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When My Autism


Kari Dunn Buron
Main Points of Today’s Talk

• Autism is a difference in social thinking and

emotional regulation
• When teaching social thinking and emotional
regulation skills, our teaching methods should
reflect how a person learn most efficiently.
• A problem with social thinking can cause
social anxiety.
• Social Anxiety can lead to explosive behavior!
• Relationship building and relaxation are logical
goals for a person with ASD.
Both Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger
cited social difficulties as the #1 deficit
of ASD
How can these two guys be on the
same spectrum?

• Joey • Eddie
• IQ 130 • IQ 30
• Fluent in 2 languages • Nonverbal
• Masters from Harvard • Group home
• Violinist • Supported work
I think the fundamental aspect of
autism – the feature that you
must have to be considered
autistic – is either an absence or
an impairment of the social

Lorna Wing - 2009

Dr. Ami Klin (Yale):

Autism is first and foremost, a

social disorder.
A new area of science:
Social Cognitive Neuroscience
Social Cognition affects:
• How a person understands other people
• How a person manipulates other people
• How a person repairs social interactions
• The level of comfort one has in social settings
• Challenging behavior and issues of emotional
regulation that can result from social confusion and
social anxiety
Theory of Mind

We are not
just able to
do this, we
are driven to
do it.
14 month olds show joint attention – not
just looking at a face but also paying
attention to what another person is
interested in.
Geraldine Dawson – 1st

4 Behaviors noted:
eye contact
shows objects
turns to name
Social learning happens so
early, it is like breathing.
From birth, babies begin to study and
understand people.

Children with autism seem to study

and understand things.
If someone smiles at you,
what are you likely to do?
It has been well established that
relationship building is at the core of
all human interaction, and that
experiences with positive interactions
are needed to develop positive
What are the goals?
• Increase social motivation
• Increase positive social memories
• Increase social approaches
• Increase happy gestures and facial expressions
• Increase human reward
• Increase tolerance for others
• Increase interpersonal success
So what specific skills
are associated with
Social Cognition?
Reading Eyes – Simon Baron Cohen
• 36 set of eyes
• Overall females scored higher than males but
males scored higher than AS.
• Study included adults only
• Quiz
Face processing provides the
foundation for developing Theory of
Mind (TOM)
Understanding Competence

• If you are good at social skills then you are probably

very socially competent
• We avoid things we do not feel competent in
• Behavior problems (escape) can be signs of feeling
• We know that the use of repetition and predictability
is a good way to increase feelings of competence
2010-2011 topics:

Handling Disappointment
Personal Space
Having a Conversation
Handling Change
Having a Sticky Thought
Full Body Listening
Basic Manners
Why Develop a Magazine?

• The Social Times supports social skill curriculum.

• Used monthly, it is a predictable and systematic
way to discuss social issues.
• The magazine addresses specific skills that appear
to being lacking in autism.
• The magazine adds fun and hopefully increases
motivation for students.
• The goal of the Social Times is to increase active
The Teacher Webpage
• Tips for teachers (to expand on the topics)-
• Answers to puzzles or quizzes
• Example quiz on Main Event topic
• 5 minute power point on how this topic affects
students with ASD - handout
• Tip sheet for mainstream teachers
• Letter to parents

*research information regarding the main event

Mary Ann Winter-Messiers
University of Oregon
(researched special interests)

There is a strong positive relationship between special

interests and pro-social skills.
Simon Baron Cohen
The Empathizing-Systemizing Theory
• The drive to create systems for increased
• Theory: people with ASD have Hyper-
systemizing and Hypo-empathizing.
• Systems are rule governed and predictable.
• This is a strength based theory
Systems seen across the spectrum

• Sensory: food issues, • Social: saying first half of

tapping services sentence and wait for
• Motoric: spinning, patterns someone to finish it
• Collecting: stickers, lists • Natural systems: repetitive
• Numerical: calendars, math questions
• Motion: watching washing • Mechanical: VCR
machines spin • Vocal: echoing
• Spatial: routes, drawing • Actions: watching same
• Environmental: lining up video over and over
• Music: same tune over and
Strength in Relative
systemizing weakness
in emotionalizing

Use a
to teach social
Threatening words

Angry words

Hurtful words

Just fine words

Sweet words
The 5-Point Scale addresses
problems of social
understanding and emotional
Using a Scale
Breaking a concept into 5 parts

Create a simple story or worksheet to introduce

A systematic method of teaching

Make it small to aide in generalization

Typical Questions
• Is a 5 always bad? A 5 can be either good or
bad – it is usually the biggest illustration of
the concept.

• What age or cognitive level does a student

have to be? No rules. If you talk to your child
or student, you can use a scale or some kind
of visual system.
Using the Check in Scale at Camp
 Before morning activity
 Before relaxation at noon
 Before evening activity

 Initially just have campers check in to get used to the

 Staff check in too
 Use numbers to describe what you are seeing in an
objective way.
5 = No question. Against the Law!
4 = Could be against the law if someone is afraid. Will
get you fired and people will be angry.
3 = Unexpected behavior. People don’t know what to
2 = OK – other people are feeling OK about you.
1 = Great! This might even make someone happy.
Social Behavior Scale
• 5 = Physically hurtful/ threatening
• 4 = Scary behavior
• 3 = Odd behavior
• 2 = Reasonable behavior
• 1 = Very informal social behavior
Teaching Nonverbal Social
• Video modeling: self evaluation
• Video review: critical observation
• Attention to rhythm (different cultures)
• Evaluation personal distance
• Public speaking / debate team
• Acting / Improv
• Use of Animated movies to analyze facial
expressions and body language
Anxiety’s affect on the body

• Breathing fast • Stomachache

• Butterflies in tummy • Shaky
• Tense muscles • Headache
• Dizzy • Hot
• Need to pee • Fidgetiness
• Crying • Heart Rate up
• Sweating • Blushing/flushing
Emotional Regulation Skills
• The ability to separate your emotional
responses to a problem from the thinking you
must perform to resolve the problem.
• This is actually more thought than emotion.
• Chronic irritability and social anxiety
complicates the problem.
Sometimes I worry way
to much, like when I
think I am going to
recess and it gets

This might make me

scream, or even hit
someone. This is a 5.
Now my autism is
When My Worries Get Too Big! Buron, 2004
Calming Sequences
and Rapid Relaxation ideas
Buron, Manns, Schultz and Thomas
A very simple calming sequence

• Stop
• Close eyes
• 3 slow deep breaths
• Think of your happy place
• Open eyes
• 3 slow deep breaths
• Find a teacher
Rapid Relaxation

• Deep breath
• Tense body and hold tight for 5-count
• Breath out slowly
• Self-talk: “I am in control.”

Helping Your Anxious Child. Rapee,

Wignall, Spence,Cobham and 49
Meet Sam

Think about:

-how soon he talks in numbers

-how willing he is to engage with me
-how quickly he catches on to the
Find a quiet
Place (Nick
Dubin’s thoughts)

This is when to
do relaxing
activities you
have learned
Possible causes of stress
• Social interaction
• Social problems/ faux pas
• Perfectionism
• Transitions/changes
• Unpredictability
• Sensory issues
• Meeting people/being around people
• Social fears
CSI Worry Worksheet

What is The menu changed at the last

happening? minute!
What am I I will hate the food! I will go
thinking? hungry!
worry rating: 4+
What is the Last time the cook gave me a
evidence? choice of peanut butter if I
didn’t like the lunch selection.
I have never gone hungry at
What is the If I don’t like the lunch, I can
truth and have peanut butter.
nothing but worry rating: 3
the truth?
Oxytocin Hormone

Well being

Social Memory

Creative Curriculum




Kari Dunn Buron 9/05
(Mary Christianson)
• As the body becomes more elastic and
flexible, the mind becomes more relaxed and
• Improves focus
• Releases tension
• It is meditation in motion
Thinking through the curve
• What does his best day look like? (1)
• What does a complete loss of control look
like? (5)
• As a team (whole family and support people),
you need to generate ideas about what
defines a 2, 3 and 4
• Your plan will focus on increasing support at a
2 and refocusing or redirecting at a 3 and
backing off and silence at a 4
Melanie and Maureen

Video self modeling

Positive outcomes only
Based on Tom Buggey’s work
The Plan

• Use pocket activity to assess stressors

• Clarify major issue
• Make individual scales
• Practice yoga poses and rapid relaxation
• Create photo books
• Pick one issue and create a story board
• Video
• Watch video 2 times a day; Do yoga 2 times a
day; Review scale and Rapid Relaxation 2 times a
through a
fill in the
blank format
Why is this important?
Stress and anxiety can play
a significant role in triggering
unwanted social behavior and
yet direct teaching of
relaxation is rarely seen
on the IEP, behavior
plans or as a part of
social learning curriculum.