Tania Melnyczuk Profile picture
Jul 20 85 tweets 17 min read
[THREAD] It appears that most of the autism training given to teachers and autism professionals is based on a science fiction book from 1997...
...about an imaginary alien civilisation in decline, and the villains in power are trying to turn the inhabitants of some planet into robots because they don't know how to build robots, but some dying robot told them to do that,...
...otherwise the planet's infrastructure would assert itself like ivy and take over and no longer serve the alpha beings.
Or something.
Anyway, autism professionals and a lot of doctors need to be deprogrammed now, because many of them are very confused (although they don't think so).

So with great magnanimity we're offering a free autism course in the form of a series of formative assessments, here on Twitter.
If pass this course, you will be more clued up than the average autism professional, and you'll earn a virtual certificate, some letters behind your name, and the privilege of adding your mugshot to our practitioner page where you can get referrals.
You'll also get a discount on conferences and whatever other benefits these things usually carry.
Right let's go. I don't have the energy to put structure to this course, so the formative assessments are gonna be based on whatever annoyed me that day.
Here's the first unit: Inappropriate Play.

You may have heard that autistic children often engage in inappropriate play. As a credentialed professional, you should know how to identify inappropriate play so that you can take steps to redirect it.
Feel free to discuss the options with your fellow students! Learning together is more fun.
Which of these is inappropriate play for a 2-year-old autistic child?
Which of these is inappropriate play for a 9-year-old autistic boy?
For a year, an autistic child has played only with toy vehicles, watched videos about vehicles, and used old car service manuals as colouring books. She hasn't shown interest in anything else, besides ringing the doorbell of the elderly neighbour and running away. Inappropriate?
Feel free to share this course with others by retweeting any part of it. For every retweet, you'll earn 3 Dopamine Units which you can use towards an activity of your choice afterwards.
That's all for today! Here's an inspirational platitude for you to encourage you to return to the course when I get round to adding another learning unit.

COURSE UPDATE: Several people thought that there really was a science fiction book that led to the nonsense that we get in autism training. Nope, I was just being elaborately sarcastic; I made that part up.
However, since Matthew Israel founded his torture house for autistic people, later called the Judge Rotenberg Center, based on inspiration he got from a work of fiction...
...it's understandable that some people may have thought such a ridiculous thing could be real.
Here's an interview with Matthew Israel from 2007 in which he explains how he tried to make the world a better place through punishment:

And here's a glimpse into some of the horrific things that happened to autistic people as a result of his ideas, in the form of questions to people who oversee the torture:

[Content warning: Includes a description of death by torture and #MedicalNeglect]

This thread contains the names of some of the professionals and organisations which promote torture as 'therapy'.

A cool and unexpected thing that happened as a result of this 'course' so far is that teachers have asked where they can get GOOD autism training, and some #ActuallyAutistic people responded, linking them to existing training developed and presented by autistic people.
Later on I'll give a few tips and pointers for what I think should be part of 'good autism training'.
Meanwhile, I'll start dropping some resources into the thread which could help you along the way, and which you may even want to add to your existing curriculum if you are already an autistic autism training provider.
In my opinion, no SEN/autism teacher training is complete without activities based on this essay by @semispeaking. disabledacademicco.wixsite.com/mysite/post/no…
Cole (@semispeaking) who is an autistic AAC user with a special focus on education, does professional consulting for families and organisations.
And now for our second learning unit: Inappropriate Laughter!

Autistic people sometimes laugh at times or in ways that other people wouldn't laugh. The goal of this unit is to learn about why this may happen, and why 'inappropriate laughter' is usually an inappropriate term.
This won't be exhaustive, because I'm already exhausted.
Right, let's go.

An autistic child often giggles in class. The teacher asks what he's laughing at, and he says it's the funny things that the voices are saying.

Nobody else can hear these voices.

The kid most likely has...
If you thought the answer would be obvious to everyone, think again! Here's a rabbithole of note. Read some of the replies, the quote retweets, and the discussion in the responses to the embedded tweet:

Rohan is an autistic boy with DiGeorge syndrome. Sometimes at church or in prayer meetings he bursts into loud diabolical laughter like in a horror movie. If you ask him why he did it, he says he didn't do anything.

What's the most likely explanation?
OK, that's it for today.

Maybe I'll revisit this topic in a later learning unit, or maybe I'll just throw a stinker of a question you've never seen before into the exam.
Meanwhile, if you feel you can tolerate more sarcasm, here's another satirical thread for you.

Next learning unit: Communication!

Communication is a human right.

For many autistic people, speech is the most difficult way of communicating, and some autistic people may not be able to speak at all; so a therapist working on communication should start with…
To help them figure out what type of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) might work best for specific autistic clients, therapists should learn as much as possible from a variety of...
'Early intervention' is a commonly used term in the autism industry. To improve communication between autistic and non-autistic people, it would be helpful to create a targeted intervention aimed at reducing the number of...
If you didn't understand that question because you don't know what a 'behaviour analyst' is, here is a dungeon to keep you busy for the next nine years. (Hopefully by the time you get out, there will be fewer behaviour analysts.)
Miscommunication and misunderstandings between autistic and non-autistic people are common.

This is best explained by the...
I said that I would be adding resources, so here's a good thread that illustrates how a communication disability can be complex:
And here's a thread with wide range of writing and videos by autistic people who rely on AAC to communicate:

And now, before we proceed to our next learning unit, you may want to take a glimpse at some of our past research:

Welcome to the fourth learning unit! This unit is about special interests, a core feature of autism.

Can someone really be autistic if she has more than two special interests?
When a parent notices that a child is developing an intense interest in a certain topic, the parent's priority should be to create opportunities for the child to...
I keep thinking of the woman I met who as a child realised that whenever she displayed an intense interest in something, her parents would restrict her access to it. Because intense interests are a 'symptom of autism', they believed that this would 'reduce the autism'.
By the time that she was a teenager, she realised that in order to learn to play the piano, she'd have to do it secretly so that her parents wouldn't find out.
And by the time that she was a young adult, she was estranged from her family.
You'd think that most people would realise the value of intense interests, and be happy for someone else's joy, but... logic and empathy are not common.
There was one 'autism consultant' who said that parents should discourage any special interests that don't have a clear career path.
Perhaps because of her confidence and qualifications, it was not obvious to many of the parents she was advising that this is ridiculous advice, so I guess it would help people if I wrote an 11-chapter book to point out what I would have thought would be obvious...
But I have other things to do, so let me just drop two things into here...
First of all, Madam Expert, the world is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, and you have no idea what new career paths will exist by December.

Next, look at the art created by amateur Ukrainian artists during the war: vyshyvanka (embroidery), secretly painted graffiti in temporarily occupied zones, songs in the depths of the besieged Azovstal plant, dances of the young people, hymns of the old.
And then remember that every oppressed and every flourishing people ever have lived doing absurdly wonderful things which were not conceived as being part of a 'career path'.

Madam Expert, you're a cog making cogs.

Existentialist resistance is beautiful.
I phrased this question carefully, by the way.

It's fine to help children to do or learn about important things that aren't their favourite thing, but that's a topic for another day.

This question was about what the PRIORITY should be.

In the fifth unit, you'll learn a few things about creating a bond with an autistic child. This learning unit may be of particular interest to caregivers, respite workers, classroom aides and au pairs.

We'll also learn about how you can ruin your credibility with a kid.
The formative assessments for this learning unit will be added over several days.
The principles you learn in this unit apply to most (and in some instances all) autistic children, so you can take them as a rule of thumb.
We've already learned a bit about communication difficulties that autistic people may have. But communication is a two-way thing, and the way YOU communicate as a parent, professional, or caregiver can make a difference.
Kayleigh is 19 and hopes to become a play therapist. While studying, she has taken on an afternoon job looking after Alina, a 12-year-old nonspeaking autistic girl. Alina's parents said it would be cool if Kayleigh could teach her new things.
Alina doesn't usually smile or greet anyone, so Kayleigh decides that this is what she'll try to teach.
When she meets Alina for the first time, she goes down to Alina's level, smiles, and makes her eyes big and expressive. In a clear, lilting tone, she says, "Hello, sweetie! Can you look at me?"
Alina doesn't respond, so Kayleigh makes silly faces to get her attention. Pretty blonde young woman m...
Alina walks away and goes to page through a book upside down.
Should Kayleigh do the same thing over the next few days and weeks? Will the repetition help?
The best answer may not have been obvious, so here's an essay by nonspeaking author Ido Kedar to help you gain insight into the world of someone like Alina.

Need more clues? Watch this 5-minute film made by and with nonspeaking autistic people, and see what Rhema Russell says.

Now, let's look at another clue. The story says that Alina is 12. What does it mean to be 12? Here are some 12-year-olds, just to remind you:

Ah, but those children speak, right? So, what is it like to be 12, but you DON'T speak? Here's a recent blog post by Akha Khumalo who will be 12 next year. He started the blog when he was 8.

So what's the point?

It's this: 12-year-old children are not puppies! They're humans with 12 years of experience and can discern the difference between respect and infantilisation.

Don't do daft stuff! Talk in a normal voice, for goodness' sake.

Kayleigh realises she's out of her depth, but she still wants to create a bond with Alina, so she seeks advice about how to do it.
A therapist who works with autistic children suggests this game to Kayleigh: Take a few of Alina's favourite books when she isn't looking, then show her you have them and playfully offer to return them one by one every time Alina smiles.
So, Kayleigh, think about it this way: You're a hot babe, and your classmate Chad likes you. So his pal Brad says Chad should secretly steal your lipstick, tampons and the novel you're reading from your backpack and teasingly offer to return them one by one if you smile. Get it?
So, yeah, if the purpose is to create a 'bond', then certainly, it's possible to create some kind of 'bond' by teaching someone that people in power have the right to violate your boundaries, but why would you want to do that?
Oh. Right. Because it's a popular thing in ABA to teach autistic people that Others Have Your Best in Mind and therefore don't require consent.

You wanna know where that leads?

So, knowing what we know about Alina so far, and having learned that stealing people's stuff isn't a great way of creating a healthy relationship, could structured joint attention activities perhaps be worth trying?
Now, there's a lot to unpack here, and I don't know whether I have the stamina for it all, but let's go back here:
Kayleigh is employed primarily as a caregiver, so that Alina won't be alone in the afternoons. She wants to be a play therapist when she finishes her studies.
But the idea of teaching Alina something has gotten her side-tracked.
In my experience, many neurotypical adults are not very good at playing.

Or maybe it's just that they are so encrusted with the years and years of social conditioning that they find it hard to let go?
So when they play, it's often awkward and fake, or it's lewd, or it involves booze.

I could get onto a tangent into all sorts of exceptions, but...
...the amount of behaviour analysis and psychoanalysis and societal consternation and flabbergasting and commenting and satirising and existential longing that went into the responses to that selfie video of Drew Barrymore...

...was like... good grief, people, maybe you should just stop with all your teaching and theorising and therapising of every thing that was once normal to humans?
What's parallel play?

In simple terms, it's when you play, and someone else plays nearby.

Parallel play is normally associated with a toddler developmental stage, but it is in fact also one of the natural states for autistic group socialising in adults.
Groups of teenage and adult autistic friends who are comfortable with each other hang out like this, and I don't know whether there is a different name for it when adults do it, that doesn't include the word 'play'.

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More from @ekverstania

Sep 11
I have a friend in #CapeTown who has all the symptoms of #LongCovid. She's had the acute illness three times in spite of precautions. She phoned to make an appointment with Dr. Jaco Laubscher, then found out how much he charges. Can anyone from #teamclots recommend other doctors?
Or if you don't want to stick your neck out to make a recommendation, do you know other doctors in Cape Town or the Boland who at least claim to treat microclots and systemic conditions in #LongCovid? My own doctor knows some stuff, but doesn't wear a mask, so I don't trust him.
She is going to have the blood tests recommended by Dr. Laubscher, though.
Read 4 tweets
Sep 9
There are BCBAs who want to reform ABA.

But what they mean by reform seems to be "to change a thing or two about how I work with certain cases."

They don't mean "form a powerful movement to drive the Judge Rotenberg Center torturers out of positions of power in the industry."
"I would never do that to one of my clients," isn't reforming ABA. It's just a business strategy for your own practice.

"I will work to ensure that nobody in this industry ever does that to anyone" is the start of reform.
ABA is corrupt from the philosophical roots through to the fruit.

But if you believe that it can be reformed and you say you want to be part of that reform, then at least do the work of a reformer! Protest march with banners. One of them says reform ABA
Read 7 tweets
Sep 8
This is hilarious. I took a call from a suicidal friend in the middle of the night, we had a conversation about logic for more than an hour that was not at all emotionally draining, she's now going off to write a book, and I will try to sleep in this amused state.
It's the first time ever that someone's deepnight suicidality has not left me with lingering emotional frazzlement. I merely lost sleep.
You might wonder now if she's rapid-cycling bipolar. I don't know, but her base state all her life has been logic mania. So she spouted huge logical systems things for an hour, she just needed me to listen and understand her concern for all the people dying from ill logic.
Read 4 tweets
Aug 30
Sodium unfairly got bad rep. We need sodium in our diet. Some of us absorb too little. If you think your sodium intake may be a problem, consider adding more potassium, or lower sodium a bit, but don't try to eliminate it. Drastic reduction creates new problems. Some of us...
...may have unusual health issues that require unusual reduction.
Why add potassium if you have too much sodium? Potassium 'competes' with sodium. Some people who easily lose potassium may need to be more careful about their sodium intake.

Read 7 tweets
Aug 29
The same bunch of ABA professionals from last week are still arguing, but we're a bit further along now, where one of them is at least duly aghast at the electric shocks given at the Judge Rotenberg Center and the involvement of prominent ABA leaders and institutions.
Two of her colleagues have decided, though, that it's probably necessary science.
They've also been trying to change the subject, by goading me with terms like 'neurodiversity activists' and 'Facilitated Communication'. I think it perplexes them that I'm not interested in taking their bait.
Read 12 tweets
Aug 28
I've been having a discussion with a team of hardcore ABA professionals from a specific company over the past few days, and the problem is, believing what we say is just not within their framework. They believe behaviour they can measure, not what we say it represents.
Interestingly, this phenomenon of dismissing a person's description of their own feelings and sensations pervades other professions too. This thread presents examples, not exclusively those of autistic people, but focusing on chronic illness and pain.

Read 13 tweets

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