Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fuzzy Food . . . Fuzzy Logic

Fuzzy logic, one skill under the umbrella of executive function, is quite a challenge for folks with autism that static therapies find hard to teach. Claire LaZebnik explained about her eighteen-year-old son, who graduated from ABA years ago,
"My son who's on the spectrum is a very rigid thinker. He needs clear-cut definitions of right and wrong. Anything hazy or gray confuses him. For instance, if I try to get him to see that a friend behaved badly, he'll often get upset with me because a friend is a 'good guy' by definition, in his book.

While I respect her experience as a parent, I disagree with most of Claire's opinions in the rest of the article. I agree with her that fuzzy logic affects how our children (adult or younger) interact with people and make decisions that affect their employment or level of independence. The lack of it holds many of our kids back. We are helping Pamela learn fuzzy logic while working on her ability to restate what another person says in a way to show she agrees or disagrees. We came to this conclusion after seeing a new habit of saying "Yes" or "Right" or "No" in our work on slowing Pamela down long enough to listen, process, and think.

The first time we tried the plan, my camcorder botched the recording. I made a list of topics, one per index card, picking things in which we had clear opinions: favorite rock band, favorite rock song, favorite classical composer, etc. We took turns making a statement (P for Pamela and M for Mom). The listener reframed the sentence to be in agreement or disagreement. I wrote the sentences as we went to spotlight the pairs. Pamela caught on quickly and, since then, I have been working that in our conversations. In fact, on the way to watercolor class today, I carried it too far and Pamela, who had her music on the car, put her fingers to her lips and said, "Sh! I'm listening!" I loved it because she was being a typical teenager in that moment.

What is fuzzy logic? Well, the best place to start is the fuzzy food lurking in the back of your refrigerator! How do you decide what to keep and what to toss? There are no hard and fast rules. For example, if you go by the expiration date, what about organic milk opened a week or so ago? The date says it should not go bad for another month if unopened. Has it been long enough to be bad? Most people try the smell test at that point. What about stuff in containers? In our house, palmitos are safe because they don't sit in the refrigerator long enough to go bad. What about other stuff? Look at it suspiciously for any mold. Smell it if there's none. Think about when you originally cooked it or opened it. Another good rule of thumb is that the further back it is in the refrigerator, the more cautious you ought to be. When you come right down to making that hard decision to toss or keep, it is hard to explain. Unless it's fuzzy or smelly, you apply fuzzy logic.

This lively topic gave Pamela scope for the imagination. The act of investigating foods by smell and by looks naturally slowed us down. Some of her reactions were quite comical, and she was very much living in the moment and making declarative comments. A few times, Pamela tried to get me to stim on David's favorite show (King of the Hill) but I ignored her. I tried to encourage fuller sentences by my reactions, saying the wrong thing or giving background ("It says December 2010" or "I don't know what's in here" or "I don't know how old it is" or "I bought this yesterday"). Sometimes, I stalled by pretending to struggle with formulating my words. She was an active listener for she filled in the blanks or reframed my comments. We had plenty of chances to give agree or disagree statements.

We cleaned out the refrigerator too! P.S. For more food for thought that is fresh and not at all moldy, check out Laura DeAngelo's post on the compensation trap and how to guide a child into becoming a competent communicator.

video

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