Little Known Ways to Understand The Autism Spectrum

What if I told you that the Aspergers and the autism spectrum is a laughing matter?   In this article, I’m going to share with you Ms. Garcia Winner’s I LAUGH model as a way as understanding key autism spectrum facts.

Asperger's Syndrome Autism Spectrum Disorders

social thinking autism spectrum

I’ve written in detail about the positive aspects of the autism spectrum.  However, we need to understand  deficits in addition to core strengths.  Too often, we can make the mistake of focusing either entirely on strengths, or entirely on deficits.  It’s imperative that we understand both strengths and weaknesses in order to best grow and adapt in the world.

Ms. Garcia Winner has summarized some key cognitive social thinking challenges that people on the spectrum and off can face.  When a person has social learning challenges, it’s like having social dyslexia: things in the social world don’t make sense!

Thankfully, Ms. Garcia Winner’s “I LAUGH” model can help all of us make better sense of the challenges that people on the autism spectrum face.

I = Poor Initiation of Communication or Action

Individuals on the autism spectrum have difficulty understanding a) the need and/or b) the how of initiating appropriate social interactions.  As a result, it may be difficult for them to know how to engage in a new social activity, or how to join a group in an unstructured situation.

L = Listening with Eyes and Brain

Due social difficulties with this kind of listening, people on the autism spectrum often do not see others’ social cues.
Since an individual with Aspergers does not tend to see others’ social cues, s/he will also have difficulty processing the meaning of other’s messages.

A = Abstact and Inferential

Individuals on the autism, due to this struggle, do not infer meaning for social cues or decipher meaning from words/language.  Therefore, although a person may be proficient with reading words, for example, s/he may struggle with actually understanding the meaning of what the words are trying to convey.  It’s one thing to understand the words, but quite another to understand the higher level abstraction behind them, such as the general concepts or main idea of a literary passage.

U= Understanding Perspective

Individuals on the autism spectrum very often struggle with recognizing and integrating another person’s perspectives so that they can regulate social relationships or even share space effectively.

G = Gestalt Processing: Getting the Big Picture

A friend of mine with Aspergers recently wrote a note on Facebook describing her struggle with the social world as the game of Connect the Dots.  She is very good with the details, symbolic of connecting the dots.  But she has difficulty making sense of how language fits into the overall concept being discussed.  As a result, their conversation may seem tangential and have off topic remarks.

H = Humor and Human Relatedness

By no means does this imply that people on the autism spectrum lack a sense of humor.  Rudy Simone, for example, performs stand up comedy.
However, many people on the spectrum may miss the subtleties of humor.  Thus, they may not understand if they are being laughed at or laughed with.  As a result, they often end up as targets of bullies on the playground and elsewhere.

So there you have a model for understanding the social-cognitive challenges that people on the spectrum face.  In order to move into interventions and solutions, this framework is very needed.  I’m grateful to Michell Garcia Winner and her colleague, Dr. Pam Crooke, for contributing so much to the field.  They speak out years of intensive clinical experience as speech and language pathologists.

(photo credit: By Martin Kimeldorf’s Pixel Playground)
What do you think?  Does this model does a good job of capturing key autism spectrum facts?  Is there anything missing?  What do you resonate with?

 I'm Steve Borgman.  I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

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