Good news for teachers, therapists, and family members! You are now able to easily attend authentic Social StoryTM seminars taught by one of the few Carol Gray’s Social Story Team Members, Catherine Faherty, from your home or office. This accessible, live, and interactive webinar consists of five sessions, presented live over the course of three consecutive weeks, and is taught in English.
NOTE ABOUT TIME: Being sponsored by TAASC in the country of Malta, their local time for each session is 6:30-9:00 in the evening. If you are in the US, the live webinar will happen in the morning or midday, depending on your time zone. Registration information can be found on the Facebook event page link found below. The complete webinar consists of all five sessions, and participants must attend all five sessions and fulfill short assignments in order to receive an official Certificate of Attendance for Social StoriesTM 10.2.
You may contact Catherine Faherty from her website if you have any questions about this webinar.
The five live sessions will be presented on these dates:
Social isolation and loneliness is a current focus of research, linking a number of physical and psychological symptoms, including heart disease and depression. It is clear that having friends and being socially connected has far-reaching positive effects. However friendship doesn’t come easily for all people, and is commonly considered to be especially complicated among autistic people.
Last year in Asheville, NC, the topic of the fourth annual Autism and the Pursuit of Happiness Conference was “relationships”. Jade McWilliams (autistic activist and advocate) and I (autism professional and ally) being close friends ourselves, were curious. We decided to get information about friendship directly from as many autistic and non-autistic teens and adults as we could before the conference.
We developed a twenty-item questionnaire and distributed it thoroughly in the local Asheville, NC community and on-line through email contacts and social media. We invited groups of people connected through autism – individuals, families, friends – as well as people whose lives were mostly untouched by autism, to respond to the questionnaire. We wanted to get answers directly from as many people as possible about their views and experiences about friendship. We tried to cover a broad range of issues about where, when, who, and how people made friends; if they had friends; how many friends, on-line vs. in person friendships, how do you know if someone is a friend, and more. We kept it brief enough to be completed within five minutes, so as to encourage participation. Due to the fact that we planned to present our findings at the upcoming conference, we limited the responses to a six-week period of time. We received 275 responses from (self-identified) autistic people, and 444 responses from (self-identified) non-autistic people. Many respondents submitted written comments at the end. In this article, I am going to discuss one particular question and related responses.
We asked this question: “Do you know (is it clear to you) if a “friend” is a true friend?
Most of the 444 respondents (91.9 % (blue) who identified themselves as not autistic indicated that yes, they usually can tell if someone is a true friend or not. Only 6.3% (orange) of this group indicated that they didn’t know or aren’t sure, and a very small percentage, 2% (red) said that they usually could not tell if someone was a true friend or not.
Of the 275 autistic respondents only 25.9% (blue) answered that they usually can tell if someone is a true friend. A larger group, 39.4% (orange) indicated that they don’t know, or aren’t sure, and the remaining 34.7% (red) indicated that they usually could not tell if someone was a true friend or not.
“I never know when one is truly my friend or not, so I try to just enjoy the time I get with someone before they hurt me or I annoy them,” was a written comment by one of the autistic respondents. It represented a common sentiment expressed by many others in their written comments.
Our survey found that a majority of autistic respondents were very aware that they had trouble discerning whether someone was a true friend. I believe that teachers, therapists, and parents, have unintentionally muddied the waters when they refer to everyone in the classroom or school as “friends”. There you have it – the word “friend” being used so widely and generally, it offers no specific assistance for autistic children who need accurate information. The truth is…not all classmates or all people in the same environment are real friends. Not being able to tell if someone is a real friend makes it more possible that a person will eventually – and maybe repeatedly – find themselves in unsafe situations.
We received many comments from non-autistic people about how they know someone is a true friend. A sampling of written explanations included the following:
“Friends are like family.”
“ Friendship is something I feel from the heart…We may have many similarities or differences, it does not really matter, just that my heart says, “friend”. I am rarely disappointed in the outcome. “
“ A true friend is like sunshine on a cloudy day.”
These comments are beautiful and poetic, but they offer no guidelines to know if someone is a real friend or not. Being the teacher that I am, it was clear to me that there needs to be some way, like a screening tool, that could be used by a teen or adult when wondering about a particular person at work or somewhere else in their life.
Consequently, I came up with a 5-item checklist – The Friendship Quality Checklist – to help teens and adults think about – and analyze whether or not someone is a true friend. After we presented this checklist at the conference, an autistic woman who was the keynote speaker that year exclaimed that she wished she had this tool to refer to when dealing recently with a “supposed” friend – and encouraged me to distribute it to help others.
I invite you, autistic and not autistic, to try this out when thinking about people in your life, and let me know if it holds true. Does it help you clarify a relationship that you have wondered about? Does it help you identify true friends from others? Were there particular aspects that were most helpful? Was it not helpful at all? I invite you to contact me with your comments after using this checklist, via my website catherinefaherty.com.
The Friendship Quality Checklist*Is this person a real friend?
Why use this checklist? You may want to refer to this checklist if you are concerned about a relationship with someone at work, or somewhere else in your life. This checklist may help you figure out whether a person is “a real friend”. You are to read this checklist when you are alone, or with a trusted person, a safe person whom you trust completely. (It is not meant to be read with the “friend” you are wondering about.)
Directions: Check the box if your answer is “yes”. If you check all five boxes, then the chances are good that the person is really a friend. If you aren’t sure about one or more of them, or if there are boxes that aren’t checked as “yes”, then it may indicate that the personmay not be a “real” friend –or that you need some help figuring it out. You may choose to show this checklist to a trusted person (someone different than the person in question) for help.
☐ 1. You are connected. Do you spend time with this person on a regular basis? “Regular basis” could be daily, weekly, monthly, or perhaps once or twice per year. It can be in person, or on-line.
☐ 2. You feel an inner spark of happiness. Do you enjoy being with this person? Does it feel good to you, when you are together, in person or on-line? Are you happy when you are together? Some people describe this feeling as “an inner spark of happiness”.
☐ 3. This relationship is sustainable and reciprocal. Do you have healthy and equal power in this relationship? Are you 100% safe (emotionally, intellectually, physically)? Do you feel safe with this person?
☐ 4. This relationship inspires acceptance. Are you comfortable “being yourself” when you are with this person? Are you comfortable with “who this person is”?
☐ 5. This relationship is life-changing, in a good way. Does this relationship improve the quality of your life – makes your life better in some way?
*Everyone…individuals, teachers, parents, therapists, bloggers: You are welcome to use this checklist for your personal use. If you want to publish or share it in any form (hard copy or electronic) please contact me first for permission. Thank you, Catherine Faherty
by Catherine Faherty, written in 2010, remains valid – in fact essential – today.
Treatment options and teaching strategies in the field of autism spectrum disorders abound, and most if not all dictate that individuals with ASD must ultimately change something about themselves: how they act, how they behave, how they respond to others, the way they think, what they think – how they interact and communicate. Most non-autistic people may not be aware of – nor acknowledge the courage it takes for children and adults on the spectrum to respond to a teacher’s or parent’s unquestioned expectations that they change something as basic as their natural way of interacting and communicating. On top of that, students more often than not, experience our teaching objectives and “their” educational goals as random, or even nonsensical demands. more “Make Agreements To Improve Mutual Communication”…
Your child must learn that there is power in communication – that it is worthwhile to communicate, and that it can be fun! You must teach this intentionally and directly because typically, children with ASD do not automatically or easily engage in communication, and even if they speak (or type), they still do not initiate communication. Verbal skills often develop separately from communication skills. You will teach these important concepts by showing children that communication is an action; a “back-and-forth” action – a powerful action. They need to learn that they CAN make things happen, and HOW to make things happen!
Remember that visual learners learn most quickly and easily when teachers and parents use visual teaching strategies. So the key for teachers and parents is to teach in a way that their children can literally SEE reciprocity; the “back-and-forth” of communication. more “How To Teach The Power Of Communication”…
Catherine Faherty has been working with autistic children and adults since the 1980’s. She has developed strategies and ideas for teachers, parents, children and adults. Here is a sampling of ideas, and things to think about. Check back monthly for new ideas.
April 7, 2017 at Caswell Developmental Center in Kinston, North Carolina, sponsored by the University of North Carolina AHEC, specifically for the Allied Health Staff, Psychologists, Social Workers, Direct Care Staff, Nurses, Teachers and other staff at Caswell Developmental Center. This full day training is an in-depth overview of the rationale and implementation of a variety of visually structured strategies for a variety of purposes, from organizational skills to communication support; and for a wide range of individuals, from children to adults.
Teachers and parents can follow these instructions on how to make a game to help your students or children learn to handle not always being first! It can be played with the whole family at home, or classmates in school.
SKILL TO LEARN: How to be second, third, or….last, and feel okay no matter what position you find yourself in (as in a line, queue, or a race).
NEW UNDERSTANDING: It’s okay to be second, third,…or last. I don’t always have to be first. Other people can be first sometimes. Being first doesn’t mean “right”; just like being other-than-first doesn’t mean “wrong”. It’s okay to be in any order. The order can change from day to day, and activity to activity. more “BEING SECOND, THIRD,…OR EVEN LAST!”…