Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Taking a Break in Order to Move

Am in the process of moving with my family to another state. Am hoping to get back to blogging in late March. Wish us luck. As you know transitions are difficult for people on the autism spectrum. So far, my eleven-year-old son with autism is doing OK, though he talks to his stuffed animals about being scared about the move. Am hoping our transition to a new school will go well. I'm sure I'll have a lot to say about that in future posts once established. Take care everyone!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Stuffed Animals and the "Medium of Exchange"

If you look at my previous post you will see a photo of my two boys bonding over stuffed animals. Last Thursday (during a presentation on Peer to Peer support) I learned the technical term for what the stuffed animals represent at a START (STatewide Autism Resources and Training) session. I didn't know that the toys represented anything at the time, but I did know the stuffed animals were important to the bonding process between my sons (the older one who is on the spectrum and the younger boy who is not). Below is the exact definition of the term Medium of Exchange.

According to my START manual, a medium of exchange is "any material, task, prop, interest area, that connects a student with autism to a general education peer or staff person. Typically the medium of exchange is something that does not require language fro the connection or interaction to occur."

I see the medium of exchange as a bridge that fills the gap of social interaction between a person with ASD and someone who they know. The best medium of exchange is something that represents the person's special interest area. In my son's case, that would be frogs or other stuffed animals that my two boys play with (mostly cats, mice and wolves).

Here is a list of examples of Medium of Exchange that was in the START manual for Peer to Peer support:

General Education Curriculum
Encyclopedic interests
Computer Interest and Related Technology
Computer Games
Jigsaw puzzles
Uno, Topple, Trouble, Jenga, Simon (note, depending on level of social skills, one might want to stay from games like Taboo that require a lot of communication and social understanding)
Top 40 Music
T.V. Show Theme Songs (or in my son's case--catchy T.V. commercials)

Note: This term was presented in the context of being in an educational environment for primary and secondary level students, but I believe it could be adapted for adults or individuals in any setting. Most, if not all, people with autism have an interest that can be used to bridge the large social gap that might exist between them and other people (on the spectrum or not). The challenge is in using the bridge to effectively fill the gap. It might be difficult, but (as seen in my previous post) it is definitely possible and worthwhile.