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Diverse Thinking Different Learning

May 10, 2022

What would happen if we switch from seeing problematic behaviors as a child being defiant and willfully uncooperative to seeing those behaviors as strategies to cope with anxiety and emotional dysregulation? Dr. Barry Prizant is here to show us what happens when we make that shift.

In his recently updated and expanded book Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, Dr. Prizant presents seemingly problematic behaviors as part of a range of strategies to cope with a world that feels chaotic and overwhelming. Rather than curb these behaviors, it’s better to enhance abilities, build on strengths, and offer support that will lead to more desirable behavior and a better quality of life. 

In this episode, Dr. Prizant explains how different behaviors appear to us as parents and educators, but what would happen if we take the time to find out why the behaviors are occurring. He also helps us take deep interests and reframe how we see them to expand learning and ultimately boost confidence and motivation.


Show Notes:

[2:06] - Welcome to the show, Dr. Prizant! Karen highly recommends Dr. Prizant’s book Uniquely Human.

[3:26] - Books like Uniquely Human, humanize the experiences of those on the Autism spectrum.

[4:50] - Dr. Prizant describes his background and in depth training. He looks through a developmental lens.

[6:21] - For decades, parents have been wanting to understand the reason for a behavior but it is hard to understand if we don’t ask them about their experience.

[8:05] - We have to see a child’s behavior as their way of coping with emotional dysregulation.

[9:49] - When you justify a behavior or jump to conclusions, it gives you permission to not ask why.

[10:38] - You have to find the underlying issue and find a solution rather than just trying to stop the behavior.

[11:58] - Dr. Prizant’s book is focused primarily on children with Autism, but these issues are seen in many others, too.

[13:45] - Most often, we focus on things a child cannot do, but honoring a child’s strengths is so crucial.

[15:10] - Peaks could be characterized by intense interests.

[16:48] - The most important thing is building trust.

[17:57] - To demonstrate, Dr. Prizant shares a story about a child intensely interested in flags and about a child who was fascinated by calendars.

[20:33] - What is the difference between an obsession and an enthusiasm? It’s how we see the behavior.

[22:06] - When we respect a child’s interest, we build trust and expand their learning and engagement with others.

[24:34] - We should show appreciation for a child’s interest. Show your appreciation by engaging with them in their interest.

[26:19] - Sometimes we can set special times for enthusiasms or integrate them into the day to day routines.

[28:27] - The limitations are in our creativity in how we can see the possibilities of their interests.

[30:36] - Dr. Prizant shares the story of a student who is hyperlexic.

[32:46] - It is important to give every child the opportunity to shine with their unique strengths.


About Our Guest:

Dr. Barry Prizant is a speech-language pathologist with close to 50 years experience as a researcher and international consultant for autistic individuals and their families. He is a Visiting Scholar at Brown University and Director, Childhood Communication Services. Publications include The SCERTS Model manuals, an educational approach implemented in more than a dozen countries, four books and 130 scholarly chapters and articles. Barry has presented more than 900 seminars and keynote addresses internationally, including two invited presentations at the UN for World Autism Awareness Day. He has received numerous honors for his career contributions.

Connect with Barry Prizant, Ph.D., CCC-SLP:


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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.