I went to a seminar today run by Stephen Shore. It was great to hear him talking about the same things that I talk about, but from a different angle and with different but complementary information. Stephen was talking about the responsibility of adults (parents/carers, teachers and so on) to ensure autistics are set up for success by scaffolding self-advocacy skills and ensuring that autism is framed in a positive manner, which celebrates useful characteristics and acknowledges challenges.
It was wonderful to hear another respected educator talk about the skills within autistics and autistic potential and success. I haven’t focused much on employment issues or the transition to adulthood, and enjoyed these aspects of Stephen’s talk. I could see how his ideas around advocacy plans can be applied not just at points of transition or in adulthood, but also for younger adults and children.
I did not have the level of self awareness when younger that I have now and can see that the process of assessing the situation, analysing why there is a challenge and how I can compensate for that challenge or overcome it, is the way I have grown my self-awareness. It was therefore fascinating to see Stephen’s self-advocacy plan as a ‘template’ to be filled in by/with autistic people (whether on paper/computer or as a mental exercise).
It was also fascinating to see my method for avoiding meltdowns in stressful situations described as the SODA method! (I hate soda…)
S top (stand/sit still, stop panicking)
O bserve (at this point, I do a short breathing mediation to ensure I observe the actual situations)
D eliberate (analyse situation, think what do I want to do and how)
A ct (do it)
Finally a use for soda 🙂
When I work with schools, I talk about using an autistic child’s special interest(s) to teach new skills and knowledge, which Stephen affirmed. However, he went much further demonstrating how to present the skills, knowledge, interests and sensory preferences to employers as potential benefits for the employer in a clear and simple manner. This was fantastic as I had been discussing this issue last week with a researcher in the area of disabilities, and was unsure how to actually do this in specific terms for individuals rather than in general. An example of this is given below.
Success is a process that is continually evolving but is based in fulfilment and happiness in self and life and life long learning/development. This is true for everyone, not just autistics and should be expected for all children, and they should be supported to achieve that success. Adult autistics who are not able to see their strengths, or are still developing awareness of their challenges and how to use their strengths to work around their challenges need support to do this as much as young autistics do. I think that Stephen is right and that this level of self awareness and ability to self-advocate effectively for simple accommodations are important aspects of being able to achieve happiness and live well.