SUPPORT FOR AUTISM
BUILDING ON AUTISTIC STRENGTHS WHILE RESPECTING NEUROLOGICAL DIFFERENCES
The NSBSA Framework focuses on identifying and building on an individual's strengths, and recognizes the neurological differences in the way the autistic brain processes experiences.
Experiences are the foundation for learning and growth. Positive experiences provide the motivation for further learning. Negative experiences are avoided, tolerated, stored in our emotional memories, or go unused. Whether an experience is positive or negative depends on how the brain takes in, processes, and interprets that experience. Different minds will interpret the same experience differently and respect for neurodiversity is an essential key to this approach.
The Neuro-Strength-Based Support for Autism (NSBSA) Framework
is NOT another form of intervention. It IS new way of understanding and viewing
the way we, as therapists and educators, support autistic individuals.
LEARN MORE ABOUT
The Neuro-Strength-Based Support for Autism Framework
Why is the NSBSA not another form of intervention?
The definition of intervention is "an action taken to improve a situation, especially a medical disorder." Synonyms for intervention include "interference", "intrusion", and "meddling". Most types of intervention start with an assessment. Based on that assessment, goals are generally written to achieve one or more of the following: ● an increase in what others consider adaptive behaviors ● a reduction in what others consider problematic behaviors ● learning new skills that others decide will enhance the individual's quality of life. Where does what the individual wants to learn, and the best way for the individual to learn, come into play in an intervention? Simply put, those factors aren't always accommodated. The NSBSA Framework is the opposite of an intervention. It is a practical, strength-based, and neurodiverse approach educators and therapists can use to look more critically at the goals written and the strategies and tools selected to implement these goals. The needs and desires of the individual and their family play a key role in determining which goals are targeted. The individual's motivation and differences in learning are especially considered in how these goals are achieved.
Why do we need a new way to develop the plans for autistic people?
The current way of establishing goals and creating plans is not as effective as it could be for the following reasons: 1. Goals tend to target what are perceived as missing skills or deficits in functional performance. The assumption is that when the individual acquires these missing skills their functional performance will improve. Yet the only measurement of the success of the intervention is whether the goals have been met, not whether it has resulted in improved functional performance in that individual's life. 2. Goals identify WHAT observable behaviors are desired but rarely HOW these behaviors are expected to be attained. Yet, when an individual fails to attain a goal, the goal is retained rather than revised. It is assumed that the goal is still valid but because the strategies selected to achieve that goal are never listed, there is no way to assess what needs to change to improve the outcome. Some individuals have the same goals, most likely using the same strategies, for years and never make progress. 3. The individual's strengths are typically listed as part of the assessment process, yet they are never mentioned in the educational or treatment plan. Strategies and tools are typically selected because they have been shown to be effective in teaching a particular skill, not a particular individual. Research has demonstrated that the autistic brain does not process information nor respond to social expectations in the same way that non-autistic individuals do. 4. When using a "deficit" approach to setting goals for autistic individuals, skills that are assessed to be below what is considered the "standardized norm" are focused on for remediation. Behaviors that appear to be interfering with development of these skills are also often targeted. Goals are set to improve or develop these skills, or eliminate or modify these behaviors, instead of goals that focus on enhancing the quality of the individual's life, despite these underdeveloped or missing skills and behaviors.
What can educators and therapists expect to achieve by using this approach?
The most important thing educators and therapists will gain by using this approach is a better understanding of, and respect for, the differences between how the neurotypical brain and the autistic brain learn and communicate. The behaviors seen in autistic individuals will make more sense as providers are able to interpret them as communication, not an inability or resistance to learning. Keep in mind that the autistic person is as perplexed by neurotypical behavior and methods of communication as neurotypicals are of autistic behavior. The majority of clients and students will be open to learning, once this approach is implemented.
What can therapists and educators help their clients and students learn when using the tools that are integrated into the NSBSA?
When using rapport building strategies, therapists and providers will be modeling social interaction skills (the power of, as well as the give-and-take in, communication; exploring likes/dislikes; finding fun in playing together or comfort when you are upset; building trust by turn-taking and sharing control). Rather than directing what clients/students learn and how they learn it (which leads to learned dependence), therapists and educators will be using various tools to help clients and students think and make decisions and accept responsibility for their own actions and choices. The only way an idea can grow is to plant the seed in the minds of others and let those who believe in its possibilities nurture it as it grows. Collaboration is vital to making changes. We look forward to the input and feedback of others to help refine and develop an approach that we strongly feel can and will benefit autistics of all ages and abilities.
Additional Reading and Viewing Recommendations
Thinking and learning strengths in children with autism spectrum disorder
A Strengths-Based Approach to Autism
A Strength-Based Approach Helps Children Learn to ask "What’s Right" instead of "What’s Wrong"
* Strength-Based Assessment for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders, Merith Cosden, Lynn Kern Koegel, Robert L. Koegel, Ashley Greenwell, and Eileen Klein, Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities 2006, Vol. 31, No. 2, 134–143
Autism And Sensory Integration Dysfunction (Sensory Processing Disorder)
Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew
"A Strengths-Based Approach to Autism Interventions" (podcast by Meg Proctor, MS, OTR/L)