Tuesday Thoughts

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I think Tuesday posts are going to be the days where all of my not-quite-realized post ideas are going to go. So, without further adieu…

  • Reading the thoughts of a young adult on the spectrum (via Facebook) has been one of the biggest eye openers for me, because he brings up situations and viewpoints that I never conceived of.
  • The autism world with regards to therapeutic approaches is becoming increasingly marginalized. It’s like being in a circle surrounded by base camps…and you are either not invited to them, or you don’t quite agree with them. Interesting position to be in…and a great launching space to create your own base camp.
  • A parent told me that she was confused when someone asked her what her son’s “special gift” was. She shrugged and replied, “I told her that I didn’t know what it was or what she meant.” I glanced at him, looked back at her, and thought, “Spatial intelligence.” I don’t really see them as gifts, though.
  • I follow several families on the @sparcguidance on Instagram. They are all composed of pure awesome, and I love that they are sharing their journeys. It’s not easy and not for everyone, but I appreciate it.
  • A 2-minute questionnaire has been developed by researchers at Rutgers University that could identify autism in children much younger than the average age of around 5 years old. You can read more about the questionnaire here and here. This is fascinating, especially since it appeared accurate across different socioeconomic groups. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that the questions are in layman’s terms, as opposed to overly academic or analytic jargon.
  • Finally, a multiple intelligence note: As I’ve mentioned in my post on spatial intelligence, I’ve noticed that quite a few of my clients have been above average or exceptional in this category, regardless of sex, race, etc. It is not the easiest intelligence to spot, though. So here is a tip for parents: Someone with high spatial intelligence is often good at building, but they may be also really good at directions and orientating themselves to areas. They are really good at games that focus on spatial strategy (like Blockus or Tetris-like games), and can probably help with putting things together, be it a Lego set or that new chair for the living room. The key to remember in any of the intelligences, though, is that the person enjoys it. If they love it and are good at it, you have potentially found their purpose.

Programing Note: We’re on the lookout for guest bloggers, so please drop us a line at sparcguidance@gmail.com if you want to write something about autism, multiple intelligence, life purpose, etc.  We’re also working on our first workshop on multiple intelligence and uncovering them! We will give more information once everything is finalized, but we are definitely excited about it!

Have a great week!

Naturalistic: Connect To Nature

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I’m currently in the process of testing out my Find Your Intelligence assessment, and a peer of mine offered to be a guinea pig. About 10 minutes later, she was staring at me in mild shock over the results. Her top intelligence area was Naturalistic, something that she wasn’t expecting at all.

We talked about what exactly that meant for her. In essence, she is both energized and calmed by being in nature. She spoke of how often she goes into nature to hike, swim, or just walk. As a child, she loved to climb trees and take care of her animals. It was present in nearly every aspect of her life so far, and when those activities were absent, she realized how much more stressful her life would become. In the end, I recommended that she try to do something “in nature” as often as she could during the week, even if it was just a walk outside around the block. A week later, she was still in awe of how she had missed such an obvious aspect of her life and happiness.

For those with naturalist intelligence, nature is like a reset button. I think this is the case for most human beings, but it goes double for those that are high in this intelligence. They need to connect to the living world regularly. It could be as simple as the aforementioned walk, or as intense as snowboarding or mountain climbing. Regardless, it is the interaction with nature that brightens them. For some, it also becomes a focus of exploration and fascination, and they become scientists and educators of nature. Regardless, nature helps them bring out their best.

I am always looking for others to try out the FYI assessment, so you can email me at sparcguidance@gmail.com if you’re curious about it. While there are formal sessions and classes available, I also love just chatting about the MI theory and where other think they fall on it!

So, what are you waiting for, Naturalistics? Get outside!

Psychology Today: “Change Artists”

Count on one of the parents of a client to spot this before I did. 🙂

I am proud to be featured in Psychology Today’s cover story, “Change Artists,” for their February 2018 issue. I did my interview (through email and phone) months ago, and had almost forgotten about it. I had no idea that it was going to be a cover story, though!

The article speaks to several people about how they were able to change their lives or their overall view of life. My part involved me talking about some of my insecurities, which is something I rarely talk about outside of friends, and how I overcame them. I am about halfway, and again near the end, as Angel Wilson.

Overall, it’s a really good article and while long, is worth the read. I hope it inspires a lot of people! Thank you to the author Abby Ellin; you did an amazing job, even while being sick! 🙂

Psychology Today: Change Artists

New Year Prep: 2018 Edition

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Hello! Whew, we made it through 2017!

I hope everyone had a wonderful week full of holiday festivities!

With 2018 right around the corner (like, literally), I will be doing some tweaking of things on the site. I’m not sure if I want a brand new layout or not, but I’m playing around with the idea.

I will also be looking into collaborating with other bloggers to do guests posts, making/posting videos, and giving case studies. In other words, it’s about to get a lot more interactive!

Finally, I really want to do some workshops in several possible areas, including LA, the Bay Area, South Florida, and even New York City. I will keep everyone posted!

So while I may be quiet for the next week or so, trust that I am working on really making SPARC Guidance into something amazing. I hope all of you join me for the ride.

Have a wonderful, fun, and safe New Year, and I will see everyone in 2018!

 

The MI Series (Bonus): Existential

We have covered the eight main areas of Multiple Intelligence, but there is an ninth area that is still under debate and has not been made official: Existential.

While the other areas are far more concrete and fairly easy to show and measure, this proposed intelligence can be open for wide interpretation. Howard Gardner describes this area as being characterized by “capturing and pondering the fundamental questions of existence” (Human Intelligence, p. 22). He admits readily that this area needs more evidence in order for it to qualify as an intelligence.

The default assumption is that this is referencing a sort of “spiritual intelligence,” but spirituality is not really mentioned in Gardner’s idea of it above. Religion is not mentioned, either. Right there, two of the major ideas that most of us have when it comes to this type of intelligence are more or less thrown out. Being religious does not necessarily equal high Existential Intelligence.

By this definition, plenty of scientists could possibly fit into this category, which could easily shift it into the Logical/Mathematical or even Naturalist areas. Looking strictly on the spiritual side could yield people ranging from the Pope to Deepak Chopra, and all the way to religious cults if taken far enough. All of those just listed could also easily fall into Interpersonal or Verbal/Linguistic. It is a slippery slope.

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The idea of such an intelligence, though, is intriguing. I personally think that it should be explored further. Even if it doesn’t end up being its own intelligence category, it could become a subcategory, or perhaps just an area of exploration for further study.

And that wraps up the Multiple Intelligence blog series! If you missed any of the previous posts in the series, I will link them just below. I hope you learned a little bit more about this amazing theory, the different ways of looking at intelligence, and gained some insight into my practice and approach. As always, feel free to email me at sparcguidance@gmail.com, or visit the main site at sparcguidance.com.

Previous entries in The MI (Multiple Intelligence) Series: Spatial, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Musical, Logical/Mathematical, Naturalistic, Bodily-Kinesthetic, and Verbal/Linguistic.

Additional Reading

Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner. BasicBooks, 1983.

ThoughtCo. article (very good overview of Existential Intelligence, and what it looks like in action)

The Second Principle (another really good exploration of the implications of an Existential Intelligence)

Photo Credit: My own 🙂

The MI Series: Bodily-Kinesthetic

Occupational therapy has always been an interesting area to me, because of how much it covers. In my field, it deals with sensory, with knowing one’s physical space in the environment, and with using both gross and fine motor skills to achieve independence-related skills and goals. For the same reasons, the area of multiple intelligence called Bodily-Kinesthetic has also been interesting to me.

MI theory author Howard Gardner describes this area as being characterized by “controlling and orchestrating body motions and handling objects skillfully” (Human Intelligence, p.22). These are the individuals who have an almost uncanny control of their body and how it moves. They are also excellent at expressing themselves through it.

Naturally, many dancers easily fall into this category. I would also consider some actors to be in this category as well, particularly the overly physical ones. Martial artists and athletes can be included as well. Venus and Serena Williams, Jackie Chan, and Misty Copeland are all examples.

For those on the autism spectrum, this area of intelligence can manifest in a different way…as a mechanism for calming, energizing, and organizing themselves. Jumping, swinging, running, rocking…these are all ways of making sense of the disorganization that their bodies often subject them to. They are needed strategies, sometimes disregarded or discouraged by those in our field, that help in day to day existence.

I wanted to leave you with a nod to some of my friends’ recent interests. There is a K-Pop (Korean pop) group called BTS making significant waves in the music industry across the planet, and their wave has now hit the States. I’ve watched a few of their performances, and many of them have an amazing command of this category of intelligence, even after being told in the past that they didn’t. The group practices up to 12 hours a day, and it shows. There some other intelligences at play in this video as well. Can you spot them?

We’ve made it through the main 8 areas, but there is one more that is still up for debate: Existential. That will be the final entry in this series. If you missed my entires on Spatial, Interpersonal, IntrapersonalNaturalistic, MusicalVerbal/Linguistic, or Logical/Mathematical,be sure to check those out as well. As always, you can go to my Classes page to see what services I offer, or contact me at sparcguidance@gmail.com.

Additional Reading

Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner. BasicBooks, 1983.

BK Overview (quick look at traits and possible career paths)

BK Intelligence (a slightly more detailed look at the BK Intelligence)

Video Credit: PopCrush on YouTube

Race and Autism Diagnosis: Study

We need to talk about this.

Being African-American and working in the autism field, I have certainly noticed that there are very few of my race that I have treated and worked with in my decade in the field. In fact, I can count the number of black clients that I’ve had on one hand. It begs the question of why. This study I read about today starts to shed light on this question.

In the article about the study (both are linked below), “white parents were 2.61 times more likely to report a social concern and 4.12 times more likely to report a concern about restricted and repetitive behaviors” than black parents. They didn’t go too deeply into why, but from experience I can think of a few reasons.

First, there is an idea floating through my community that autism is a “white people” condition. The low diagnosis rate in the black community (which has its own reasons below) is cited as the reason for this belief. This is part of a much larger problem with the community: lack of trust in the medical field, and a belief in long disproven theories about autism. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve had to disprove the autism/vaccine connection theory with my own people.

Second, the black and brown communities are simply not getting educated about autism (probably partly due to the reason above). Because of this, they are often unaware of the more obvious symptoms that were mentioned in the article and the study. In many cases, the symptoms are dismissed as the child misbehaving or just being “not quite right” (I’ve heard this one more than I care to admit). This sets up for a later diagnosis, which leads to delayed treatment, which leads to a more difficult time overall.

I hope to be one who expands the awareness and acceptance of autism into my own community; it could help enhance the lives of a still unknown number of autistic individuals that stand in the midst of the African-American community.

 

Race and Autism Diagnosis study

Article on study by MedicalXress

The MI Series: Logical/Mathematical

In all of Howard Gardner’s areas of his Multiple Intelligence (MI) theory, this is the intelligence that I feel is most associated with autism by the general public. This is a category of specifics, of the concrete, so it makes sense that this would be an ideal area for those on the autism spectrum.

Gardner describes this intelligence as being characterized by “confronting and assessing objects and abstractions and discerning their relations and underlying principles” (Human Intelligence, p. 22). In other words, logical/mathematical focuses on the ability to see the relationships between objects or items and what those relationships involve. As one could guess, this could easily involve a number of fields and areas of study.

One of the best examples of this intelligence in an autistic individual would be Jacob “Jake” Barnett. I first learned about him through his mother Kristine’s book, The Spark, a couple of years ago. Jake is now 19, has led TED talks, and is one of the youngest astrophysicists in the world (if not the youngest). In the beginning, though, experts in the autism field told his parents only of his limitations and what he would never be able to do. His mother decided to fuel his budding interest in science, and Jake blossomed into a highly intelligent, verbal, and well-adjusted young man. His areas of multiple intelligence are firmly in the logical/mathematical category.

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Naturally, scientists of all types and mathematicians fall easily into the logical/mathematical categories. Another great example in this category is Albert Einstein, who has long been suspected of being on the autism spectrum himself. It can easily fold into other areas of intelligence like spatial and naturalistic.

The next category up will be Bodily-Kinesthetic. If you missed my entires on Spatial, Interpersonal, IntrapersonalNaturalistic, Musical, or Verbal/Linguistic, be sure to check those out as well. As always, you can go to my Classes page to see what services I offer.

Additional Reading

Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner. BasicBooks, 1983.

Overview of Logical/Mathematical intelligence (quick overview on the intelligence area/learners in this area)

Checklist of the characteristics and careers for those in Logical/Mathematical

 

 

Photo Credit: The Plaid Zebra’s article on Jacob

The MI Series: Verbal/Linguistic

I hope my U.S. readers enjoyed their Thanksgiving break! I took it off as well, and now I’m back with another intelligence category that is near and dear to my heart: verbal/linguistic.

The MI theory’s author, Howard Gardner, has a simple definition for this intelligence: “A mastery and love of language and words with a desire to explore them” (Human Intelligencep. 22). Those of us who consider ourselves to be writers embody this definition. We adore words, love to learn about all kinds of words, and often use them for no reason other than the fact that they are there to use so…why not? Language is beautiful to us, and learning a new way to express ourselves with it is an amazing, beautiful rush.

Naturally, writers of all kinds fall into this intelligence: fiction, non-fiction, poets, rappers, speechwriters, and often journalists. I think that public and motivational speakers fall into this one as well, since their command of the language is just expressed verbally instead of in written form.

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So, can autism find a place in this intelligence? Absolutely. Some of the best wordsmiths I’ve encountered online how been autistic writers on their blogs. It can often be easier to express in writing what cannot be easily said; I myself find writing easier sometimes than speaking. All of us seem to notice a similar small drawback, though, especially in fiction writing: the written word can sometimes restrict what we see in our mind’s eye.

The next category up will be Logical-Mathematical. If you missed my entires on Spatial, Interpersonal, IntrapersonalNaturalistic, or Musical, be sure to check those out as well. As always, you can go to my Classes page to see what services I offer.

Additional Reading

Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner. BasicBooks, 1983.

EduNova Verbal/Linguistic post (great overview of this intelligence)

Connection Academy on “Word Smarts” (there’s a great example of how to carryover a verbal/linguistic skill into other areas of intelligence)

 

Photo Credit: YouTube video on Verbal/Linguistic intelligence

Do paraprofessionals need more training?

The article below is a heartbreaking one, especially since I have been witness to negative behavior but unable to do anything about it because it was coming from someone above me on the chain of command. It raises an interesting question: do paraprofessionals get enough training?

I have noticed a trend of younger and younger staff being brought onto autism organizations to act as specialists, interventionists, and techs. At one point, I saw many positions on the front lines only needing a high school diploma, and the pay reflected this as well (and sadly, I have learned, still does). They are quickly trained on the basics of the therapeutic approach, some bit on autism, and then released into the wild. I have seen new hires come to me looking like deer in highlights after a week into the position. Despite all of their “training,” they know little about the actual in and outs of autism, and may have little to no direct experience.

That’s not to say that with guidance, they can’t learn. I can think of one young man in particular who I got to interview for a Behavioral Interventionist position. He didn’t have much experience with autism, but he wanted to learn. The dude was a sponge, soaking up everything those of us with experience told him. Within 6 months, he became an amazing BI.

Still, I saw so many bail on the job after a few months (or get fired) because they couldn’t handle it. They at least had the insight to know that this wasn’t for them. The scariest ones to me are the ones like the aide in the article, the ones who either don’t care or have several chips on their shoulders.

Despite all of our knowledge and experience, I still believe that the parents are the ones who know their kids best. I cringe whenever someone in the field says that “we’re the experts.” That’s my second least favorite statement, right next to “fix them.”

In any case, this is an open question. Do you feel that the paraprofessionals in the autism field need more autism training? Is there another solution to keep stories like this from happening?

My Paraprofessional Was Supposed to Help Me

Here is another article discussing the issue from Psychology Today: The Para-professional-Student Relationship