Stephen M. Shore, EdD, clinical assistant professor in the Ammon School at Adelphi University

Both here and abroad, Stephen M. Shore, EdD, clinical assistant professor, stresses the importance of a strength-based model to help empower individuals on the autism spectrum.

Both on campus and abroad, Stephen M. Shore, EdD, clinical assistant professor in the Ammon School, stresses the importance of a strength-based model to help empower individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

For generations, professionals and parents have struggled to deal with the needs of individuals with ASD. Dr. Shore is spearheading a new approach to help change how individuals with autism pursue their talents, and he is doing it on a global scale.

At the heart of his approach is what he calls an “abilities-based model,” built on understanding the strengths of a person with autism. “I often ask the question, ‘What does the person like to do,’ or ‘How would they spend their time if we let them do what they wanted?’” he explained.

This makeover differs greatly from how autism has been handled by specialists. Since the diagnosis was first introduced in the early 20th century, a deficit-based model has been used to identify what people with ASD have difficulty with and how they are different from their peers. That strategy results in isolation of the diagnosed individual.

“I think we’re transitioning toward a strength-based approach of supporting people with ASD,” Dr. Shore said. “More people are asking themselves, ‘What can a person with autism do?’ first.”

Dr. Shore—himself diagnosed with ASD at an early age—knows firsthand how useful this approach can be. Doctors recommended he be institutionalized. Instead, his parents used music and movement to connect with him. He began taking piano lessons at age 6 and pursued music education; he continues to give lessons in his spare time to this day.

“What my parents did with me might today be considered music therapy,” he said, “but that was not a concept back then.” Nonetheless, encouraging children to pursue what they are most drawn to is at the core of his model.

To address the needs of students and adults with ASD, Dr. Shore also stresses the “three ‘A’s” of autism: awareness, acceptance and appreciation. By educating professionals and parents, he believes the ability to help individuals with ASD find fulfilling careers will become increasingly streamlined.

Forty-Seven Countries, Six Continents

Being an advocate is time-consuming, even more so because Dr. Shore—a man on a global mission—is not limiting himself to working in the United States. “I’ve spoken in 47 countries across six continents,” he said. “I’m finding that people with ASD are the same wherever you go. The difference is the amount of knowledge and resources available in different countries.”

Dr. Shore, was asked by the chair of occupational therapy at NYU to co-teach a two-week study abroad course with her in January 2018 in London, focused on using strength-based strategies for supporting students with ASD.

During that course, students worked in groups to give reports on autobiographies written by people on the autism spectrum. One group chose Dr. Shore’s Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger Syndrome for their project—and composed a rap song to introduce their class presentation.

 He took full advantage of his time in London. His activities outside the classroom included:

* Speaking to the House of Commons at Parliament, contrasting and comparing education and supports for people with ASD on an international basis

* Addressing a parent group and being interviewed by the BBC’s Russian branch

* Presenting research conducted both individually and in collaboration with others at the Centre for Research in Autism and Education at University College in London

As if Parliament and the BBC weren’t enough, last fall—as the LEGO Ninjago Movie hit theaters—Dr. Shore , starred in a video—in LEGO-block form—courtesy of Autism Spectrum Australia. The video, addressing the bullying of students with autism, was shown at APAC 17, the Asia Pacific Autism Conference.

Dr. Shore said that he sees “programs of excellence” popping up in countries that have a shorter history of working with ASD. In Russia and China, for example, parents are pushing for change. “These countries are building models based on what they see in counties like England and the United States,” he said. “I find it very encouraging. It could be that some of these countries leapfrog past the United States in time.”

When he’s not giving speeches on the autism spectrum and music in Russia, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Australia, Canada and England, Dr, Shore is working with the Adelphi community to make sure that the Ammon School is meeting high standards for its students with ASD. “We’re seeing the idea of acceptance really take off,” he explained. “We’re seeing it in Microsoft, where they actively seek to hire people with ASD because they can bring something new to the table, and we’re seeing it right here at Adelphi with the Bridges to Adelphi program.”

In addition, Dr. Shore is a longtime participant in the annual Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association (AHA) Conference, cosponsored by the Ammon School and held on the Adelphi campus.

Scheduled for May 6, 2018, with the theme “Focus on Independent Living for Advanced Adolescents and Adults on the Autism Spectrum,” the event will feature Dr. Shore (also a member of the AHA professional advisory board) at a session titled “Voices From the Spectrum: Practical Strategies.” He and other presenters will discuss their personal experiences of effective strategy development in the areas of daily living, money management and the like.

“I’ve spent the last decade enabling teachers, employers, and others to recognize ASD when it’s present,” Dr. Shore said. “And now I see the world moving towards the idea of appreciation.”

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