John P. Hussman, Ph.D. has composed a manual, Presume Competence [A guide to successful, evidence-based principles for supporting and engaging individuals with autism].
The entire manual is being made available for download.
“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” – Buckminster Fuller
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What
is essential is invisible to the eye.” – Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince
The goal of this manual is to help you to improve the world of a person with autism. You don’t need to become a professional therapist to help. It is enough to remain a parent, teacher, aide, caregiver, or interested friend.
What you will need is the awareness and patience to embrace people with autism as different, not less; the willingness to presume that people with autism are competent – even if evidence may be not be available at first; and the understanding that behavior is not random, but is instead motivated by necessity, frustration, sensory differences, or the need to communicate a request or thought.
People with autism may experience the world in ways that are unfamiliar to us, but they need us to remember that what we see on the outside may not be an accurate reflection of what exists within. The ability to communicate or regulate social interaction should not be confused with the ability to think or the capacity to love. Rather than labeling individuals as “low functioning” or “high functioning,” we should recognize that people with autism vary in their ability to demonstrate competence. Our responsibility is then to presume, find, and strengthen that competence.
Just because a child may not be able to speak doesn’t mean that he has nothing to say. Just because a person may be overwhelmed in social situations doesn’t mean that she doesn’t long for friendship. Just because someone has difficulty initiating movement doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to participate. “We are just like you, with the same desires, and just need help to become a typical member of society.” – Sue Rubin
The approaches that follow reflect a broad range of clinical research and evidence-based practices in autism. They are tied together by an indispensable set of principles: the presumption that people with autism have competence, the insight that they deserve to be treated as equals, the recognition that behavior reflects needs and communication, and the understanding that following a person’s lead – whether a child or an adult – is the best way to capture their interest and motivation.
Many of these approaches can (and have) been elaborated in books and academic journals. We are particularly grateful to Robert and Lynn Koegel, Anne Donnellan, V. Mark Durand, and Stanley Greenspan, whose contributions to evidence-based practices begin with the recognition that people with autism are people first. We also thank educators including Paula Kluth, Doug Biklen, and Christy Ashby, and self-advocates including Jamie Burke, Sue Rubin, Naoki Higashida, Tito Mukhopadhyay, and Temple Grandin for their insights into inclusion, communication, and competence of those with autism. The goal of this manual is to collect the essential components into a practical, comprehensive set of practices – so that families, teachers, and friends can engage people with autism within the activities of daily life at home, in school, and in the community.
By learning to truly engage people with autism, you can help them to develop better communication, learn and achieve, find ways to meet their needs without resorting to difficult behaviors, and develop genuine friendships.