What's it like working in an autism school?

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VAGraduateStudent
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17 Jan 2014, 12:19 pm

I'm NT and have many aspie friends and family. I'm researching the sociology of autism, but it's from what I guess is a "critical advocacy" standpoint. Meaning that I second guess things a lot when I'm considering them. For example, does "deficiency" actually mean "difference" and maybe things we think of as benefits aren't really benefits.

So anyway, all the aspies I know are around or over 30 so I don't know too much about these "autism therapies" that the kids have to do these days. There's a school in my city that accepts volunteers for ABA therapy. I'm intending to volunteer with them in a few months. My plans are to keep my mouth shut and just observe, although I understand I'm going to have to help with the therapy part.

In the walk through I noticed that the ABA therapies were things like making the kids open doors for themselves, respond politely, and play games where they have to perform an expected role. Like they have to do X with their hands when someone else does Y.

Has anyone worked in a place like this? Gone to an autism school or program? I'd like a little more information about what to expect and if anyone has an opinion on how helpful the therapies are.


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Willard
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17 Jan 2014, 2:18 pm

VAGraduateStudent wrote:
if anyone has an opinion on how helpful the therapies are.


IMHO, pressuring a child to behave in ways that go against the natural impulses of their neurology is just signalling that who they are as an individual makes them less acceptable, therefore less valuable than their peers.

"You must learn to be like everybody else, or you are unfit to be one of us" (Spoiler Alert: we can't change the way our brains are wired. Pretending to be like everyone else is painful to us. Faking neurotypical behavior makes life a never ending anxiety attack). It's the polar opposite of acceptance and a form of psychological torture.

OTOH, that isn't really anything the entire world doesn't teach an autistic every day of their lives anyway. Why not start early and rob them of the few youthful years of blissful ignorance they might have, before awareness of their freakish condition sets in? Alienate early and often, to get a good start on that tortured autistic psyche.



Musicgirl
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17 Jan 2014, 3:02 pm

Haven't been to therapy since I was little but it has helped me a lot. With the help of therapy and God, I have become who I am today. I started out with moderate to severe autism (even used to be nonverbal) and now I am rediagnosed with AS. While I wasn't cured and still go through some struggles, I have improved a lot. Would I be able to talk now if I had never gone to therapy? I don't know. I just know that I am very blessed and thankful to be who I am today. I have big dreams that I hope to fulfill, work towards them, and hold those I love close to my heart. One day, I hope to share my story with people and encourage them to never give up hope as well as to inspire them to always follow their dreams now matter how difficult things get. This doesn't just go for people on the autism spectrum, but people going through any struggle no matter how big or small it is. If I could be somebody's inspiration, that would mean the world to me.



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25 Jan 2014, 10:28 am

How helpful the therapies are depends almost exclusively on the therapists, and like Willard implied, "helpful" is relative.

I interned at "autism schools" in grad school and I work in DD, currently most of my clients are not autistic but some are, so I have at least a modicum of experience. I have a VERY loose approach to therapy (as hands-off as possible and emphasizing pre-existing strengths, rather than focusing on changing perceived "weaknesses") and I can say that in terms of results I'm seen as an OK therapist--my clients have for the most part progressed pretty slowly compared to some, but the gains have been real and generalized, not restricted to some clinical setting only under the watch of some "overseer".

Here's a strange thing I've noticed across multiple settings: speech paths seem to be VERY heavy-handed in their approaches to therapy, to the point where I often want to punch them. I don't specifically know how they are trained, and that might be a terrible generalization, but if you do go deeper into this, I'd be curious to know if you notice the same thing or if it's just me.


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KWifler
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08 Feb 2014, 7:46 pm

I looked into it on the international level, and I found out that practices across nations vary wildly. Practices across regions of the USA vary wildly.


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