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Monday, June 1, 2009

Talking to Your Kids About Their Abilities

Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay is a remarkable young man from south India with a special talent. Severely autistic and nearly non-verbal, Tito can communicate his thoughts and feelings through remarkable prose and poetry - written in fluent English. Tito's view of the world provides an extraordinary opportunity to explore the hidden world of autism.

Children with a disability know they are different in some way to their peers but sometimes have difficulty expressing their feelings around these issues. They may present behaviour that seems aggressive or non-compliant as a way to communicate their sadness or fear around being different than their peers. Some important things that may help:

1. Adults sometimes get very busy. Remember to take the time to sit down and talk with your kids not at them. Try to discuss things that may be bothering them.

2. Actively listen. Acknowledge their feelings. If your kids say that they hate being different. Our first reaction is to say something along the lines of: "Sam, your not so different than other people your age" or "Sam it's ok to be different, everyone is different" What happens is we as adults move into the mode of not acknowledging their actual feelings and we immediately try to solve the problem or make it better. Another approach is "Sam, you hate feeling different? What's going on?" or "I can see that your upset about feeling different, what is happening that you feel different?"

3. As children begin to communicate with you about their feelings you are actually teaching them by acknowledging their feelings how to problem solve on their own. The potential of any child unless they are severely brain damaged cannot be predetermined. As we make assumptions about what someone is capable of doing because they have been diagnosed with a particular disorder may in fact become a self fulfilling prophecy. There are many people out there who have accomplished things beyond anyone's expectations even their own.

4. When we have conversations with our children it is so important to help guide them but not overpower them as they need to become capable of making their own decisions. Some kids may seem like they are not able to make decisions for themselves and we try to "persuade" them by exerting control or force. This rarely works with positive outcomes and is based in "power over" punitive philosophies.

5. Caregivers, teachers do need to ascertain a baseline of skills and work toward their strengths while working on their deficits as well. Sometimes we concentrate way too much on what they can't do rather than what they can.

6. A reader of these posts asked how they would tell their older child that he will not be able to drive. It might be important to talk to this young man about his feelings as he I'm sure wants to be like all the rest of the young men his age. Get down to the emotional baseline and see what is acutally going on for him as it may become more about the emotion surrounding his idea that he may not be able to drive. Use the collaborative problem solving method that encourages acknowledgement and solutions based on Dr. Ross Greene. See previous posts.

The following people are truly inspirational:

1. Sophie Delezio: http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=98939
2. Eric Weihenmayer: http://www.touchthetop.com/
3. Famous people with Autism/Aspergers;
  • Gary Numan, British singer and songwriter [15]
  • Dawn Prince-Hughes, PhD, primate anthropologist, ethologist, and author of Songs for the Gorilla Nation [16]
  • Judy Singer, Australian disability rights activist [17]
  • Vernon L. Smith, Nobel Laureate in Economics [18]
  • Satoshi Tajiri, creator of Pok√©mon [19]
  • Daniel Tammet, British autistic savant, believed to have Asperger Syndrome [20]
  • Alonzo Clemons, American clay sculptor [31]
  • Tony DeBlois, blind American musician [32]
  • Leslie Lemke, blind American musician [33]
  • Jonathan Lerman, American artist [34]
  • Thristan Mendoza, Filipino marimba prodigy [35]
  • Jerry Newport is an author, savant, and has Asperger's. His wife, Mary Newport, is also a savant on the autistic spectrum [36]
  • Derek Paravicini, blind British musician [37]
  • James Henry Pullen, gifted British carpenter [38]
  • Matt Savage, U.S. autistic jazz prodigy [39]
  • Henriett Seth-F., Hungarian autistic savant, poet, writer and artist [40]
  • Tito Mukhopadhyay, author, poet and philosopher [41]
  • Taken from: http://autism.lovetoknow.com/Famous_People_with_Autism

3 comments:

Sharon daVanport said...

Awesome post - thank you! What a remarkable young man Tito is....you included so much info in this post - my reading material for a month:-)

Colleen said...

Thanks Sharon
I'm glad you found the information worthwhile. Keep in touch!

Anonymous said...

Hi Colleen, the link to famous people is broken. Another can be found at http://autism.lovetoknow.com/Famous_People_with_Autism

Cheers.

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