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Monday, February 27, 2012

NOT Thinking In Pictures

I read an article in list form yesterday that kind of got me going, one of those "10 things you should know about autistic kids" type things. It was overall pretty well done, but more than twice, it stressed how you have to keep in mind that autistic kids are visual learners. Lately, it seems like I hear that constantly. I'm sure a lot of it comes from Temple Grandin and the whole "Thinking in Pictures". But NOT all kids with autism are visual learners or thinkers. I'm not inside Janey's mind, but I feel very confident in saying she is HEAVILY an auditory thinker and learner.

I base this on several things. One is that typical visual cues for kids with autism just don't work for her. Her teachers and therapists have noticed this too. I have never seen her show the slightest interest in a picture schedule, she has no interest in that picture kind of writing that is often used for kids with special needs, she is not interested in looking through books of pictures---none of that. On the other hand, she is and always has been EXTREMELY oriented to auditory things. This is shown in her fairly extreme echolalia, and her sensitivity to sounds (the "cracking noise") and her love of music. She is actually getting pretty good at following verbal directions, and she is highly tuned into the sounds of talking---if someone sounds angry or happy or annoyed.

In most books I've read about autism, there is a slight mention that a few kids with autism are auditory learners, but I think it's not too common. I think it's both an asset to Janey and a detriment to her learning. It's a detriment because so much of what is developed for kids with autism assumes they will learn visually. I can't see her using a icon kind of speech system, or PECS exchange pictures (that has been tried over and over with her, and everyone agrees it's kind of a bust, as she just likes to crumple the cards, I think to hear the velcro sound!) It's also hurting her ability to learn to know letters, or to someday read. I don't think her mind is set up to recognize shapes or letters very well. However, it's a asset because I think she can talk more than most kids with her level of involvement can. In most ways, from what I can gather, she'd be considered fairly on the low end of the autism spectrum. She has a great deal of trouble learning, she doesn't understand basic concepts like birthdays or "tomorrow", I would no more expect her to answer a question like "What do you do with soap?" than fly to the moon (I saw that question as an early one to teach kids in a book), I am not really sure she understands what family members are...but she talks. She asks for what she wants, she recites all kinds of lines, she even is starting just a little to play around with words. Last night she sang my husband a short parody of "You Are My Sunshine"----"You are my Daddy, my only Daddy..." I can say things like "bring me the phone" or even two step things like "close the fridge and bring me a cup" and if she's in the mood, she does it.

I can understand why most information and teaching is aimed at visual autistic kids. They are certainly the majority. But I think a little of it is that when high-functioning autistic people tell how they think, and they are visual learners, it's pretty hard for them to picture that other autistic people might not be. That's part of autism, after all---it's hard to see things from other people's perspectives. I can't tell you how many people have said that they understand autism a lot more after reading Temple Grandin. And although I admire her greatly, I don't think Janey is anything like her in terms of learning style.

As the blog is called---rarer in girls. And Janey gets another rare attribute in her auditory nature. Oh, well. Nothing like being unique---isn't that what I used to think?

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