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An Evening with Wendy Lawson

It was a great privilege to welcome back Wendy Lawson to talk to us at the Redhill branch meeting on 27th February. Wendy has herself been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, giving her a unique insight into the problems that are encountered daily. Wendy gave an interesting talk on language, expression and understanding experienced by "neuro-typical" people (most people) and people with autism and Aspergers, using poems and real life stories. A review of her talk is included here. The presentation was also recorded and is now available to listen to in RealAudio format. In order to listen to the talk, you must have RealPlayer installed on your computer. You can follow the instructions on the BBC Radio 4 website on how to download the free version of the player from RealNetworks. This talk is in two halves. The first eight audio files explain some of the characteristics of Neuro-typical communication and behaviour, the last seven explain the differences for those with autistic spectrum disorder. The length of the whole talk is about an hour. Just click on the title or topic that interests you to start listening.

Read the review of the evening

Single or multi-channelled
Wendy warned us that she had been studying us carefully. She explained that 'neuro-typical' people are able to communicate on a multi-functional basis; that they use all their senses, sometimes several at a time, in order to understand what is going on around them. In contrast 'mono-tropic' or 'single-channelled' people generally can only use one sense at a time and get confused if they are distracted. With this in mind, Wendy suggested sentences that multi-channelled people would understand and act on appropriately such as "Dinner's ready". Someone with autism would think 'OK, dinner's ready. Good.' but they wouldn't be able to act upon it and come to the dinner table unless the sentence was qualified with 'come and get it!"

Say what you mean
Content, intent and scale are all important in every sentence as Wendy highlighted with some very funny incidents. If you are multi-channelled, this will be easy. To someone with autism, a wrong word, half a sentence or incomplete instructions can confuse, often landing them in trouble, simply through a badly phrased sentence and a lack of understanding of how they would interpret it - in every case, literally. As Wendy succinctly explained, she is challenged by neuro-typical behaviour every day. She asked us to follow her '10 second rule', that is, when saying something to a person on the autistic spectrum, allow 10 seconds for them to process it, rather than repeating it if they don't respond immediately.

Social priorities
Wendy talked about the difficulties she has understanding social priorities i.e. how loud to talk, how to negotiate crowds, how to hold a conversation, the concepts of sharing, personal space, fashion etc. She also talked about why people on the autistic spectrum find change so hard to deal with, and how to help them. The evening ended with a lively question and answer session where Wendy's experiences proved invaluable as she discussed strategies to help various situations.

Listen to RealAudio recording

Wendy Lawson's presentation at the NAS Surrey Branch on 27th February 2001. This talk is in two halves. The first eight audio files explain some of the characteristics of Neuro-typical communication and behaviour, the last seven explain the differences for those with autistic spectrum disorder. The length of the whole talk is about an hour.

real audioIntroduction. "...we tend to view things differently, and we're going to explore that difference". Length: 3 minutes 5 seconds.

real audioLiterality. "I reckon you guys are non-literal to the max". Length: 5 minutes 18 seconds.

real audioBeing Multi-channelled or Polytropic. "You can understand your world in terms of your five senses, your intuition based on your experience, and this leads to you form opinions decisions, knowledge understanding and so on". Length: 3 minutes 46 seconds.

real audioThinking in Pictures. "You have a visual concept for your experience, but that concept is not enclosed or encapsulated or rigid". Length: 1 minutes 26 seconds.

real audioSocial Priorities . "You're very conscious of the social element of community, of fitting in, of belonging, of how you appear to other people and so on". Length: 1 minutes 6 seconds.

real audioTiming Consequences and Sequencing. "Your experience is informing you of when it's the right are excellently....designed to read context, to read intention, and to read the scale of an event". Length: 3 minutes 17 seconds.

real audioInterests and Obsessions . "You have the ability to cover.... a wide range of interests so you don't need to get obsessive". Length: 42 seconds.

real audioTheory of Mind. "Having a sense of 'other' means you need quite a well developed sense of 'self'". Length: 58 seconds.

real audioWe take things Literally. "we're probably likely to be very literal, very black and white.....this means that if you use..... half a sentence like 'bathroom's free'....I'm very happy for you.....So if you going to think about what's going to inform me as to how I know what to say about when you're trying to explain something..... put it in a way that explains the intention (what you're asking), the context and the scale". Length: 12 minutes 28 seconds.

real audioBeing Monotropic. "I need to do things one at a time".... The 10 second rule. Length: 5 minutes 47 seconds.

real audioInterests, Obsessions and dealing with Change. Some strategies for coping. "This a is a good.... way of understanding how to help us cope with the things that we don't know are going to happen". Length: 6 minutes 2 seconds.

real audioWe think in Closed Pictures. "You can teach me where I should cross the road, or how to cross the road, it doesn't mean that I'll do it in the next road....I don't generalise very well - is what I'm saying....we need these pieces of the puzzle and we need you to be visual". Length: 3 minutes 17 seconds.

real audioSocial Priorities. "People with autism tend not to be socially disposed. That does not mean we won't be sociable....Don't think of the people you work with as disordered- think of them as having a different learning style". Length: 4 minutes 11 seconds.

real audioTimings, Sequencing, Predicting Outcomes. "We have to have things ordered the same... we have to know what's coming next". Length: 4 minutes 8 seconds.

real audioSummary and Final Poem. "our theory of mind is lacking.... we certainly have empathy all this is leading to a different theory of mind". Length: 2 minutes 49 seconds.

Review is © 2001 Joy Rimell. Our thanks to Wendy Lawson for giving permission for the recordings to be made available

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