Lessons learned from kids with diverse abilities

I say diverse abilities because one thing that I have learned from working and playing with children and adults with developmental disabilities is that they understand more than neuro-typical children and adults do.

Five young friends jumping outdoors smiling

You may understand if you’ve ever heard the phrase “Dance like no one is watching.” and if you crave the freedom and joy that behaving that way can bring. They live their lives like no one is watching. They may not even have the ability to sensor their thoughts. This really brings a sense of freedom and joy that no one else (I know) can truly understand.

It is the rest of the world who has a problem with what a child like this does and says.  If society could be “okay” with this, than they could be “okay” with truly BEING authentic with who they are. These “children” taught me so much about being authentic and not worrying about what other people see or think. It was years later, when I became a mother again, that I realized just how much they taught me.

**This blog is a continuation from a previous post by Katherine Goodsell, you can find it here.

AuTalkz – “Mainstream”

Though it can be inspirational to hear that a celebrity has Asperger’s, it tends to be more annoying than anything else, especially in the cases where someone admits it and was diagnosed long ago, but hasn’t come out and said it until now.

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There are a lot of breakthroughs being made in autism research, and psychologists are starting to understand it more and more.  I feel it’s become “mainstream”, even.  The diagnosis rate is going up, and people are either getting diagnosed as adults or coming out and saying they’ve had it all their lives.

Asperger’s and Intense Interests

Autistically Speaking with Sam Allen

You are probably familiar with the idea of intense interests. Whether it be weather or automobiles, your child with high-functioning autism/Asperger’s Syndrome has had an intense interest in some kind of subject. This behavior is natural because I too have had and still have intense interests in certain things.

Sam building a computer For example, when I was young, I was fascinated by trains. My parents would take me to train museums, and you’d have my full attention if you mentioned anything about trains. Then the interest shifted to tornadoes. I had a couple of VHS tapes about tornadoes and I would watch them repeatedly.

My interest then shifted to airplanes. I had Flight Simulator 2004 and Flight Simulator X. In fact, I would love to hear flight stories from my grandfather because he used to be a Cessna pilot years ago.

Currently, my interest is Mechanical Engineering. I took an advanced engineering class during high school, and I was given an award for that class that is only given to one person in the class. I was lucky to be picked for the honor.

It’s normal for your child’s interest to shift as time goes on. If they like trains like I did, then take them to a train museum or a train station. If they like automobiles, take them to a car show. Let them get involved with whatever their interests are!

By Sam Allen

Is Higher Education Ready to Support Students with Asperger’s Disorder? ~ Part 2

In 2013, to fulfill the requirements of my doctoral degree, I surveyed disability service professionals at 578 degree-granting, four-year public institutions of higher education. The survey was designed to determine the current readiness of higher education to support the academic, social and communication, and independent living needs of college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder. 40% of the institutions surveyed (230 colleges), participated in the survey.

Male student

The survey was designed around the Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Asperger’s Disorder (Ellison, Clark, Cunningham, & Hansen, 2012), a checklist of efforts determined by experts as integral to effective college supports for this student population. The 2012 study by Ellison et al. demonstrated college students with Asperger’s Disorder required specialized supports, and that disability services available traditionally on campus to this population were generally ineffective. The 2013 nation-wide survey explored, in part, whether or not colleges had specialized supports for this student population outside of traditional disability services.

This article is the second in a three-part series that reports the outcomes of that research.

DIR/Floortime Method

Although our emphasis is often focused on early intervention, it is important to consider various types of interventions that can grow with the child with Aspergers or HFA as he or she rounds the corner into adolescence, another area of huge potential growth. One approach that has demonstrated clinical impact is DIR/Floortime, a relationship-based, developmental framework that is geared toward supporting foundational social-emotional capacities.

The DIR Model, or Floortime, aims to support higher level thinking abilities of multicausal and reflective thinking by building foundational stability in self-regulation and co-regulation with another. DIR/Floortime incorporates techniques and strategies geared toward promotion of more stable and more flexible emotional regulation in the child or adolescent.

Preparing the Autistic Driver: A Look at Motor Skills

Aspergers101 Driving with Autism Series

With this first in a series of many blogs, Aspergers101 has taken the question of driving safely with Autism to the experts and will focus specially on motor skill challenges when preparing to drive.

Dr. Berenice de la Cruz, Training and Research Director at the Autism Community Network, offers a great overview and insight into the differences in the autistic brain and how those differences affect the skills it takes to drive.

There are three structural differences in the autistic brain. These differences will most likely affect Motor Skills, Communication (Social) skills and Sensory.


Dr. Berenice de la Cruz/Training and Research Director/Autism Community Network

Both fine and gross motor skills are typical challenges for many diagnosed with High Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome. implicit_learning_hero

So when it comes to learning to drive, or at lease considering if driving may be an option, it is imperative to overcome the challenges that can impede safe driving. Dr. Temple Grandin stated that if it were not for her ability to drive, she would never have been able to visit all of the feed/stock yards to do her prep work for her cattle handling designs. Motor Skills can be a challenge especially with multi-tasking when learning to drive… but not impossible to overcome.

Living with Aspergers in Positivity

Autistically Speaking with Stevan Eveleigh

In 2013 I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at 40 years of age. I wasn’t surprised that I had Asperger’s Syndrome, in fact I already knew before my assessment results were completed, because I always feel  different to everyone else in the world. There are times when I feel like an alien to this planet, and always feel out of place and socially awkward.

The reasoning behind my video was a way to shout out to the world that I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I wanted this video to help myself overcome my childhood’s trauma of being bullied at school from both the teachers / lecturers and pupils.

I was always called the lazy one, the day-dreamer, the worrier, the person who doesn’t listen and the person who struggles with math; these are just a few examples. I also felt the need to get my message across to other people with Asperger’s Syndrome and to tell them that everything is alright. Take myself as an example, I am happy and living my life to the full as possible and trying to make a difference in the world.

Looking back at the struggles and finding peace with the successes

Forward: Many years after childbirth the memory of the pain subsides and the first embrace of your child remains strong. You don’t forget the pain…but the thrill of your child’s arrival occupies the majority of your feelings.

The same has occurred with the maturing of my autistic son Sam. I found this brief blog (below) that I had written when he was still in early grade school. The feelings were still fresh and I thought I would re-post as many will relate to the raw feelings that have seemed to fade and the years roll on.

A doctor once told me, “With aspergers and high functioning autism, it gets easier for them, socially, as they age.” I have found this to be true!

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The story of Sam cannot be told with just a list of positive aspects. It is their lifetime of physical and mental struggle that you work to overcome for your child. Such is the daily journey of my son…one that my husband, youngest son and I take with him daily as he lives with a form of autism titled Aspergers.

Maximize Potential in the Workplace

My job is to bring people together—to create an environment where the employee can maximize their potential and an employer can utilize that potential.

Female Supervisor Using Digital Tablet At Warehouse

As an employment specialist for Compass Resource Group one of my first steps in trying to uncover their potential is to assess the soft and hard skills of the individual. In my experience this seems to be the greatest barrier individuals with Asperger’s face. In the next few entries I plan to discuss the difference between hard and soft skills as they apply to both the search for and maintenance of employment.