Q & A with Lisa Rogers: Troubled Teen, Desperate Mom

 

Q:Dear Lisa,

“I have a son diagnosed with moderate to high-Functioning Autism who is currently enrolled in public Middle School. Though he is going through a natural teenage rebellion, I feel his autism is playing a huge role in the challenges he (and we, his parents) is currently facing. He struggles to communicate and he has poor receptive language, so even though he is very verbal- a lot of times he misunderstands. And then he misinterprets and he gets very angry. He has been on meds since he was 5 to maintain mood. In the last few months he has become increasingly consumed with the computer, staying up late, wanting to sleep late, and only coming out for food. I know how to do all the schedules and what not, but he doesn’t care or want to comply. He is 6 ft tall and 250 pounds. He has an excellent teacher that provides structure in his Total Language Communication class. Our son Trevor is addicted to technology. When we (his parents) as well as his teacher at school try and limit on-line play time he has become angry to the point to hitting the teacher and his father. He ran away from home but the police brought him back that same day. I hate the computer! But he plays mine craft online and has friends that he talks to. It is like his only source of socialization. So we are at a point where we may need professional support to help him get motivated to do something. I’m out of ideas. And I’m tired. please help!”

-Rebecca

REP. SIMMONS LAUDS DPS FOR AUTISM SPECTRUM INITIATIVES

Note: "Aspergers101 is proud to announce it's "Driving with Autism" program in conjunction with the Texas DPS and endorsed by the Texas Governors Committee for People with Disabilities and Dr. Temple Grandin".   - Jennifer Allen/Founder Aspergers101

04/28/2016                                                                      by: Rep. Simmons, Ron

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Texas State Rep. Mr. Ron Simmons

AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), along with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and advocacy group Aspergers101, announced initiatives designed to assist Texans with communication impairments. DPS also announced it will coordinate with Aspergers101 to provide training and education to DPS officers about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and potential communications challenges associated
with ASD and other disorders. In addition, the department announced it is working with Aspergers101 to develop a camp that will help increase driver confidence and practical skills among communication-challenged individuals.

“I appreciate DPS’ proactive approach to address this matter before problems arise,” State Representative Ron Simmons (Carrollton) said upon hearing about the department’s actions. “As the father of an autistic son living independently, I understand the importance of transportation independence for individuals on the autism spectrum as well as their loved ones.”

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Pictured (l to r) Mr. Joe Peters, Major Jason Hester, Jennifer Allen, Samuel Allen and Mr. Ron Lucey

DPS has offered a special designation on state issued drivers licenses and ID cards to facilitate better communication between officers and communication-challenged individuals. Such individuals may (but are not required to) request a “communication impediment” designation be placed on their driver license/ID card. Printed on the back of a driver license/ID card, the voluntary designation informs officers of a communication challenge in order to help facilitate better communication during any encounter with the individual. This designation, already in use to assist hearing-impaired individuals with officer communications, has been expanded to include individuals diagnosed with certain medical conditions – such as autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, or stuttering impairment.

“At DPS, our mission is to serve and protect the people of Texas,” DPS Assistant Director for the Driver License Division Joe Peters said. “This optional notice on the driver license and ID card puts important information in the hands of our law enforcement officers, which will help them better serve and protect individuals with a communication impediment.”
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Including Parents in the Community of Support

Rights afforded by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) transfer from parents to their children when those children enter college or turn eighteen years old. As a result, parents are unable to provide the same levels of support and advocacy they provided when their child was in high school. Parents of college students are, generally, unable to: talk to instructors, request information about grades, explain to instructors how their child experiences ASD, or provide information about accommodations that may be helpful to their child living on the spectrum.

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While many faculty and staff fear the hovering of the stereotypical “helicopter parent,” college support staff who truly understand how best to serve students with ASD recognize the value that parents bring to a student’s community of support. In general, parents of students with ASD have “been there and done that,” in regard to education; many can provide advice about the most subtle of modifications that, when implemented, may help their child be successful in a college classroom. College support staff would be wise to consider how to effectively integrate parents into the support programs of college students with ASD.

Examples of how that can be accomplished without violating the rights of the student include:

Narratives to Address Sensory Differences

Although sensory differences are very real and must be recognized as such, narratives can help to deal with these differences. For instance, there was a high school student that was having significant difficulty with the hallway transition from class to class. Not only was there the loud bell that signals the transition, but then it was followed by a crowded hallway and noisy teenagers talking in groups.

One way to address this might be to allow an early release from class to avoid much of this hallway chaos. Another option is to provide a narrative that helps deal with this difficult transition.

The following is an example of such a narrative:

Initiatives to Help Texas Drivers with Communication Challenges

image003 FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION        PRESS RELEASE
April 25, 2015        Media and Communications Office                                                                          

Initiatives to Help Texas Drivers with Communication Challenges

AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), along with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and Aspergers101, today announced initiatives designed to assist Texans who have communication impairments. In an effort to facilitate effective communication, DPS first reminded Texans of the communication impediment option that drivers may select to be reflected on their driver licenses/ID cards. DPS also announced that it has recently coordinated with Aspergers101

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(L to R) Mr. Joe Peters/Asst Director Texas DPS Driver License Division, Major Jason Hester/Texas DPS Education, Training Division, Jennifer Allen/CEO Aspergers101, Samuel Allen/Aspergers101 and speaking, Mr. Ron Lucey/Executive Director Texas Governors Committee on People with Disabilities.

to allow them to provide training and education to DPS officers about autism spectrum disorders, other disabilities and potential communications challenges associated with those disorders. In addition, the department announced that it is working with Aspergers101 to develop a Driving With Autism camp that will help increase driver confidence and practical skills.

“At DPS, our mission is to serve and protect the people of Texas,” said DPS Assistant Director for the Driver License Division Joe Peters. “This optional notice on the driver license and ID card puts important information in the hands of our law enforcement officers, which will help them better serve and protect individuals with a communication impediment.”

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Tips When Being Pulled Over By An Officer

AS101 "Driving with Autism" series

The fear, for many with autism who are licensed to drive, stems from anxiety that can result from being pulled over by an officer of the law. In some cases, fear of just that very scenario is the reason many never pursue obtaining their drivers license!  Good communication skills and actions are key to making a already stressful situation go without incident for anyone but with the diagnosis of autism, aspergers or speech impediment(s) misinterpretation is almost a certainty.  Dr. Louise O’Donnell,  who specializes in Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology at UTHSC in San Antonio Texas, offers suggestions to make a ‘pull-over’ go without incident.

(video) Dr. Louise O’Donnell/UTHSC  : Part 1

Things to remember when you are pulled over:

  1. Do not panic (deep breaths)
  2. Do not get out of your vehicle
  3. Wait for the officer to approach you

Using the Chill Zone to De-Stress

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.

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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.

New Drivers License Restriction Code for Autism? It’s in the works!

Whether to drive with High Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome is as individual a question as is the person. For many there is no interest in obtaining a drivers license as public transportation more than serves the purpose. For others, the heightened sensory issues and accompanying ADD make driving an almost dangerous venture. However, for those truly wanting the independence that driving can bring but fear the strong potential for communication mis-understanding with a law enforcement officer….we may have some good news that’s on the horizon!

Sam DL backsideIn the United States, the Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Transportation policies varies from state to state.  Though many countries/states have various polices in place concerning driving with an impairment or disability, it’s not enough….we need more.

My son Sam (age 20) and I reside in the State of Texas and presented a plan that would notify law enforcement, through a drivers license restriction, of autism in an individual. A newly assigned restriction code would alert an officer of the law that this person has Autism and is wired differently: most likely not understanding sarcasm, social cues nor respond well to threats or loud sounds. The restriction “Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer” is available through Texas DPS.

As it stands today, if you live in the State of Texas (hopefully other states will soon follow suit) here are the steps you need to take to get this protective/restriction code on your drivers license.

Adding Communication Impediment to y
our driver license is simple:

1) Have your physician complete and sign
a Physician’s Statement Form (DL101) affirming the autism diagnosis. 

2) Visit your local driver license office for
a driver license application (DL14A/S). Be sure and complete Line 7 (or like the Texas Veterans Commission, you could extract the line from the form for emphasis)

For all Texas Driver License forms go to www.dps.texas.gov/DriverLicense

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.

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 Center for Social Learning and Understanding , 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.