Austic spectrum presentation by a young man


Understanding: The Free Therapy

"...There are a few basic things you need to know in order to understand your autistic child. One of these is understanding the way an autistic person learns. Many of you eagerly put your kids into mainstream classrooms so they can learn social skills by watching normal kids. Most of the time, however, the autistic kids don't learn anything--except perhaps greater fear, more suspicion, and better ways to isolate themselves. Autistic kids don't learn from normal social interactions. Normal events occur too quickly, are too stressful, and have unfathomable rules that keep changing. Autistic kids learn social behavior much better from things like movies, books, and Nintendo games--you know those things that they fixate on, quote from, and obsess over--things you're supposed to limit or take away altogether?

For me, movies are a great social learning tool because they're non-threatening, they require no response, the viewer is invisible to the players in the movie, the stories illustrate major issues of human life, AND they can be rewound and replayed. I learn important social lessons from movies. And I have learned quite a bit about autism from movies, even though the movies themselves have nothing to do with autism. What I've learned is that normal people often act like autistic people when put in highly stressful or incomprehensible situations, similar to what truly autistic people experience every day. Hence, my drama troupe and I are going to illustrate my points by acting out scenes from various films.

When I was much younger, I was supposedly unable to engage in imaginative play. That is a classic symptom of autism. Yet by reciting movies, I was engaging in imaginative play. I didn't have the language to create a character, but I could act out a character, I could become that character, I could learn about other points of view from that character. As soon as I could type well, I used to type out movie scripts from memory or write plays for my sister and my mother to act in. This was and is my social learning tool...."


Well-Known Member
I love it!!! It goes along with what I thought of my son and validates my putting him in Special Education where he can have more attention for education and play with peers who are more like he is. Strangely, he is well liked at his school by mainstreamers too and has definitely learned some important social skills through the years. Whether it was from watching movies or reading, I can't say. He can pass for a neuro-typical child, although he still has quirks, but mostly he saves his high pitch noises etc. for home, and is now aware enough to be embarassed by acting socially inappropriate in public (like he wouldn't belch or fart in public). He is still a loner. Kids come to call for him all the time, but he doesn't want to play. However it is HIS choice. I am glad autistics are speaking out to teach parents of the kids what to do. Thanks, Alisha!


Former desparate mom
I am so thrilled to see what I have thought is validated by this young man.

I hope educators read and incorporate this insight into the educational process.
Some of our kids learn different.

Thanks so much Alisha.
If it's possible, you would see I am jumping up and down.


New Member
ALisha, this article was great. Thanks sooo much. It explains well that autistic kids can learn if we observe what it is they are drawn to. Loved it.




New Member
Yes!!! I learned so much of my social stuff from reading (I don't do movies really well)

And, as a writer who finally branched into fiction about five years ago, I found that my characters who are developing and growing and going through life, have, since I have to make them "talk" to NTs, have shown me so much about about interacting, emotions, etc. It's to the point now that I will develop vignettes with these pixel people when I have situations to deal with, work it through, and then internalize what I've learned...yeah silly...but when I look at a situation and go, "crap, what do I do now?" I can often write it out as analogous fiction, figure out and think through the situation (hey, no skin off my back), and then learn back from it.

No...these aren't real people to me at all, though they are developed personalities. I rather feel sorry for them...two completed manuscripts and working on two novellas, and the poor buggers get thrown into a lot of weird situations.

I can play in my obsessions and all of that stuff, my fears, work it through in second person, see how it all works out, and darned if it doesn't usually work for me.

And no, I didn't learn squat from all the sped stuff on social skills, nor did taking me away from whatever serial obsession I had at the moment do any thing beyond stressing me out unvelievably.

It sounds really silly but I put a somewhat autistic character with social anxiety into a mandatory party situation (worse yet, medieval court situation), worked through and wrote and detailed all the feelings and coping mechanisms needed. He did just fine in the end albeit came out rather sweaty and exhausted, and danged if I didn't get through a very politically and religiously charged meeting just fine...and sweaty and exhausted.

I sometimes think we have to externalize before we can internalize if that makes sense. It's my version of those role playing 'games' used with autistic kiddos.

toK (I am either crazy or my own behavioral therapist)


Validation feels good!

This young man has other papers and presentations. I haven't read them all, but if anyone is interested, they are listed on his home page at .

(I've learned so much via reading personal stories. After reading the DSM and professional input, I try to locate personal stories to put real meaning to the checklist behaviors.)


This young man leves less than 5 miles from me.

Says something about the "educational establishment" that he is homeschooled. Why am I not surprised?

His Web site is terrific and has many more resources on it including his published book for purchase.

Go to the bottom of the speech and there is a link to his home page.



Active Member
Thanks, Alisha.

I've mainstreamed my son and still wonder if I've done the right thing. We're still at a crossroads. The trouble is, I don't know what alternatives we have here - resources are so different in Australia and Special Education classes so hard to find, especially for a kid like mine.

I'm bookmarking this young man's site.



Well-Known Member
I put my son in a class for higher functioning kids with Cognitive Delays. It was sort of a fight to get him there because his IQ is 107, but you'd never know it to see how he struggles with life skills, just as the others in his class do. He gets TONS of one-one attention, and can go as far as he is able, at his own rate, which is helpful to him academically. He doesn't seem to be bothered by the other kids---when needed he helps them and other times he actually engages socially with them, and they accept him. This is a biggie because my particular child is NOT interested much in socializing at home, so school is more important in that area. He also has some "typical" friends that he sees at recess, mostly a year or so younger than him. I noticed a long time ago and my son did not "mimic" neurotypical behavior just by being around it. In fact, he was sort of shunned when in mainstream classes with no aide. He was too different, and the kids didn't tease him, but they didn't play with him either, and he didn't care!!! The only time it hurt him was when there were birthday parties. He was never invited. He's been to three this year and is going to have a party of his own with kids from his class plus a few neurotypicals who hang with him at times. He is the highest functioning in his class and is very happy to go to school and has never learned as much as he is now. He also gets intensive help with social skills, such as reading faces and how to hold a conversation. I'm not saying Special Education is for all kids, but it helped mine a lot. He is mainstreamed for social studies and science and is with an aide and, of course, sees the typical kids at art, music, gym, etc. but his aide is usually in the room with him. He is never bullied, which is a big fear in mainstreaming (for me), and my son is aware enough to be upset if he would be teased. I know my son feels good about himself right now, and am glad I chose this route for my particular child. The only mimicking of others MY kid does is, like the young man in the article, from television. He has learned good surface social skills. He knows to say "please" and "Thank you" and can ask for help in a store and can be a good sport at soccer. He still can't hold a conversation that isn't about his obsessions and I think that's because he just isn't interested. My son has Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified.