "do you understand what you read when you read that fast?" I am very disposed to assume people can understand things without being able to express it in words. We don't all think in words, even if doing so might be beneficial in some way. (Aside: Training the brain to do it seems like a possibility.)

    Yeah, I understand it. I don't necessarily process at that rate, but my eventual "understanding" will be that much more wholesome. I'd say I am about two seconds "late" to understand words, maybe less, sometimes more. If I were to wait for it, I would spend like ten minutes on a page, and I would lose interest in the material within five. The way I do it works for me – five seconds per page, understand the whole thing before the next.

    The questions on comprehension tests seem pointless – fine, I'll memorize where in England the novel is set, but I might as well wait until it's relevant. I also have a "sense" or a "feeling" for different notes, although I can't name them.

    These examples are likely irrelevant to teaching kids who seem distracted by their waving fingers. Still, maybe they understand more of the outside world than you think – or maybe they have given up on trying to make sense of it altogether. It's not always a rewarding experience.
     
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  13. Ylva

    Ylva Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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  14. royinpink

    royinpink Well-Known Member

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    Oh, I agree. Always presume competence, and be open to understanding other ways and speeds of processing information and reactions to it. Just because they don't get the reaction they were expecting doesn't mean the kid has learned nothing. I feel they have a long way to go in just this area in special ed before any of them can start claiming to know how beneficial stimming is or isn't to a particular kid at a particular time. :/

    What does everyone think of this? It reads to me a bit like Temple Grandin learning about 'more severely' autistic people and trying to gently explain it to the 'autism parent' types who have supported her ("small amounts of stimming"? Really?):

    "Sensory Jumble and Panic
    Tito’s sensory world was a jumble of colors, sounds, and smells. Hearing was his dominant sense and his mother’s voice reading to him became a familiar sound that provided order in the chaos. Any little changes in his routine caused panic and a temper tantrum. Tito describes flicking the lights on and off because it brought order to the overwhelming scattered jumble of sensory overload. Tito is mono-channel and he can only attend to one sense at a time. Seeing and hearing at the same time is impossible and his best learning occurred in the morning before he got tired.

    Anything new was totally frightening because the feeling, sight or sound of a new object was so intense it caused sensory overload and panic. Soma slowly introduced new things and Tito gradually learned to tolerate them. When he got overwhelmed, Tito explained how flapping calmed him down and made him happy. If he had been allowed to do it all day he would have never learned anything. Small amounts of “stimming” were allowed so he could calm down."
    But someone who is at the point of using stimming for dissociation all the time has probably already learned that people and the outside world are only always going to be overwhelming and intrusive, and their own world is a safe, comforting place--dissociation then becomes a response to anxiety. I find Donna Williams more insightful on that topic, which is more about exposure anxiety and dissociative disorder than stimming per se.
     
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  15. Ylva

    Ylva Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I thought it must be pleasant to be able to filter things out, but now I know. I'd never want to be utterly confused by the pending of a swing.

    The thing that really overwhelms me is people stomping on my boundaries, barging into my personal space, and feeling entitled to show me physical affection, especially with their hands or lips. I hated hand-over-hand so much I had to stop taking piano lessons within a month of starting.

    Is it very different for others?

    I sometimes try to imagine how it is for people with more severe autism than me. If it's just the same only more intensely, or something very different. A few days ago I spoke with a woman who works with autistics, and she related how a young man she was working with could not understand words at all, and it baffled her that his "team" kept trying to talk to him as though if they just did it enough, he would magically start understanding. As far as he was concerned, they might as well have been making animal sounds at him.

    Give the man a break. You don't have to understand why some people think in pictures and never in words, you just have to accept it…

    God, I'm rambling.
     
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  16. royinpink

    royinpink Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, that's the thing--what works for one person to help with one issue, like poor motor planning, will totally not help another because of touch sensitivity or exposure anxiety or whatever the case may be.

    I think all autistics have different traits to different degrees. There are people who are as 'mild' as me who struggle with things I don't or excel at things I can't do, because say, I have higher anxiety and think visually while they have dyslexia and think verbally. Or my environment is more stressful to me than theirs. Or I am more flexible about my routines than they are. Or their touch sensitivity is greater than mine and offends their girlfriend. Or they can comprehend auditory information but not facial expressions, whereas I struggle with the first and not the latter.

    The same is true for those who are labelled more severe. There are non-speaking autistics who can type or sign fluently and comprehend everything said to them, and there are non-speaking autistics who haven't figured out what words are for (yet). There are people who maintain blogs yet need help using the toilet or cooking food. But then there are supposedly mild autistics who have just as much trouble cooking food or keeping track of their finances.

    That's what makes autism so difficult for people to wrap their heads around. It's really not just one 'thing', it's a whole bunch of things.

    ETA: Sorry if you know this already, I'm just kinda going on a tangent/rant/monologue/whatever. I don't mean to imply you don't know this.
     
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  17. Ylva

    Ylva Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Yeah, I know. :wink:
    It's a forum. Exposition is good.

    Napoleon would have scoffed at the idea of reusing strategies. It's a new person, a fresh situation, don't recycle stuff that worked before; get creative.

    Of course, Napoleon didn't have a clue about disabilities, but he was a master strategist. Gotta give him that.

    I have some books on finance. I know we went over it in high school, but it was like one lesson, nothing that would hammer it home. Same thing with job applications, exactly one lesson devoted to it, and I was relieved when it was over.

    I tend to get a concept after I have read a book or more on it, however, so that's my life hack, now that I'm closing in on thirty.

    Also, tidying. You might as well ask me to conjure unicorns. I can't even find any books on it. So if someone can't find a way to do basic stuff, I'm not judging.
     
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  18. royinpink

    royinpink Well-Known Member

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    Oh good, I'm glad. :)

    Haha, oh, I am definitely in the 'has trouble with cooking, cleaning, and finances' category myself. Stupid executive functioning /single-focus stuff. Probably why I mentioned it. I do make the effort to learn a few nutritious recipes, but it is an effort. Tidying is a Sisyphean task.

    I agree with you on reading. I do a LOT of reading to make up what I lack an intuitive sense of, or just to process sometimes I think (e.g. responding to a stressful situation by reading a dozen books/articles about whatever is causing the stress).

    I'm also getting close to thirty. Crazy.
     
  19. metalminx24

    metalminx24 Well-Known Member

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    Ok, I've been trying to formulate this for a few days. I worked in a special needs school for 10 years. It catered for teens with all kinds of disability, including kids with ASD. Depending on the perceived 'severity' some were integrated with their peers and others in a separate classroom. The staff responses to stimming also depended on the individual assessments of the kids. For those whose communication skills and prospects for independent living were minimal, stimming was fine and we had chewable jewellery, mini trampolines and a sensory room. For the kids deemed to have the potential to have friends and jobs, teaching alternative coping methods was part of the life skills curriculum. I remember one lad who would flap vigorously and he WANTED to stop because he could see that it made the other kids talk+ laugh (I know that's horrible but kids can be quite evil) and he wanted to fit in and make friends.

    So I suppose my point is... It depends on the motives of the staff, the abilities of the individual children to adapt and learn new strategies AND whether they want to. Right or wrong staff usually have best interests at heart, so maybe ask a few questions about the reasoning before than making any assumptions, then offer your opinions and perspective when you have a clearer picture.

    I'm sorry this has been so long, but it's a topic very close to my heart [emoji170]
     
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  20. Stik

    Stik Well-Known Member

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    From reading all of your responses, which I'm incredibly grateful for, I have decided I just need to encourage staff to ask why instead of just saying no. Instead of trying to stop the stim with a verbal or physical cue ask ourselves why might this student be stimming? Let's look at our surroundings and evaluate others behavior before telling them to stop. If it's something we can change, change it. I just don't know what to do if it's something that cannot be changed.

    I feel like I'm told to make these kids fit in rather than getting other kids to accept their differences. I'm impressed with our districts special ed programs but feel like too many teachers are set in their old ways. It's hard to tell them what they knew ten years ago about autism is a lot different than what we know now. It baffles me how staff are so surprised when a nonverbal student ends up being able to do school work. I wish I felt comfortable enough to share that I'm on the spectrum. I've only told family and close friends.

    So six days is not a lot of time to observe and I should take in more before trying to change things, but I still have a hard time enforcing certain things. Any advice on how to still seem like a good employee when I can't get myself to discipline them for non-harmful stimming? Or to seem like I'm trying when I'm giving a student time to answer a question instead of getting an immediate answer? I noticed a huge delay in a response from one student. He was having a really bad morning and would start to lash out by kicking the table or throwing things when he didn't want to or wasn't able to respond in a socially appropriate manner. I kept thinking, stop telling him to do this over and over again until he calms down. The teacher wanted him to say hi to the student next to him. Later that afternoon he finally said "hi, persons name" out of the blue when that student wasn't around. I told the teacher and she didn't seem to get why I was excited. I was excited because he really was listening and probably wanted to comply but something was overwhelming to him at the time.

    I feel like I've got too much going on in my head right now. I just want the students to learn, be happy, and find a place to fit in. I'm also very confused about the physical aspect of things like how much force to use in hand over hand applications, but more on that another time, maybe.
     
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