Core Deficits


Core Deficits

Last night we had parent group and our discussion was on the core deficits of autism. It’s always good even as a consultant to revisit these core deficits and to constantly be thinking about how the activities and the way they are framed benefit those with ASD. Over the next several weeks I’m going to spotlight one core deficit a week and give some examples of what this looks like and how we can work on this core deficit area. Please feel free to add comments about personal experiences or other things that spark a memory for you when reading these examples. We’d especially love to hear stories about how these core deficit areas are becoming less of an obstacle in your child’s life with autism.

The five core deficit areas are:
Experience Sharing
Flexible Thinking
Episodic Memory
Self Awareness

Today’s focus will be on Experience Sharing:
Experience sharing is most well known in the realm of communication. 80% of our communication is used to share experiences (otherwise known as declarative language), both to share our own experiences, but also to gain from the experiences of others. With an individual on the spectrum this is quite the opposite often using communication as a means to an end, to get a need met (otherwise known as imperative or manipulative communication). It is also extremely common for those communicating with individuals with ASD to use the imperative or manipulative communication. This form of communication results in some sort of response usually quite a rote reponse and not resulting in the individual with autism to have to use their mind. Helping those with autism to use more experience sharing communication is essential to help them think about and gain something from their personal experiences, gain knowledge from other’s experiences and also to think more about their own actions/responses.

The best way to encourage the use of declarative/experience sharing communication is to use this form of communication with them. Think about this scenario:
Jared, a young boy with autism, walks in the door from school and the conversations goes like this and mom is very imperative:
Mom: Hi Jared
J: Hi mom
M: How was school?
J: Fine
M: Did you have art today?
J: Yes
M: What did you do in art?
J: Made a bird house
M: Oh, did you paint it too?
J: Yes

How much did this mom gain from her son’s day? Did Jared have to think at all about his day? These responses are pretty mindless. Now watch the same scenario with the experience sharing communication:

M: Hi Jared
J: Hi Mom
M: I heard you made a bird house in art today
J: Yeah
M: Oh, I bet the birds will love that house
J: I think so (with a smile on his face)
M: I wonder where we should put it
J: Hmmm, (long pause) maybe on the deck
M: Yeah, that’s a good idea.

How much more was mom able to get from his day? How much easier was it to build on his original statments once the communication got going? Of course this scenario would mean knowing what was going to happen in art that day, but a little digging definately pays off!

This of course is important communication style to use with all kids. I think about my 3 year old and it’s so easy as we are leaving the house to kick in imperative mode. Get your shoes on! Where’s your coat? Eat your breakfast! I notice immediately when I turn into imperative mom that my children become more defiant, frustrated and they shut down. Changing my conversation style just a little suddenly makes it her idea to put her shoes on. Hmm, I wonder if you’d like to wear your boots or your brown shoes today. I’ve got your coat. Wow, if you don’t eat soon you’ll have to throw your breakfast away. Bummer! Again, think about how those simple changes suddenly make it her choice. If she chooses not to eat her breakfast that’s her struggle to deal with when she’s hungry at 10:00!

If you are a family that has implemented the use of declaratie language, how has increasing declarative language been helpful?

Until next week! Michelle

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