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How I Feel Living with Autism

“I painted this abstract picture to show neurotypicals what it feels like to have Aspergers Syndrome. At the time, I was enrolled in Art Appreciation I at Northeast Lakeview College. One day after class, I was at home and suddenly felt like painting, so I got some brushes, a canvas, and some acrylic paint and began to paint while envisioning the picture and its message in my mind. The black and white background represents how aspies tend to see the world in a black-and-white perspective and that we tend to act monotonous. The colors inside the head represent how our minds are bursting with extraordinary ideas. The white lines above the head represent how when we try to say what’s on our minds, it tends to get distorted by our social awkwardness.”

by: Samuel Allen

Choosing Not to Disclose

In the last few entries we have discussed full disclosure of your disability, partial disclosure of your disability and different ways to go about deciding whether or not you should disclose. Last week we talked about the SODAS method for disclosing. One of the options was to not disclose it all.

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Some individuals that I work with feel like like this is the best route to go when they start a new job. If you choose not to disclose, as I have said before, it is a personal decision and should be carefully considered . . .

Skills For Residence Hall Success

Many colleges and universities require undergraduates to live on campus, especially during their freshman and sophomore years. “Residence life” (calling on-campus living environments “dorms” is considered a faux pas in higher education these days) requires students to live as a member of a small, interactive society.

Brick Building on University Campus

To be an effective and successful member of an on-campus living environment, one is expected to understand and conform to social norms within residence halls, and to pull one’s own weight –socially, and in regard to independent living – in their dorms.

Students diagnosed with ASD are sometimes challenged in independent living skill development.

Strategies for Solving Math Word Problems

Depending on the grade level of your student or child, a math word problem may involve simple addition to complex rate problems, and everything in between. This week’s blog will explore as many different resources as possible to support word problems in a comprehensive way.

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We will begin with several instructional strategies that are relevant for any content area:

A Day with the great Eustacia Cutler!

Occasionally in life, if you are lucky, you brush alongside greatness. Not celebrity, but greatness. A person truly inspired to invent, revolutionize, and create with the added momentum to actually implement their gift toward worldwide betterment.

I was blessed to have been afforded many hours with such greatness.

Eustacia Cutler was born into a privilege that most only have viewed actress Grace Kelly portray on film. Her book, A Thorn in My Pocket, depicts her life in a nostalgia that few today can even begin to imagine. Her Cotillion, the Dedham Polo Club, times at the Vineyard, life at Cambridge, Harvard, and stories of shared company of notables such as Winston Churchill, George Gershwin and Robert Frost. Talk more with Eustacia, and you will learn of her father’s invention of the gyro-compass revolutionizing flight. However, all of this is not the sum of the greatness of Ms Cutler. You’ve heard the statement not everything that glitters is gold? You see, Eustacia was married and had 4 children, one of whom had Autism.

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In the 50s the pressure to institutionalize such a child came from doctors and family members. But when the pressure came from her husband, she went completely against the grain for the sake of her child, Temple.

Yes, as most of you know Eustacia Cutler is the mother of Dr. Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin who went on to revolutionize the cattle industry as well as turn the world’s perception of Autism on its ear. Most of this information you probably already know, but the part you do not know is the day I was afforded time alongside Eustacia Cutler.

The 23rd Annual Texas Autism Conference was held in Corpus Christi this past week, and Sam and I had been asked to speak at one of the break-out sessions. The keynote speaker was Eustacia Cutler, who at the age of 88 offered such valuable and insightful information to the thirsty crowd of educators, parents and professionals, they were brought to their feet more than once. Her clarity, concern and connection with all in the room (primarily the mothers) intrigued my autistic son, Sam who was one of 4 to jump at the chance when the offer came to come up to the podium alongside her for a personal Q & A. When Sam (one of very few males in attendance) approached her and announced his name, and that he had Aspergers Syndrome the applause resonated with acceptance. Sam poised the question if Ms. Cutler was familiar with Moore’s Law which states that technology will grow at an exponential rate and if so, how does she perceive it will affect people with aspergers? Without missing a beat and looking my son straight in the eye she stated we, as humans, have a challenge ahead of us. Technology is essential, but perhaps Sam could be a forerunner bearing the seemingly impossible task of keeping the human factor within the technology field.

Her mind ever-sharp and in the moment allowed for many ‘ahh’ moments to walk away with. Here are just a few:

College “tricks” essential for those with Aspergers

College “tricks” essential for those with Aspergers

Guest: Dr. Marc Ellison/Executive Director West Virginia Autism Training Center
Jennifer and Samuel Allen discuss College and Asperger Syndrome with Dr. Marc Ellison. Dr. Ellison shares insights and suggestions from topics such as social skills to college preparation in this edition of Top of the Spectrum News.

Reading Emotions: Anxiousness

Anxiousness is one of those emotional states we see in the face; but perhaps most of all we see it in the movements of the body.

(Note: there is purposely no audio with the above video)

When we become anxious we lose some control over our actions. Carrie’s hands are raised, partially covering her face, as her fingers scratch nervously. Her gaze is unfocused and shifts direction from side to side and then upwards.

SODAS Method: Choosing Disclosure

Last week we defined full disclosure of your disability, and accommodations. Often times individuals will have more than one disability, but only one of them may be a concern in the workplace. What I mean by this is that one disability may stay hidden while the other one is visible.

SODAS Method Choosing Disclosure

As I have worked through the disclosure process with my clients they frequently only want to let one disability be known. To work through this we often use the SODAS method, which stands for: Situation Options Disadvantages Advantages and Solution.

The following is an example of the SODAS method: 

Social Language or “Pragmatics”

Consider that your child may not know how to use language appropriately in social situations; this undeveloped social skill can cause your child to unintentionally say harmful or rude comments to others. Even when able to say words clearly in complex sentences with correct grammar, a child still may have a communication problem – if he or she has not mastered the rules for social language known as pragmatics.

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Pragmatics includes three major communication skills:

Academic Success Through Steps

In last week’s blog, we discussed how to increase motivation and focus through the use of a Bingo card. The use of choice and positive reinforcement make for a powerful teaming of strategies. This week, we will continue to break things down into smaller, more doable pieces of information. For instance, on the checklist or bingo card, it is time to complete 5 math problems. Another layer of support is a list of the steps necessary to complete those problems. From early grades through secondary, activities can be enhanced with a list of how to complete that activity, a task analysis.

Academic Success Through Steps

As with most strategies, the benefit extends beyond students with an autism spectrum disorder. Nicole Romero, a 2nd grade teacher, has embraced the idea of visual supports to aid instructional success for ALL students.