This Concept Will Challenge Everything You’ve Learned About Autism

His sketches speak volumes.


This particular one had me speechless.


It showed two people- both had monitors on their foreheads.


“Why the monitors?” I asked.


“I don’t understand what goes on in someone’s brain. People say something but mean something else. A monitor on everyone’s forehead will help me understand what they really think.” He replied.


Incredible thought! Who really knows what’s going on in somebody’s mind? Yet, we’re okay with not understanding fully. We’re able to deal with the uncertainty. This ‘grey’ area falls under dynamic intelligence.


Let me tell you a little more about Rohit. He is good at studies but has no real friends. He’s the soft target for bullies at school. He wanted to be part of a Whatsapp group. He got added recently as they needed somebody to make fun of. Painful to read this?


The saddest part is that he finds it difficult to understand these subtle yet distinct actions.


He is loud and in the face at times. His dad feels that he just needs a good dose of discipline.


But Rohit is not doing this deliberately. It’s not his fault.


It’s not even his parents’ fault.


It’s mine.


We, as professionals, focus heavily on developing static skills.


Obviously, you, the parent, also follow this pathway.


How many times have we celebrated reaching ‘100 words’ when the foundations for communication have not been in place?


How many hours have we put into teaching children with autism to cut straight and diagonal lines, when they don’t have a clue about why they need to cut lines in the first place?


It makes us professionals look good. And you think that your child has improved, right?




Your child has learned a 100 words, but he doesn’t know where to use them.


Your child has learned to cut, after which he promptly throws the strips in the trash can.


Your child can select the items needs to make a sandwich on an iPad, but doesn’t know what to do if there is no bread at home.


He can probably rattle off names of students in his class or on the bus, but doesn’t have a single friend.


Yes, your child’s static intelligence has been addressed and developed.


But what about dynamic intelligence?


teaching children with autism about basic skills

source: Dr. Steven Gutstein



The best explanation of the difference between static and dynamic intelligence comes in form of a story etched in my mind forever.


A few years ago, Dr Steven Gutstein worked with a youngster on the autism spectrum (let’s call him Ron). When Ron went to university, Dr Gutstein asked him to call if he needed any help at anytime.


One night, at about 1 a.m, Dr Gutstein received a call. It was Ron. Dr Gutstein was worried and asked if everything was okay. The young man had one question only.


“There are so many boxes stacked in my room. I’m not sure which one I need to unpack first.”


This young man clearly has enough of static intelligence to be able to go to university.


Flexible thinking, decision making and problem solving, on the other hand, are big challenges for him.


Shouldn’t these be addressed first? Isn’t this so important what to live a good, independent life – in an ever changing world?


Unfortunately, we give too much importance to static intelligence.


Imagine yourself with your child cutting marble paper.


Your entire focus is on how well your child cuts, or whether he is able to cut along a line or not, isn’t it?


Shift your focus for a minute. What if the scissors are missing? What will your child do?


By placing everything in front of him and robbing him off his chance to problem-solve, you impact his dynamic thinking and intelligence negatively.


Isn’t life a series of problems that requires constant monitoring, fine tuning and problem solving? And yet our focus is on how well our children accomplish tasks.


The more we reinforce static pathways, the more adversely impacted the dynamic pathways become. We take away opportunities. We become thieves of dynamic intelligence. We are so focused on menial short term goals, that we forget that our children will be adults soon. And then, we will wonder why they don’t “get it”.


Here are the tenets of dynamic intelligence:

1. Adaptability


Imagine this scenario: You are in line to buy tickets to a movie you’ve been dying to see. You reach the end of the line and the ‘sold out’ board goes up. What do you do? Yes, you may be upset for a few minutes. But then you look for other options, find something else to do or head home!


How would your child react on being told that his favorite drink is not available?


2. Continuous monitoring and regulating


When we have a conversation, we constantly monitor the situation. We take in body language, facial expressions, tone of voice – in addition to what the person speaks. Based on these inputs, we decide when and how to respond.


Can your child monitor a situation before he answers questions? Or do answers come from a rote bank of responses that you have built for him? Which option is more effective?


3. Relative thinking


Take a look at this image.


teaching children with autism life skills

source: Dr. Steven Gutstein



You picked it up immediately, right? You know how to take things in context.


How would your child comprehend something like this?


4. Good enough thinking


Again, imagine a scenario: You have 3 things to do right away. Each one is urgent. How do you decide which one to do first?


You know that you can’t complete all of them perfectly, but you know that each of them can be good enough. How do you decide what’s good enough?


How does your child decide how much spices to add to a dish? How does he decide if the garlic bread that he’s put in the oven is done well enough?


Until a few years ago, I focused totally on static intelligence.


Luckily the brain can build neural connectivity throughout life. The more you give opportunities for thinking and problem solving, the more integrated the brain becomes. This video explains it brilliantly.


I understood and implemented Dynamic Intelligence when Mohit was 17. There is hope for every child.


A father I work with, wrote a mission statement. It stated his hopes for his son, projecting 5 years into the future:


“He will go out for coffee, unsupervised, with his friends.”


That dream came true a few months ago. Exactly 5 years after this father had written it!


That was just the beginning.

I recently witnessed a conversation between this youngster and his mother. It was incredible to watch him decide how he’s going to cover the portion for five study subjects in seven days.


[Note: The emphasis in not on what he’s going to score but how he’s going be a smart learner.]


This thinking will pour into his future relationships, job scenario and impact his life big time.


Static thinking will take your child through school. But dynamic thinking will take your child through life.


All it requires is a shift in focus from you. Are you willing to make it?


In the next post, I’ll share suggestions on how you can take the first steps towards developing dynamic intelligence in your child.
[Update: I have published a post about taking steps to lay the foundations of dynamic intelligence in your child. You can click here to read it.]


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The Importance of a Parent Training Program
For Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

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