Saturday, December 02, 2006

can I borrow a cup of appraisal?

This photo was taken at a family party a week or two after our RDA. During the 2 hour drive there, we heard all about every road sign along the way -- every exit number, every route number, every road name, every speed limit sign, every merge sign -- in BOTH directions (as Jacob would turn around to see the stuff in the other lane too, on the off chance that he might miss a really exciting mile marker). I was ready to pull my hair out (which had often been the case over the several months preceeding this, when his obsessions with road signs began). At the party, he went from person to person, telling them that the house was on a dead end road. A FINE example of how unusual his appraisal system was. Rather than commenting on the really huge tent in the backyard, or all the people at the party, or the long line of cars in the driveway, or the enormous cake, HIS appraisal of the situation was that there was a Dead End sign at the end of the driveway, and there it was stuck to the exclussion of anything else.

(Incidentally, soon after this while discussing appraisal, The Map Man told me that as a child, he remembered that the first thing he did when walking into any building was to look up and see what the ceiling looked like. Talk about unusual appraisal! But that's Autism for you! He said that went on for him right through college, and he's not sure when he dropped it entirely, but he knows that he doesn't do that anymore.)

In a future post I'll talk about dealing with the Road Talk perseveration, but right now I just want to talk about the appraisal part of it. As we know from a much earlier post on the subject Appraisal is one of the core deficits of Autism. Appraisal is the way a person assesses a situation and picks out the important pieces. Appraisal is what allows us to see the deer in the road and swerve to miss it, at the same time seeing the big tree on the right side so we don't swerve too far and wind up in a wreck. Appraisal is what lets us notice and comment on the lovely decor in someone's house rather than on their ceiling. (Ok, I couldn't resist....) Appraisal is what let's us see beyond the Dead End signs.

The question being, how do you fix Appraisal when it's missing or broken? Via RDI, we let the children borrow our perspective (our appraisal) to see what it's like, then through work on self-awareness and the RDI stage work, they develop their own appraisal. You don't want the child to adopt your Appraisal, just to borrow it while they are working on their own. Everyone is an individual, and no two people are always going to find the same things important. For example, think of a painting. One person might appraise what they see based on the colors, one might focus on the brush strokes, one might focus on the content and balance, one might be drawn to the way it's framed. Also, your appraisal shifts as the situation requires -- so you might at first notice the content, then the color, then the framing. However, a non-autistic person doesn't appraise the painting based on the floor tile pattern underneath them, or a crack in the wall of the gallery, which may very well be the way a person with autism might appraise the situation, nor do they get stuck on any one element to the exclussion of all others.

So, let's use the family party as an example of how we worked on appraisal with Jacob. We walked into the backyard, and I commented "Look at that tent! I wonder where they got a tent that big..." The Map Man said "Hey, look, they've got a pool here! You love to swim!" I said "I know that some of your cousins are here, I bet if you look around you can find them." The Map Man said "Wow! That's a big cake! I wonder what flavor it is?"

In this case, Jacob wasn't ready to borrow our perspective yet. "Uh huh" was his response, then he'd revert back to talking about how the house was on a Dead End road. But over time, he started to see things in a different light. It was a gradual change. But if we'd gone to that party today, I know that he'd comment on something other than the dead end road sign. And even if he did notice and mention it, it would soon be forgotten in the excitement of everything else. He still needs some work on appraisal, which will come as we continue in the RDI stages, but already he's not getting the "what a weird little kid" looks anymore.


At 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a long old haul, but eventually.....fingers crossed for you.
Best wishes

At 8:33 PM, Blogger Kathy Darrow said...

ok, I did it :) I am up to date with reading everything :)
I laughed outloud at some parts, as we were sitting next to each other and you were telling everyone at the table the story!

Anyone who is reading must go to the next annual conference. SHelley is tons of fun to hang out with!

Love Ya

At 8:03 AM, Anonymous kyra said...

fluffy still goes up to people to report on some unusual thing he sees or has at home. most people say, oh, your son is so friendly! and, my! HE"S not shy! and things like that, not realizing that what he's doing has nothing to do with being outgoing! but no matter, it will all be addressed as we chug along.

here's to chugging along!

At 6:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jacob's mom,
I am new to this arena of ASD, my son was recently diagonosed. Your blog is written so well, it helps me to read the progress you are making with your son. What is your opinion about bio medical interventions? There are so many people out there who have claimed to see it work, and just as many who claim it's rubbish, just quacks wanting your money.
Thanks for sharing.

At 7:25 PM, Blogger Harvest Mom said...

As far as bio-med interventions go, I think they can be incredibly beneficial if your child's autism is being caused by or excaccerbated by biomedical issues. In Jacob's case, I don't believe that to be true, but I do know that in many, many kids' cases it IS true. A good blog to read about biomedical treatments being used in conjunction with RDI is .


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