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Psychological Observation Report

Looking Into the Brains of Autistic Twins

"Seeing is not as simple a looking."

Observation Report

Experience

This observation took place in a very lovely home off Summit Avenue. Even though the house is rather large, the family strives to make their home comfortable and low key. I was fortunate enough to start this nannying job three weeks ago for 10-year-old, twin boys. They are unique because they are both high functioning autistic. Really, this session takes place every Monday-Friday from 7:30 am to 9:30 am. But, for the purposes of this assignment, I will say that it took place Monday morning on March 13, 2018. For the purposes of keeping the boy’s identity confidential, when talking about them, I will refer to them as A and C. My observation most likely will not be like the normal ones that you see. Rather than setting up a game or an activity, I wanted to observe a typical morning before school with A and C. Below is my observations from the morning of March 13, 2018.

A and C: White male, 10-years-old, tall and lanky, with wild black hair. For the most part, A and C are very energetic and happy. If they get dysregulated, (which I will go into) they will become loud and often will scream. I decided on this morning because there were instances of both moods.

The experience:

I wanted to begin by giving some context to this observation. A and C’s mom used to be a lobbyist and worked long hours each week. Her job consumed her until she had A and C. Once they were born, she spent all 10-years of their lives with them because they were both developmentally delayed and behind. However, last fall she realized that she was feeling blue and wanted to go and work again. She got offered a job to work in the schools with special ed children and gladly accepted. Her husband is a lawyer, who also works long hours. Because of this transition, the family looked at getting a nanny to help in the mornings and after school. I am the morning nanny. Their first-morning nanny just graduated, which is why I started working with them 3 weeks ago. While my job is to get the boys ready for school, the mom of A and C told me that really my job is to keep the boys at least 50% happy. Because they are both autistic, the routine is key. So, I had to do this assignment without them knowing it. Their mother was beyond excited for me to do this and told me to tell her the results.

The session began on Monday morning, in the living room downstairs. (Note: There are five levels to this house. There is the main level, lower level, basement, middle and upper level- this session takes place in the lower and middle level) When I got to the house the mom was still home (as she is most mornings), so we discussed how things had gone over the weekend. A and C just started on a new medication for their ADHD that makes them exhausted and weak. It is administered through a patch and must be changed every Saturday. Meaning, that the boys were more emotional and tired. Right away, I noticed this. Usually when I arrive, A and C are sitting together in some part of the house (Note: their favorite spots are either on the couch on the main level, their parents’ room on the middle level, or the couch in the lower level), however on Monday, A was on the couch in the lower level, and C was in his parents’ bedroom.

So, as mom was explaining how things had gone over the weekend, she told me that A and C would be leaving school early for a doctor’s appointment and therefore would not need to have their lunches or snow pants. But for the sake of routine, we still got their lunches ready. We also did not tell A and C about their appointments because otherwise, it stresses them out. Normally, when I arrive, I greet the boys and they greet me back (never making eye contact with me), on this day, however, there was very muddled responses.

The boys were also very demanding that morning. They wanted breakfast, and so I helped them get it ready. Depending on the day, mom usually has things ready. However, she was running late and had me help. The boys can pick and choose every morning what they would like to eat. Sometimes it is the weirdest thing, but for them, it’s routine and normal. Usually getting their breakfast is simple, but this morning was a spectacle. Here is a little bit of how this scene played out: A likes crispy bacon, but C likes soft bacon. A likes apple juice, and C likes grape. A likes Jiffy Pop popcorn, and C likes plain popcorn. A likes vanilla ice cream cake, and C likes chocolate. Both dislike loud noises (like a fork being dropped, or music) and both hate being messy. However, they don’t mind messes. So, I’m getting breakfast ready and I ask C a question and he tells me he would “just like some privacy please.” When A and C tell someone this, it is a way of them saying that they don’t want to engage in what you have to say to them. They are not doing it to be rude, but rather to stay regulated.

Normally, this is no big deal. I respect them when they say that and move on. However, for whatever reason, this really got A going. He immediately started screaming from his spot on the lower level and told C that he didn’t like him. Knowing that the boys read off of my reaction, I remained as calm as possible and moved downstairs to try and keep A calm. Once that was all settled, I finished getting breakfast ready, and then made some tea and began working on some of my homework. The boys normally need to get ready around 8:30 am, but we decided to drive that morning since they were tired. This meant that they had a little bit more time to play on their iPad, and just relax

On a “regular” day, I try to avoid driving the boys to school, unless it is necessary. The reason I do this is that they both dislike driving unless you follow the exact route they give you. Otherwise, it’s called a detour. If you detour at all to school the boys will get very dysregulated. So, 8:40 rolls around and I tell the boys that it’s time to get dressed and start thinking about school. Usually, A always gets ready for school first, and C waits to get ready after A is done. However, here is how this scenario took place: (Note they were still in their separated spots so they were yelling)

A: “You know something C, I don’t want to get ready first today. It’s your turn because I’m tired.”

C: “Umm okay A… But I don’t really understand why you say this.”

A: “Because it’s just so old. Why is it that I have to get ready first every single day!!”

C: “Are you saying… that you… want to break routine?? Because I don’t know about that A.”

A: “Oh fine. You’re right, we simply can’t break the routine.”

At first, I thought about stepping in, but the progression of this conversation was one that just should not be interrupted. These two can be so comical at times, without even realizing it. Because for them, they are just having a conversation. As well, they were able to work out the situation, by themselves while remaining regulated. So, after this takes place, A gets up and gets dressed. Again, normally there are no problems in doing this. On that day, he decided that I needed to come with him because he was scared. He told me that Captain Hook had taken up residence in his closet and if I didn’t come with, he would be forced to walk the plank. (Note: The boys are obsessed with anything Disney which bodes well for me because I am too). Naturally, I go along with A and tell him that Captain Hook won’t bother us. A gets ready, and now it is time for C to get dressed. I usually must help brush their hair, and so I go downstairs with A thinking that C will get ready.

This, of course, was not the case. So, I go in to talk to C and tell him that he needs to get ready.

Observer: “Hey C, A got all dressed so now it’s your turn to get clothes on.”

C: “No, I’m not coming to school today, because I am just way too tired.”

Observer: “Hmm, well that’s not what mom said. Remember, she said that both you and A had to try going to school today?”

C: “Well yes, she said this. But I am not going because not all of my breakfast is gone.”

Observer: “If I gave you ten more minutes to relax and finish eating, will you go to school?”

C: “I think that could work.”

So, I gave C ten more minutes, and then went back up to tell him to get dressed. I was a little bit worried because we were a little behind schedule. The boys do not like being late but were really dragging on this morning. C finally got ready, so I told them that their lunches were already in their backpacks. All they needed to do was put their fidget in and get snow clothes on. (Note: Every day, A and C can bring one fidget to school. A fidget is simply just a toy of their choosing that they get to bring with.) On a typical day, A and C get their fidgets and are fine. On this morning, however, they wanted the same fidget. Even though they had two of the same, that did not matter.” A picked out the fidget first. Here is how this scenario went:

C: “A. I see that you are holding my fidget. I want it back.”

A: “No, I don’t think so. I wanted it.”

C: “But A, we already talked about this. I want it.”

A: “C. We did not talk about this at all. It’s mine. So too bad.”

At this point, I decided to step in. I knew from experience, that they would not resolve this issue and they were both getting dysregulated. The compromise was that neither got that fidget because they could not come up with an agreement. They both were not happy, but we ended up tucking in that fidget with a blanket. That way, it would be waiting for them when they got home. (This was C’s idea, and A loved it). So, we tucked in the fidget and they both got a different one. A always gets ready first, C waited. Once A got his fidget, he began to get snow clothes on. While A did this, C got his fidget.

Because I was distracted, I did not notice that A and C’s snow pants were not hanging up, (because they would not need them that day). A did not mention this but instead got the one extra pair from a different closet. (Note: A does not like help when getting snow clothes on. C will only get ready if he has help). A finished getting ready and wanted to wait outside. So I go to help C. As soon as C noticed that his snow pants were missing, and the extra pair was gone, he started to scream. I began to look around for his snow pants and finally found them in the basement, but they were filled with dried mud. I showed this to C, who of course refused to wear them unless I cleaned them. To make C feel better, I began to scrape off the dirt with a Clorox wet wipe.

The result was a slightly less dirty, pair of snow pants. Very reluctantly, C finally put the pair on. Not before yelling out the door to A: “IM GOING TO KILL YOU A.” Before leaving, we turned off all the lights and made sure we had everything. Then, we got into the car, and now we were running very late. While in the car, A and C kept going back and forth bickering. I let it happen but interjected when needed. The drive to school is only about 5 minutes, so I found a spot and pulled in. As soon as I pulled into the spot, A opens the door screaming in the opposite direction about a bully they have a problem with. I quickly told C to stay in the car, while I attempted to get A regulated and into the school. After some very tricky coaxing, I finally got A to agree to come into the school. Here is how that scenario went:

Observer: “A, why are you running away? What’s going on?”

A: “Because D (the bully) is going to be very mean to me today.”

Observer: “Well, remember that mom said both you and C can go and talk to Ms. F today if things are too much to handle. And if it helps, I can walk both you and C into school today.”

A: “Hmm. I guess that could help.”

After talking to A, we made our way back to the car to get C. C sees us coming and opens the car door. Since he was laying down though, his head started falling out the door. C begins screaming from the top of his lungs: “HELLLLP.” Because I just got A regulated again, I tried to remain as calm as possible to help C. Once I got back to the car, I got to C and asked him if it was okay if I helped him. He said yes, so I gently grabbed his arms and pulled him out of the car. I was not sure how C was going to handle this, because A and C do not like physical touch. But, because he knew he was going to be help, I think he did not mind it as much. Now that I finally got both A and C regulated again, we made our way into the school.

I normally do not walk them inside the school, but I did in this session. Before letting them go into their classroom, I reminded them to see Ms. F if they just could not handle the day. Or if they were too tired. Since they were leaving early, I did not expect this to happen, but I could tell it was reassuring to hear. We said our goodbyes, and then I made my way back to my car.

After getting into my car, I made my way back to campus, ending the session.

Part 2: Analysis and Interpretations

For this assignment, I observed two twin boys. I identified them not by their real names, but rather as A and C. Both A and C are high functioning autistic, so rather than set anything up, I just observed a “typical” morning before school. I nanny the boys every morning before school but for this assignment, I went with Monday, March 13. There will be several areas of development that I am going to go into for this part two analysis. The first area of development that I will touch base on is physical characteristics. Then I will go into cognitive characteristics, and psychosocial characteristics, including behaviors. The last area that I will touch base on is moral characteristics as well as motivations.

Before I get into the heart of things, I just wanted to note that this paper was a bit of a struggle for me to write. Some of the things that I noticed (and made note of), in the boys, made me unsure. What I mean, is that I was not sure whether their behaviors were typical of their age, or brought on from their autism? Regardless, I decided to write about them, because it made my observation unique.

Physical Characteristics:

A and C are both 10 years old. They are below average both in height and in weight, when it comes to their physical development. This is because they were born prematurely, due to a health issue that their mom was unaware of until she became pregnant. To combat this, the boys have been prescribed a Pediasure-like drink that they are supposed to have with breakfast every morning (although it does not always happen). The boys are also below average in physical appearance, because lunchtime at school causes them great stress. So, unfortunately, most days A and C do not eat their lunches. A and C are good at communicating what they want… sometimes. I would say that it really depends on the situation and environment that they are in. If they know you well enough and are in a place they like (like at home) they do well in communicating. Sometimes bordering on the lines of being demanding. For this observation, I would say that overall the boys did better than normal in terms of their communication skills. They were a bit demanding with breakfast, but I did not hold that against them. I also noticed that A and C were more tired and weak than normal, but this was due to new medications that they were put on. So, this wasn’t really any cause for concern.

Cognitive Characteristics:

The session began at 7:30 am, on Monday, March 13 (Note: this is when I first step foot into the house). Rather than setting up an activity, mom and I decided to proceed how we would every other time that I am with A and C. I greeted A and C as usual, and that’s when I began to first take note that it might not be an easy morning. Since the boys are usually together in the mornings, it took me aback that they were separated. Not only that, but they were not even on the same level in the house. Typically, when I greet the boys, they give me back some sort of response, however during this session I was greeted back with very muddled, unenthusiastic responses. Then, when I helped the boys make breakfast, I noticed that A and C were very demanding. They also got very offended when I would ask questions like: “A you like this right?” or “C, did you like this or that?” (Note: believe me, after this session, I have all their favorites memorized and who likes what). A and C were not getting offended to be difficult or rude, but rather in their minds, they think that you should remember these things. After all, it only takes them one try to remember something in perfect detail. So, logically, it makes sense that everyone else would be able to do this too.

Even though the boys are both 10, I would classify this behavior under Piaget’s preoperational stage. Specifically looking at collective monologue. This is talking but not communicating. Even though I said that the boys were communicating better than normal, what you must realize (and this is something I am still learning and working with) is that A and C tend to assume things. What I mean by that is if you do something a certain way for them once, they will automatically assume you will just know to do that task again the same way. So, they talk to you about doing a certain task, but they fail to communicate how they want the task to be completed. This attitude could also be classified under egocentric behavior, which is assuming that everyone thinks the way that you do.

Throughout this whole session, I think that Vygotsky’s theory of scaffolded learning is present. Scaffolded learning is when a teacher builds and assists the learning with steps. However, I don’t think that it's presented in what would be considered the “normal” sense. What I mean by that, is that I think the boys were able to learn from my actions. I have noticed that if I talk a certain way, they will mimic that. Or if I come into the morning feeling a certain way, soon they will be feeling that way too. They have this great ability to sense the emotions in others. So, I (the teacher) give them the steps through my actions. This is shown throughout the session when I must reason with A and C to get a task completed.

The last big theory that I wanted to touch bases on also comes from Vygotsky’s theory. This one is the use of schemes. A scheme is the use of pre-existing knowledge to do something. Basically, you use the knowledge you already have, and use it to help you complete a task. It shapes the way you approach a new task. For A and C, a scheme is everything, almost to a fault. But, it’s the way that they cope and survive through a day. Which is why it’s very important to not deviate from the norm. At the same time, it’s important to create a new scheme with A and C. Yes, they do have their routine, however, they need to change their scheme when they are with me (as opposed to with mom), for our relationship to grow. That way, we also gain a better understanding of each other.

Psychosocial Characteristics:

For the next part of this observation, I will discuss Psychosocial Characteristics that I saw present in A and C. I will begin by looking specifically at how well A and C understand other people’s perspectives. Right out of the gate I can tell you, that A and C do not understand other people’s perspectives at all. For example, from my perspective, it seemed logical that A and C could both have the same fidget because there was two of the same toy. From their perspective, however, the one that they both wanted had to be the only option. Because for them, that seemed logical. They have a hard time understanding and grasping the concept that there might be other ways of going about things. Which is not necessarily uncommon for children their age to think this way, but A and C will never fully understand this concept (or at least that is what their mom has discussed with me). It isn’t to say that they won’t try to understand, it’s just hard for them to do because, for them, it’s not easy to get into the mindset of another individual.

I then wanted to look at emotional competence. Emotional competence is an individual’s ability to express or release (manage) one’s emotions (feelings). On one hand, the boys can maintain a regulated state, thus being able to successfully express their emotions. On the other, things can go south… quick. Right away into my observation, C tells me that he would “just like some privacy please.” Both boys use this phrase to kindly ask someone if they can be left alone for the time being. It’s a coping mechanism; a way to maintain that regulated state. Meaning, that A and C can manage their emotions. On the flipside, however, when C saw that his snow pants were not in his usual spot and that the extra pair was being used by A, he got very angry. He screamed and yelled out the door to A; “IM GOING TO KILL YOU A.” So, this was an instance, where C was not able to manage his emotions.

A also shows signs of being able to manage his emotions in this observation, as well as when he was not able to. When it came time to get ready and dressed for school, A wanted me to come upstairs with him. Normally, he does not ask for assistance, so I questioned why he wanted some company. His answer was that he was afraid because Captain Hook was living in his room. And, that if A went by himself, he would be made to walk the plank. (Note: which by the way was not easy to not react to because this was just a sweet moment to have been a part of). A was afraid to go by himself and used his story about Captain Hook to get me to relate to his emotions. Being that I too love Disney, A came up with a scenario that would get my attention. By doing this, A was able to successfully maintain a regulated state.

However, when it came time to come to school, A runs out of the car in the opposite direction screaming. Granted, he was worried about a bully he has a problem with, he was not able to handle all the emotions that he was feeling at the time. So, his fight or flight instincts kicked in, with the flight taking over. The emotion to just flee and return somewhere safe and comfortable took over, and I believe, therefore, A was not able to maintain a regulated state. (Note: When I say, “maintain a regulated state”, I simply mean A and C’s overall wellbeing, their mental state so to say).

Next, I want to kind of tie in two concepts together and look at how well A and C handle conflict, as well as how they were able to problem-solve. My favorite moment of the entire observation is when A and C were discussing who was to get ready first. (Note: Typically, A gets ready first because as the boys once stated to me, A comes before C). This was my favorite moment because it really does a good job of showing exactly how the boys handle conflict. Here is how that scenario went again:

A: “You know something C, I don’t want to get ready first today. It’s your turn because I’m tired.”

C: “Umm okay A… But I don’t really understand why you say this.”

A: “Because it’s just so old. Why is it that I have to get ready first every single day!!”

C: “Are you saying… that you… want to break routine?? Because I don’t know about that A.”

A: “Oh fine. You’re right, we simply can’t break a routine.”

Even though this is a seemingly minor conflict, there have been other mornings where this exact issue has caused a lot of problems. So, for A and C to calmly resolve this matter was a really big thing to have witnessed.

My example of problem-solving comes after a conflict that I stepped in and redirected, so the boys would not get dysregulated. This instance was when the boys went to pick out their fidgets. Even though no direct compromise was able to have been made, there still was a solution to the problem. Neither A, nor C was able to have the fidget for the day, but as a solution, we tucked in the fidget. We found a soft, fuzzy blanket, and then found a perfect, sunny spot in the house so that the fidget would be comfortable. That way, the fidget would be very relaxed and waiting for A and C once they came home. What makes this situation even better, is that A and C came up with this idea on their own.

Moral Characteristics:

Lastly, I will talk about the moral characteristics that I noticed in A and C. I will begin by looking specifically at Kohlberg’s Moral Development Stages. I would classify the boys under Level 2: Conventional (judgments based on pleasing others) and then I would say that A and C are at Stage 4: Law and Order. This is the stage where rules cannot be broken; the rules are very black and white; absolute. I think that perhaps A and C’s autism plays a very big role in this because if anything deviates in the slightest way, they get easily upset. For example, when you drive to school, you must follow the rules (directions), with no detours whatsoever. If you do a detour, A and C become very anxious and demand to know why you didn’t follow the directions that they gave to you. (Note: the directions they give are this: “just go the exact same way that we do for walking.”) While I have classified A and C’s behavior under level 2, I would tend to disagree that they are making judgments solely based on pleasing others. The rules still cannot be broken, but it isn’t for the benefit of someone else. But rather, it’s because that’s just how their brains work.

This is one of those instances where I wasn’t quite sure if this behavior was typical of that age group, or if it manifests from A and C’s autism? Either way, this characteristic was an important one to make note of. It gives an outsider some insight on how the boys typically behave, and if rules are broken, how their temperaments will most likely be.

I then wanted to briefly touch bases on what motivates A and C. And the answer is honestly not a concrete one. It really depends on the day, or how they are feeling at the time. However, for this observation, the motivation was two things: 1. Getting more time on the iPad. And 2. Seeing Ms. F at school if things were too hard to handle. For A and C, their iPads act almost like a security blanket. They can play games, watch videos, create art, really whatever they want on their iPad, because it really maintains their emotions. It’s an activity that A and C can do together, but at the same time, they don’t have to be doing the same thing. Ms. F is a big motivator because it gives them peace of mind to know that they have someone to talk to at school. Especially when things get to be too much (like the bullies, and lunch).

Part 3: Learning/Cognitive Processes

For this part of the observation, I will focus on specific learning and cognitive processes. Specifically, I will be going into memory usage, the influence of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and examples of the different forms of thinking, as well as a discussion going into the learning styles that are exhibited.

Memory Usage:

Because I did not set up an intentional play session for my observational report, this portion of the observation was not easy for me. Yes, obviously A and C used memory, but it was harder to see. Especially since they were separated for most of the session. However, I was still able to see instances of memory usage along with a few of the different forms of thinking. These forms of thinking include, procedural, conceptual, metacognitive and factual. One instance of memory that I saw in A was when he asked me to go with him upstairs when it was time to get ready. He remembered that I am a fan of Disney movies and that Peter Pan happens to be one of my favorites. I know this because I told the boys the first time I nannied for them. This could be an example of factual knowledge because A has used his prior knowledge and used it to help him out in a situation where he needed some support. A was afraid of going upstairs by himself, and instead of just stating so, he let me know that Captain Hook was living in his room and would make him walk the plank if I didn’t go with him. He is also recalling information that he remembers about Captain Hook, and who he is as a pirate (Note: or as A calls it, “Captain Hook’s pirate style). C exhibits this kind of knowledge when A and C are talking about who should get ready first that day. He simply states that their routine and daily schedule is that A always gets ready first. Therefore, it wouldn’t make logical sense for C to go first. This is one of my favorite examples, as I have mentioned before because it really shows both A and C’s thought processes. This is a very typical conversation style between the two boys, and I was really pleased to have captured this moment. Another form of knowledge that both A and C displayed throughout the observation, was metacognitive recollections.

Some of the comments that were made could be shown as metacognitive recollections perhaps, because of the way they were posted/phrased. Again, I question whether A and C’s autism plays a role in the metacognitive recollections. If that is the case, then it’s reasonable to say that maybe metacognitive recollections are just a part of their character and personalities? An example of conceptual knowledge was when A and C were compromising about the fidget they both wanted. Since an agreement could not be made, A and C decided to tuck the fidget in so that it was waiting for them after school. This shows conceptual knowledge, because A and C decided the best spot to put the fidget, and how they were going to tuck it in. (Note: A and C put the fidget in the spot that got the most sunlight, so it would stay warm and cozy. They also got a warm, fuzzy blanket and a comfy pillow to ensure the fidget was content while they were away at school). Lastly, procedural knowledge can be seen in this observation, again through A and C’s actions. Simply by the process that they complete a task, or even how they phrase a sentence or thought.

Influence of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs on Learning:

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs on Learning is the theory that humans possess an innate set of needs. These can be in the form of our most basic needs, like our physical needs. These can also be in the form of a more advanced need that is classified as a social need. These are hierarchical because, to reach the higher level of needs, the lower, less advanced needs must first be met. The most basic of human needs are the ones we think most often about. These are the needs of food, water, maybe even shelter. They are classified as more of our physiological needs. In this observation, A and C’s physiological needs are being met. They ask me to make them breakfast and I do. Check. They want juice, so I get the juice. Check. The last one of shelter is mostly met. While they are still home, this need is being met. However, as soon as we leave the safety of home, the boys become dysregulated because they no longer feel like that need is being met. Meaning, that it’s harder to move up to the more advanced needs.

This is another example of how A and C’s autism plays a role in their behavior. Meaning, that it will most likely always be a challenge to move up to the more advanced needs. Because, a lot of the times, A and C do not feel comfortable or safe in their surrounding environment. Especially, when they are at school. So, to me, this almost seems like a flawed theory, because I don’t think it takes into account for people like A and C. Maybe as they grow up, they will be able to learn to adapt and feel safer. But for right now, they would much prefer and feel the safest at home. In fact, overall, A and C are afraid of a lot of things. So then, the question becomes: how do we jump this hurdle, so that A and C can have their other needs be met? Is it something that has a solution? Or, is it something they will face for the rest of their lives, because of their autism?

Forms of Thinking:

Throughout this observation, A and C show signs of different forms of thinking. Some of the forms include problem-solving, critical thinking, and metacognition. A and C show forms of problem-solving when they decide to tuck the fidget in so that it would be waiting for them after school. They also used problem-solving, when figuring out who would get ready first for the day. Even when I negotiate with the boys to complete a certain task, problem-solving is being used.

While I can’t think of a specific example where A and C displayed signs of critical thinking, I am going to put this out there that I believe they think critically every day. Meaning, that it’s sort of a natural thing for them. Maybe it’s just who they are as people, but I love to watch them think out a problem because you can just see the wheels and gears turning. Not only that, but they tend to think outside of the box which can be a sign of critical thinking.

I think that metacognition is the most difficult form of thinking for me to see. This is the idea that one is thinking about their own thinking. I believe you can see this form of thinking throughout the observation. You can see it when A is telling me about Captain Hook. He is actively thinking about his thoughts, and then when and after they are all formulated he tells me his story. Again, you can see this in C when he tells me he isn’t going to school. He first says he’s not going because he’s tired. But then he thinks about his thought process and adds that he still has breakfast left, so he really can’t go to school.

Not to sound like a broken record, but I think that A and C are able to execute metacognitive thinking, largely in part of their autism. It almost forces them to think about their own thinking. And, I have learned that this just comes naturally to them. It’s who they are. It’s how they tick, and more importantly, function.

Learning Styles:

Overall, I think it isn’t necessarily easy to classify which learning styles were being used. I say this because this was an observation, not a typical classroom experience. As well, this was an unplanned observation. Meaning that I did not set up any sort of game or activity for A and C to complete. Rather, I just went along with a normal day in the life of A and C, before school. I think that you can see instances of solitary learning in this session. Normally, the boys are together, but for this observation, they were separated. They were learning and doing things by themselves. Which is not the norm, especially for twins. I also think, that there were a few instances of social learning. Sometimes, communication really lacks with A and C, and social cues are almost nonexistent. When they can pick something up from someone else, it’s pretty important. The social learning comes from me (the observer) persuading and explaining why things will be okay. A and C pick up on this and learn and trust that it truly will be. You can see this when I help walk the boys into the school, and the tell them that everything will be okay. I think that overall if this observation was done in a different setting or even day, the learning styles would have varied. But, for what I was given I was pleased with the outcome of this observation.

Part 4: Suggestions/Interventions

For the fourth part of this observation, I will focus on recommendations for future instruction. I will base this upon the analysis and observations that I have previously worked on/with. While A and C are both high functioning autistic, they are still able to function as any other child would. Apart from being slightly smaller than average, A and C appear seemingly normal. They may get dysregulated, but most mornings are like any typical morning. The recommendations that I give will be for me, moving forward through the year, nannying for them. Just like my other observations, this one won’t be like all the others. This is because no formal observation was set up.

Learning Environment:

For these recommendations to work, it is important for A and C to feel as if they are living their lives how they normally would. Meaning, that they are unaware that an observation even took place. Really, these recommendations will be more for the observer (me) and whomever else may nanny or care for A and C. However, that isn’t to say that A and C won’t benefit from the recommendations as well.

I will begin by looking at how a sense of community could be fostered in an observation like this one. Factors for this include:

  • Reassuring A and C that they are safe
  • Giving them time warnings- (Note: when it’s almost time to get dressed for school, I will go and tell A and C that they have 10 more minutes) this will give A and C a range of how much longer they have
  • Letting A and C know that if they get dysregulated, that they have options to get away from whatever is setting them off (Note: Like going to Ms.F’s room when the bullies are creating problems)
  • Validating A and C’s feelings- (Note: like going along with A’s Captain Hook story, instead of just saying he was afraid to get ready by himself) this shows A and C that they are okay to show their emotions in a healthy way, and that they won’t get made fun of for it.
  • If you make a mistake, tell A and C that you didn’t mean anything by it and that you will remember for the next time (Note: like when I couldn’t remember who wanted what for breakfast)
  • Knowing when to step in when A and C have a fight or seem like they may get dysregulated (Note: when A and C fought about who should get ready first, they were able to resolve it on their own. However, when they wanted the same fidget, I had to step in to help resolve the issue) this allows A and C to feel like they have more freedom and can do things for themselves.

A few other recommendations of note are more for the physical learning environment. These factors include things such as:

  • Giving A and C their space (Note: Like when they ask for “a little privacy please.”)
  • Getting their backpacks and snow gear together before school happens so they know where it all is (Note: like making sure that there is more than one set of snow pants (clean) before having A and C get ready)
  • Remaining calm if A and C do get dysregulated. As well as leaving all your outside emotions at the door when you walk in. Especially since A and C pick up on other emotions. It’s important to seem happy and positive because they will mimic your mood.
  • Lastly, and along with remaining calm, comes to your body language/movements. What I mean, is that you must have calm actions. This means no throwing your hands up in the air when you are frustrated, or anything like this. The main reason for this is because that is what A and C do when they are dysregulated. So, you don’t want to reinforce this behavior if you can avoid it.

Activities and Tools:

Because A and C have autism, it is hard to classify if their behavior is on track for their continued development. On one hand, they are so far advanced. On the other, they are so obviously behind. They remember anything you tell them, and they love to try new things. However, they are also terrified of almost anything. They will somehow convince themselves that the littlest thing is out to get them. I think that for this observation, a lot of positives took place. They were able to resolve an issue without me having to step in. And most importantly, they were able to communicate their feelings.

On the flipside, they still have a lot to improve upon and learn from. But that is far easier said than done. While they had instances of good communication, this is something they will need to continually work on. They also need to work on getting around their negative triggers. Meaning, if they know something is going to set them off, they need to either get away from that trigger or find a way to cope with it. Again, this isn’t something that will just magically happen. And, it may not even be something that can be easily fixed. Because of A and C’s autism, these improvements may never happen. Over time, things will get a little better, but this is who A and C is. It’s a part of what makes them unique.

A and C are overall, good-natured, happy, intellectual, inquisitive children. While they aren’t always willing to try new things, if they are reassured that they are okay, they will try anything new. They show you that life can be lived to the fullest in the most imaginative way possible. I have never used my imagination as much as I do when I am nannying A and C. Their creativity always amazes me because sometimes I forget that side of life. They make it easy to see that life is so much more than just getting things done and moving on to the next task. A and C could benefit from a break every now and then from their regular routine. While routine is key, it’s important for them to broaden their perspectives on life. They would also benefit from being more adventurous, and not being so afraid to try new things, which plays in with breaking up their normal routines. What A and C lack socially, they can make it up by how unique and eccentric they are as individuals.

Part 5: Self-Reflection

Learnings About Observational Techniques:

I wanted to begin by saying, that I found it very helpful to have been shown examples of other observation reports. I also think that some of the discussions we had regarding this assignment, were very beneficial. I will be honest, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing for this entire assignment. When it came to setting up the observation, I was unaware of how it would all play out. Every time I would write out the next piece to the observation, I thought to myself; “I am not sure about this.” I realize now, that I should have had more confidence in my abilities. Writing is my strong suit, and I thoroughly enjoyed setting it all up. I feel as if this might be one of the assignments that I got the most out of. And, I am not just saying that to be flattering. I truly mean it, there was so much to take away from this assignment. Every aspect that we as a class learned, was poured into this observation. And, the thing that makes me most happy, is that I remember the concepts that we learned in class. Having to apply all the pieces that we learned to a comprehensive assignment almost forces you (in a positive way), to keep all that information stored in the brain. Which is at least what happened to me. So, I guess in a way I’m trying to say thank you. Thank you, for being the professor that you are. I have learned so much about myself during this process, as well as the two children that I observed. I had the privilege of observing two twin boys that I nanny for in the mornings. I refer to them throughout this assignment, as A and C. They are unique, because (as I have mentioned countless times before), they are both high functioning autistic.

This is not the first time that I have encountered individuals like A and C. At my work study job, I helped mentor a 4th grader who was autistic. I also had the absolute greatest pleasure of spending the day with a 5-year-old boy who had Down Syndrome. This was in the summer when I was a camp counselor and it will be a memory I keep until I am 92. And, my cousin Hannah herself is epileptic, and while she is 18 (almost 19), she is mentally only about 1 or 2 years old, and is hands down, one of my favorite human beings on this planet. I simply just adore her. And let me tell you something that all these individuals have in common… They are all so obviously happy. Even when something sets them off, they always exude happiness that I almost envy. I have never had as much fun as I have with these individuals. Without even realizing it, they teach you so many things. Which is what makes it special, because they are unaware that they are even doing so, which means it’s natural. Who they are, without having to force anything. A and C taught me throughout this observation how to look at things from a different perspective. They taught me, how to get back my imagination. I think that it’s way too easy to lose that ability, the older you get. This is something that makes me sad because you just have more fun. I cannot tell you how many times after this observation took place, that I had to be on the lookout for Captain Hook. Or, how the toys come alive when we aren’t looking (like Toy Story). Everything is so eccentric and creative, and that skill is something I have been missing over the years.

For this observation, I chose to just let things naturally occur. Meaning, that I did not set up any sort of activity. I did it this way because I knew I would get the best results if A and C were unaware that anything was taking place. While I see the benefits of setting up some sort of activity, I think this was most beneficial for my given situation. I was still able to observe and implement the various theories and processes that we learned in class. I think I just observed these things in a different way than everyone else did. It almost aided me to be more mindful of the criteria we were asked to put into each observation. Because it was harder to go back and look at what it was that I observed.

What I learned about A and C:

Prior to this observation, I had already begun to know A and C. Because I nanny for them every morning, Monday thru Friday, I can build a solid relationship with these two. Even though A and C were unaware of this observation, I think that it really strengthened the communication that the three of us had together. You really begin to learn a lot about another individual the more observant you are of them. You take notice of what makes them tick, and just get an overall different perspective of people. This entire observation process helped me to implement and work with the various theories and teachings that we have learned throughout this semester. Once this observation was finished, I continued (and continue) to try and improve upon some of the theories that I talked about in my observations. Specifically, Piaget’s preoperational stage, which is a collective monologue. Essentially, this is where a person will typically talk but not necessarily communicate. This is something that A and C do and struggle with all the time. They are incredibly smart and talk all the time. The problem is, they tend to just assume things (egocentric behavior) and rather than communicating what they want, they think that you should already know it. This is of course, largely based on past experiences, and is how A and Cs' brains work naturally. I think that given that A and C are both 10 (almost 11), and that they have autism, they are right where they should be. A lot of children their age is not quite at the preoperational stage yet, however, for A and C this seems to make sense and just fit into their lives overall. We have also continued to work on expressing their feelings and emotions in positive ways. And, I encourage the use of creativity to help when they are afraid of something (like the Captain Hook example). This provides A and C with a way to ask for help in a way that they know I (and others) will be able to understand and relate to.

What I Would Do Differently:

Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot that I would have done differently for this assignment. I say this because I really enjoyed this experience. It gave me a new perspective on A and C, as well as those as society, might deem as “different”. Not only that, but this assignment made my relationship with A and C, better. Now we have things to work on and improve upon, but we can do them together. And, A and C know that I won’t judge them, so they are easily able to trust me. If I had to say one thing to change, I would say that I could have engaged a little bit more with A and C. But really, this varies from day to day, depending on their moods. I could have also tried and had A and C help me out more, especially when making breakfast and such. But again, I am not sure given what state they were in, that this would have been beneficial. Sure, it would have made my results look different, but at the cost of A and C staying regulated. I think perhaps, I could have defined what being regulated/dysregulated looks like so that those who have not had experience before knew what I was talking about. However, I think in the end, I was able to kind of spell it out throughout my observation. If I had the option to work with other subjects for this assignment, I honestly wouldn’t have, because I think this observation was unique and eye-opening.

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Abigail Teff
Abigail Teff

I am a legal-studies/psychology double major. I will be graduating this upcoming December! I adore writing and thought I would join this community to share my work.

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