Solution Focused Approach to Working with Aspergers Syndrome
Facilitator: Kevin Foley BA (Hons) Econ. PGCE, MA Autism
Facilitator: Sean Foley
Available as a 1 day in-house course and as a workshop for Conferences and Presentations:
“Sean and Kevin’s ‘Working with Aspergers’ talk was poignant and enlightening, informative and inspiring in a way that was hard hitting. It was wonderful to have them both with us for a few hours. I would recommend anyone to attend this course – it was fantastic. Sean and Kevin totally blew me away”.
Helen Mallon, Phoenix Fostering
Kevin Foley BA (Hons) Econ. PGCE, MA Autism
Kevin Foley, Author of Asperger Solution. Kevin has twenty two years of teaching experience in inner city schools.
Kevin developed and headed an inclusion unit in a Manchester school serving the most socio-economically disadvantaged ward in England. Kevin works across UK and Ireland as practitioner and trainer with schools and SEN teams for better outcomes for staff and pupils. Kevin has also managed an Autism unit attached to a primary school and co-ordinated support for students with ASDs at Nottingham Trent University
Sean Foley, Author of Does My AS Look Big In This joined the team in 2012. We have been aware of Sean’s work for many years and are delighted that he agreed to join us. Having been diagnosed with Aspergers at aged 13, Sean, now an adult, provides workshops and training for parents and professionals on Aspergers and how we can best support those living with Aspergers.
Irish Television company RTE featured Sean in their programme “Living with Autism” in 2011. Sean works across the UK and Ireland and his unique presentations are always a joy to attend. Read Sean’s blog for a taster on how we can best help young people with Aspergers cope and thrive within schools
The Course details:
Asperger Syndrome is often depicted as a ‘hidden disability’
It is often only when an individual’s ‘distressed behaviour’ impacts on school and/or home that diagnosis and interventions ensue. People with AS often have huge untapped potential, but are prone to develop secondary psychiatric conditions such as depression if their different neurological endowment is not respected.
The training includes strategies and techniques when working to be more pro-active in the search for that untapped potential rather than wait until an individual is in ‘meltdown’ before modifications are put in place. The training presents the bigger picture when working with people with AS and encourages creative collaboration with the individual to maximise self-esteem and minimise stress. The application of Solution-Focused principles is the model which underpins this approach.
Every person’s map of the world is as unique as their thumbprint
This applies to autistic people as much as anybody else, which makes generic training in the condition very much a base camp for useful interventions. Solution Focused interventions recognise that both the individual and their circumstances are unique and therefore the process of enabling them to find solutions that work for them will also be unique. This philosophy is the ideal one to bring to bear when assisting an autistic person to experience success and a feeling of efficacy. ?
If you?’ve met one person with autism you?’ve met one person with autism?. Whilst no two interventions will proceed along the same path, there are some core tenets that may undepin the interaction
The empirical evidence shows that progress depends more on rapport and respect than specific methodology.
Meeting the mindset:
Rapport and respect is even more difficult to establish with an autistic person who finds social interaction problematic and stressful. Imagination and flexible thinking is required along Solution Focused lines as is the utilising of their special interests. We might have a 3rd year university student whose communication skills are impaired and who also has a phobia about the number 6 but they love badminton. Approach? Don?’t sit in a room talking too much – establish a relationship via games of badminton but avoid saying 6 out loud! Or ?instigate your creative stupidity? with a non-verbal 5 year old on an animal jigsaw he loves doing when stressed by taking a chance to deliberately mix up a “moooo” with a “neigh”, thereby delivering his first eye contact. Or focusing on dates in history, the student?’s passion, to assist a dyscalculic/autistic student with addition and subtraction of larger numbers.
Respect for where the client is not where we would like them to be.
A lost tourist asks a local how to get from A to B ? “If I was going there I wouldn’t start from here” says the local. But as is the case with our lost tourist we don’t have a choice. Nor should we seek one but strive to be content to respect where the client is – not where we would like them to be. Autism confers all sorts of quirky eccentricities and attributes that may be wise to run with rather than rush to sideline or suppress.
To the extent that there is a socially unacceptable trait that needs to be reigned in, this may be addressed by a simple rule to be adhered to. Many autistic people like structure and guidelines so many will abide by the rule. If this doesn?t work, then the longer game of developing trust rapport and respect is plan B to secure modified behaviour.
To be exclusively focused on trying to fix something which we deem broken is counterproductive. We should seek instead to draw out existing strengths, competencies, and strategies to move the client towards a sustainable personalised solution.
The stress and anxiety generated in a relentless drive to get on a par with their peers will undermine the learning process and strip away any feeling of efficacy within the child as a rigid agenda collides with an increasing rigid response based on fear.
Alternatively, we can use the inherent energy within the “exception” (s) imaginatively. The exceptions ? the strengths, passions ? can be the Achilles heel of the condition which moves us away from problem-focused thinking and towards better outcomes.
Change is inevitable
Boats are safest in harbour, but boats weren’t built to stay in harbour.
Whilst avoiding environments that deliver chronic stress, we do a disservice to an autistic person if we don’t cajole them out of their comfort zone. In a carefully engineered way, that additional step based on current competencies with the option of retreating to try another day if it doesn’t work out this time, is essential. Many autistic children and adults are averse to change but change will happen regardless, so small excursions out of the comfort zone have to be part of the process – once the rapport and trust has been firmly established
The client as the expert on their life:
ADAM FEINSTEIN: Aspergers syndrome has been recognised only relatively recently as a specific disorder. What do you think have been the major advances in our understanding of the condition over the past 30 years since Hans Asperger?s 1944 paper was translated into English?
TONY ATTWOOD: I think the main advances have come not from the research literature but from conversations and discussions with those who have Aspergers syndrome, by reading not the scientific textbooks but their autobiographies. My greatest knowledge of Aspergers has come from those who have it. Other great advances are the recognition of the challenges they face, and some way of helping them to cope. What may also be occurring is a change in attitude towards these attitudes and, I hope, a greater emphasis on their talents rather than their deficits.
So we have to listen, really, really listen. What is their activity and behaviour telling us about who they are and what makes them feel secure and happy? The more time they spend in that “zone” the better the long-term outcomes; 7 out of 10 autistic people develop mental health conditions, many as teenagers in mainstream schools (NAS). We need to personalise their education far more than we do; all the paper qualifications come to nought for too many.
One technique with younger children is to OWL: Observe,Wait and Listen. Most adult interventions involve doing something for, or with, or around the child – how often do we cull the “noise” and just OWL. Making a log of what we see for a week or so, especially the strengths and the interests and then try to adjust and personalise the educational experience to fit in with our observations and conclusions regarding what works best for them.
Kevin Foley (c)2019
For further details about our training, presentations and workshops on Solution Focused Approach to Working with Aspergers Syndrome in the UK and Ireland please contact us at Tel: 0208 947 8093 or 07779 242 289 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org