This is the sensory funnel, and it describes how Asperger's works. The biggest problem we see here at Asperger Experts is that all of the parents, teachers, therapists tend to focus on the top part of the funnel, that's the executive function and the social skills issues, while completely ignoring the rest.
And the thing is that the rest the sensory issues-- the awareness, the emotional stuff, is the most important part. That's the stuff that really matters. You work on that stuff, you help resolve the issues in those categories, and the social skills and executive functioning issues tend to take care of themselves to a certain degree.
So let's break down the sensory funnel starting with the bottom, the sensory piece, which is really where you should be spending 80% of your time. So when I say "sensory," I mean the five senses-- like sight and smell-- but I also mean the internal visceral sensations such as your heart beating in your gut gurgling and things like that.
But the majority of the time when we say sensory issues, we are actually referring to the internal felt sense of just being alive. Things like if you have anxiety and you can physically feel your throat closing and your chest tightening.
Things like when you feel gratitude and there's that warm sensation going through your body. That's what I really mean. And that's both of those things and everything else is the thing that really, really overwhelms a lot of people with Asperger's and shuts them down and it puts them into Defense Mode.
So then you have on top of that the emotional issues that compound that. Because now you have anxiety about a sensation happening again. And you have depression, you have anger, you have all of the emotional issues that layer it on.
And then because of that, because you're in Defense Mode, because you're so overwhelmed because you're so constantly feeling like you're being attacked from everywhere, your awareness shuts down, and you become aware of so little.
Like the amount I'm aware now versus the amount I was aware 10 years ago is staggering, simply because I've been able to get out of Defense Mode and process a lot of my sensory issues to the point where I can deal with a lot more in the world.
So then we have the social skills issues. And this is where the majority of time is spent. Asperger's is a social-skills deficit. Let's teach them social skills. But it doesn't really work that way. There's an interesting study on mirror neurons, which is the part of your brain responsible for essentially monkey see, monkey do, how I learned social skills-- say that 10 times fast-- and how I was able to learn how to talk with my hands. I didn't read Talking with your Hands 101 to be able to learn how to talk with my hands. I just watched other people do it and I was out of defense mode enough that it just started to happen.
It's sort of weird for me, because I don't even know what I'm going to do. As I'm talking to you right now, I'm not thinking, now put your hand here, now put your hand here, now put your hand here. It just comes naturally.
And mirror neurons are the thing that's responsible for learning social skills in a natural way. So you put somebody with Asperger's or Autism in an MRI and check the part of their brain responsible for mirror neurons, not working. It is off. It is functional, it just isn't switched on yet because they're so shut down and they're in defense mode. So until you can work on these sensory issues, they're never going to be able to learn social skills like anybody else.
And then finally you have the executive function on top of that, which really is like the last icing on the cake, the cherry on top. Of things that once you are such an overwhelmed state you are then able to learn how to organize your life. This is the last place to go, not the first, and yet a lot of people try and focus on the top and completely ignore the bottom.
So how do you put this information to use in your life? Where should you actually spend the majority of your time? We've said that should be in the sensation, in the emotion, in the awareness piece. I highly, highly, highly suggest that you work on getting them out of defense mode, work on holding the space, work on learning how to be with it and align your influence circles and learning communication skills and setting expectations.
You can learn how to do all of that at our website AspergerExperts.com/Start. There will be a great article there that will teach you how to do all of that. But in essence, what you do is you work on dealing with the sensory overwhelm, connecting, building trust, setting expectations, learning how to communicate properly, and dealing with everything that is in the bottom part of the sensory funnel. The rest follows.
Lack of social skills are a symptom of being too overwhelmed and in Defense Mode. And until you get somebody with Asperger's out of defense mode, you won't be able to teach him social skills. It's like taking somebody in Iraq that's involved in an active battle and saying, hey, do you want to learn how to knit? And while they may want to make sweaters, they have more important things on their mind. They're just trying to stay alive.
So until you can get them to where they are not just trying to stay alive, where they are calm and able to take in more life instead of being in Defense Mode, being in survival mode all the time, then they won't really learn anything. You can teach them all the social and executive functioning skills you want, but they will not be receptive to them until you deal with the sensory and the emotional and the awareness pieces first.
So what happens once you start to focus on the bottom part of the sensory funnel? Well, I want to share a story with you that was posted on our Facebook page. Katie says, "Watching Danny's sensory funnel video was for me and my son the life-changing event that finally began our journey to putting us-- me, him, his teachers-- on the right path two-plus years ago."
So here's another story. Mary says, "I just wanted to chime in with all the others who are sharing that the AE approach WORKS. We had a wonderful day yesterday in a smallish family gathering. An entire whole day with zero meltdowns is a big deal. There wasn't even hair pulling when I announced I forgot the chocolate pie. All desserts must be chocolate. Life is too short for apple desserts.
Not only did we have a melt-down-free day, but we got the bonus of our son eating TURKEY, which is an abomination unless I can convince him it's just a big chicken. Last year we made him a hamburger. I guess that he feels safe that if he hates the food his Mama will make his hamburger, so it's OK to actually eat. This is a happy boy who took off his headphones and occasionally participated in the family bonding."
So my name is Danny Raede. Welcome to Asperger Experts. We are glad to have you. If you are wondering where do you start now? Go to AspergerExperts.com/Start. Thank you so much. Make sure to share this video. We really, really appreciate it. And I will talk to you soon.