Dr. Gil Tippy, co-author of Respecting Autism is featured on SpecialNeeds.com about Respecting Autism, the philosphies that Rebecca School in New York City was built upon and more! Here is an excerpt from Dr. Tippy’s interview with Lisa Di Trolio:
SN: Dr. Tippy, congratulations on the book. I very much enjoyed the way you and Dr. Greenspan make autism accessible to those who do not necessarily understand it or maybe have not had very many experiences with people on the spectrum.
I wanted to ask you about the title, Respecting Autism. Was your and Dr. Greenspan’s goal in writing this book really about teaching people to respect the way people with autism communicate?
Dr. Tippy: Our notion here at the Rebecca School, and really Stanley Greenspan’s notion, is that everything starts with respect. Respect really means that you’re following a kid’s lead and not imposing what you imagine what the kid needs on the kid. We are a developmental model, so obviously we have an idea of where we think kids develop. But it all starts with asking what is this kid interested in and how can I be in a relationship with him? Respect also means, for instance, we don’t wipe kids noses without asking their permission. We think kids have the same or even better ideas than we have and their thoughts and desires need to be respected in a way that we would respect anybody. So I thought, let’s call it “Respecting Autism.” Let’s put it front and center here and make it the major issue because that’s one of the major ways in which DIR (Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based therapy) differs from other models.
You know, we see everything as a communication or an attempt at communication. I was just lecturing at one of the universities here in New York this morning and someone asked me, how do you say to an applied behavior analyst, what are you going to do with a challenging or inappropriate behavior. I got a chance to say, well, we see every behavior as a communication. It’s more important to us to understand what the child is trying to accomplish or communicate so we can then help them do that so they don’t have to do the behavior any more, rather than extinguishing behaviors. That’s not what we’re about. So planned ignoring or punishing is not what we do.
SN: This book was written during the third year of the Rebecca School. What year are you in now?
Dr. Tippy: The Rebecca School is in its sixth year. When Stanley Greenspan is your co-author—he had very high standards. He wanted things to be perfect. I think we’re doing really great work. As we go along the school gets better and better and we know what we’re doing a little bit better. Nobody had done exactly this before, so we started at zero. Dr. Greenspan consulted from the first moment the school was talked about. We have 115 kids. The youngest is 4 and the oldest is 21.
SN: Do you help children transition out of school?
Dr. Tippy: Starting at 16, we begin transition planning, even if you’re going to be here until age 21. The nature of the program changes. It becomes more of a transition program, which is not to say that we’re not doing DIR, but we’re tackling some of the goals that you need to tackle for kids who are leaving the program. When you hit 21, services drop almost to zero, so you’re not going to get treatment anymore. We see it as our job to make sure that we leave kids in a position where they can make the best use of the resources that are going to be available to them after 21.
SN: How do the kids do once they leave?
Dr. Tippy: The kids who leave here have gone to less restrictive environments and done really well. Kids make a lot of developmental progress here, even the kids who really have slow curves on their development do beautifully well. So I would say in general kids do very well. We’ve had plenty of kids who left here and went back to less restrictive settings, or in some cases typical settings with their neurotypical peers, but we take kids across the developmental spectrum. One of the things we decided when we set up the school was we wouldn’t just take kids who could be classified as higher functioning. So we take kids whose parents would have told you they were blind and deaf when we met them. That’s how unresponsive they were. And we take kids who would probably be the valedictorians of their high school class. So we take kids across the developmental spectrum and we take kids across the socioeconomic spectrum, as well. We didn’t want to be one of those “rich kid” schools. You know, we have families who live in shelters, and we have families who certainly live in the Upper East Side here. That’s been important to us all along and we’ve sort of stuck with that. But the kids do report doing well.
To read the interview in it’s entirety, please visit, Respecting Autism: A Talk with Dr. Gil Tippy on Special Needs.com! To purchase Respecting Autism, check out the Where You Can Buy The Book section, including the link to purchase Respecting Autism on the Amazon Kindle!