The Autism Demystification Model is an evidence-based social-emotional model designed to demystify autism and educate peer groups and adults about the common characteristics associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The model promotes understanding, acceptance and empathy toward individuals on the autism spectrum. The model also introduces participants to the conceptual learning goals and prosocial communication strategies that work to foster social inclusion, play and friendships between individuals on the autism spectrum and their peers in natural social settings of schools and other community settings.
The model has “kid tested” in classrooms across North America and abroad since 2002 with tens of thousands of children and adult participating in the Autism Demystification programs [Puppet Program, Simulation Game Program, Virtual Reality Program, Online Course and Play Centre programs] designed from the model.
Autism Demystification term was coined by Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society’s founder and executive director and the creator of the model and programs Heather McCracken. Autism demystification is a process of providing information about the characteristics of autism in an inclusive and nonjudgmental, generic way that supports a general knowledge or understanding of autism. This fully inclusive model brings about a better understanding of autism in general and builds healthy levels of acceptance toward all individuals on the autism spectrum. While at the same time teaches new skills to peers, parents and professionals for successful social interactions, play and friendships to develop while supporting demystification programs can be all participants to learn about autism in an inclusive, educational and respectful manner.
The inclusive model uses a systematic process to support participants to better understand, accept and empathizes with individuals on the autism spectrum. Using unique, innovative and age-appropriate tools such as our Puppet Program, Simulation Game Program, Virtual Reality Program, Online Course, and Play Centre programs, the Autism Demystification model a four-step approach to demystifying by:
Modeling unconventional social, communication, and regulatory needs or characteristics of individuals with autism. Modeling provides a visual model enabling participants to form a plan or design of autism in their minds, one based on facts rather than personal interpretation or speculation.
Labeling unconventional social, communication or regulatory needs or characteristics provides participants with a “name” for the characteristics they may otherwise not understand. It also supports the acceptance of these characteristics or behaviours as genuine and real.
Explaining the meaning or purpose behind these characteristics helps participants understand the reason why the characteristics or behaviours occur. Helping the participant to understand and accept these characters they may not have understood.
Normalizing the most significant step in the Autism Demystification model is normalizing. Once modeled, labeled and explained the model then links the unconventional characteristics or behaviours with more conventional characteristics that are common to most of the participants. Normalizing characteristics of autism provides participants with an opportunity for emotional perspective-taking. The sense of identifying with individuals on the autism spectrum shifts the typically developing perspective beyond simply understanding and accepting to feelings of empathy (not sympathy).
The model also works to build skills in peer groups by teaching prosocial communications strategies. The models Seven Friendship Tips offer prosocial communication strategies that enhance social interactions between individuals on the autism spectrum and their peers. The Seven Friendship Tips that follow are key educational components to the Autism Demystification Model, they are:
Depending upon the program design, the model and programs may include other learnings such as Social Movement, Social Stories, The Incredible 5 Point Scale, Emotional Regulation, Echolalia, Language processing, etc.