More than Social Skills!

Autism: A New Perspective
Autism: A New Perspective
More than Social Skills!

Welcome back to ASD: A New Perspective! In this episode, Dr. Steven Gutstein talks about social skills and social rules and that something more is needed for our children.

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Full Transcript

Kat Lee: Welcome back to ASD, A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child. We do continue to encourage you that growth for your child is possible.

Kat Lee: I’m Kat Lee. In this week’s podcast, Dr. Gutstein talks about social skills and social rules and that something more is needed for our children.

Kat Lee: When you read it, it seems so blatantly obvious. You’re listing off all these rules that I’m thinking …

Dr. Gutstein: Yeah, isn’t that interesting?

Kat Lee: How stressful.

Dr. Gutstein: Nice and everything to do that and you miss any kind of the sense of the flow that we’re trying to teach people. Actually, we’re working on is the sense of a flow. That you have to get a sense of feel. It’s a feeling. It’s from this we call the experience management network. It’s the experiencing of being with someone and flowing with someone, not the rules. The rules are, if you have to focus on those rules, as you say, even a typical person would be blown away by that, would be completely paralyzed if they have to do those things.

Kat Lee: Exhausting.

Dr. Gutstein: Yeah, and certainly someone with Autism, is going to be … it’s going to make it much, much, worse for them and prevent them. One of the things that we see with our, and the children we’re successful with is a natural and that’s the authenticity, the sense of flow in their relationships with others interactions, even if that is a little messier, that they don’t always follow the rules like we do, we don’t always follow rules and that it doesn’t come from that analytic part of the brain, but what’s developing as the experience management part of the brain, and the sense of feeling, the sense of being in sync with someone, right? Rather than, what am I supposed to say now? What am I supposed to do now? It’s impossible. You can’t conduct any kind of relationship with that analytic procedural part of your brain, but unfortunately we still see that in almost all of these programs. That’s what they’re focused on.

Kat Lee: Oh, yes.

Dr. Gutstein: Whether they call themselves behavioral or not, they are. They’re still focusing on that. They’re not trying to specifically build the types of neural resources needed to function in an authentic and dynamic environments, and that, so they’re having self fulfilling limitation to them or even harmfulness to them because of that. There’s still an implicit assumption that people with Autism have to fake it, or that if you just get them to behave a certain way, that that’s a sign of great progress. Progress or effectiveness, it’s based on the frequency or number of times somebody does something, or behaved in one way but the concept that you would, that a primary role of parents and family is develop the minds of children to be able to function in real world environments, to be able to reflect, and to be able to move into the future, and to be able to develop knowledge about oneself, and to be able to look at different perspectives, and to be able to improvise and go with the flow.

Dr. Gutstein: All those things that are so critical development, those are irrelevant. Those are not even considered. Even the oriented programs, they don’t, they have the same outcome which is unfortunate, it’s the behavior environment. They’re all locked into that model of, if we can just get them to look a little bit better, then that’s all we should expect, that we shouldn’t expect any changes neurologically. We shouldn’t expect that they’re going to be moving into a development pathway. It’s different. We shouldn’t expect any of the higher level of functioning of their mind is going to change. That left unthought of, and some of the intervention programs, they don’t even think about doing that. Others, they just assume it can’t be done.

Dr. Gutstein: In 1864, surgery was dominated by physicians who didn’t believe that we needed to wash your hands to do surgery. It was dominated. By 1874, that was changing. All right. When did that change? Right. What data did that change? Right. Think about it. They didn’t, in fact, they went out of their way to dirty their hands just to prove that these nuts like Lister-

Kat Lee: Stop.

Dr. Gutstein: … You have to change it, were stupid and that’s what they did. Think about how ridiculous that is. Only if [inaudible 00:04:52] wash your hands. That wasn’t enough, but they wouldn’t even do that. That went on for years, I think. How many hundreds of years did that go on for? Whether it’s called RDI or not, as I said, remediation is remediation. The idea that relationships are important, the family relationships, the idea that development, RDI, the developmental model is critical. Both of those things in R and D, from an intrinsic intervention is, it’s not a strange radical program as some people would say, it is the accepted mainstream of what is supposed to happen for children with disabilities and children with vulnerabilities, to help them to develop. There are many, but I don’t know how much it helps you to see that but there are many programs, but there’s also a lot of research and a lot of people who would definitely support that. I could give paper after paper, after paper about it.

Kat Lee: Well, just for a long time, since the beginning I’ve heard of teaching social stories, memorize, the children memorize this story, here is how this applies. A lot of times as a parent things don’t make common sense to you, but the professionals are saying, this is what you’re supposed to do, and I really feel for the parents because they really want the best, but they don’t … It feels like I said, it’s frightening obvious when you read all that, that that is not going to work in the real world because every scenario you walk into is a dynamic scenario where what you memorize may not fit at all.

Dr. Gutstein: Well that’s right. Ask parents or ask anybody, how often do you use those rules? How often do you stick there as you’re conversing and work with rules?

Kat Lee: Right. Thinking about what you talked about, the anxiety producing, but if you think about yourself, so going into a situation where you must learn the social rules. If I’ve been invited to the royal wedding, I would have had to learn all the social rules.

Dr. Gutstein: Yes. I agree with you.

Kat Lee: That would have made me anxious.

Dr. Gutstein: Yeah. Those are two correlations are good examples of, sometimes you have to do that and you’re certainly not going to have free flowing conversations during those times, or build a relationship during those times, you’re just going to survive them. Right?

Kat Lee: Exactly.

Dr. Gutstein: It may not be fun because of that. They stopped being fun.

Kat Lee: It may look like that everyday.

Dr. Gutstein: Can I get through this and not insult everybody, right? Yes, imagine that’s your everyday life, so you didn’t have social motivation. Right? Why? There’s an absence of loss of social motivation in Autism and it’s like the more we try to say, this is what you’re supposed to be doing for social interaction, the more we shouldn’t be surprised if people are not motivated to go out there and interact and have relationships, right? The more it becomes an awful chore, right? Something that you want to avoid at all cost.

Kat Lee: A painful burden, really.

Dr. Gutstein: Right, and the more it’s about doing it right and wrong and performance, and of course, external reinforcement. The other thing, of course the other fantasy is that people with Autism can’t be motivated by intrinsic motivation. They have to have external reinforces like pigeons. I don’t know if pigeons have intrinsic motivation. I really have no idea with rats, maybe they do [inaudible 00:08:14]. I know humans do, I know we’re motivated. We’re. One of the things that’s essential about human beings is we’re motivated for growth, we’re motivated through challenge, were motivated to continue to develop, curiosity, trying to make sense of things and such, and we’re motivated from relatedness.

Kat Lee: Thanks for joining us for ASD, A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child, and we encourage you that growth for your child is possible.

Kat Lee: I’m Kat Lee. See you next time.


  1. Hope

    A scripted conversation is a start but how to continue a conversation can be hard for many people not only the challenged. One suggestion that seems to work for older children and adults is to read the newspaper which gives them general topics for conversation – such as, weather, sports, current events, movies and other items that might be of interest in the newspaper.

  2. Rachelle Sheely

    It is also important to line language up within the context of communication. The use of prosody, facial expression, body language, etc., are mostly what communication is about and to work on the verbal back and forth without these can be counter-productive. Having said this, I love the idea of the newspaper.

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