Autism and Communication
Working with people who have autism, especially the Asperger Syndrome, can be quite difficult. This is mostly true when communicating with these people as a person needs to train and develop certain specific communication skills in order to deal with these people. Over the course of the years that I have spent with such people, I have had to develop certain very crucial communication skills that involve listening, body language, posture, verbal and non-verbal information, and communication through sign language, makaton, pictures, storytelling, and comics. One of the things to realize about the communication process with these people is that one cannot standardize any one method of communication. This is because each person with autism or the Asperger Syndrome has special needs and one has to understand how best to communicate with the patient. One of the most important things to understand while dealing with patients of autism and the Asperger Syndrome is to read their body language and also to present oneself in an appropriate manner of body language. This is because these people have a lot of ways to interpret non-verbal communication. There are many times when people communicate without saying a single word, e.g. smiling almost always shows happiness or consent, and frowning depicts displeasure or concern. As it may be, this is probably the first language that was evolved by our hominid ancestors. Two of the gestures that I found were widely used and utilized include the facial expression of smiling, and the tilting of the head as indicators of a person's emotions or feelings. These expressions are the most commonly seen expressions when talking to a person, or when an interview is being conducted. Correctly reading the smiles and the tilting of the head enables the interviewer to gauge the person being interviewed. A few studies have been conducted on smiling and these have distinguished between a few forms of smiling. These include the closed smile, in which the mouth corners are drawn up and out while the teeth remain covered; the upper smile, in which the mouth corners are drawn up and out, and the upper lip is raised, revealing some of the upper teeth while the lower teeth remain covered; and the broad smile, similar to the upper smile, in which both upper and lower teeth are exposed (Otta et al, 1994, 323). It has been found that the upper smile was the commonest form of smiling in younger patients with autism. It was also found that each form tended to occur in its own characteristic situations, although there was some overlap. The upper smile was commonly seen in the presence of others, especially during group play, showing of objects, verbal interaction, and greeting. The closed smile was seen mainly when the individual was not actively participating in social interaction, for example, when playing alone with toys. The broad smile was usually seen during active play, especially rough-and-tumble play. In spite of the apparent importance of the distinction, studies on smiling perception have not distinguished different topographical forms of smiling. The smiling person was perceived by the subjects to be happier, more attractive, and more intelligent than the nonsmiling person. Adding a smile made both the male and the female stimulus person more attractive, with the effect of smiling on the former more pronounced (Otta et al, 1994, 324). Another very interesting ways by which communication took place between the workers and the patients was by various visual systems. This is because people with Asperger Syndrome (AS) have “difficulty attending to social cues and experience problems in interpreting such stimuli. In addition, they have difficulty in (a) understanding the beliefs of others, (b) shifting attention, (c) sharing attention with others, and (d) distinguishing relevant from irrelevant stimuli. The relevance of attending to and understanding social cues is imperative because an...
References: Jordan, R. (2004). Meeting the Needs of Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders in the Early Years. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 29, (3): 1
Attwood, T. (1998). Asperger 's syndrome: A guide for parents and professionals. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley.
Otta Emma, Beatriz Barcellos Pereira Lira, Nadia Maria Delevati, OtAvio Pimentel Cesar, Carla Salati Guirello Pires. (1994). The Effect of Smiling and of Head Tilting on Person Perception, Journal of Psychology, 128, (3): 323-4
Rogers, M. F. and Myles, B. S. (2001). Using Social Stories and Comic Strip Conversations to Interpret Social Situations for an Adolescent with Asperger Syndrome. Intervention in School & Clinic, 36, (5): 310
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