Monday, January 21, 2019

Understanding autism may open door to possibilities: Prof Stephen Shore

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2017-04-22 21:37:38 BdST


Stephen Shore, who despite being diagnosed as autistic completed his PhD from Boston University and become a professor of special education at Adelphi University, has urged parents to understand the neurodevelopment disorder and open the door towards possibilities for them.

He was inspiring the parents of autistic children in Dhaka on Saturday, telling his own story and stressing the need for changing mindset on autism.

Shore advised the parents to highlight the strengths of their children to help them become successful in life.

Shuchona Foundation which is founded by Saima Wazed Hossain, a US-certified specialist in school psychology and daughter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, organised his interaction with a group of parents. This is the second of its kind interaction with Shore in Dhaka.

Last year he had a similar interaction in October when he urged parents to find out strengths of their autistic children and support them to use their strengths to overcome the challenges.

“I was hugely benefitted,” Rabeya Bashri, a teacher of a special school, who attended that event recalled.

“I could inspire our adult children. Now they have a role model before them. Tomorrow I’ll tell them again that I met him,” she said, adding that after that interaction she started “carefully following the strengths” of their children.

Shore said his parents first noticed his speech regression at the age of two and a half years, though he was born normal.

“It took one year then for the diagnosis,” the 55-year-old professor who was allowed by her parents to do whatever he wished to do during his childhood.

After his diagnosis, doctors wanted him to be institutionalised. 

But his parents did not agree and took care of him at home that what is now called as “intensive home-based early intervention” which includes “music, movement, narrative and imitation”.

“First they (his parents) asked me to copy them, but that did not work. Then parents imitated me and at some point I started to follow them. So, before you work, develop ‘trusting partnership’ and then you can move on to teach the child,” he said. At the age of four, his speeches came back.

“In this way, we can increase the chances of success of the persons with autism. Understanding people with autism, we can open the door towards success,” he said.

“Know their interest. Those who have been successful, all were pursued based on their special interest,” he said. “You can never expect a fish to live in a tree and at the same time fish would not expect us to live under water.”

He suggested changing thinking pattern like instead of using the term ‘learning disabilities’, use ‘learning difficulties’ and instead of ‘aggressive’, use ‘assertive’.

“I had my difficult time with classmates in elementary school because we did not understand each other. Middle school can be difficult for anyone, but it was better for me because we could do a lot of activities and clubs. I joined a band as I had interest in music, and used to spend hours playing instruments”.

He met his wife in college where he got huge friends. We are married for 27 years, he said, adding that his wife wrote a book on him titled “Beyond the Wall” which he is planning to publish in Bangla.

He is also well known as a writer for inspiring people to be successful in their life.

 “They wanted me to be institutionalised,” he recalled his early detection stage. “May be they were right. I am now institutionalised. But they did not realise that I’ll be the professor of an institute,” he quipped.