- A Brief Explanation of Discrete Trial Training
- Supporting Students with Asperger's Syndrome Who Present Behavioral Challenges
- Applied Behavior Analysis: A Focus on Outcomes
- A Challenge to Reframe our Thinking About Behavior
- Concerning Consequences: What Do I Do When...?
- Consequences, Behavior, and My Birds
- Don't Forget About Self Management
- Ever Had a Crisis Kind of Day?
- Movement Difference: A Closer Look at the Possibilities
- Movement Differences Among Some People with Autism: an Impetus to Re-Examine Behavioral Issues
- Observing Behavior Using A-B-C Data
- Positive Behavior Supports Creating Meaningful Life Options for People with ASD
- Ten Steps Towards Supporting Appropriate Behavior
- The Challenge of Combining Competing Input in the Classroom
- "Your Attitude Just Might Be My Biggest Barrier"
- Applied Behavior Analysis: The Role of Task Analysis and Chaining
- Tips for Choosing a Provider for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
- What to Consider When Looking for a Qualified ABA Provider
- Assessment Day: Questions About the Communication Development of Your Young Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- “If They Could Only Tell Me What They Are Thinking.” The Need for Augmentative Communication for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Aiding Comprehension of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders During One-on-One Interactions
- Can Social Pragmatic Skills Be Tested?
- Comprehension of the Message: Important Considerations for Following Directions
- First Steps and the Journey to a Diagnosis of ASD for a Child under Three
- Functional Categories of Delayed Echolalia
- Functional Categories of Immediate Echolalia
- Initial Guidelines for Developing a Communication Intervention Plan for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Significant Limitations in Communication Ability
- Long and Short Term Strategies for Reducing Specific Repetitive Questions
- Successfully Using PECS with Children with ASD
- Meeting the Challenge of Social Pragmatics with Students on the Autism Spectrum
- Opportunity to Communicate: A Crucial Aspect of Fostering Communication Development
- Reading with Your School-Age Child: Building Vocabulary One Word at a Time
- Social Communication and Language Characteristics Associated with High Functioning, Verbal Children and Adults with ASD
- The 21st Century Speech Language Pathologist and Integrated Services in Classrooms
- The High Functioning Person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: A "Tourist" in His Native Country
- The Role of the School Speech Language Pathologist and the Student with Autism
- Using a Visual Support to Enhance WH Question
- Visual Resources for Enhancing Communication for Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Disabilities
- Visual Schedules and Choice Boards: Avoid Misinterpretation of their Primary Functions
- Visual Supports: Sources for Symbols for Receptive and Expressive Communication
- What is the Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS?
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- PICO - A Decision Making Tool For Selecting Apps
- Helping Your Child to Develop Communication Skills
- Evidence-Based Practices for Effective Communication and Social Intervention
- Important Predictors
- The Use of Technology in Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Collaborative Teaming
- Educational Programming
- Academic Supports for College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Advice from Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder to Teachers Regarding Literacy Instruction
- Advice for Peer Tutors
- Applying the Ziggurat and CAPS Model in Your School District
- Aspects of Support for Learning
- A Young Adult's Guide to Deep Breathing as a Relaxation Technique: A Personalized Fact Sheet
- Can Schedule Usage Training Include Elements of Literacy Instruction?
- Clean Up Your Act! Creating an Organized Classroom Environment for Students on the Spectrum.
- Change is Good! Supporting Students on the Autism Spectrum when Introducing Novelty
- Classroom Choreography: The Art of Scheduling Staff and Students
- Complexities of Instructional Support
- Creating a Circle of Support
- Critical Features of Early Intervention: Merging Best Practices
- Developing Long Term Relationships Between School and Parents
- Early Intervention for Young Children on the Autism spectrum: Parent’s Perspective
- Educating Students with Autism: Are There Differences in Placement?
- Establishing Long Term Goals: What Are We Hoping to Achieve
- For General Education Teachers: Helpful Questions to Ask About Students with ASD
- Get Engaged: Designing Instructional Activities to Help Students Stay On-Task
- "Ham It Up and Get It Cookin!!" Thoughts From Dr. Greenspan
- Home-School Communication
- "I Can Do It Myself!" Using Work Systems to Build Independence in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- “I Wake Up for MY Dream!” Personal Futures Planning Circles of Support, MAPS and PATH
- Life After High School...So Now What
- Literacy Resources
- Lovaas Revisited: Should We Have Ever Left?
- Making the Most of Morning Meeting
- Motivating Students Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Moving from Preschool to Kindergarten: Planning for a Successful Transition and New Relationships
- Peer Support Programs
- Promoting the Educational Success of Students with Autism: The Role of the Parent-Staff Relationship
- Planning for Successful Transitions Across Grade Levels
- Practical Steps to Writing Individualized Education Program (IEP) Goals: And Writing Them Well
- Practical Recommendations for Utilizing a Range of Instructional Approaches in General Education Settings
- Recognizing Different Types of Readers with ASD
- Reframing Our Thinking and Getting to Know the Child
- Restricted Repertoires in Autism and What We Can Do About It
- School Cultures that Support Students Across the Autism Spectrum
- Service Learning: Something to Think About
- Supporting Staff Using Coaching Model
- Supporting Students with Asperger's Syndrome
- Teaching Students Who Are Low-Functioning: Who Are They and What Should We Teach?
- Theory of Mind in Autism: Development, Implications, and Intervention
- There is No Place Called Inclusion
- The Road to Post-Secondary Education: Questions to Consider
- Tips for Teaching High-Functioning People with Autism
- Tips to Consider When Including a Student with ASD in Art, Music, or Physical Education
- Transition: Preparing for a Lifetime
- Transition to Middle School
- Transition Time: Helping Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Move Successfully from One Activity to Another
- Understanding the Design and Power of a Personal Schedule
- Using Visual Schedules: A Guide for Parents
- Who Are We Working for Anyway? Avoiding Personal Agendas at Meetings to Better Support Individuals Across the Autism Spectrum
- Structured Teaching Strategies: A Series
- Growing Up Together
- How to Open A Combination Lock/Locker
- Supporting Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders Through Postsecondary Transition
- Curriculum Materials and Programs for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
- Implementation and Effectiveness of Using Video Self-Modeling with Students with ASD
- Video Self-Modeling How To and Examples
- Advocates: Qualities to Look for and Choosing the Correct One for YOU
- Considering an Overnight Camp Program for your Child on the Autism Spectrum?
- Finding or Starting a Support Group
- Making the Most of the Holidays for Your Family and Your Son/Daughter on the Autism Spectrum
- Selected Bibliography for Families of People within the Autism Spectrum
- Selected National Resources for Information on Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Selected Resources for Understanding and Supporting Siblings
- Setting the Stage for Parent-Professional Collaboration
- Siblings Perspectives: Some Guidelines for Parents
- What About the Dads?
- When Your Child is Diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- What to Do If You Suspect Your Son/Daughter Might Have an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- For Parents: Preparing for the School Year
- Self Help/Medical
- Teaching a Young Man to Shave
- An Introduction to Possible Biomedical Causes and Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders
- The "M" Word
- Mealtime and Children on the Autism Spectrum: Beyond Picky, Fussy, and Fads
- Good Night, Sleep Tight, and Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite:
- Taking Your Son/Daughter with an Autism Spectrum Disorder to the Dentist
- Teaching a Young Woman to Shave
- Anxiety and Panic Struggles
- Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Having THE Talk with Your Child with ASD
- General Information
- Assessment Processes for Autism Spectrum Disorders: Purpose and Procedures
- Autism Awareness Month: Facts and Tips for Working with Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
- Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Diagnostic Criteria for Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder
- Disability Information for Someone who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Customized Example
- Getting Started: Introducing Your Child to His or Her Diagnosis of Autism or Asperger Syndrome
- Increasing Incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorders Continues in Indiana
- Standardized Tests and Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Article 7, Title 511
- What’s in a Name: Our Only Label Should Be Our Name: Avoiding the Stereotypes
- For Physicians: Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders and Working with Schools
- Behavioral Issues and the Use of Social Stories
- How to “Lose the Training Wheels:” A New Way to Teach Bicycle Riding
- Living in Fear: Anxiety in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Local Community Resources to Enhance Activities
- Making (and Keeping) Friends: A Model for Social Skills Instruction
- Making Camps Accessible for All
- Play in the Lives of Young Children with Autism
- Play Time: An Examination Of Play Intervention Strategies for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Social Activity Groups: Another Approach for Helping to Bridge the Friendship Gap
- Teaching Social Skills through Theatre
- The Collective Outcomes of School-Based Social Skill Interventions for Children on the Autism Spectrum
- The Value of Movement Activities for Young Children
- We All Need Exercise
- Finding a Friend in School
- Bullying and Students on the Autism Spectrum
- Incorporating Typical Peers Into the Social Learning of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Articles by Temple Grandin
- An Inside View of Autism
- Choosing the Right Job for People with Autism or Asperger's Syndrome
- Evaluating the Effects of Medication
- Genius May Be an Abnormality: Educating Students with Asperger's Syndrome, or High Functioning Autism
- Making the Transition from the World of School into the World of Work
- Social Problems: Understanding Emotions and Developing Talents
- Teaching Tips for Children and Adults with Autism
A Challenge to Reframe our Thinking About Behavior
Contributed by Kim Davis, Indiana Resource Center for Autism
The AutCom National Conference, Early Intervention and Beyond: The State of the Art, was held in Decatur, Georgia, in early November 1998. Participants were privileged to hear about a wide variety of topics such as Development as a Dynamic System by Esther Thelen, and Rethinking Development for Young Children with Autism/PDD by Anne Donnellan and Martha Leary. Both days were packed with information and new ideas to ponder and integrate into daily practice. It was an excellent reminder that it is our responsibility as providers and support people to leave no stone unturned in the quest for seeking more and better alternatives for individuals with autism. It is up to us to listen to their voices and hear their needs. It is up to us to be bold and challenge ourselves with new information, thinking, and practice in order to move us all into the new century.
In reviewing my notes from Dr. Esther Thelen's presentation, Development as a Dynamic System, I quickly realized that her information is crucial, but also very difficult to condense into easy reading. Her experiences and studies of human development are vast and complex. How, then, can I share her vital contribution? What is meant by dynamic system and how does it relate to individuals with autism? This article can only be seen as a brief and incomplete introduction to gaining new insights into interpreting the actions/behaviors of individuals with autism and how we might change the manner in which we support them.
According to Thelen, the human body is a dynamic system that is comprised of many different and ever changing systems that regulate how the body operates. These systems, which include skeletal, muscular, and sensory (auditory, visual, tactile, kinesthetic, proprioceptive, olfactory, taste), to name a few, all work interdependently. In other words, all systems need each other to work efficiently and effectively. Therefore, each system is vital in order to achieve desired outcomes. Everything we do — standing up, speaking, eating, scratching an itch, etc. all rely on this interdependent dynamic system. The human body is ever changing and adjusting; dynamic. An interruption in one of the systems can create very different outcomes. Therefore it is crucial to see everyone and everything within a context which includes past history and present demands of a given situation. Dr. Thelen stated that in everything we do "perception, action, and memory are coupled." In other words, information from the past and how it has been interpreted impacts the actions that people bring to each new situation.
In order to begin to understand how the body works as a dynamic system for everything we do, perhaps it would be helpful to closely examine one action. When broken down into steps, the simple act of getting up from a chair and walking to a door and then through it can become quite complex. Even subtle changes within part of the dynamic system of the human body can create a different result. The following chart is by no means a complete analysis of this movement, but rather intended to point out the complexity of the interdependence of the systems in creating the desired outcome. This interdependence is usually thought of as simple, when, in fact, it is quite complex.
Systems (Information in bold are major systems; italics are subsystems)
Receive input that it is time to walk to the door by verbal direction of "It's time to go now."
|Nervous/sensory system. |
Get ready to stand up, let muscles know what to do
|Muscular system to move, to begin to initiate the movement, to begin to push up |
Push to stand
|Muscular system to move, to initiate the movement |
Nervous/sensory system to know how hard to push off, how fast to stand up, when to stop pushing to stand
Locate the door
|Nervous/sensory system |
Initiate movement to walk to the door
|Muscular system to move and maintain body as erect and upright, head up, eyes forward |
Nervous/sensory system to know how far out to put the initial step, how hard to step down, to know when the first step is completed, and when to begin the next, to continue moving, how fast to move, how far to move, when to stop, how to swing the arms
Get to the door
|Muscular system to initiate the movement, to move and maintain body as erect and upright, head up, eyes forward |
Nervous/sensory system to know how far out to put the initial step, how hard to step down, to know when the first step is completed and to begin the next, to continue moving, how fast to move, how far to move, when to stop, how to swing the arms
Walking through the door
|Muscular system to move and maintain the body as erect and upright, head up, eyes forward |
This is a small movement within the context of the many movements we use throughout the day. Yet, it takes a great deal of system cooperation or interdependence to complete this one small action. And, if a movement includes changing locations, people that the individual is interacting with, or other activities, additional information for the dynamic system to interpret would be involved. When considering all of the information a person needs to instantaneously process to make decisions in order to perform an action properly, one might be able to understand that one small glitch in the dynamic system can throw the entire response off. Some glitches in systems may be obvious. For people who are deaf or blind, their glitches involve not being able to take information into the system visually or auditorily. For individuals with autism, some glitches are often invisible to the rest of us. When differences are invisible, they are often overlooked. People with autism can become blamed for not responding in a timely manner or in the appropriate way. It may not be their fault. Rather their systems are not working together to give the smooth output most of us want to see. For example, when some individuals are asked to "write their name" and either take too long, press too hard on the pencil, begin or stop the movement incorrectly, repeat the same letter, or have difficulty regulating letter size, it may all be due to a faulty connection within the dynamic system rather than an unwillingness to do it right.
Frequently, people with autism and other disabilities are not seen as a complete individual but instead as a sum of many parts. In special education we have domains to consider. In general education we have subject areas. The individual is compartmentalized and never seen as a whole system because we are concerned with our particular area of interest. We often do not see people as individuals who bring with them their own history, which has assisted in creating patterns of behaviors. We often do not see individuals as having a dynamic system, which often does not function as smoothly as it might. Instead we see individuals with disruptive or challenging behaviors. We, as professionals, often try to fix the behaviors as opposed to understanding the reasons behind the behavior.
Anne Donnellan and Martha Leary have been studying the work of Dr. Thelen and others in an attempt to reorganize thinking with regard to individuals with autism and their behaviors. By looking at the dynamic system approach in which everything must work together to get the desired output, they ask what would happen if there were difficulties in certain areas. They conclude that difficulties may impede certain areas.
If one area of the dynamic system is faulty in some way, it can create a host of subsequent problems. If timing is off a split second, answers to questions may come a bit late, swinging a bat may be off, initiating a movement to get up and go to the door may take longer, taking part in a conversation may be awkward, getting to the bathroom on time may be difficult, and so on.
We can become stuck in circumstances making it difficult to change our patterns of behavior. For example, if we are used to doing one activity in a particular fashion, we may be unable to change our patterns of behavior to accommodate a new way of doing the activity. For example, if you are a person with a set morning routine (wake up, put the coffee on, get the paper, drink coffee, shower, etc.), would your routine be disrupted if the paper were not there one morning? We become stuck in our way of doing things. We create habits for ourselves. For individuals with autism, they may have many habits that are difficult for them to change or break.
Therefore it is important for those who support individuals with autism to realize that patterns are learned behaviors and cannot simply be changed without the entire system being given time to reorient itself. The unique history of each individual impacts his or her patterns/behaviors. Their dynamic systems may not be as stable as others and therefore cannot adapt as readily to new input. However, the ultimate question we must ask ourselves when it comes to changing behavior is this: Are we doing this to disrupt an old habit or to provide new possibilities?
Clearly the work of Thelen, Donnellan, and Leary regarding the human body's dynamic system and the impact of movement differences offers many challenges that must be addressed if we are to respectfully support people with autism. Their work opens many doors for thoughtful discussion and potential reframing of the methods for supporting individuals with autism. Will we run from it because it causes us to chart unfamiliar courses or can we meet the challenge?
Davis, K. (1998). A challenge to reframe our thinking about behavior. The Reporter, 3(2), 1-4, 15.