In describing an interaction with a bright young man, she recounts:
In an effort to help one of my clinician’s understand Joe’s limited perspective-taking abilities and how they impacted his social interactions I asked her to observe me interact with Joe. I then asked Joe to tell me everything he knew about chemistry. This delighted Joe and he enthusiastically began to tell me all about the topic. As he did so I initially responded with active listening, then slowly I got up out of my chair, walked out a door and stood on the other side of the door only to have Joe continue to look at my chair and talk about chemistry.I cannot help but feel that this demonstrates a lack of respect for Joe. Would she be as quick to make an NT child look foolish in front of a colleague? Perhaps she would, but experience make me think it unlikely. There is no mention of how Joe felt, if and when he realized that a trick had been played on him, but it's hard to imagine that the experience would have been a big self-esteem booster.
MGW's articles give examples of people who perform well in a number of areas but, due to a "deficit" in the area MGW considers to be most important, come to nasty ends. There is, however, a conspicuous lack of stories about people with processing differences who overcome the hurdles that these present. MGW's world seems pretty bleak.
Truth be told, I'm not wild about therapists who use the term "deficit." As a kid, I was labeled dyslexic. As a result, I went through a lot of testing and had a lot of people give me the "poor thing" treatment. I guess I didn't suffer excessively at the hands of people who shook their heads in sad wonder over the boy who read slowly and couldn't spell, but it wasn't exactly and uplifting experience, either. Somehow, I muddled through and, when I got to university, where I was studying English Literature, I made the most curious discovery. It turns out I had far better recall of what I had read than almost anyone else in my seminars. I certainly didn't have anything like a photographic memory, but I could quote pretty well verbatim from anywhere in any book that I had read and, if I flicked though the book, I could always find the passage I had in mind in a matter of seconds. The other students, who presumably were not "dyslexic," couldn't do this nearly as well. (
Another problem with MGW is her focus on eye contact. I would have to see how it plays out, but it seems to me that trying to make better communicators out of spectrumy people while insisting on eye contact is akin to trying to make a better swimmer out of someone with an anvil tied around their neck. My guy communicates much better if he is not sitting face to face with his interlocutor. I am, however, willing to be open mined on this. MGW may not have adopted this goal simply as a matter of aesthetics, nor on the assumption that all aspects of NT conversational style are worthy of imitation simply on the grounds of their usage -- the way some old ladies select marmalade only because the label states that it is eaten by the Queen.
In the overall, I am inclined to override my gut reaction and see how her approach actually works. That might seem odd, but my reason ties back once again to my own experiences as a dyslexic. You see, with all that tut-tutting and hand-wringing, and all the classes I took in which I bounced on trampolines and drew pictures of things reflected in mirrors, nobody actually tried teaching me to spell. There was no discussion of rules, no memory drilling, no goals set and no useful measure of progress. As a result, as you have probably already noticed by way of a homophone in this blog that the spell checker did not catch, I am not much better in terms of that skill that I was at school. If I could turn the clock back and direct my own education, I would recommend less trampolines and more i-before-e-except-after-c; so perhaps a little try-to-think-about-what-they-are-thinking would be good for my progeny.