My Philosophy & Approach

 

Most of my training for this population occurred when I was the adolescent-adult therapist at TEACCH. Therefore, I have an individualized approach with an emphasis on assessment and visual teaching strategies. I use whatever technique works for my students so I am not tied to one methodology alone.

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder:

It is very helpful that the student has a reasonable awareness of himself or herself as a person and how their ASD affects them. When a student is not able to adequately articulate their disability, this will be a huge obstacle not only to their accessibility to services on campus but also in understanding how they can learn ways to succeed in the areas that we identify as goals. If we can build on the knowledge that the student has about their disability, we can learn ways to compensate for the deficits by utilizing their strengths and interests. For this reason, I do require all my clients to have a working basic knowledge of ASD and their individualized strengths/weaknesses before taking on the case.           


                                                  
                                                                       

Disclosure:

My professional opinion is that disclosure of disability is imperative to the staff of disability office & professors in higher education. I also feel strongly that, depending on the student, disclosure should be made to the residential staff, counseling center, and tutoring department. When students and their families make the decision to refrain from disclosing, it can often backfire very quickly. This is because rather than ‘blending’ in the new setting, our students with ASD usually find difficulty handling the new environment and the excessive academic and social demands. The students with ASD tend to show their stress through various behaviors that stand out from their peers. I am not just talking about behavior such as flapping or mumbling to themselves, I am suggesting revelation of gaps in social maturity and independent living skills that set these students apart from their peers and draw attention to the student in all settings on campus. Without adequate support from staff who can assist students with ASD in college, the stress often spirals out of control and the professors, staff, and peers will draw conclusions about what they perceive….these ‘explanations’ for behavior are often much worse than recognizing that the student has special needs. Thus, it is my belief that informed disclosure is a vital tool in the ASD college student’s “toolbox” and their success in higher education tends to stem from this foundational ability. I often request to have releases to talk when appropriate to representatives on campus that may interface and support my clients with ASD to assist in smoothing over any issues that may arise.











Approach to a new client:

In order to be effective, I feel the need to spend a lot of time up front building rapport and conducting assessments to determine who my student is and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Before I teach anything, I need to have the buy-in from the student and I need to understand the best way to present information so that they can understand it. Over time, more of the sessions will be focused on teaching lessons rather than gathering information; however, teaching usually leads to more learning goals and thus the need to assess. So the circle goes round and round.











Student Participation in learning:

I also feel very strongly that my students participate (or feel that they are participating) as much as possible rather than presenting a demand as their instructor and making it appear that they have to follow. The latter style typically does not go well with adolescents, especially ones that have ASD. So, often I conduct sessions where we collaborate together on assessment documents and I ask a lot of questions about what they enjoy, struggle with, and desire. When I present a plan of action, it is imperative that they agree with the goals that we will work on together; otherwise, the student will not really feel that they have a role in the coaching sessions. Many students with ASD often feel that the world tells them what to do without their input—I do not want my coaching style to mirror negative experiences in their life.











My Teaching Style:

I often balance sessions between teaching points and reviews or summaries of past lessons. This helps the student integrate information over time and lets them better understand how all the lessons lead back to their personal goals and individual needs. It also helps them learn in small chunks rather than overwhelm them at once. Through the assessment and rapport-building process, I learn a lot about how to present information to my students to make the lesson as interesting and powerful to them as possible. I will use any modality or technique that I feel can make the difference between listening to a lesson and utilizing information independently. For instance, for one client, I interviewed college co-eds on video to show their perspective on the importance of daily showering. For another, I made storybooks, games, and notebooks organized with information to support the concept of perspective taking.


I created a facebook profile for current clients and alumni to join as a forum for sharing ideas and modeling appropriate on-line etiquette. It also serves as a way to communicate reminders to students in a manner that is interesting and private for those who prefer this technology to other forms of communication. Thus, coaching services are individualized rather than ‘cookie-cutter’ curriculum-based.