Category Archives: Expressions of PosAutivity
By Elizabeth Vosseller
Growing Kids Therapy is proud to participate in the third annual Autism Positivity Flash Blog! The purpose of the flash blog is to end Autism Acceptance month with a bang, sharing messages that rail against negativity and stigma of autism. This year’s theme is “Expressions of PosAutivity” ~ celebrating diverse ways of expressing ideas and flexible communicating. Hellllooo! Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) is all about flexible communication. For non or limited speaking people with autism who lack the motor control to communicate via speech, RPM allows them to point to letters on a letter board to spell their message.
A RPM session takes place around a cognitive lesson where clients learn new information, answer questions and, as their skills on the letter board permit, communicate their opinions and reactions to the ideas we have discussed. Whenever I plan a lesson, I try to choose a topic that will be interesting to my clients and that will stimulate some thoughtful creative writing. Because RPM presumes competence, we do not repeat lessons with the same client! However, I often use the same lesson with different clients because it is interesting to see where clients respond similarly or differently. Lessons often take on a life of their own, going in directions I did not expect. This lesson on Humanism led to some powerful creative writing from my clients. Here is the complete lesson. The answers to questions within in the lesson were provided by Ian, a 15 year old, nonspeaking client with autism, who moved to Seattle, Washington but recently spent his Spring Break with me in Northern Virginia for his first time exposure to RPM via an intensive RPM boot camp (oh yes, much more about Ian and that incredible experience in a blog coming your way soon!). I am also featuring some of the creative writing responses of other clients you have already met. These “voices” resonate with PosAutivity!
*The lesson (which is presented verbally to the client) is in regular font, my comments or spontaneous questions are in italics and the clients’ responses via the letter board are in all caps.
Humanism refers to any philosophical, moral, political, artistic or scientific system with a human, not religious, frame of reference. In humanism, some believe that the ideals of human existence can be fulfilled without regard to religion. The Humanist Manifesto of 1933 took the position that the universe was “self-created;” that mankind was a part of nature. A manifesto is a written or verbal declaration of intentions, motives or views of the author.
Name two systems to which humanism refers. ART AND SCIENCE
What did the humanists believe? BELIEVES SCIENCE NOT GOD DEFINES MAN
Why would a manifesto be helpful to talk about a controversial topic? ALLOWS A TOPIC TO BE CLEARLY DEFINED
Renaissance humanism refers to a revival of classical literature and philosophy that began at the end of the Middle Ages, or middle of the 14th century. Renaissance humanism features several important intellectual figures, including Nicolaus Copernicus and Leonardo daVinci. Nicolaus Copernicus was a mathematician, economist and astronomer who declared that the earth orbited around the sun. Though Copernicus wrote “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Sphere” several decades earlier, it was not published until his death in 1543 as his theory was in direct conflict with teachings of the Catholic Church. Leonardo daVinci worked as an artist, musician, architect, inventor, engineer, anatomist and geometer. In his drawing Vitruvian Man, daVinci superimposed two views of a nude man in a circle to illustrate mathematical proportions of the human body as described by Roman architect Vitruvius. Vitruvian Man was said to reconcile the main two parts of our being; the physical and the intellectual.
What period of time does the 14th century refer to? 1500s (Ian used the number board to respond to this question)
Tell me one thing you learned about Copernicus. HE HAD TROUBLE WITH THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
What was one of Leonardo daVinici’s occupations? PAINTER…..what is his famous painting?…MONA LISA (*Note that I had referred to daVinci as an artist. I did not mention that he painted nor did I mention that the Mona Lisa! This is simply knowledge that Ian has acquired over his life time of listening.)
What was significant about the Vitruvian Man? BLENDED BODY AND MIND
I showed Ian the picture of the Vitruvian man and asked, “what impresses you about this picture?”….SYMMETRY OF THE BODY
The difference between humanist and religious theories are their understanding of what constitutes truth. The humanist regards truth as something constantly evolving. Religious theory identifies a static, unchanging revelation from God as truth. A humanist is generally skeptical and open minded. Religious theorists are often unwavering and live according to theological dogma. Dogma is a principle or set of principles provided by any authority as incontrovertibly true.
What is a difference between humanism and religious theorists? HUMANISTS DEFINE TRUTH VIA SCIENCE, RELIGIONISTS DEFINE TRUTH VIA GOD
Now that we have talked about both sides of the spectrum – where do you fall in terms of humanism and religious theory? I CAN SEE MERIT IN BOTH SIDES
Creative Writing: A basic difference between humanism and religious theories is weather something can change or evolve over time. In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue to prove that the world was not flat. In 1543, Copernicus declared that the earth revolved around the sun; the planets did not revolve around our round world. Each declaration required education, hypotheses, experiment and declaration to be introduced to an apprehensive audience. Define a topic that you know a lot about. Do you have a hypothesis or “new take” on that topic? Given the chance, how would you research or experiment to determine if your hypothesis is correct? In the event that your experiment yields proof of a breakthrough or new perspective, can you think of an audience that would be apprehensive about your findings?
I BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE WITH AUTISM ARE ACTUALLY VERY SMART. I WOULD PROVE THIS BY ALLOWING AUTISTICS IN THE REGULAR CLASSROOM. I WOULD LET THEM JUST SIT THERE AND LEARN. PEOPLE WOULD BE SHOCKED BY HOW MUCH THEY ALREADY KNOW. I WOULD EXPECT TO UPSET THE WHOLE AUTISM COMMUNITY AND THE EDUCATION COMMUNITY WOULD FREAK OUT. I WOULD NOT BE DETERRED BY THEIR LACK OF ACCEPTANCE. Ok, Ian, now you need to create a manifesto to go along with your findings. Be sure to name your manifesto! EDUCATION FOR AUTISTICS. AUTISTICS ARE SMART. AUTISTICS DESERVE CHALLENGING EDUCATION. AUTISTICS FEEL EVERYTHING.
MY TOPIC IS AUTISM HYPOTHESIS IS THAT PEOPLE WHO CANNOT TALK ARE JUST AS SMART AS PEOPLE WHO CAN SPEAK. I WOULD LIKE TO CHALLENGE THE CONVENTIONAL THINKING THAT NON SPEAKING PEOPLE ARE COGNITIVELY IMPAIRED. I EXPECT TO FACE TREMENDOUS DOUBT FROM THE SPECIALISTS IN THE FIELD OF AUTISM AND EDUCATION. I WOULD NOT LET THEIR DOUBTS STOP ME FROM ADVOCATING FOR MYSELF AND OTHERS. I WOULD STUDY THIS BY HAVING AUTISTIC PEOPLE WHO TALK ON THE LETTER BOARD TAKE AN INTELLIGENCE TEST SO THEIR IQ CAN BE COMPARED TO THOSE WITHOUT AUTISM. ~Ben
I BELIEVE IN EDUCATION THAT CHALLENGES STUDENTS ACCORDING TO THEIR ABILITIES NOT BY THEIR ABIITY TO TALK. ~ Huan
I THINK AUTISTIC PEOPLE HAVE CHANGED WHEN THEY LEARN TO COMMUNICATE ON LETTER BOARD. THEY FACE NEW CHALLENGES. FIRST THEY NEED TO REDEFINE WHO THEY ARE IN SOCIETY. SECOND THEY NEED TO INSTIGATE A REVOLUTION IN THE EDUCATION COMMUNITY. FINALLY THEY MUST GET THE WORD OUT. STOP TREATING PEOPLE WITH AUTISM LIKE THEY ARE STUPID.
MY MANIFESTO IS CALLED POWER TO AUTISM. STOP UNDERESTIMATING NONSPEAKING PEOPLE WITH AUTISM. EDUCATE GOING ON INTELLECT NOT ON SPEAKING ABILITY. QUESTION CONVENTIONAL THINKING ABOUT AUTISM. ~Paul
EMMA’S MANIFESTO. I BELIEVE IN RESPECT FOR ALL PEOPLE. PEOPLE MUST BE NICER TO EACH OTHER. BEAUTY IS EVERYWHERE IF YOU LOOK FOR IT. ~Emma
My clients teach, motivate, and delight me every day. These Expressions of PosAutivity are a celebration in flexible communication, tearing apart stereotypes and pushing aside negativity! My clients and the RPM community has inspired my manifesto ~ Presume Competence! We have work to do, join us! ~ Elizabeth
Original post at: http://wp.me/p1RXHx-gX
By Angel Mindretrofit
Today I am participating in the Expressions of PosAutivity, I was not sure if I was going to be able to express what I had hoped to … I am still not sure I did, but I do believe I share my positive experiences with expression and how important it is to not only be flexible with other’s ways of expression, but for ourselves as well.
I had words,
but could not speak
my eyes misled,
my smile inappropriate,
this body danced,
it pounced and pranced — I spoke
I had many words without a useful mouth,
lips tied; double knotted, invisible string
eyes blinked immeasurable worlds
ears that sang colors for no one to feel
my hands stroked brushes in minglings,
emotions without voice — I spoke
my own personal meltdowns,
shutdowns raging in a stoic face,
masked and cradled in between scratching hands,
nails penetrating flesh,
scars coated in silenced words,
erupting to speak out,
words aggressively broke free,
these fingers glided letters in form — I spoke
I shared a poem first because many times, it is my only way I can express myself. With poetry, I find that words flow out easily – they are the parts of me that are stirring, but I have no understanding about them. I can write out in bursts of words, then it can take hours, days, weeks, and yes, even years to finally grasp what my mind and/or body were trying to tell me. When the words come, in that moment I feel deeply connected to myself and others who may be in my thoughts. I may not have the fullness of why, but I do know that in that moment the expression makes perfect sense and will manifest answers or connections to other things at some point in time — that brings me peace and comfort.
I think that the Autism Positivity flashblog has been an incredible source of enlightenment.
I personally have gained new insights about how people communicate and express themselves since it started. As I have experienced the various ways of expression within our Autism Community in general over the years, it has given me insights into my children, my husband, and myself. Reading from so many perspectives and personal journeys has opened my mind and heart even more each time people share. I have enjoyed reading the posts shared in our community from Autism Positivity and find such a comfort when reading the posts. This year, I am very excited to read what others have to share about expression and more from their unique points of view.
As I thought about the inspiration, my heart flowed with what I have been experiencing over the last few months.
I have been more observant and mindful of the different ways that people communicate. I have been studying how to read facial expressions, the environmental and emotional reasons for their responses, the purposes and motives for communicating, and gaining new understandings about how communication is expressed in such vast ways. I had an understanding of all of this, but I had not made many connections nor did I fully comprehend how powerful it was to accept, motivate, cultivate, and encourage each person’s means of expression. There is so much that affects the way we communicate. As an Autistic adult, I still struggle with finding ways to communicate, but in the years since blogging and creating/sharing my poetry blog, I continue to press through.
The more that I have been flexible with finding ways of expression for myself, the stronger my identity and voice has become.
As a child into adulthood, one means of communication was dance. However, I did not understand this and I know that others did not either. In the midst of feeling overwhelmed, feeling a meltdown or shutdown coming, I would turn on music and flow with the words and/or tune. I had no idea that I could actually use this to communicate to others. I only used it as a means to “get out” all of the emotions that felt trapped within my mind and body. Several years ago, I allowed myself to try new ways of expressing myself through art of various kinds. I never thought I could paint or draw anything — I did not allow myself to try because I had been labeled non-artistic based on my art grades in elementary school and from the discouragement of my teacher.
My form of expressing art was not traditional.
Since I learned to write as a child, I found that it was what came naturally to me and it was something that I could keep hidden from everyone. Though the physical act of handwriting hurt and still does (I have dysgraphia), it was something that I HAD to do. The pain was worth it to write out all of the things, worlds, ideas, thoughts, that I had in my mind. I ached to share, but I did not receive positive feedback. I was even told by loved ones that what I shared did not make sense to them or it wasn’t their thing. That is discouraging to hear, but it did not stop me from writing or creating poetry. After so many years of hiding my forms of expression, I decided to write openly to an invisible audience without any idea what would happen.
For me, there were several reasons for beginning my blog.
If I were to narrow it down to the most simplistic reason though it would be that I was seeking an outlet for expression. I was seeking some way to communicate and connect to others and myself. I longed to be heard, but my voice had been trapped for so long that it was a struggle to find my words through any means. I had long given up sharing the most hidden parts of my mind, feelings, thoughts, and views. I had learned to mimic and mask, though I have always been an outspoken person for others. That is one reason why David was so surprised by many of the things I wrote in the past, I was so good at not being me that for him to read my inner workings was a little bit of a shock — for the good, but it took him time to process. However, for me I felt I had no way to share without being corrected, judged, condemned, misunderstood, or worse yet not being heard, thus reiterating my fears and pains of feeling invisible.
I wanted to share about my journey and share about our Autistic life, but what transpired was more than, I could have ever imagined.
Thanks to our Autism journey, I have found many answers to my past. After Daniel receiving his ASD diagnosis, I chose a path of working toward helping him in whatever ways were best for him. I had no idea that seeking answers and helps for him would also help me. Through my parenting journey, I realized how important it is to me that my kids all have a way of communication so they can share what they feel and what they think with us and the world. I did not know that an Autism diagnosis would lead me to finding my voice (Aspergers/Autism Has Given Me a Voice) that I had long tried to suffocate in order to make it through another day, nor did I realize how many people had stifled me causing me to feel as though my way of communication was wrong or did not matter.
While Daniel was completely nonverbal, his main source of communication was a way of aggression.
He had no other way of expressing himself. He was not punished or forced into other responses. I am not saying that was or is an easy task, but I feel as a parent I can control my responses and be more understanding, so it is my responsibility to do what it takes to help him. Some may not see this, but for me I feel that exercise/working out is a way to express emotions or things stuck inside me, such as frustrations and anxieties that I cannot find words for, those I try to store them up in an imaginary box. I save them for the Saturdays at my Kravfit class then, I put on my boxing gloves, punch and kick it all out. I am usually screaming and yelling too as it is an appropriate environment to do it. So I knew Daniel was telling me something when he was physically aggressive.
However, it took many guesses and long periods of time to figure it out.
It was frustrating for both of us. I will be honest we still have these days. By seeking ways to help him express himself, such as creating books all about his likes, dislikes, days, events, and adding social stories, he gradually learned more ways to express himself. He has since been able to express himself more so through verbal communication and at times he will attempt art, but throughout his life one of his main forms of expression has been through music. He has always made a beat – thumping, tapping, pounding, whatever he could use to make a rhythm. It took a while to figure out, but what I recently discovered is that many times Daniel is expressing his mood through beats or rhythm.
Was he telling me these things when he was nonverbal?
I would say most likely and I missed it. I do not see this as a lost opportunity, but as a new positive that can manifest even more ways for Daniel to express himself. I wish I had known at the time, but I did not. Now that I do know it opens up new thoughts, ideas, and possibilities to explore. Music helped him learn words when he struggled with them in the conventional ways. Music is helping now in music therapy – he is gaining more confidence in his own thoughts and voicing them. We hope that on those days when he loses his words that using the keyboard or iPad to share his expressions will give him the outlet he needs to express himself. He could find that typing out his words is much better for him.
He may use that as his main means of communication — we are flexible with that.
If that will work best for him, so be it. It works best for me! Learning more about how others communicate has helped to bring healing to my marriage and to our relationship. Since David has become more flexible, he has gained more understanding in how to communicate with the kids and I. It has opened up a relationship between he and Daniel that is amazing to witness. David has his own ways that seem foreign to me and I to him, but being open and willing to learn has allowed us to find ways to communicate better, clearer, and with more empathy. Ariel expresses herself through drawings. She tends to shut down or if she is deep in thought, I find her drawing out elaborate illustrations and pictures of her thoughts.
Joshua builds his expressions or he uses objects like tape, metal items, cuts up paper, and empty boxes to share his thoughts, ideas, or feelings.
I see this in our Autism community as well. We all have our own voice, our ways of expressing ourselves, our individual creative outlets that are a spectrum of greatness. Not everyone can communicate or has found their way to communicate in our community. Some of our children do not have a way to express themselves and even our adults who are so quickly forgotten. As a community, it is vital that we are open to flexible ways of expression. We need to be on the cusp of seeking out inventive ways to make it possible for those who cannot speak traditionally to discover ways to express themselves and share. I believe the future does hold a lot of promise for the generations to come, but we also need to be focused on the here and now.
For the parents who long to know what their child wants, needs, and the thoughts that they have to share.
For the Autistics now who desperately want to be heard and understood, we need to be mindful and observant of what responses are truly speaking instead of assuming or expecting everyone to express themselves in the same ways. I am not sure what to look for, but being in such a multiplex of ideas, expression, perspectives, and talent has broadened my awareness and understanding of my own ways of communication. It has given me an appreciation for how and why people express themselves the way they do. It fuels my desire to want to see everyone find their own way of expression and feel accepted for it. I see such value and importance in being flexible because it could be the key to helping someone who felt as though they would never be heard or overcome with feeling invisible the opportunity to express themselves and let their communication be loud.
Who knows what sort of wonderful ideas, thoughts, person we could be missing out on simply because we have not been flexible and accepting of their way of expression.
In the last week alone I have faced four different “Newsworthy” negative reports on Autism advertised as “breakthroughs, ” “understanding Autism,” or “valid research”, and each one has left me in tears because these reports are what the world listens to. But then I found a glimmer of hope in the Autism Positivity Flashblog and my Autistic community. We can be a voice. I can be a voice.
I have several friends, family members and people in my community who are Autistic. They are a diverse group of people with different needs, beliefs and temperaments…but the one aspect I often find my Autistic friend’s have in common are their healing personalities. The lie that Autistics are non empathetic or non communicative is exposed when I am around each of them. They are the people who children and animals flock to, whether they want them to or not due to sensory issues. My Autistic friends are often the people whom the outcasts of society, the abused and the down trodden go to for a listening ear, for compassion and because these people groups feel the Autistics are safe. Generally we are. It is very rare for an Autistic to not be safe, innocent and pure of heart. In the news we hear the horror stories but most often, there are other factors at work that should be exposed. The very stats speak for themselves; the number of Autistic people that commit crimes in the overall population of Autistics verses the number of Nuerotypical people that commit crimes in their overall population makes the issue stunningly clear. Autism does not create violence. Like in any population group, there will be issues but in general, the Aspies I know are trustworthy, kind and considerate.
I am an Aspie/ Autistic and I am 30. I have three children and am married to an NT. We have a happy life. Contrary to popular Autism propaganda we have had a happy 12 year marriage and while having children was hard for me at first, I now love being a mom. While it is true that I can not face meal time every day without my husband or support system nor drive in the city due to executive functioning issues, I also KNOW I give back to the world with my unique set of gifts. Without a doubt Autistics need more support because the current culture is not set up for us. Instead of people fighting Autism we need them to fight Ignorance and stigma.
There are many parents and practitioners who claim they are reversing autism in children. They are not “reversing” the way the brain is wired…what is actually happening from the perspectives of Autistics is that they are helping deal with sensory onslaught or other symptoms of Autism that interfere with social interactions and minimizing them. For example, many Autistics have a leaky gut so going off of gluten really helps them think clearer to deal with sensory onslaught of the loud culture we live in, but our actual brain wiring is still unique and different. Cognitive therapy also helps re wire some anxiety that we experience due to being “differently wired” and can aid us in being thought of as more “normal” but we are still Autistic. Just with less “symptoms.” Technically these claims of reversals are actually just improving assimilation, which is fine in some cases but it needs to actually be addressed as it is, and it actually is an ethical conundrum that needs serious consideration. Many Autistic adults who can speak for themselves will tell you this. My son does not seem very Autistic on the outset, because we have worked with him since age 3 on eye contact and anxiety so he is less bullied, but he still works from a different mind theory than an NT.
I may not fit into society the way it wants me to but I still am valuable and live a worthy life. I feel that if we get too genetically focused on Autism and too focused on “eradicating Autism”, this issue will become quite akin to what Hitler wanted to achieve. Let’s not go there. Diversity is the spice of life, we can help disabling features while still respecting the core…
Read the rest of this post at:http://worldwecreate.blogspot.ca/2014/04/autistic-healers.html
By Tyann Sheldon Rouw
More than ten years ago, I worked with Clark, a man at the University of Northern Iowa who was nearing retirement age. I was pregnant with twins at the time, and many of my colleagues had children of their own. Once in a while, Clark would sit with us in our cubicles late on a Friday afternoon after a long week of work and shoot the breeze. One day he shared that when he thought about his life and how it unfolded, there were certain moments he would never forget. He listed them: getting married while being surrounded by family and friends, becoming a father when his first son was born, and becoming the father of two boys when his youngest son entered the world. Then he told the story of putting pajamas on his two young boys after dinner, loading them into the car with his wife, and taking them out for ice cream. He said it became a fun family tradition.
I’ve never forgotten those words.
At the time I didn’t know if he was just talking to talk, but now I think he had a more important message for us young people: Don’t lose sight of your relationships and your roles. Remember who is important. And have fun.
This week my twin sons turn thirteen years old. Teenagers. We celebrated last Easter weekend with my in-laws at their home. We stayed at a hotel because Isaac is hard to buy for, but he loves experiences. Hotels are at the top of his list. What’s not to love? Elevators, a swimming pool, a breakfast buffet . . . it doesn’t get much better for him.
I’ve been thinking about the moments from the last week I won’t soon forget:
I stood in the kitchen one morning and asked the boys if they wanted to dye eggs after school. Isaac,who was sitting in the living room, shouted, “Yes!” (He was in another room and answered me. Wowza!) Last year he put two eggs in different cups of dye and retreated to the basement. Not this year. Every boy had an equal number of eggs to color, but I’m pretty sure Isaac colored more than his fair share. He even stuck around to wash all of the cups…
Read this post in its entirety at:http://tyannsheldonrouw.weebly.com/1/post/2014/04/weekend-moments-happy-birthday-teenagers.html
By Dani Alexis
It’s Autism Positivity Day 2014, which seems to me the ideal day for launching this blog.
This project started in a battered spiral notebook I keep next to my bed. When I started writing, I wasn’t sure I wanted to blog something as intensely personal as an autobiography. And I’m still not sure.
But there is something wonderfully positive and affirming about writing, specifically, about my autism. I’m not alone in this; by writing about my autism, I join a community of writers and bloggers of which I’m proud to be a part.
There’s also something wonderfully affirming about autobiography, or memoir, or life writing. This is particularly true when one is autistic. It is a persistent irony that so many researchers of autism – themselves neurotypical – continue to believe simultaneously that autistic people are fatally self-absorbed and that autistic people are incapable of writing meaningfully about their own lives…
Read this post in its entirety at: http://autisticacademic.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/autac-expressions-of-posautivity-autismpositivity2014/
Outpouring of Words ~ By Emma Zurcher-Long
Three Haikus By Emma Zurcher-Long for #AutismPositivity2014
*Emma writes by typing on a bluetooth qwerty keyboard attached to her iPad. For more about the way Emma communicates, read – How we Got Here
My writing blossoms
greeting welcoming smiles of
Read this post in its entirety (which includes two more of Emma’s Haiku Poems) at: http://emmashopebook.com/2014/04/30/outpouring-of-words-by-emma-zurcher-long/