Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Happiness starts at the top

After attending an IEP two days ago I received this email from the student’s dad yesterday:

“Hello Daniel,
I want to thank you for your advice yesterday with Sam's (not real name) IEP. The main reason I think he does not like German class is the way he is treated by the teacher. At the beginning of the year she was dealing with Sam in a rude and dismissive manner, and I think that her behavior and treatment of my son is the reason for his problematic behavior in her class. I thought that it was insightful when you pointed out that Sam, like most children, responds better when treated with respect rather than in a dismissive manner. Thank you”

When I said that I thought it was common sense rather that especially “insightful,” as this father points out. 

And today, what a coincidence, I came across this article from Aubrey Daniels International (

 Keeping employees happy and engaged can be a challenge for many organizations. Our latest newsfeed offers resources and tips for how to reinforce employees and create a happier
Happiness Starts At The To
In today’s workplace a lot of emphasis is put on making employees happy, but many companies mistakenly do so through added perks. Dr. Aubrey Daniels explains that being happy at work is less about what employees are given and more about how they are treated. This blog explains why companies should focus on recognizing employee contributions and achievements in order to b"In reading The Pursuit of Happiness, a recent article in Talent Management magazine about the job of “chief happiness officer,” my first reaction is that a company that appoints one needs one. Increasing perks, and even income, won’t cause people to be happy. If it did, how would you explain why many who are rich are also seemingly unhappy?

Happiness comes from how employees are treated as they work, not as something you give them to make them happy. An important factor to keep in mind is that because happiness is perishable, recognition of accomplishments, contribution and progress needs to be very frequent.  Measures of happiness can only be made by looking at accomplishments. Attendance, effort, productivity, quality and safety are all lagging measures. It is difficult to be happy when the company is not performing well. If you are not treated well, it is also difficult to be happy, regardless of the economic health of the organization. In other words, happiness starts at the top and is reflected not in what the CEO says but in how those words are reflected in policy, processes and management behaviors. If the CHO can bring about those changes, there is a viable and important job. If not, there will be little happiness and lots of wasted time and money.”

How true this is when it comes to parenting and teaching, especially kids with special needs that present behavior challenges! If the approach is “rude and dismissive,” as Sam’s dad pointed out in his email, how can we expect the kids to behave nicely and respectfully? Why we demand the children to behave when the adults that deal with them don’t?

Yes, kids, like most of us, respond better when treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their special needs, challenges and deficits. Something to think about.

Daniel Adatto, BCBA


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Peering into the mind of Temple Grandin

I had the chance to watch the HBO movie Temple Grandin. If you haven’t seen it, you should.  It’s been said that Temple Grandin is the most recognized person in the world with autism and has done great things for the autism community.  She is also a well-known animal behaviorist and became world-famous for designing humane slaughterhouses. The inventive HBO film paints a picture of Temple’s perseverance and determination while struggling with the isolating challenges of autism at a time when very little was known about autism spectrum disorder.  The movie takes place in the 1950’s when psychiatrists considered autism a mental disorder caused by cold, withholding “refrigerator mothers”.  Grandin’s mother was anything but cold and so much of Temple’s success can be attributed to her mother’s nurturing support. One of my favorite lines from the movie was when her mother declares “I’m supposed to have done this, well then, I can undo it”.  The film follows Temple from her early school years, completion of her Masters and emergence as a woman with a keen self-awareness and an innate sensitivity and understanding of animal behavior.  With the help of her mother, a woman who insisted that people treat her daughter as “different, but not less”, a farsighted teacher who helped Temple unlock her talents,  as well as Temple’s own relentless determination, Temple Grandin paved her way to a successful career as an author, lecturer and pioneering advocate for autism.    

What I loved most about the film was the insight into Grandin’s world, taking the audience inside her mind and the way she visualizes things by using a series of snapshot images that pop onto the screen the same way that they pop into her mind.  A great example of this is when she attempts to enter a supermarket with automatic sliding glass doors. Images of a guillotine keep popping into her head, preventing her for entering the store and forcing her to instead shop at a small mini-market across the street. In one scene she gets off a plane and the sounds and sights are heightened, the screeching whirr of the propeller, loud greetings, the blazing desert heat, all to capture how overwhelming and unbearable simple daily activities can be to someone with autism. But Temple never let these roadblocks stop her.  Very noteworthy is the way in which she deals with her panic and anxiety with the invention of a contraption she designs to apply pressure by squeezing her when she goes into sensory overload, so typical of autism. What is so admirable about Temple Grandin, and is conveyed brilliantly in the movie, is how unapologetic she is about her disorder as she plows through life. She credits autism for her achievements, arguing that her hypersensitivity and the unique way in which she sees things is what allowed her to be so in tune to animal sensibilities.

Overall it is an inspiring story that is dramatic but at the same time charming and offers a wonderful glimpse into the mind of someone with autism. So much in line with Temple Grandin herself, this movie sends a great message about autism. You ought to watch it.


Daniel Adatto, BCBA