Category Archives: high functioning autism

Autism Seminar Notes Part 10

Three classifications

  • Socially Avoidant
  • Socially Indifferent
  • Socially Awkward 


Socially Avoidant:

  • Minimal interaction
  • Turning or walking away
  • Fear of unexpected touch
  • May be hypersensitive to another’s voice or smells 


Socially Indifferent: 

  • Doesn’t seek interaction with others
  • Interaction increases when “wants and needs” are necessary
  • Will initiate rather than respond 


Socially Awkward:

  • Most common category
  • Want to experience social engagement but lack the skills
  • History of being excluded or left out
  • Lack reciprocity in social interaction
  • Poor conversation skills


Social Emotional Issue #1:


  • Unsafe use of playground equipment
  • “Aggressive” with peers
  • Disrupts others’ games 


Why is this occurring? 

  • Sensory seeking
  • Difficulty controlling body movements
  • Poor modulation
  • Lack of social skills for play 



  • Practice safe use of equipment
  • Provide and review a written list of playground rules
  • Pair student with a peer model
  • Review playground performance and offer immediate feedback 
  • Alert the playground supervisor of the student with special needs
  • Be aware of signs and signals of over-arousal 
  • Student may need additional adult supervision 


Social-Emotional Issue #2

BEHAVIOR: Making rude or inappropriate comments

Why is this occurring? 

  • Decreased perspective taking
  • Deficits in verbal communication  (receptive and expressive) 
  • Difficulty with social pragmatics 
  • Challenges reading nonverbal signals from others 



  • Prepare other students for their reaction (ignore or model appropriate behavior) 
  • Identify pattern and be prepared to help the student 
  • Make your immediate feedback and be specific 
  • Practice the social interaction 


Social-Emotional Issue #3

BEHAVIOR: Difficulty accepting criticism or help

Why does this happen?

  • Concrete thinking interferes 
  • Perfectionism/control
  • Anxiety increases



  • Maintain a calm, quiet voice
  • Avoid “black and white” words such as “wrong” 
  • Use qualifiers (“very close” or “almost”)
  • Try writing your corrections or assistance rather than talking 
  • Prepare peers to expect such behavior and disregard or encourage if appropriate  

Autism Seminar Notes Part 6

At the seminar, Beth Aune, an occupational therapist, presented behavior solutions in and beyond the inclusive classroom. 


  • Growing emphasis on the inclusion of disabled students into the general education population. 
  • Over the past few decades, U.S. students enrolled in special education programs has risen (National Education Association) 
  • Three out of every four students with a disability spend part of all of their day in a general education classroom (National Education Association)  


Common Labels

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Asperger’s syndrome 
  • Sensory Processing Disorder
  • Tourette’s
  • Learning Disability 


Common Characteristics:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Distractibility and inattentiveness
  • Impulsivity
  • Difficulty with self-control
  • Emotional instability 
  • Poor peer relations and social interaction
  • Low self-image
  • Weak expressive and receptive language
  • Poor handwriting
  • Poor organizational skills 


What do Educators Need?

  • Please? No more boring theory!
  • Help me understand what I am seeing
  • Help me understand why it is happening
  • Give me tools to help my student 


Sensory Processing—A Review by Dr. Lucy Miller

Sensory processing refers to the way in which the CNS and the peripheral nervous system manage incoming sensory information. The reception, modulation, integration, and organization of sensory stimuli, including the behavioral responses to sensory input are all components of sensory processing. 


Sensory Systems

  • Sight (visual)
  • Hearing (auditory)
  • Taste (gustatory)
  • Smell (olfactory)
  • Touch (tactile)
  • Movement (vestibular) 
  • Muscle awareness (proprioceptive)


Visual System

  • Most relied upon sense for orientation in space
  • Receptors are in rods and cones in the retina
  • Mediates a number of protective and postural responses 
  • Perceptual—how the brain interprets visual information
  • Motor—how the extraocular muscles work, including binocular (two eyes), tracking, and scanning


Auditory System 

  • Receptors are in the cochlea, transmitted from hair cells through cranial nerve
  • Has own set of reflexes related to protective behavior
  • Connects to the reticular formation
  • Evokes responses in the autonomic nervous system  


Gustatory System

  • Receptors are located in the tongue, soft palate, and upper regions of the throat
  • Sweet, sour, salty, bitter 
  • Chemical and somatosensory experience for eating and protection 


Olfactory System

  • Receptors are in specialized epithelium in the roof of the nasal cavity
  • Stimuli go directly into the amygdala of the limbic system 
  • May elicit emotional responses or primal behavior associated with survival  


Vestibular System

  • Works as a team with the visual system
  • Receptors are in the semicircular canals
  • Sensitive to head movement 
  • Rotary acceleration or declaration 
  • Utricle and saccule sense the direction of gravitational pull 


Tactile System

  • Receptors in the skin
  • Works with proprioceptive system to influence development and awareness of body scheme
  • Two functions:
  1. Discriminative—touch, pressure, vibration. Tactile discrimination identifies spatial and temporal qualities of stimuli    
  2. Protective—produces sympathetic arousal and directs input to reticular formation. Pain, temperature, tickle, itch 


Proprioceptive System

  • Receptors are deep in muscle spindles, Golgi tendons, and joints
  • Understanding of where joints and muscles are in space 
  • Works with vestibular system to give sense of balance and position 
  • Works with tactile system to coordinate posture and movement of limbs 
  • Neck joints and proximal limb joints give most feedback to CNS
  • Powerful therapeutic tool! 



Autism Seminar Notes Part 5

At the autism seminar, I also saw Sean Barron speaking about unwritten rules of social relationships. He was also an amazing speaker. Here’s what I learned from him:


Unwritten Rule #1: Rules are not absolute. They are situation-based and people-based. People should handle situations properly. 

Unwritten Rule #2: Not everything is equally important in the grand scheme of things. Many people with autism have a hard time having a healthy perspective on things. Certain things have to be prioritize. 

Unwritten Rule #3: Everyone in the world makes mistakes. They don’t have to ruin your day. Don’t expect to be perfect. People with autism have a hard time accepting mistakes, but they have to learn from them. They need to let things go and move on. Life is not perfect. They need to be objective, not blow things out of proportion or stress over unimportant things.  

Unwritten Rule #4:  Honesty is different from diplomacy. Some people with autism can be very blunt and direct. They need to know their boundaries when it comes to honesty. 

Unwritten Rule #5: Being polite is appropriate in any situation. 

Unwritten Rule #6: Not everyone who is nice to me is my friend. Some people want instant results. Some people may take advantage of people with autism or be a bad influence on them. People with autism have to learn body language. 

Unwritten Rule #7: People act differently in public than they do in private. 

Unwritten Rule #8: Know when you’re turning people off.   

Unwritten Rule #9: “Fitting in” is often tied to looking and sounding like you fit in.

Unwritten Rule #10: People are responsible for their own behaviors. 




Autism Seminar Notes Part 4

Evaluation of Treatments:

  • Risk vs. Benefit
  • Cost vs. Benefit
  • Evidence of Effectiveness 


Low Dose Principle

Some individuals on the autism spectrum need only 1/4 o 1/2 of the normal starting dose of drugs in these 3 classes:

  • SSRI Antidepressants
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants
  • Atypical Antipsychotics 


Too much causes insomnia, agitation and irritability. Other drugs usually require normal doses. If used in small children, micro doses – 1/10 of meg of Rispordal. 


SSRI’S antidepressants work really well for anxiety and panic attacks. They are:

  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Zoloft (setraline)
  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)


Principles of Using Medication

  • Try one thing at a time
  • A medication should have an obvious beneficial effect
  • Withdraw a medication slowly. If a person has been on it a long time. 
  • Be careful switching brands. 
  • Don’t expect 100% control of a symptom 


Atypical antipsychotics may have severe side effects. They are:

  • Risperdal (rhisperdone)
  • Geodon (ziprasidone)
  • Zyprexa (olanzapine)
  • Abilify (aripiprazole)
  • Seroquel (quetiapine) 


Blood pressure medications reduce anxiety and are used as sleep aids. Much safer than atypicals: Beta blocker propranolol & clonidine. 


Anticonvulsant drugs for aggression and mood stabilization: 

  • Depakote
  • Lamitel (lamotrigine)
  • Topamax (topiramate) 


  • Special diets work for some individuals 
  • Vitamins and supplements B6 and Magnesium
  • Vigorous exercise for calming
  • Weighted blanket or vest for calming
  • Omega 3 supplements help the brain
  • Poor diet—more depression 


ADHD Drugs and Autism

  • Stimulants tend to make classical autism worse
  • Stimulants sometimes help individuals with mild Asperger’s 


Traits in Close Relatives

  • Four Generations of Bankers
  • MIT-Trained Engineer/Co-Inventor Auto Pilot 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Visual Thinking Skills–Artist, Home Decorators 
  • Food Allergies
  • Intellectual Giftedness—Writing English Literature 
  • Asperger Traits 


Look Up All Drug Interactions:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Non-prescription drugs
  • Herbal supplements 


*I don’t take medication for my autism. 





Autism Seminar Notes Part 3


Jobs for Middle School and High School Kids

  • Walking dogs
  • Maintaining computers
  • Making Powerpoint presentations  
  • Selling artwork or crafts
  • Working on church or neighborhood website


Preparing for Employment 

  1. Jobs for teenagers
  2. Mentors
  3. Visit work place
  4. Trade journals
  5. Wall Street Journal. Make portfolio—people respect talent
  6. Sell your skill, not yourself 


Show kids interesting things. 


Educational Resources:

  • Community Colleges
  • Technical Schools
  • Online learning
  • University Courses 


*I took online courses and one traditional class from community college and a few universities. 


Science Websites:

  • U.S. National Science Digital Library Project 
  • The Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE) 
  • Physics Education Technology PhET 
  • Open Course Ware Consortium 


Jobs for Verbal Thinkers

  • Stocks and bonds analyst
  • Journalist
  • Translator 
  • Librarian
  • Copy editor
  • Accountant 
  • Specialty Retail
  • Bookkeeper & record keeper
  • Budget analyst 
  • Special education teacher
  • Book indexer
  • Speech therapist
  • Inventory control specialist
  • Legal researcher
  • Stage actor 


Jobs for Visual Thinkers:

  • Industrial design
  • Computer network specialist
  • Graphic arts
  • Drafting 
  • Auto mechanic 
  • Computer repair
  • Handcrafts
  • Equipment design
  • Convention AV technician 
  • Photographer 
  • Animal Trainer
  • Architect 


Bad Jobs for People with Autism

They require lots of short term working memory and fast processing information. 

  • Cashier — making change quickly puts too much demand on short-term working memory
  • Short order cook — Have to keep track of many orders and cook many different things at the same time
  • Waitress — Especially difficult if have to keep track of many different tables
  • Casino dealer — Too many things to keep track of
  • Taxi dispatcher — Too many things to keep track of
  • Taking oral dictation — Difficult due to auditory processing problems
  • Airline ticket agent — Deal with angry people when flights are cancelled
  • Future market trader — Totally impossible
  • Air traffic controller — Information overload and stress
  • Receptionist and telephone operator — Would have problems when the switch board got busy


And other fast-paced careers. 


Jobs for Music and Math Thinkers 

  • Math teacher
  • Scientific researcher
  • Electronics technician
  • Music teacher
  • Chemist 
  • Computer programmer
  • Engineer
  • Physicist
  • Musician/composer
  • Statistician 


Jobs for People with Poor Verbal Skills or Non-Verbal

  • Shelve Library Books
  • Factory Assembly Work
  • Fast Food Restaurant Work
  • Data Entry
  • Lawn and Garden Work
  • Recycling Plant/Warehouse 
  • Stocking Shelves
  • Inventory Control
  • Handcrafts 



Autism Seminar Notes Part 2

Sensor thinkers sort specific pictures, sounds, touches, and smells into categories. Temple Grandin thinks things in pictures. They flash into her memory like a series of still Googled pictures. Sometimes, it happens to me. Sometimes, I think in words or numbers. 


Develop Talents in the Individual’s Specialist Brain

  1. Photo Realistic Visual Thinking—Poor at algebra
  2. Pattern Thinker Music and Math—Poor in reading
  3. Verbal Facts Language Translation–Poor at drawing
  4. Auditory Thinker–Visual perception fragmented 


There can be mixtures of these thinking types. I’m a visual learner.  

Hands-on Activities taught Grandin practical problem solving skills.

There are two categories of mathematicians: algebraists & geometers. 


  • All of Grandin’s uses specific examples to create concepts. 
  • It’s bottom up thinking and not top down thinking. 
  • She learned all concepts using specific examples. 


Is autistic learning memorization? It is memorization and scripting, but as more information is memorized, it can be assembled into more and more categories which will help thinking to become more flexible.  

Play games with people with autism to categorize many objects, so they would learn concepts such as color, shape, bigger than, smaller than, clothing, food, etc. 


Teach Number Concept Generalization:

  • Count a variety of different kind of objects  
  • Addition and Subtraction–Teach with many objects
  • Fractions–Teach by cutting up fruit and paper circles 


Details are Attended to Instead of Whole Gestalt:

  • Autism faster response time to small letters
  • Attend to details of faces instead of the whole   


Teach Word Concepts with Specific Examples

  • Walk down the stairs
  • A plane goes down and lands
  • Put a cup down 
  • Lie down on the bed 


Give out specific examples. 


Sometimes, objects are more interesting than faces. 


Sensory and Neurological Problems That May Need Accomodations:

  • Screams when the fire alarm rings 
  • Tantrums in a supermarket 
  • Cannot tolerate scratchy clothes 
  • Poor handwriting 
  • Tantrums or hyperactive under fluorescent lights 
  • Difficulty multitasking 
  • Difficulty with long verbal directions 


Social Interaction Through Shared Interests

  • School Clubs
  • Organizations such as Scouting 
  • Hobbies
  • Careers
  • Classes that really interest as individual 


The 1950s upbringing taught Grandin many important social and job skills. Everything was learned by categorizing specific examples into these concepts:

  • Turn taking in conversation and activities—such as board games
  • Being on time
  • Doing family activities I disliked
  • Doing things that pleased other people
  • Saying please and thank you 
  • Social mistakes were instantly corrected by telling me what to do 


*I learned all that in the ’90s and early 2000s.


Categorize Behavior Problems

  • Is it biological? Sensory oversensitivity and hidden painful medical problem. 
  • Is it behavioral? Frustration because cannot communication, get attention, and escape from a task 


People with autism need to be disciplined like everyone else if they’re misbehaving. They need to be taught how to be polite and courteous and clean themselves up. It is unacceptable to be rude, disrespectful, and sloppy. 


Teach Social Skills in the Community:

  • Shaking hands
  • Eye contact when meeting people
  • Ordering food in restaurants
  • Table manners
  • Shopping—talking to store staff 


People with autism should practice them. 


Kids doing projects and playing games where the rules and duties are negotiated teaches valuable social skills.


Rule System

  1. Really bad things
  2. Courtesy rules
  3. Illegal, but not bad
  4. Sins of the system 


  • Eccentric is acceptable; being dirty and rude is not.
  • Do not try to de-geek the geek! 


Hidden Painful Medical Problem in Non-Verbal Individuals That Can Cause SEVERE Behavior Problems

  • Acid Reflux heartburn (most common). Not always obvious. 
  • Constipation 
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Yeast infection
  • Ear infection
  • Bd tooth
  • H pylori (stomach, ulcer bug) 


Fear is the main emotion in autism. Some people with autism have anxiety issues. Sometimes, speech is easier when the child is swinging. Sitting on a ball and wearing a weighted vest helps concentration. Use for 20 minutes then take off for 20 minutes. Other things help concentration. 

It is important to desensitize touch sensitive autistic children so that they will enjoy affection. Feeling the good feelings of being held helps to develop feelings of kindness. 

Autism Seminar Notes Part 1

In March 2012, I saw Temple Grandin speaking at a seminar. She was an amazing speaker. Here’s what I learned from her: 

Sensory processing disorder occurs with many other disorders (co-morbid):

  • Autism spectrum
  • Dyslexia
  • Learning symptoms
  • ADHD
  • Asperger
  • Head injury
  • Oppositional defiant
  • Many others 



  • A good teacher is gently insistent
  • Early intervention essential
  • Minimum 20 hours weekly of one-to-one teaching 


A child blocks ears because certain sounds hurt. Sounds are better tolerated when the child initiates them. Book recommendation: Little Rainman by Karen Simmons


  • A child has to be pushed to keep learning new skills
  • Pushing too hard causes sensory overload and no progress
  • Never have sudden surprises. This causes fright and tantrums
  • Adults and teenagers must also be pushed to try new things and keep learning  


Auditory Threshold Normal:

  • Hearing auditory detail is impaired
  • Stretch out and enunciate consonants
  • Hearing may be like a bad mobile phone connection 
  • Occurs with many disorders


Attention shifting slowness occurs with many disorders. Takes longer to shift back and forth between two different things. 


Signs of Visual Processing Problems:

  • Finger flicking near eyes
  • Tilts head when looking at things
  • Hates escalators (Personally, I don’t hate escalators) 
  • Hates fluorescent lights 
  • Difficulty catching a ball
  • Eye exams may be normal 


Interventions for Visual Processing Problems:

  • Incandescent lamp by desk
  • Block fluorescent lights with a hat
  • Laptop computer
  • Gray, tan, or pastel paper
  • Irlen lenses or pale colored glasses
  • Balancing games-sit on ball
  • Prism glasses-Developmental Optometrist 


Severe Sensory Problems:

  • Background noise problems
  • Mono-channel
  • Body boundary problems 
  • Often an auditory thinker 
  • Best Book: How Can I Talk If My Lips DOn’t Move: Inside My Autistic Mind by Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay 


Scientists learned that:

  • Sensory problems are real
  • Immature lower brain areas
  • Abnormal circuits between different brain regions
  • Sensory problems are variable 
  • Many word based tasks are processed in visual areas of the brain 
  • Frontal cortex is used less because it has missing circuits