What is Autism – the three main challenges:
    A well-rounded program that supports people with autism to live as independently as possible must start with an understanding of how autism commonly affects the human brain in general. Using this lens of understanding, it is then necessary to pinpoint exactly how autism manifests in each individual. People with Autism spectrum disorder have three main challenges: Communication, Behaviors and Social Skills

Our Philosophy and Mission

    The Whole Self Center’s philosophy suggests that every human being is more than a body with a brain. When caring for a child – a whole person - we are experiencing the creative spirit present in that child & in ourselves.

    • As we remain interested in exploring creative possibilities for the individual in the moment, we are more open to experiencing something new, such as developing a valuable skill we never knew or thought was possible.
    • In this way, we are less likely to stay stuck in repeating our old, inhibiting habits & behaviors.
    • By living this understanding with individuals with autism, we continue to become better able to respect & support children for who they already are, deserving of love & attention simply for being.

Autism - Social Skills

Social Skills – It is common for educators to seek to teach children with autism the social skill of how to wave hello.  To the child’s autistic brain, this skill is an isolated event – a piece of a puzzle, if you will.  There are so many social “rules” to remember, and the inability to see the “bigger picture” of why and when to apply each rule, the use of the rule can be puzzling to the child.  If it is difficult for the autistic brain to process information from the outside in, it is understandable that it is also difficult for the autistic brain to put the information together – such as the reason one waves hello – in a “logical way.” First, and most often, the child often has to be reminded to wave hello.  Because the child doesn’t initiate waving to someone, he/she needs to be prompted by a caregiver.  To illustrate that children may not understand the context of waving to others, there are children who learned how to wave but they walk through the mall waiving to everyone they see. 

    • All children learn best when they have trusting relationships with at least a few family members and/or caregivers who can act as role models in social situations.  The unique way in which an autistic brain processes information leads individuals with autism to need a great deal more support from role models in social situations to consistently remind them how to relate to their environment.
    • Individuals with autism can become overwhelmed in social setting for a variety of reasons such as: challenges with understanding how others communicate, understanding how to communicate with others, challenges with reactive behaviors they’ve used to get their needs met, and challenges with coping with their body’s unique sensory needs.  When they walk into a social setting such as a movie theater, we often take for granted that they not only benefit from having a social script of what to do while in a theatre, but they may also need someone to remind them how to use the script. 
    • We can all agree that when we’re stressed, it is helpful to have someone with us whom we can trust to be there to support us.  People with autism are no different. In fact, given their tendency to be overwhelmed, having someone they can trust to support them – and who understands what they need – is the only way they will make it through difficult social situations.   Sadly, it is estimated that most people with autism (and other special needs) have endured years of physical and emotional abuse by their caregivers at home, at school, and in the community.  In their frustration and misunderstanding, the caregivers have focused on getting rid of “autistic behaviors” rather than finding ways to help the individual learn how to learn.  People with autism are best served when caregivers they can trust, teach them how to problem solve in the moment.
    • Feeling safe and secure in their home, school, and work environment, people on the spectrum can be reluctant to venture out of their comfort zone.  It may take a great deal of time for them to be in new social settings without having full-fledged meltdowns.  By having someone they can trust who will support them to not only know how to move through new social settings but who also knows their sensory needs, people with autism are able to engage in new experiences. 
    • Often, at first, it is the adults in the individual’s life who can support the person to understand new community environment.  Adults know how to adjust their own needs to match the needs of the person on the spectrum and they can be patient with the individual’s special needs.   Once individuals develop trusting relationships with adults and feel more comfortable in various social settings, they can feel more comfortable with interacting with peers.  It is most helpful for peers to be educated about the unique needs of each individual on the spectrum.
    • As the people on the spectrum are given the chance to develop their interests, no matter how small they may seem, they are able to express themselves.  Their interests that tier caregivers support at school and at home can be the foundation for hobbies as well as job opportunities.  In this way the person on the spectrum can carve a niche for him/herself in the community and their individual’s quality of life can continue to expand.