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Autism Coach

Autism Realized


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Ron Davis, Will Bennett and Ray Davis in May 2008

In May 2008, my son, Will, became the first person in North America and third person in the world to complete Autism Realized, a new program giving high functioning individuals within the autism spectrum the tools to participate fully in life.

 This Davis Autism Approach™ is the brainchild of and has been in the process of being developed for several years by Ron Davis, developer of Davis Dyslexia Correction®, a method of helping people with dyslexia to read.  Ron, age 65, is uniquely qualified to develop and implement an autism program – he is brilliant and autistic.

As an infant, Ron was diagnosed as Kanner’s baby – autism was first identified and described by Dr. Leo Kanner.  (Dr. Kanner is considered in psychiatric circles to be the father of child psychology and founded the Johns Hopkins Children’s Psychiatric Clinic in 1930.  Dr. Kanner’s 1943 paper, "Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact", together with the work of Hans Asperger, identified the characteristics of autism spectrum disorders.)  

At age 12, Ron did not speak and was labeled “mentally retarded and uneducatable.”  At age 17, Ron received another diagnosis of “genius” as he was tested to have an IQ of 170.  Because of his incredible ability to visualize, Ron went onto have a successful career as an engineer, the beginning of several successful business ventures.  Ron sees autism not as a disability but as a manifestation of great intelligence and remarkable perceptual abilities.  

When Ron learned to speak in his teens, he shortly thereafter realized he was dyslexic.  After several years of struggling with dyslexia, he figured out a way to correct the visual distortion associated with dyslexia, enabling him to read.  He did so, in part, by changing the location in the vicinity of the head from which he visualized seeing the world.  He calls this location the mind’s eye.  This technique, along with others, became a foundation for the Davis® Dyslexia program that has been used by professionals around the world for the past 27 years.  

Because dyslexics are visual thinkers, they become confused when viewing words that they can’t visualize.  That confusion leads to perceptual distortions which Ron refers to as disorientation.  By modeling the meaning of abstract words (such as “and” and “the”) in clay and through exercises with these models, students are able to visualize abstract concepts and eliminate the confusion that triggers disorientation. 

Ron realized while dyslexia was a form of disorientation, autism was disorientation on a much larger scale.  While people with dyslexia would become confused with what their eyes see and what they think they should see while reading, autism was complete immersion and living completely within a world of sensory distortion.  

Ron deduced that a longer-term, more intensive program than his dyslexia program was needed to help people with autism.  Ron says that he has few memories before the age of 12 because he did not have a developed sense of self and did not differentiate himself from the rest of the world.  This sense of self, which most children develop during early childhood, was necessary to provide the cognitive framework which serves as a reference point from which to make sense of the outside world and store and retrieve memories.  Ron uses the analogy of this basic framework as being like a computer operating system through which people run their lives.  According to Ron, every action a person takes supports and reinforces this “operating system” that defines who they are as an individual.  Once the identity concepts are in place and have had a chance to be more integrated into the individual, relationship concepts complete the program, enabling the individual to interact with others.  

What Ron has brilliantly figured out, is how to put into place a new “operating system” that provides the cognitive framework to help make sense of and interact with the world, in combination with techniques to help correct sensory distortion and relaxation techniques to address the stress that comes from excessive sensory input flooding in, enabling the individual to maintain connection with the outside world.  This approach provides powerful tools for individuals within the autism spectrum to take control of their autism.  An individual with autism can use the gifts that come with autism to their advantage, as Ron has done with his ability to visualize engineering designs and my son, Will, has done within the realm of music - or to shift to a more neurotypical undistorted mode of perception to accomplish goals such as more efficiently learning academics, getting along in the world and interacting with others. 

The Autism Realized program is in its pilot stages and an infrastructure to take this approach to a larger audience is being currently implemented by Ron’s son, Ray Davis.  The approach will be similar to Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) , in having individuals trained in the Autism Realized Program, teaching parents and caregivers to implement the program.  Autism Realized practitioners would regularly monitor and provide guidance for adults implementing the program.  

My son, Will, as I mentioned, just completed this program.  Ray Davis spent a week working with Will in May of 2007 and three days in May of 2008.   Will appears to have been a best case scenario for this program – some children have taken a year or more to complete the course and some are still in stages of completion – Will went through the program in record time.   After the week with Ray, Will had several abstract concepts to complete on his own.   Will was motivated to complete the concepts on his own and then began asking to see Ray to work on the final piece of the program.

Will was able to meet with Ray again in May of 2008 to complete the final concepts for relating to others.  Now Will has the basic concepts underlying his identity and the concepts underlying relationships to others that he needs to interpret and interact with the world around him.  

One of the things that we personally found remarkable about this program is that about 8 months into it, at age 15, Will had a breakthrough – he figured out how to visualize moving his thinking from the back of his head to the front of his head, and for what Will says is the first time, “switch off” his autism.   

Will has said that when his autism is switched on he has musical ability and perfect pitch (Will just received a full scholarship to a local university’s summer jazz camp for talented teenagers to perform piano in ensembles).  When Will switches his autism “off” he says he is more physically coordinated, better able to relate to others, and it is easier for him to learn from books and people lecturing, but is unable to tell one musical note from another.  Will has also indicated that reading is much easier for him than ever before and he is doing a considerable amount of reading in areas of interest to him (he is currently reading a biography of Harry Truman and a book analyzing the music in Alfred Hitchcock’s films).  

It is Ray’s suggestion that Will experiment with his new abilities when working on academics and when interacting with other people.  We will watch and observe how Will makes use of his new operating system over the coming months, but already feel that the Autism Realized program has yielded unexpectedly significant results that have the potential to make a huge positive difference in Will’s future.  

In its current implementation, the Autism Realized program appears to be most effective with individuals of all ages (including adults) who are high functioning, verbal, and able to interact with others.  Also it involves a time commitment of one or more adults who would be trained to implement the program one-on-one with the child and to work with an Autism Realized practitioner to monitor the program’s implementation.  I will keep you posted on the program and when it becomes available to a wider audience.