Spiritual Guidance

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This was where I started.

Originally, this was the focus and center of this blog; to explore aspects of spirituality and how spiritual guidance works. Over time, and almost in line with my thesis creation, the blog merged with my passion for autism and psychology. This led to the present incarnation of the SPARC site.

As I continued, though, I began to notice something. It was becoming more and more difficult for me to consistently post and engage. It became more like a chore rather than a joy, and this made me step back and reexamine both my professional aspirations and my spiritual ones. To my dismay, they were no longer in sync with each other.

I then abandoned the spiritual aspect almost completely, going as far as to remove my previous spiritual posts completely from the blog. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was erasing a huge part of myself because I thought that I had to in order to assimilate into the autism field fully.

I realize now that this isn’t the case.

I essentially did the very thing that I always advise others not to do: I stopped listening to my own voice. I silenced her for the sake of trying to “fit in” more with the autism services communities, and in doing so I denied myself. In case you don’t know, that’s a huge no-no in my book.

Moving back to Florida led to a type of forced reset. Now almost completely removed from the autism field, I realized that I had gained and given all that I could there. It isn’t so much that I was shut out (although it felt like that at the time), but more like my contribution to that field was about to take another form, a form other than service provider.

I say all of that to say this: Autism will be getting its own page on this site. I will continue to post/blog about it and the possible implications of it with the Multiple Intelligence (MI) theory. I’ve decided, though, that I need to honor that ignored aspect of me. I spent nearly three years studying and giving Spiritual Guidance, and to simply abandon something that brought such joy and completeness to both myself and others is unacceptable. This is where I am being guided to go at this time.

If someone on the spectrum or a family dealing with autism wants to work with me, I will happily do so. Please understand, though, that it will be through this lens of spiritual guidance. To be honest, it always was, I just never truly vocalized it. I am also still open to doing autism education workshops; these will continue in their traditional (non-spiritual) format. I will also continue to examine the MI theory, just with a different lens, so to speak.

In upcoming weeks, I will explain more about spiritual guidance itself on this site. Please feel free to contact me at sparcguidance@gmail.com if you want more clarification, information about my practice, or have some specific spiritual questions.

 

Being Aware/Autism Awareness Month

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Don’t worry, I didn’t miss the fact that April is Autism Awareness Month. Now that I’m settled, I wanted to give my own take on the month.

I saw this quote a few days ago, and it stuck with me. I’ve experienced this recently myself, and it does make you laugh when people think that they know you and actually don’t have a clue.

This was one of the first lessons I learned working with special needs children, particularly those on the autism spectrum. I had to learn that a vast majority of my clients knew exactly what they needed; the problem was that us “experts” weren’t listening. We were assuming that we knew what they needed. So naturally, we were met with resistance. For some of these so-called experts, the solution to that resistance is to push back harder, to literally break the spirit of the client so that they conform. Even in the beginning, I had an issue with this.

Instead, I chose to drop into the client’s world. I wanted to see how they saw things. While I can probably never know exactly how the world is to them, this simple state of being made me more aware of their awareness. The repeated actions aren’t mindless, but an attempt to regulate (same as how neurotypicals have quirks like biting our nails when nervous…except here you’re nervous most of the time). In doing this, I also quickly learned to never talk about them (in a negative way, especially) within earshot, because just like anyone else, they can tell if you’re talking about them. They may not be able to verbally tell you, but trust me, it will come out in some way. I’ve had to remind many parents and peers about this.

Finally, having said all of that…they can tell you more about themselves that I ever could. In these final days of April, I urge you to follow an autistic individual’s blog, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. You will see, hear, and feel the struggles and triumphs from those who live it, rather than those who work with them. I’ve included a few I follow that are awesome people (and yes, the number of women listed was kind of on purpose). If you are on the spectrum and have a social media presence (or know someone who does), leave your links in the comments as well. I’m going to try and highlight more of your voices going forward!

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/astimmypuzzlepiece/

https://www.instagram.com/girlonthespectrum/

 

Blogs/Sites:

https://davidsnape.me

https://neurodivergentrebel.com

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!

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

The MI Series: Musical

Have you ever met someone who could play a Top 40 song by ear on an instrument…after hearing the song one time? I have met toddlers who were non-verbal, but could sing and hum in harmony with me whenever I sang. These individuals have high Musical Intelligence.

Musical intelligence is defined by Howard Gardner as “a competence not only in composing and performing pieces with pitch, rhythm and timbre but also in listening and discerning” (Human Intelligence, p. 22). He added that this intelligence may also blend in with linguistic, spatial, and bodily-kinesthetic. The blending makes sense, as the other three all have aspects that can be found in music. Beethoven and John Coltrane are both included in this category.

Musicians of all types fall safety into this intelligence category. It also includes composers, conductors, and in my opinion, producers as well. All of them have an ear for what sounds good, can write/create amazing pieces, and feel at their best when doing it.

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There is debate on whether or not autistic individuals who can perfectly duplicate musical pieces are truly showing musical intelligence, as it is argued that they are simply mimicking. Still, in order to mimic, one has to have the aforementioned ear to catch all the nuances within the piece. What can be debated is whether or not the ability to create original pieces of music is included in the definition of musical intelligence. Gardner’s definition above makes no reference to such a prerequisite, but it is one I have heard pop up often in autism circles. Personally, I feel that every example I’ve given in this entry is of musical intelligence!

Next, I will look at another favorite of mine, Verbal-Linguistic. Also, if you missed my entires on Spatial, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, or Naturalistic, 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.

Brainboxx Musical Intelligence (take note of the blurb about the slave child)

ThoughtCo piece (which brings up another interesting debate about musical intelligence)

 

Photo credit: Buzzle article on Musical Intelligence

 

The MI Series: Naturalistic

This week covers another sometimes less-than-obvious area of intelligence: Naturalistic. Though it is often overlooked, I think there are a vast number of people who fit nicely into this type of intelligence, both on the autism spectrum and off.

Naturalistic, according to Multiple Intelligence (MI) theory author Howard Gardner, involves “recognizing and categorizing natural objects” (Gardner, Exploring Intelligence, p.22). I will take this a step further and include individuals who have an uncanny connection to nature, and those who help bridge the gap between nature and humans. John James Audubon and Jane Goodall could be included in this group, along with biologists and naturalists.

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Many of my clients have responded very positively to having pets or being out in nature. I have often watched some of them gaze at the stars, smile as the wind blows through the trees, or happily attempt to chat up a nearby squirrel.

Nature is more than just living art to those who are high in this area of intelligence. They feel a connection and a need to understand it. They can be recharged by spending time in the natural world, be it a hike, scuba diving, or gardening. These nature lovers enjoy sharing their knowledge with others, so I would consider park rangers and tour guides to be part of this category. Also included are those who fight for animal rights and environmental protection/preservation. Bottom line: there is a love/respect of nature, a desire to understand and protect it, and a goal of helping others to appreciate it.

Next week (or more likely the end of this week), we will examine Musical Intelligence.

 

Additional Reading

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

Naturalist Intelligence (a brief write-up on the intelligence area)

The 8th Intelligence (great explantation of Gardner, and early signs of a child having Naturalistic Intelligence)

 

Photo credit: Polk State College

The MI Series: Intrapersonal

My series on Multiple Intelligence continues this week with one of the more “mysterious” and internal types of intelligence, which is Intrapersonal.

Last week’s post on interpersonal intelligence focused on how well we relate to others. As its name suggests, intrapersonal focuses on how we relate to ourselves and within.  According to Howard Gardner, intrapersonal intelligence refers to “accurately determining moods, feelings and other mental states in oneself” (Gardner, 1998). Included in his examples of those with high interpersonal intelligence is Mahatma Gandhi.

This is another area that is perceived to be difficult for those on the spectrum. I say “perceived” because in my professional experience many of the children and teens I have worked with tend to be able to express their own feelings and thoughts quite well when given the proper tools and channels to do so. There are a number of books, blogs, and videos where autistic intrapersonal skills are beautifully highlighted. Without the proper channels, however, it would be very difficult to identify and/or strengthen this.

When we read about mindfulness, meditation, and the process of being quiet observers of our own mind, know that these are all aspects of intrapersonal intelligence. We are able to identify our thoughts, feelings, emotional patterns, and mental blind spots so that we can function accordingly. Intrapersonal intelligence is very important for those who work to help others, particularly in “abstract” ways such as mental health and spirituality. We must be cognizant of our own thoughts, feelings, and reactions so that we are aware when we are projecting, reacting, or minimizing. Self-awareness is the key phrase for this intelligence.

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Next week, I will go into one of my personal favorites: Naturalistic intelligence.

If you missed any of the previous posts (I linked Interpersonal above), here is my post on Visual/Spatial, and the introduction post to the entire series.

 

Additional Reading

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

What is Intrapersonal Intelligence?  Nice little write-up on what it looks like and how to teach to those who are high in this category.

Thoughtco on Interpersonal Intelligence This article includes a list of some well-known people who demonstrate high levels of instrapersonal intelligence, and includes some class-based suggestions to improve it that can be done outside of a classroom as well. Hint: journaling is a good place to start.

Photo credit: positiveactionpdc.com

This. This is why SPARC exists.

This is why I do what I do, why I want my organization to be successful. Stories like this are the reason why. Your entire life can change when you identify your life purpose and passion.

20-Year-Old with Autism And His Mother Open Bakery to Employ Others On Spectrum

Here is the link to the bakery: No Label at The Table

 

To read my MI Series, which discusses theory of multiple intelligence and the different areas of intelligence, click here. Or, catch up on the first two blogs of the series, Spatial/Visual and Interpersonal.

Thursday Thoughts

After dealing with hurricanes threatening most of the people I know, some family crisis, and a generally busy schedule, I have emerged from oblivion!

The article that pulled me out of, well, life was a somewhat familiar trope for me in this field: the hunt for a “cure” at any cost. This time, though, the focus was an approach I had never heard anything negative about until now.

I have heard about the Son-Rise approach off and on throughout my career. For some reason, it was often interchanged with the DIR/Floortime approach, which is different but seems to have a similar thread of being more naturalistic. I noticed, though, that I didn’t see many families in my work attempting this approach. I went on to study Floortime and ABA more closely, becoming an advocate of the Early Start Denver Model’s combination of the best of both worlds.

This article, though, really looks at what happened when autism therapy became a business. It aims mostly at Son-Rise, but the pattern is pretty familiar for any family who has uncovered every stone in a search for answers. They really go to all corners for their children, and sometimes people/organizations take advantage of that by suggesting that they have all of the answers.

I wanted to say this much: Parents, I know you see many of us as experts, the ones to come in and “fix” everything. I do not see that as my job, and I know others who feel this way. I want to empower YOU, because at the end of the day, you are the ones who love and are with this individual 24/7. Yes, I know lots of terminology. Yes, I have seen lots of clients and gained great insight into the world of autism. I still need YOU. Your child/teen/adult still needs YOU. After every therapy session, homeopathic oil blend, or new breakthrough, it still comes down to you and them. In all honesty, I learn more from my clients than any book, training, or degree program can possibly teach me. They are some of the most amazing people I have ever met, and so are their families.

Anyway, coming off of a really great session yesterday, I wanted to share that. The session wasn’t great because the client had “perfect behavior.” It was great because everyone (me, the parent, and the client) learned something.

I feel like I’m rambling randomly (and I probably am), but I wanted to share those thoughts. The article is below, and opens up quite a dialogue about the Son-Rise approach in particular. Oh, and shout out to one of my former coworkers, Andrew Shahan, who is featured in this article and who I count as one of my favorite trainers. 🙂

A ‘cure’ for autism at any cost