Autistic Children Sensitive to Stereotypes


autism awareness

Autism is treatable

  Children with autism, who are unable to grasp the mental states of others, can nonetheless identify with conventional stereotypes based on a person’s race and sex, researchers report in the June 19th issue of Current Biology, published by Cell Press.

 “Even with their limited capacities for social interaction and their apparent inability to orient to social stimuli, these autistic kids pick up and endorse social stereotypes as readily as normally developing kids,” said Lawrence Hirschfeld “One take-away point is that stereotypes are very easy to learn and very robust. They don’t require higher order attention, or apparently even attention to social stimuli, to develop. Stereotypes can be learned even in the face of damage to the ‘social brain’ and under extraordinarily constrained conditions.”

 The profound inability of children with autism to engage in everyday social interaction, as well as impairments in verbal and nonverbal communication, had been attributed to a severe delay in “theory of mind” (ToM) development—the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one’s own. If the use of stereotypes and mental states were part and parcel of the same underlying cognitive process, then autistic children would have similar difficulties with both.

 In fact, the researchers found that autistic children who have a verbal age between 6 and 7 years—and who fail ToM tasks—know and use gender and race stereotypes just like normal children. Hirschfeld said he suspects the stereotypes originate within subtle and seemingly incidental messages that saturate the culture—for example, through advertising or biased attention by the media. The kids might also learn about stereotypes from parental behaviors, such as locking car doors when in certain neighborhoods, even if parents carefully monitor what they say about race to their children.

 Stereotypes are not inherently negative, he said. “We wouldn’t be able to think without social categories,” he said. “Stereotypical roles are important for navigating everyday interactions. Finding a plumber would be difficult if we thought of people only as unique individuals. Getting through the check-out line would be unwieldy if we didn’t have simple scripts about the roles that both shoppers and cashiers play.”

 The results suggest that different kinds of social reasoning occur through independent mechanisms in all people. The autistic children’s surprising ability to recognize broad categories of people might also lead to new methods for helping them improve their ability to function in society, he said.

 Caregivers today often attempt to teach children with autism ToM skills, particularly techniques that make them more sensitive to other people’s mental states. Capitalizing on the kids’ strengths in understanding social categories might offer an alternative and easier learning method for interpreting the behavior of others, one that doesn’t involve “swimming upstream,” Hirschfeld said.

A couple of programs that may help categorize emotion are available. The first one is free  and focuses on positivity which may help if the person needing training is sad or has anger problems and the second one is reasonably priced and an excellent tool for learning emotion for normal and autistic individuals . This can be trial tried online with no sign up. It is important to stress that people with autism are individual people who have autism and different paths will work depending on their individual qualities

If you live in Florida in the Broward or West Plam Beach Areas. There is a brain optimization center in Boca Raton where autistic children and adults have been successfully treated. It is called Sparks of Genius


I Phone for Autism and Other Resources

Autism and I Phone
Autism and I Phone

By Amy Price PhD

I Phone has come up with a really decent app for non verbal  people it is called Proloquo2go. This app is a bargain as similar technology is several thousand dollars and the IPhone has the ‘cool’ factor which would make other kids curious and increase socialization.
 I think it would be very useful for all of us who travel to places we don’t speak the language as it uses pictures and comes with verbal support. In my house my husband decides we should go to a  new country and then expects me to learn the language so he can get what he needs which is often something like a cell phone charger he left behind that is not even available in that country yet.
This is not so hard if the language has a similar alphabet but when the sign for the ladies room looks more like a drawing than a name it makes for an interesting journey!
Travel to places where I don’t speak the language well has given me understanding for non verbal people as it is very isolating to want to communicate but be stuck with language skills that even a resourceful three year old can top.
We sometimes work with people in resettlement and displaced person’s camps  and communication skills are a must. I have taken  palm pilots from the days of the  first model available  in with me to communicate with the children  I think this tool has a great future!
The I Phone Apps store has text2speech .99, which will read text aloud. I converse  helps communication by symbols 9.99 s and pictures can be added for assistive communication. Signing time ASL  4.99 teaches sign language with flash cards. Coin math 1.99 teaches how much coins are worth or for .99 you can learn or teach children  common features of word families.
The wonderful ideas below are from a Speech Pathologists’s Blog She uses these with higher functioning students on Iphone or I Touch. Visit this blog for practical ideas on how to help  people you know with language or developmental problems.
“Cute Math: adding and subtracting in entertaining animal and landscape scenes
Herod’s Lost Tomb: I Spy type of activities
Match: concentration activity with animal characters .PreSchool Adventure: activities for colors, body, matching, shapes, and sounds Word Magic: spelling game that involves choosing the missing letter BookShelf: eBook reader WordWhirl: using random letters to create multiple words”
There are lots of free apps too  like maze finger and lumosity, children and adults alike  love the touchscreen and  ease of use and the phone can be strapped to an arm to prevent loss.