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

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

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