Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued
At this juncture, Felicity ran across Quirk’s account of stimulus conditioned autonomic response suppression (SCARS). The paper didn’t offer much useful information, but it did suggest to Felicity that it might be possible to use pictorial slides to represent scenes for patients to think about. It also suggested that the galvanic skin resistance (GSR) might be used as a means to monitor anxiety in response to slide-presented pictures. It suggested that slide change might be used as a reinforcer for GSR increases. And it even made a brief reference to the idea that it might be possible to treat ‘psychotic’ patients using SCARS.
Felicity took photographs of the scenes he wanted to present to Sally, brought his slide projector from home and projected the pictures one at a time on the wall. He was gratified to notice that Sally sat still – catatonics tend to do that a lot – looked at the pictures and gave no outward signs of being upset.
But he wasn’t really interested in the presence or absence of outward signs of distress. He wanted to know what was going on inside her while looking at the pictures – how she was feeling inside. That is important because, during anxiety desensitization, if the person is appreciably anxious, even if it doesn’t show on the outside, the person can be learning to be more anxious rather than less. And even Felicity grasped the idea that increasing the person’s anxiety might be counter-therapeutic.

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