ASA's 37th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-15, 2006)

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Saturday, July 15, 2006: 8:15 AM-9:30 AM
#1731- Autism, Stress, and Movements Differences: Supporting Individuals Through Relationships
This session presents research on supporting relationships for individuals with autism who experience sensory and movement differences. First-person accounts and research tell us that perceptual, sensory, and movement differences contribute to stress and misunderstanding. Accommodations, stress reduction techniques, and successful supporting relationships will be highlighted in this presentation.

Presenters:Anne Donnellan, Ph.D., University of San Diego, Professor - Dr. Anne Donnellan has a dintingusihed career in teaching, research, and writing on autism and related disabilities. Dr. Donnellan is a leader in developing and promoting positive and human approaches to support and understanding of individuals with autism label. She has been a member of the Professional Advisory Panel for more than 20 years. Donnellan is a Full Professor at Univ. San Diego and Professor Emerita at Univ. Wisconisn-Madison.

Martha Leary, MS, CCC-SLP, Speech Language Pathologist - Martha R. Leary is a Speech and Language Pathologist who has specialized in autism for over 20 years. She has presented extensively in the United States, Canada, and England. Her highly acclaimed journal article with David Hill and her publications with Anne M. Donnellan, Ph.D. present a scholarly review of alternative ways of viewing the symptoms of movement difference which may effect our understanding of people with challenging behaviors.

Jodi Patterson Robledo, M.Ed., Doctoral, Candidate, University of San Diego, Ph.D. Research Associate - Jodi Robledo is Dr. Donnellan’s doctoral candidate at USD in the School of Education and Leadership Science and is currently exploring supporting relationships in the lives of individuals with autism from the perspective of both the supporter and the individual with autism as her doctoral dissertation.

If we are to begin to really understand the phenomenon we call autism, and through this understanding provide personalized support, it seems self-evident that we must include the expressed experience of those who we categorize as autistic. In this presentation we will use the words of those who have the autism label to explore movement differences, stress, and support relationships in their lives. We will use the literature on “movement differences/disturbances” to help guide that exploration.

Our work over the past twelve years has focused on understanding symptoms of movement disturbance in people labeled with ASD and in people with other labels, such as: Parkinson's; post-encephalitic Parkinson's; Tourette Syndrome; and Catatonia (Donnellan & Leary, 1995; Leary, Hill, & Donnellan, 1999; Leary & Hill 1996; Patterson 2002a, 2002b; Strandt-Conroy, 1999; Strandt-Conroy & Donnellan, in preparation). Other researchers have also examined movement differences (Damasio & Maurer, 1978; Maurer & Damasio, 1982; Wing & Shah, 2000). The emphasis in our work has been on understanding the symptoms commonly associated with movement disturbance, rather than on the syndromes, diagnostic categories, or etiologies. Our interest has centered on the possible effects that differences in movement may have on a person's ability to organize and regulate movement in order to communicate, relate to and be accurately understood by others, and participate in his or her family and community. Conversely, we have an interest in how moving differently affects the image a person makes with others, leading others to make assumptions about a person's interests, potential for relationship, intellectual functioning, and emotions.

This presentation offers information on symptoms of movement differences reported and observed for some people labeled with autism. We will present the range and intensity of expression of symptoms with first person accounts of how the symptoms have affected people's lives. We will consider stress both as a trigger for unusual, atypical, or uncontrolled movements, as well as an outcome for people who have significant differences in their ways of moving and behaving. Finally, we will address some of the implications for supporting people challenged with these differences. Research exploring successful supporting relationships in the lives of individuals with autism has expanded our view of how to support individuals with autism who are experiencing learning, sensory, and movement differences. The importance of relationship and communication in supporting relationships will be highlighted.

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