Liane Holliday-Willey, Ed.D.

Pretending to be Normal
Liane Holliday Willey, EdD
[email protected]
Who Are We?
We are not bound by social class, gender,
culture, race or geographic lines
We are capable of lovely lives
We have a neurobiological difference
A Peek Inside an ASD Mind
Subjective rules
make no sense
How can I know
how to behave?
Reality or Pretend?
Propaganda or Truth?
Is that real?
Why does everyone lie?
Am I a fool?
Routines Are Never Routines
Is Anything / Anyone Dependable?
Special Interests are not Often
Appreciated, Supported or
Why is this
perseveration ok
And this one not?
Non-Verbal Inaccuracies
IS he angry –
with me???
I am
You need to listen
to me!
I thought
he liked
You asked
Motor Skills Challenges
Linguistics Folly
We aren’t
rude, but…
Literal 
Context Clues ☐
= We have our
own lexicon
Word Comprehension, Social Language,
The Assumptions…
You are just making things
I think my
up to get attention
neighbor is
You are not trying your
How would you feel?
What would you do?
I got by with a little help from..
Civic Groups
Water Therapy
Repetitive Movements (Stimming)
Sensory Deprivation
Even After the Support,
There Will be Challenges
Self- Affirmation Pledge
I am not defective. I am different.
I will not sacrifice myself worth for peer acceptance.
I am a good and interesting person.
I will take pride in myself.
I am capable of getting along with society.
I will ask for help when I need it.
I am a person who is worthy of others' respect and acceptance.
I will find a career interest that is well suited to my abilities and interests.
I will be patient with those who need time to understand me.
I am never going to give up on myself.
I will accept myself for who I am.
Liane Holliday Willey,
Asperger Syndrome in the Family:
Redefining Normal
Language Supports
Think it don’t say it
Write it in a journal
Script appropriate replies & inquiries
Teach literary terms: idioms, metaphors, subtext & sarcasm, similes
Teach propaganda
Beware your own speech doesn’t confuse
– Be concrete
– Check for understanding
Teach word histories & origins
Teach euphemisms
Teach conversation skills
Encourage Aspie to question & not fear asking- “What did you mean?”
Realize the Aspie’s language is not technically wrong, just precise & very dependent on definition of terms,
background schema & context.
Discuss & illustrate other examples of the same thoughts that could have been expressed more simply or
more naturally. For example, “My shoes lost their tensile strength” could be “My shoes sole broke”
Social Interaction Supports
Form a social skills group
Directly teach the rules of friendship
– Realize there are different types of friendship
Use cartoons and drawings to illustrate positive vs. negative social behavior
– Goofus and Gallant
Use graphs to chart positive reactions to rocky situations
Teach situations and places and people to avoid- leave nothing and no one out!
Offer tons of hands-on observing
– Build that schema!!
Establish a safe place and safe people to seek out when the need arrives
Establish social behavior groups, but include NT kids, too
Teach nonverbal communication skills
Teach the exceptions
to the rule
Rehearse personal space
Establish a peer aid
Pay a friend / hire a bully
If necessary keep the Aspie out of unstructured work groups
Use movies, TV shows and plays to illustrate appropriate social behavior and
inappropriate behavior
Perseveration Supports
Be careful when teaching subjects with potentially disturbing images (history and language arts)
– Add a transition image following the intense image
Establish a safe place for self-dialogue
Provide exercises that helps the Aspie have a self-regulated program for obsessing. For example, “Write
down your thoughts on this piece of paper, then put the paper in this box. Put the box away for X amount
of time. Think about the thoughts ONLY when you open the box.”
Know that when the interest has to be put aside, the transition to change or stop might be traumatic
Use the special interest as a motivator, reward & calming tool
Praise effort
Bring the special interest into the academic setting or to family gatherings, etc.
Time with the interest as a reward for appropriate behavior
General Supports
Defend Aspie individuality
Social script
Hear perseverations
Calm the Aspie
Interpret the world for the Aspie
Provide (or find some one to) whatever assistance seems necessary
Encourage the Self Affirmation pledge
Do your homework: read material that fits your situation, stay ahead of new ideas and form the ideas that
make sense for the personal situation at hand
Study and apply safety issues including how to address and interact with first responders, strangers, new
situations, etc.

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