Understanding Nathan’s “Isms”: Letter to Son-Rise Volunteers

Dear Son-Rise Volunteers,

This week, we focused on the importance of joining Nathan as he “isms”. Through the process we learned more about Nathan and how we can better help him. Different volunteers discovered different “isms” and possible reasons why Nathan does so. I have listed a summary so we can all exchange learnings. Please see section on “Understanding Nathan’s Isms”.

As a result of our exercise all the volunteers agreed that Nathan has given them better eye-contact this week.

Next week we will continue joining then proceed to understanding “green lights” and “challenging” Nathan if he gives you a long-enough green light.

Starting next week, I will ask all you to start bringing your creative side. For example, Nathan always “isms” with a book, what imaginary toy can that book turn into? Suppose your answer is a “plane”, the next time Nathan gives you eye-contact longer than 3 seconds, you can suggest, “Look my book can fly like a plane…..(with plane sounds)… Now you try it Nathan.” Cheer for him if he attempts, or cheer for him even if all he gives you is good eye-contact.

You are familiar with with some of the toys/things Nathan isms with: books, balls, his face towel and animal toys (he started enjoying the animals just this week). Please try to think of 3 things each of those items can turn into. Our “challenging” activities will be trying to get Nathan to do imaginary play with his “ism” toys.


March 5-9, 2012: Understanding Nathan’s “isms”
1. Nathan likes to flip pages on his lips/mouth. He enjoys this sensory input of the breeze on his mouth. Like a baby, Nathan’s sense of taste is the strongest. Thus, he still chooses to learn about his environment by putting things in his mouth. When his other sensory systems (sight, smell, touch and hearing) catch up, then Nathan will stop putting things in his mouth. One important development in the past week is that Nathan now also flips the pages and allows his fingers/hand to feel the breeze. This indicates that he is now more willing to allow his sense of touch to dominate over his oral senses.

2. Nathan likes repeating words or even phrases. For example, in a session he kept on saying “favorite”, which he heard in the morning. Sometimes he says words in the right context, sometimes not. That’s fine. Concepts, such as “favorite”, are very difficult to grasp since they cannot be explained through pictures. Repeating words is a good exercise to eventually mastering the use of the word. He more he says it and also the more he hears it in context, the faster he will master the new concepts.

3. Nathan took the pen, put it between his fingers and started spinning it. A lot of autistic kids seem amazed at spinning objects. Trying to see what they see: if you look at a pen, it’s long and straight, but magically, when you spin it, it becomes round…or at least the image it creates becomes round. Is Nathan simply trying his best to understand the laws of physics?

4. Nathan likes to put things close to his eyes and try to focus on it by pulling his eyes together. I now believe he has problems focusing on objects and this is his best way of coping. I also notice in therapy (not Son-Rise), when he is asked to do something difficult for his standards, he will do this “ism” as if trying to get the other person out of focus.