On Day 3 of the 2014 ICare4Autism International Autism Conference, Dr. Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the Special Education Dept. at Adelphi University and ICare4Autism Advisory Council member, gave a presentation of Autism and the Arts: Movement, Music, and the Sensory System. In his presentation he engaged audience by having them participate in an activity that would help them better understand what it means when autistic people experience sensory overload.
In groups of five, audience members chose one person to “have autism”, while the other people in the group were told to read loudly, tap the person’s head, scratch their necks, etc. The person designated to have autism’s goal then was to listen carefully to a passage being read to them by one of their group members in order to answer questions about it after. At the end of the activity, the audience shared their experience and feelings. Many of the responses included feeling overwhelmed and annoyed, feeling the need to lash out or run away, and just an overall sense of loss as to how to appropriately complete their task and focus.
The first step to helping an autistic person really is to understand the hows and whys of their feelings and actions. Behavioral therapists do a good job of this as they assess why children react or act out in certain ways and in turn, develop ways to help translate these behaviors into something productive. Dr. Shore’s demonstration let the audience have a glimpse into an autistic person’s mind who is suffering from sensory overload. With that understanding comes the ability of the parent, teacher, therapist, or other professional, to better deal with and help the individual on the spectrum.
Dr. Shore focuses on music therapy as an important creative outlet for students on the spectrum. He has developed his own ways of teaching music that is tailored to the meet the needs of autistic individuals for example by having his students engage in a more visual and creative learning process. Another main point of his presentation focused on the way movements and your ability to understand the environment is an imperative part of helping people on the spectrum gain control of their bodies and minds. Research has shown that once you have control over your body and understand your environment, you are able to function and communicate more effectively .
Overall, Dr. Stephen Shore left the audience with a renewed sense of creativity and some important lessons in learning how to address the needs of people on the spectrum so that they are able to succeed in mainstream society.