I have a family member on the autism spectrum, so I know what it’s like to be in a social situation where his unexpected behaviors cause awkward moments or even anger toward him at the very least. I have also feared for my nephew’s safety at the other end of the gamut because his behaviors have been verbally aggressive toward others.
I was fortunate to spend some time this summer with Noah, who is now sixteen. He is bright and funny and a joy. Since he lives in Seattle, I don’t often get to interact with him in person so I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce to him the concept of Expected and Unexpected behaviors.
As a guest at a lake house this summer, Noah opened every drawer and every closet in the place upon arrival. That, of course, is an unexpected behavior from a sixteen- year- old boy.
We all took a boat ride and he screamed quite loudly several times during the trip, for no real reason but to make noises. Again this was an inappropriate and unexpected behavior.
Noah would randomly walk up to someone and start talking about terrorist activities in the Middle East or about the predator fish in the lake. There was no beginning to those conversations and there was no social exchange except for Noah to make statements about his topics of interest.
I started a conversation with Noah by asking him what he wanted to do in the future. He wants to be a Marine Biologist. He’s capable. I told him that I wanted that for him and that I also saw him driving a car and having his own apartment. I had to chuckle when he looked at me and said, “or a house”. I responded with a smile and repeated, “or a house”.
I began with the end in mind and then proceeded to lay out for Noah what steps he had to take to get there. One of those steps involve his social skills that he needed to improve to be able to get and keep a job so he could get and keep a car and apartment, “or a house”.
I showed him the visual tool, the Social Thinking Map, that is highlighted in the video. I can tell you that it immediately resonated with him. I could see the wheels turning and I could see that I got him thinking in ways that I don’t think ever occurred to him before.
I actually saw some changes in the way he was behaving and I believe that with practice and consistency, Noah could significantly improve behaviors that would keep him from a productive and independent future that is within his reach.
Remember, for students on the autism spectrum, no new learning occurs without reinforcers. For Noah, having a car, a house and a job as a Marine Biologist are big reinforcers. With the help of the visual tool for this “Social Thinking” Noah now has a better understanding about his path for the future.
Take a look at the video and you can see how powerful this tool can be!!
I encourage you to make use of this tool developed by Michelle Garcia Winner. It’s brilliant.
Leave a comment below and let me know how this powerful visual tool works for you!!!
Take care and I’ll see you next time!