WXXI AM News

New Approaches To Autism

Dec 4, 2014

The co-directors of Nazareth College’s Specialty Program in Autism have some new approaches to helping people.

Associate Professor Shanna Jamanis and Assistant Professor Dawn Vogler-Elias were guests Wednesday on Connections with Evan Dawson.

Among the practices Jamanis says are occurring, is how people will describe themselves as “living with autism,” rather than saying they are “autistic.”

That includes many people describing themselves as “autistic” - instead of saying that they are “living with autism.”

Jamanis says that’s because autism is not something people seek to have cured - like a cancer diagnosis.

“It’s a part of who they are it’s  how their brain works it’s how they see the world, it’s how they interact, and you can’t separate that out. And by saying “someone with autism,“ it insinuates that somehow that we’re separating that out.”

And Vogler-Elias says teachers can use a person’s narrow interests to improve their interpersonal skills.  

“For several years, we had this sort of idea that if someone had this specialized interest, that we maybe would try to limit that, and I think we are beginning to shift a little bit, and saying, wow, we can look at an individual’s strengths and we can use that, sort of capitalize on those unusual or special interests.”

This discussion was part of  the Move to Include series, which  is a partnership between WXXI and the Golisano Foundation, designed to promote inclusion for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.