The “Chill Zone”

Do you have a place in your life that you retreat to when you are feeling the stressors of the world come down on you? For some, it might be as simple as your home. For others, it might be in a specific location such as sitting on a bench by the garden, or soaking in the bath tub with some soothing bubbles and lit lavender candles.

Cute kids

The “Chill Pass”

Wherever your “chill zone” is, you are rejuvenated when you emerge and are better equipped to deal with the next stressful challenges that are sure to come. After all, life and stress go hand in hand. It is how one deals with that stress that contributes to their success each day.

Reinforcement for Individuals with Aspergers or HFA

Reinforcement in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) focuses on the outcome of the behavior and increasing the likelihood of certain behaviors occurring in the future. There are two types of reinforcement: positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement.

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Positive reinforcement is when a response is followed immediately by the presentation of a stimulus and, as a result, similar responses occur more frequently in the future. In other words, positive reinforcement means when a behavior has an increased likelihood of occurring again if something is given after it occurs.

Isolation: A Journey Through Autism

We started off this summer with very high hopes and a fresh outlook on life. My friend of over 12 years was moving out to Colorado from California to help us with starting our self-sustaining farm. For the past 8 years or so, we have been dreaming of getting this started, but we have been either too busy supporting the family financially or with taking care of the kid’s needs. To do both of these we needed to be living (at the least) 100 miles away from our property. So when my friend said she would come out, live on the property and get the work started, I thought this was an ideal opportunity, and funny enough, a chance for a less isolated life.

Sad red-haired girl at grass.

Things often don’t go as smoothly as you would expect, however.

It proved too much for her and her family to live on a piece of land (in the middle of nowhere) that had been all but forgotten for the last 5 years and she decided to stay in my home with her two grown kids and five large dogs. I was foolishly ok with this. I mean, how much chaos could this cause in my home? The home in which I live with my two Autistic children and my husband. Oh did I mention we live in a two bedroom home?

Let’s just say, this was doomed from the beginning. 

The Hidden Job Market

Do you know the difference between the hidden job market versus the advertised job market?

The majority of individuals are unaware that a hidden job market exists. The hidden job market includes jobs that are not formally announced on the Internet, the companies website or even by a “now hiring” sign. The hidden job market is often used by the employer to hire someone within their network or their associate’s networks. According to statistics, 80 percent of all jobs are never advertised(Uncovering the hidden job market by Martin Lieberman)

So how does this affect individuals with Asperger’s/HFA?

Well according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data for June 2014 for adults with autism, Autism Speaks has found that 9 out of 10 either are unemployed or underemployed, regardless of their IQ or education level. With 9 out of 10 adults with autism unemployed or underemployed and 80% of the job market hidden, gaining employment can feel insurmountable. However, there are ways to break into the hidden job market and successes that I have had along the way with my personal clients that I will share in the next few entries.

Some of the topics we will cover:

  • cold calling
  • building a network
  • informational interviewing
  • one-minute commercials

Although it seems that the odds are stacked against individuals with Asperger’s/HFA, they are not. Together we will work on breaking down those barriers.

Treatment for Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) can make participation in life activities—what occupational therapists refer to as occupations—very difficult. Luckily, there are options and strategies to help improve sensory processing and make life much smoother and more enjoyable.

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Sensory-based occupational therapy (OT), may look like play to adults, but to the child it is their work and necessary for improving overall abilities to process sensory information more appropriately. Jumping, swinging, climbing and playing in multisensory mediums—such as shaving cream, beans, rice, or play dough—all have a place in their growth and the development of sensory processing abilities.

Assessing Personal Readiness for College

Earlier this year I wrote a three-essay series on the topic of readiness within higher education to support college students with Asperger’s Disorder. The series touched on the ability of colleges to provide effective academic, social, and independent living supports. The “Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Asperger’s Disorder,” a tool to assess readiness of a specific institution, was provided.

University Of Tennessee Hill

But, how do individual students know that they are ready for college?

A Sorrowful Look at an Act of Bullying

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September 2, 2014

For those of you who follow this site regularly…you know that I try to keep the subject matter educational, hopeful, insightful and primarily resourceful. However, one of the main reasons I dedicate my time to aspergers101 is in hopes of preventing any one person, diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome, from bullying, unemployment or isolation. This story breaks my heart but I’m posting for further awareness of harmful acts upon those unable to decipher hate. As Dr. Tony Attwood stated to me once, those with Aspergers have a 100% chance of being bullied.  Be aware of actions around you (parents and teachers) and continue to educate on how wrong bullying is. Let’s make it our business!

-Jennifer Allen

Using Narratives to Develop Social Skills

Although there are neurological differences that contribute to gaps in social connectedness, narratives can help to teach how to interact more appropriately and even how to self-regulate. Narratives usually offer key pieces of understanding that help the individual see a situation more fully, and have some strategies with which to navigate that situation more successfully. By including their own feelings about the situation, the individual can also feel “heard” or validated about their perspective.

People holding hands under cloud with social media communication

There have been several pioneers in this type of intervention, most notably Carol Gray of The Gray Institute, who is the author of Social Stories™. There are several books and many internet resources available on this specific strategy.

A narrative is a brief story or vignette that describes a specific situation with clarifying information. Depending on the challenges presented by the individual, the story or vignette may give insight into why this is important to others, and what they might do differently in order to achieve success in this situation.

There are a variety of presentation styles and options that can be used to meet the needs of diverse learners through narratives.

List of Jobs for Learning Types

As important as it is to understand your learning type, it is also important to know what different types of job you may do well at if you are unsure where to start looking. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and their experiences are not the same. This is not an inclusive list and it written specifically for individuals with Aspergers/HFA.

It is also very important to know that just because you have an interest in a certain area does not mean there is an economy where you live to support it. I would also suggest doing research about the city you live in and the outlook for that type of job.

In November 1999 Temple Grandin wrote a short essay on choosing the right job. Here is a part of the essay:

“Jobs need to be chosen that make use of the strengths of people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Both high and low functioning people have very poor short-term working memory, but they often have a better long-term memory than most normal people. I have great difficulty with tasks that put high demands on short-term working memory.”