Friday, February 3, 2012

Teaching Communication Skills to a Child Diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome

Asperger's Syndrome is a milder variant of Autistic Disorder. In Asperger's Disorder, affected individuals are characterized by social isolation and eccentric behavior in childhood. Though grammatical, their speech is peculiar due to abnormalities of inflection and a repetitive pattern. They usually have a circumscribed area of interest which usually leaves no space for more age appropriate, common interests. Some examples are cars, trains, door knobs, hinges. The name "Asperger" comes from Hans Asperger, an Austrian physician who first described the syndrome in 1944.

If a child is showing symptoms of Asperger's Disorder because highly visual thinking is interfering with the ability to generate language fluently then we may have child who is suffering from a very trainable communication disorder rather than a psychiatric disease.

Children who are highly visual with communication problems can have as many as 50 symptoms that are very similar and predictable. I call these children Maverick Minds.

To begin working on improving language and communication, we start with teaching visual attention skills.

In my consulting practice I teach parents methods for improving attention, memory and communication skills to replace many of the off-target behaviors they have. Before we begin teaching attention we do an evaluation to determine if the child is naturally turning to visual attention and memory skills rather than the auditory-verbal counterparts.

When I build exercises to teach attention I use the natural strengths of each child so that each exercise is easy, fun, and successful because it is critical that emerging communication abilities feel natural and flow fluently. To see my examples of children learning to become symptom-free go to my ebrainlabs website and watch the videos in our video viewing studio. You will see parents y using a pace and methods that result in success. The goals of the exercises are to help your child improve daily and achieve at least 80% success consistently.

We evaluate the "just-right" difficulty level to begin the exercise so that we understand how your child learns best. There are only two rules for the pace of learning:

  • You and your child should be having lots of fun.

  • Your child should always be 80% correct or better.
  • In our seminars, we discuss how we build the visual attention system first because it is the stronger system and is often shutting down verbal development. For this reason we begin our training with very little talking, which is one step toward stopping the antagonism between the visual and verbal systems and initiate a supportive relationship. Thus, we want you to minimize your talking during the exercises. As a result, your child will be able to isolate the visual attention system and begin to load visual memory. The more you talk, the more you reduce visual memory capacity. So by talking during this training, you could reduce your child's capacity from 200 data bytes to 25.

    As you work, you'll establish a tri-level sequencer. The sequencer is another important brain function that is the engine of the verbal thinking pathway and the most underused component of verbal biology. The sequencer is often very painful for autistic children so initially you teach it as a "treat," or what feels like a reward.

    The parts of the sequencer are:

    Continuous - After every correct answer, ping a penny into a cup. Feedback that occurs after every correct answer facilitates rapid learning.

    Fixed-ratio - After every three pennies, give your child a treat such as a sticker, a raisin, or a chocolate chip. Fixed-ratio sequencers begin the process of self control.

    Variable - At the end of your session, go on a treasure hunt with your child. Hide clues around the house that lead to a surprise under the pillow. Varying the elements of the treasure hunt helps your child transfer learning and generalize it to daily life.

    As you work, you'll begin to vary your sequencers to increase the flexibility of this component of training. After you have used pennies, raisins and a treasure hunt, for example, you might change to printing out a picture of a desired toy and cutting it into pieces. Then, you can have your child earn pennies, stickers, and then a piece of the puzzle. Tape the piece on the wall. When the picture is complete, go to the store to buy the toy.

    You can also vary the elements of each part of the sequencer, depending on your child's needs. For example, you could change the Continuous to macaroni, marbles, poker chips, or small post-it notes. You could change the Fixed Ratio to tickles, chocolate chips, pretzels, stickers, or nickels. Or you might change the Variable to coupons for privileges. The goal is to keep your child interested and challenged, and to have lots of fun.

    Dr. Cheri Florance is a brain scientist with training and clinical experience in how to teach the brain to replace symptoms of communication and language disorders. In her books, Maverick Mind, ( ) and A Boy Beyond Reach ( ), she describes how she taught her own autistic son, Whitney to replace disability with ability and become symptom-free. To learn more about her own personal journey and successful methods visit her complimentary Learning Library at

    Article Source:,_PhD

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