Autism education ideas

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Marguerite, Sep 27, 2008.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    The other night husband & I watched a TV documentary on Kim Peek. what struck me was how researchers are now recognising that people with autism are often much brighter than originally assessed; that assessments often underestimate their abilities as well as their prospects; that a lot of the ideas and methods that 'experts' have insisted on, now turn out to be wrong, and we parents are more often correct.

    We have been told many times that people with autism have social skills deficits; they won't just pick up their social skills the way 'normal' people do, but they can be taught social skills in a more academic fashion and learn them in that way. We have found some concepts almost impossible to get through to difficult child 3, even if we sit with him and really work on those issues using every little trick we have found that works with him.

    I've also sat through a number of various social skills courses with difficult child 3 (also earlier with difficult child 1) and what strikes me, is the various attempts to teach social skills to my autistic sons seem to involve nothing more specialised than someone standing up in front of the group and talking to them about these things. In one case, difficult child 3 was given some worksheets with an animation or similar to illustrate the points; but there was still nothing more than the issues themselves and a series of bullet points.

    So what is wrong with this?
    We have children with autism who are highly visual. They are also highly distractible. They are more likely to take information on board, if it is something they are already good at or interested in. When it comes to social skills, they are generally neither interested in it nor very capable. And yet the presenters seem to feel that taking the approach of talking to them in a group will be sufficient? No wonder such courses never seem to really help. All they seem to do is fulfil some bureaucratic requirement, satisfy some pen-pusher that social skills courses have been run in that area.

    A big problem we've had with difficult child 3 (in common with many other having the same problem with their Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) child) is his extreme sense of equality. He treats other people as they treat him; in his mind, everyone is on a level playing field. A teacher yelling at difficult child 3 would in turn find him yelling at them, which would get him into trouble.
    We tried over and over to teach him about figures of authority, to explain that you just don't yell at your teachers, or your parents, or your grandparents. Not even if they yell at you first.

    We've struggled with this one for years. Then today as they were on a long drive, husband had a brainwave. He explained the issue to difficult child 3 in terms of computer game characters.
    In a number of computer games where the characters are warriors, their ability to fight and to do well in a battle is connected to their hit points, their weapons class, their armour class. For example if a character picks up a shield, his armour class is immediately increased.

    husband proposed a system of respect points. Someone older than you automatically has more respect points. Someone younger than you automatically has fewer. Someone more experienced has more, even if they are younger. Someone more qualified has more respect points. But if someone highly qualified in a particular topic changes topic to something out of his field, his respect points due to his area of expertise no longer apply.

    This is just a fledgling idea, but from here it's just a matter of establishing a scale of respect points as if we are writing the computer software for such a computer game.

    This is also just one area of concern in terms of the social skills problems. There are many other "hit points" we could attach to other qualities, other problem areas. A game could be simple or more complex, depending on the capability of the player and the areas of concern needing to be addressed. A game could have more levels (increasing complexity) or fewer, depending on exactly what each child is capable of learning/needs to learn.

    So I think maybe we need to review all these special courses we give to young people with autism - we need to draw a vivid comparison with computer games or similar, putting the issues in such terms as our children will understand. Maybe even if we invented a computer game which would help our children learn these strategies? After all, they often do very well when playing computer games, I know difficult child 3 uses a lot of what he learns in computer games, in his interactions with people.

    So those of you who can use anything from this, see if the concept of "respect points" gets your child over this "everybody should be treated exactly equally" issue. Give it a go and let me know if it seems to help.

  2. AuntSugar

    AuntSugar scared mom

    I think the video game teaching is a great idea! My difficult child loves his play station more than anything else. Now we need to find a person who understands ASP and is also a video game creator to set up a game. I would buy it!
  3. Marg,

    You have perfectly described difficult child here - as well as to some extent easy child , and dare I say - husband? For a very long time I believed that our boys picked up this "equality" viewpoint from their Dad. For some time now I have begun to realize that this issue is much, much more.

    On the one hand, I never have to worry about anyone, and I mean anyone taking advantage of my guys. They certainly hold their own - just a little too well. But I do worry about lack or relationships or relationships that don't last - or trouble at school or on the job. God forbid either one is stopped by a policeman - I shudder to think!!!!

    difficult child told me last year that friendships are "too much trouble". This statement really broke my heart but I have come to realize that he is a true loner. He's truly not hurt by the lack of friendships and actually, the kids around him all know him and like him. (They've all been in a small school system together since pre-K). They give him space , but they are always willing to relate - come over to our house to work on school projects, etc. difficult child is always the same, whether they are here or not.

    easy child has a huge circle of friends. Large groups of them congregated at our house throughout his high school years , and he routinely brings groups home from the university now. But... he has trouble hanging on to friends - especially girl friends. He is always the one who breaks up the relationships - interestingly always because the person "didn't respect him enough to treat him as he should be treated". This worries me greatly - I think it is an example of what you are speaking about. husband believes he is just going to have to work through it - and it will take time and patience. husband strongly believes this - he says that it worked for him. husband's parents paid for him to go through years of traditional psychoanalysis - and husband says this is what finally got through to him. (I guess the old school psychoanalysis is kind of like today's cognitive therapy). easy child has participated in "talk" therapy off and on through the years - whenever he has requested to do so.

    I think your and your husband's idea about relating social skills to computer games and the "powers" of the participants is very inspired. It would be interesting to "embed" these concepts into a game. I'm going to talk to easy child about this. He's finishing up his degrees in cognitive science, computer science , and artifical intelligence this year - and this would be right up his alley. He told husband and myself last night that he wants to go on for his Phd (I really should have seen this coming, sigh) and he will be surrounded by more and more folks who are working with these kinds of ideas. easy child only came around to accepting difficult child's diagnosis this year. He was furious whenever we would even bring up the subject earlier. Now he is very interested and sends me articles and web links to view. He has even stated that sometimes he thinks he might be on the spectrum.....It's interesting to watch this dawning awareness!

    Kudos on this idea! I think it could be a whole area of development for some enterprising folks. I can tell you from past experience that difficult child would last about 5 minutes in a Social Skills class. He just feels that the whole scenerio is demeaning and insulting to his intelligence. He really needs the information, but it isn't presented in a format that speaks to him.

    Last edited: Sep 27, 2008
  4. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Valerie, it's good that easy child has come around. It does take time sometimes, often takes longer to accept problems like this in the ones you love the most.

    By all means let easy child loose on the idea. In the meantime, we'll do the same at this end, see what we can all come up with.

    My suggestion for us to try it, though - while it's not available as software, YET, you can still run it past your Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids by talking about how it would work and using a computer concept as a way to get the concept into their heads.

    difficult child 3 uses computer concepts to describe himself all the time. For example, if he is talking too much and we're not ready to listen, we sometimes say, "pause". Sometimes we even mime pointing a TV remote at him and pressing a button as we say this. I just can't think of any more examples right now, wouldn't you know it! We're just about to go out for the day, only checked in for a minute.

    So talk to your Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) (or similar) kids about the concept of "respect points" for different status people, and to look at life and social interactions as a computer game - see what they think.

  5. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I didn't read all of it, not up to it today, but wanted to say that my thank you's scout leader is a brilliant professor who has done a LOT with both teaching statistics and boy scouts. And he has just about every single aspie trait you could name. Literally, but he is awesomely successful with the kids, the college students, the other profs, and even my elderly adopted gpa who had alzheimers and died a couple of years ago.

    So there is WAY more hope for people with autism than most people think.
  6. Lillyth

    Lillyth New Member

    I think it is an AWESOME idea.

    I even know someone who writes video games for a living. I'm not super close with her or anything, but I'd be willing to shoot her an email to ask her what we would need to do to make this a reality...
  7. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    While I really overall like your ideas, I am concerned about someone younger or smaller automatically having fewer respect points. In my house, that would translate into my 9 year old being screwed over constantly. I would propose that siblings and other non-adults begin with respect points equal to difficult child and then they can add or subtract based on expertise, etc. as earned. For instance, my 9 year old can earn respect points based on his knowledge of science. Penalizing someone because they are merely smaller or younger doesn't teach difficult child to respect all others and can be demeaning and demoralizing to the younger child. Otherwise, a great idea and I am going to try it - my 12 year old pretty much easy child terrorizes the 9 year old to the point where I am afraid my younger child will kill him when they get older, this MIGHT work. The 12 year old is not autistic and is eminently reasonable on all subjects other than his younger brother, bathing and HW.
  8. Marg's Man

    Marg's Man Member

    It seems that some of you like the idea. It was only intended to be a way of explaining respect in terms he understand and accept. My idea is not quite as Marg said. It's more like the 80's game "Dungeons and Dragons". In that game the character's abilities are randomly generated as the result of rolling a 1-6 dice three times (3d6), giving a result between 3 and 18.

    In the system I proposed to difficult child 3 respect if not random; every 'player' starts with a basic 9 respect points.
    Older people get a +1 bonus for every 20 years extra age BECAUSE of life experience, special expertise in a subject also gets +1 and so on. Similarly wrong or stupid behaviour can earn -1 bonuses. Add all the bonuses and you get a result which applies at that moment - in games of this type conditions are changing all the time so the result varies from situation to situation.

    Today, difficult child 3 was a big help at my club and earned himself a +1 bonus which showed when various members (mostly older men, at 53 I am one the 'babies' of the club) thanked him for assistance.

    Then, when it was time to leave, we had a flat battery and I had to get a battery 'jump' from a fellow member (a 70 year old retired engineer). difficult child 3 kept butting in with the same bit of unneeded (and unnecessary) advice as we tried to manoeuvre my friend's car close enough for the leads to reach between our cars. Eventually I had to shout at him. Naturally he was miffed with me but later, when everyone was calmed down and we were on the road I explained in Respect point terms how I had a +2 bonus (+1 because I had done this several times before and +1 because I was his father) and my friend had a +6 bonus (+1 because he was a skilled engineer, +3 because he was 60 years older than difficult child 3 and +2 because he had done this more times before than me). difficult child 3 with no previous experience only had his basic 9 points, in the meantime he was LOSING points because he would not accept that we didn't need his advice (-1 for each offence).

    He didn't lose points for making a wrong suggestion, it was the repetition of the same, rejected advice that lost him points until MY respect for him dropped to a level where I yelled at him. I freely admitted that I disrespected him but that it was partly a result of his own actions.

    He stopped his complaints and seemed to accept the explanation. The idea still needs a lot more polishing. I don't know if we can create an actual game using it but it does seem to be a way of explaining respect in a way that difficult child 3 can accept.

    Marg's Man
  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Svengandhi, thank you very much - yours is the kind of feedback we are really wanting.

    This is very much an idea still in the making. All input welcome, so the point about needing to ensure that younger kids don't automatically get disrespected - a very good point. Also, I got it wrong when I said that it was so sensitive to a kid's age that a 9 year old would have more respect points than a 10 year old, for example. Because husband had it limited to one extra point for every 20 years extra in age, it should get around that problem.

    We were kicking ideas around this morning, on our long car trip. When husband suggested this, we were thinking only in terms of helping difficult child 3 ini his social interactions by giving him a really effective way of thinking about them. But now we're also wondering just how much we could do with it, even to the possibility of making it a computer game. We're thinking of other concepts we could include, perhaps with different levels (more complex levels?) for kids with different capabilities. That way it could be made simpler or more complicated, also more challenging (so kids won't get bored). While we could have Respect Points to deal with the social problems etc, we would then put things into practice by role-playing, through a game system, social interactions. Alternatively instead of a game it could be a website (like Second Life, or Gaia) in which Respect Points could be independently monitored based on language used in interactions, or some kind of user rating system (not sure about that).

    If it's done as a game, then it would need to work similar to SIMS, but perhaps with manga figures so that facial expressions could be seen in almost stylised exaggerated detail. Younger players could have younger characters/avatars, perhaps more fanciful ones. The player would have their own avatar but all other players would need to be computer-generated. They would interact according to pre-programmed interactions with multiple pathways. The old D & D concept of "wandering monsters" could be kept, only in this case they would be the law-breakers and the bullies. Again, coping in those awkward social situations would earn various points (such as maybe Responsibility Points?).

    It's still a very new idea.

    Any other problems or suggestions - keep them coming. It is feedback like yours, svenganhi, that helps us fine-tune something that could work really well.

    I don't want something that is going to cause more problems in some families. We want something that is going to help, as much as possible across as wide a platform as possible. So ALL feedback, especially concerns or problems, keep them coming.

  10. Lillyth

    Lillyth New Member

    Oddly enough, my son is one of the few Aspies I know of who is NOT into video games. He plays them occasionally, but his focus is more on BMX.

    So I guess my concern is (and I would TOTALLY get him the video game if were eventually made), how do we simplify the whole points thing so that non-gamers can get it?

    I've even played D&D more than a few times in my life (I dated a guy who wrote these games for a living), and the whole respect points thing we even a little over my head. I mostly got it, but there was a point at which I got a little lost.

    I would also like to see this idea perhaps marketed to the NTs as well. I think our society in general would do better to promote this type of game rather than Grand Theft Auto...
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Certainly we could make this available for NTs. That would come in with the different complexity for different abilities.

    There are other board games which could 'donate' some of their ideas to this. Maybe we could bring out a board game first, or at least a hypothetical one!

    Thanks for your comments, Lillyth. It's concerns like yours we need to cover as best we can. I would like to have something designed to help as many kids as possible.

    As I said earlier, we're still refining this idea. It was husband's idea and even I am still trying to 'get it'.

    So here is the latest, perhaps more detailed, description.

    In the 'game' (for want of a better term), each person begins with, say, 9 Respect Points. There will be clear rules set out that need to be used, when interacting with someone with more Respect Points than you. Similarly, if someone has fewer Respect Points then these rules can be relaxed.

    If you break the rules (which includes being impolite, showing disrespect, not saying "please" or "thank you") then you lose a Respect Point from your score. If you not only keep the rules but show added respect, you gain Respect Points.

    People who are due more respect than others include those who are older and those with more experience. Often being older brings experience. People close in age are generally on the same Respect Points (depending on their behaviour). husband has proposed that for every ten years greater in age someone is, there should be one more Respect Point. If someone has considerably more experience in a particular area than someone else, then they have more Respect Points IN THAT TOPIC.

    A good example happened yesterday - we had a flat battery in the car (my fault). Luckily not everybody had left the grounds of the miniature trains club. husband called out, "Does anyone have jumper leads?" and a couple of men responded. One in particular took charge. Meanwhile difficult child 3 began to fret - what if we couldn't get started? What if we were stuck? He watched as the older man manouvered his car to the best position. The jumper leads were too short, so he had to try again. And again. Meanwhile difficult child 3 began to offer advice, repeatedly. husband told him that his (difficult child 3's) idea wouldn't work. difficult child 3 suggested it again.
    Eventually the older man said to difficult child 3, "I HAVE done this a few times before; let me get on with it."
    difficult child 3 made the same suggestion again and tis time husband yelled at him, "SHUT UP!"
    difficult child 3 retired, hurt.

    As we drove off (having finally got started), husband explained to difficult child 3, using the Respect Points example.
    "Son, let's say you have 9 Respect Points to begin with. So do I. So did Mr Brown. But I am 40 years older than you - that takes my Respect Points to 11. I've also done this jump-starting many times before - I'm experienced. That means that when it comes to jump-starting, I have another Respect Point, maybe two. Now, Mr Brown is another 20 years older than me. That's 60 years older than you. So he has three more points than you - 12. He is also a qualified engineer, so professionally that gives him another one, possibly two Respect Points. That takes him to 14. He's also done this many more times than even I have, so he would have to have at least one more respect Point than me, purely for experience in jump-starting cars. That takes Mr Brown to at least 16 or 17 Respect Points."
    So far, difficult child 3 was with him. How to accurately assess how much experience earns how many points, was still an issue but it was obvious that Mr Brown was owed A LOT of respect form difficult child 3.
    husband continued. "Now, that means you had 9 Respect Points, I had 12 or 13, Mr Brown had 16 or 17. Maybe more. And every time you made a suggestion AFTER being told it was not wanted, you LOST a Respect Point. When you finally had lost all your Respect Points, I yelled at you. I didn't want to yell at you, but you were doing yourself damage every time you opened your mouth and it was even making Mr Brown angry, and he NEVER gets angry. He's the calmest man I know."

    husband also pointed out that difficult child 3 got Respect Points back by apologising, and also by thanking Mr Brown, unprompted.

    We still haven't ironed out exactly how many points are due here or there, or how fast they get earned back. The rules need to be sorted also. If you do this for yourselves, you may have your own ideas. As tis gets used it will become easier to fine-tune how it works and to slowly sort out and fix any problems.

    Another way of looking at this is with tokens. If we were playing this as a board game, then there would be a dish of tokens (like poker chips) which could be passed to a person, or taken away by a person, authorised by the game adjudicator (like the banker in Monopoly). Interestingly, arguing with the banker about how points get allocated would also lose you points! If you had a genuine grievance you could GAIN points by handling it well with diplomacy.

    We're going to keep fiddling with this. I'm passing on the info to other people in our circle of friends, including therapist and family.

    As I said before, all feedback welcome. Especially criticisms. Thank you to those who have responded so far.

  12. Lillyth

    Lillyth New Member

    I think it's great so far, BUT, I think that everyone should start out with more points, say 50.

    That way, small things can get docked small points, but physical altercations, or lying, or stealing could be more.

    My concern with nine points is you can lose them awfully fast. Faster maybe than in real life.

    Also, it would be easier to show "big things" vs. "little things". Like sometimes just being annoying all day can knock you down as many hit points as one big altercation.

    I think that's the reason most characters in video games have so many. (Like the big bad guys who have 957 hit points)...

    I know that when you start a game on the computer, it really IS more like 9 to begin with, but then they have different "areas" like, hit points, armor, dexterity, etc.

    So that means we need to either up the respect points to make up for their only being one area, OR add other areas.

    Oh, and might the game address what happens if someone with higher respect points lies about you? Like when the other kids say/do something to get you in trouble if you are low on respect points? That way they could see the consequences of having little to no respect points when dealing with situations like that?
  13. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    What a totally great way of explaining respect. The D&D game and other, newer dice/role playing games are very popular with kids. This is a WONDERFUL way to explain respect. I think that this could lead to an awesome tool for parents if you wanted to create a book or blog about it. Really a breakthrough!

  14. Jena

    Jena New Member


    Very cool, you are both very creative!! Just wanted to jump in and say that!
  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    You guys are amazing!

    husband has been home from work today and was online this morning when I was busy. He did say something to me earlier today, Lyllith, about you having some really good ideas.

    Initially, this was intended just as a way of explaining respect between different people and the way we need to vary how much or how little we have to concentrate on this, with different people, according to their own status.

    However, as a teaching tool on a broader level, I think this could work. That was an unexpected side issue to this which we now want to follow up.

    At this stage, we're now looking at subdividing the points so there can be more capacity to distinguish between big issues and smaller issues. We need to develop a list of things which will gain points, a list of things which will lose points and ways to regain points.

    To begin with, let's compromise and increase the points by a factor of 10. That means we each begin with 90.

    Points are allocated initially on the basis of:
    age (+10 points for every 20 years of age).

    experience (+ ? points for every previous experience of an activity or topic under discussion/action).

    qualification (+? points for previous training - need to grade it according to level of qualification).

    Points are lost for:
    Arguing AFTER having been asked not to (points lost for each utterance of the same argument)

    Disrespectful behaviour (we need to define this more carefully).

    Being mean or bullying (again, need to define this).

    Points are regained for:
    apology (extra points for unprompted apology).

    appropriate behaviour indicating active application of self-control

    showing good manners, such as saying "please" and "thank you" appropriately, unprompted.

    giving compliments appropriately.

    showing a willingness to learn.

    For all these, we need to seriously look at defining them and applying a points value. The strict definitions are needed not only so programming can be quantified, but also so the main purpose of this, to help teach our difficult children to interact better, is made more effective. We can't expect our kids to get it right if we haven't defined properly what we want them to do.

    So let's carry on, this is steamrollering along nicely.