Friday, February 27, 2009

Free DIR/ Floortime Parent Training in San Jose, CA

I know it's short notice, but this training sounded so interesting I'm posting it here. The Creekside School in San Jose, California is offer a free one day DIR/Floortime workshop for parents, tomorrow, 2/28/09. They'll have speakers from ICDL, Creekside and other organizations. DIR/Floortime is Standley Greenspan's program which I've written about several times on this blog. Please check out their website for more info.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Online Conference for Floortime/DIR

Floortime/DIR is Stanley Greenspan’s Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based Model for the treatment of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental disorders. The method teaches a way to assess and interact with children who may not be able to connect in more traditional ways. The online Floortime/DIR conference is starting in April and registration is open now. It’s open to both professionals and parents.
I attended this online conference last year, and I was really pleased with the material presented. Greenspan’s books are also packed with information, but the online conference gave access to a number of video tapes of Dr. Greenspan and other professionals working with families. The tapes could be viewed repeatedly, in order to really capture the subtleties of Greenspan’s interventions. After instruction, the parents were able to change their interactions with their children and the viewer could see the results of these changes. Greenspan then commented on the tapes.
There was also a forum for those who want to ask questions or connect with others attending the conference. Many local groups, including one here in the San Francisco Bay area, formed after the conference.
DIR/Floortime can be used by families all the time, for every interaction with their children, but it can also just be a way for parents to rethink how to engage their autistic kids. Because parents are the ones working with the kids, it can be quite a bit less expensive than other interventions, and of course, the intervention can be quite frequent, since parents get to be with their kids on a daily basis.
Check out this link to the conference if you’re interested, and thanks to reader for the comment that directed me to the registration site.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

More on Job Interviews and Asperger’s: The Elevator Pitch

Many individuals with Asperger’s and autism have told me how tough a job interview can be. I think that can be true for those without autism as well. But, the good news is that interview skills can be learned and improved. Interviewing is one of the most common areas I work on with my Coach for Asperger’s and Conversation Coaching clients. I always impressed with the dramatic progress my clients make, and they usually improve in a very short time.
Yesterday, my local news station was broadcasting a job fair on their morning show, not something I’d usually watch, but I was held captive while waiting for my car’s oil change. The newscaster interviewed a professional (who’s name I didn’t catch) from Robert Half International about job interview tips. You can find their list here, but the idea I thought was most helpful was preparing an “elevator speech.”
An elevator speech or elevator pitch is a brief answer, about the length of a standard elevator ride, to the question, “What do you do?” or “Tell me about yourself.” Expect to hear this question in an interview. It’s probably going to be the first question. This is not the time to make small talk or discuss your hobbies. Instead, you’ve got a few minutes to define what makes you special, and tell the interviewer why you should be hired. Plan your elevator speech in advance. Think about the unique strengths you bring to the position. Practice it. In front of the mirror, to your friends or your dog, tell it to your mom. You can even send a comment to this blog with your elevator speech. The more thought you give this, the better you’ll know your own strengths, and the more clearly you can present them.
You don’t want to do this word for word, of course you’ll have to adapt to the situation. For example, maybe you need to introduce yourself, or maybe they already know your name. But your themes should be prepared in advance. The best part about an elevator pitch? Think how much calmer you’ll be in your interview if you can answer the first question so skillfully.
My elevator pitch:
I’m Patricia Robinson, a licensed therapist and coach. I focus on individuals with Asperger’s, autism and ADHD. As a therapist, I work with kids, teens and adults to help them do better at work or school, succeed socially, and to manage tough emotions like sadness or anxiety. As a coach, I work with teens and adults on goal oriented issues, things like jobs and employment, interviewing, and improving social connections and relationships.
What's your elevator pitch?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Types of Conversations

I spend a lot of time thinking about conversations. Frequently, when I’m coaching individuals with Asperger’s and autism we’re working on conversations and how to manage them. This can be tricky because conversations vary depending on the situation. Do you stick to the topic you started with or let it wander? What do you do with interruptions? How do you manage questions? All these concerns come down to one basic issue: What type of conversation is this? It can be helpful to think about this before starting to talk, and keep it in mind during the conversation.
The most formal conversation is a presentation. If you’re giving a presentation you know what material you want to cover. Visually, this is like a train track. Start at point A, get to points B, C, D, and E. Sometimes members of the audience will ask questions. You can visualize this as a train track, but people may get off and wander around at the various stations. It’s important to get back on topic after the question, much like you’d get back on the train.
Less formal conversations are things like job interviews. Everyone is probably seated, there is no written structure to the discussion, and the direction of the conversation is in the control of all the speakers. Don’t let this fool you into thinking that the conversation should go in any direction. In something like an interview or a discussion with your boss you should have some idea of what points you want to cover before you start speaking. The conversation may wander between those points, but you’ve got to be sure to bring the focus back so you cover your material. I picture this type of conversation as a loose string, pinned at certain points, and wandering between those points.
The least formal conversations are things like small talk, dating conversations, social chatting and hanging out. Although neurotypicals may find this type of conversation fun and effortless, some individuals on the autism spectrum and those with Asperger’s may find the unstructured nature difficult to manage. I picture this conversation with the scientific term "random walk" or "drunkard’s walk". The starting point is fixed, but after every statement the conversation can go in any direction and there’s no end point in mind. The key here is to let go of the control, pay attention to your partner’s inputs and move together. It’s almost like a verbal dance.
I’ll be going into more detail on managing these types of conversation in future posts, so please check back.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Oprah, Jenny McCarthy, and Autism

Like most middle aged American women, I’m a big fan of  Oprah. Her shows are inspiring, informative and cover every topic. I read her magazine cover to cover. That’s why it’s so frustrating to watch Oprah give Jenny McCarthy free rein to discuss everything related to autism. True, Jenny is the mom of a boy who’s been diagnosed with autism. I don’t object to hearing her share her experiences of raising her son. But this doesn’t mean that Jenny is suddenly an expert in epidemology, medical science, vaccine studies, or even the divorce rate of parents with autistic kids.
I missed the original September broadcast of Jenny McCarthy discussing her Warrior Mother book on Oprah, but I watched the rerun last week. Lots of emotion, big statements, but little respect for facts or science. Autism is a complicated issue. Vaccines are not only a complicated issue but an issue that’s critical to our health. Couldn’t Oprah present us with a balanced, fact based discussion of autism and vaccines?
After this show aired, the blog LeftBrainRightBrain posted a link from Every Child by Two. This organization is asking Oprah fans to contact the Oprah website directly and request a more balanced vaccine show. You can go to Oprah directly and submit your request. Better yet, read the full post on LeftBrainRightBrain.
Did you wonder about Jenny’s 90% divorce rate statement? I can’t find a study that shows that rate. But I did find a more moderate discussion of the topic, along with a referenced study, on
Parents deserve the right to make decisions based on facts and science, not hype from entertainers.