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Excellent basic overview of High Functioning Autism and Aspergers Syndrome!

The Coping to Excelling documentary sheds illuminating light on the topic of High-Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome in school-aged children. Narrated by a Mother of a son with Asperger’s, this engaging program allows the viewer to ‘see through the eyes’ of those on the high end of the autism spectrum while getting advice from experts such as Dr. Temple Grandin, Dr. Tony Attwood, Jennifer McIlwee Myers, Billy Edwards and many more!

“I would strongly recommend the Coping to Excelling DVD not only for parents, especially those of a newly diagnosed child, but also for teachers and professionals!”

– Dr. Tony Attwood

 

 

 

The DVD, Coping to Excelling, is divided into 5 chapters each lasting just over 10 minutes. The chapters may be viewed independently or the entire Documentary (lasting 68 minutes) may be viewed in it’s entirety.

Chapters include:

  • Understanding High-Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome – a broad overview
  • The Family Unit – The importance thereof
  • Choices in Education – Pro’s and con’s of all methods
  • Bullying – re-enactments and solutions
  • Social Development – suggestions and tools from the experts

 

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What If It Snowed In San Antonio?

A Care-giver Series: by Dr. Ghia Edwards

This is the third installment of my piece speaking about the health of a caregiver and it has been an interesting journey these past weeks. We as caregivers get in such and stay in such serious modes, that sometimes it takes something drastic to pop us out of our self imposed prisons of heaviness and sometimes fear. It was almost two years ago to the date that in San Antonio and much of Texas it full on snowed! Now for some of us who were raised around snow, (my parents were bi coastal people), this could have seemed mundane but it was not anything of the sort. I was so happy and joyful that it was snowing, I surprised myself and as I looked around me, everyone and I mean everyone was smiling and laughing and making snowballs and snowmen. Then it hit me, it hit me why I had to wait till this very moment to write this very thing. Life and it’s tragedies are real but in those moments of lifting and or explaining, or seeing people’s faces in reaction to perhaps a behavior your person was exhibiting, in those moments the divine breaks in. Now maybe it’s not snow in the south or something as drastic as that but I believe wholeheartedly that we are given sweet miracle moments that release us from the prison and remind us that we are free to live and enjoy and to find joy in the big and little things in life. I can tell you, I love each and every one of you who are struggling to be, when you don’t even know if you can put one foot in front of the other. I send you thoughts and knowledge that you can find the divine and joy in your task of caregiving, you just have to seek them, to go after them because joy can seem fleeting like the melting snow but the take away is this. When we can choose to see the beauty in a smile, or in a victorious moment where we somehow connect to and with our people, then that is where we see the miracles happen of this season and all year round . We may feel exhausted and cranky sometimes as caregivers but let us remember the beauty we are giving we get back in unexpected ways. Seek those moments and I know you will not be disappointed.

Joy and Peace,

Dr. Ghia

dr.ghia7@gmail.com

 

Using Topic Cards to Develop Social Skills in ASD Youth

Topic cards are similar to scripts in that they can help students engage in a variety of topics, beyond their own interests. They are different in that they include just a few words that describe a topic that launch a student or group students in a particular direction. 

Using Choice to Increase Academic Success

A teacher had created a special lunch group to help a student at the middle school level engage in appropriate teen conversations. She had one main interest and it would dominate every conversation. Her interest was in princesses and everything having to do with them. For most young teen girls, princesses were not much of an interesting topic for them.

Apart From the Crowd: Isolation in the Early Years of Diagnosis

A Quick Read

Even before the official diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, we knew our son Sam walked apart from the crowd. His early intense interest in a subject matter, and not in his peers, was the perfect mix for oddity starting the early sociable elementary years.

While we, as Sam’s parents, grew to walk alongside (and later celebrate) the unique perspective Sam had on the world, it was me who was shocked to be set apart from the crowd.

(l to r) Charlie, Jennifer, Herb and Sam

The elementary years were full of field trips, lunch visits, and homeroom activities. When it came time for picking groups for the field trips, my son was not one who other mothers wanted for their sons. At this early age, most mothers were positioning their children to be the best, only with the best, and we didn’t fit their criteria.

So for many of those early years Sam and I sat alone as other mothers invited the more social children to sit with them. Support did not come in familiar places: relatives, neighbors, team sports, youth groups or, field trip Moms. In fact, it was those who were actually abusive to Sam that set the stage for above and beyond parental protection. So different from my youth or perceived visions of parenthood. After the shock and heart wrenching pain for my son, the realization sat in that I too, was isolated.

How Our Family Responded to Isolation

Our family had hit a harsh reality, so we decided to fight back in a way that did no harm to anyone, but bolstered our son’s confidence. We chose our son over the crowd. We eliminated the negative and stuck to the positives. My Mom and Dad (both have since passed) were so very supportive and loving and choose to take a big role in both our sons lives. We clung to that love and our sons were nurtured and flourished. You don’t need or should expect everyone in your family(s) to be supportive, just enjoy who does and build upon that. Together the four of us found a loving church home, become interested in all things our sons were interested in, enjoyed those who did make a conscience effort to be a positive part of our sons lives, traveled on weekends (verses attending typical soccer games), and marched to a new rhythm I had never heard before! At first it was scary, going a route we’ve never taken before. However, after removing the negatives, the anxious worry quickly subsided and Sam (and the rest of us) blossomed!

Hello to star-gazing, train following, computer lessons, pokemon’ tournaments….well you have your list too!

Being apart from the crowd became the norm and our sons both flourished.

I write this not to feel sad or ‘wallow’ in self-pity. Nor have I listed the struggles (you can refer to other posts covering that) of the journey. I write about the choice because it is that simple. Because this probably happens to many parents of a child on the spectrum. I want to encourage you to persevere and hold onto the unique qualities that are the very being of your Asperger child and to let go of any expectations you may have of others taking part. Bottom line: Forge your own path for your child and take along the handful of people who do want to be a part.

It does get easier the older they get, and the reward will be a son or daughter who knows that their uniqueness is a gift. Recently Sam was asked what it “felt” like to have Autism. His matter of fact reply was priceless: “Don’t think of Autism as a weight, think of it as a pair of wings”.

Being apart from the crowd is a great thing indeed.

By Jennifer Allen

Temple Grandin Explains: Choosing the Right Job for People with ASD

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 neurotypicals. I have great difficulty with tasks that put high demands on short-term working memory. I cannot handle multiple tasks at the same time.

employment, jobs

Table 1 is a list of BAD jobs that I would have great difficulty doing.

Table 2 is a list of easy jobs for a visual thinker like me.

I have difficulty doing abstract math such as algebra and most of the jobs on Table 2 do not require complex math. Many of the visual thinking jobs would also be good for people with dyslexia.

The visual thinking jobs on Table 2 put very little demand on fast processing of information in short-term working memory. They would fully utilize my visual thinking and large long-term memory. Table 3 is a list of jobs that non-visual thinkers who are good with numbers, facts and music could do easily.

They also put low demands on short-term working memory and utilize an excellent long-term memory. Table 4 shows jobs that lower functioning people with autism could do well. For all types of autism and Asperger’s syndrome, demands on short-term working memory must be kept low. If I were a computer, I would have a huge hard drive that could hold 10 times as much information as an ordinary computer but my processor chip would be small.

To use 1999 computer terminology, I have a 1000 gigabyte hard drive and a little 286 processor. Neurotypicals may have only 10 gigabytes of disc space on their hard drive and a Pentium for a processor. I cannot do two or three things at once.

Some job tips for people with Autism or Asperger’s syndrome:

  • Jobs should have a well-defined goal or endpoint.
  • Sell your work, not your personality. Make a portfolio of your work.
  • The boss must recognize your social limitations.

It is important that high functioning autistics and Asperger’s syndrome people pick a college major in an area where they can get jobs. Computer science is a good choice because it is very likely that many of the best programmers have either Asperger’s syndrome or some of its traits. Other good majors are: accounting, engineering, library science, and art with an emphasis on commercial art and drafting. One could major in library science with a minor in history, but the library science degree makes it easier to get a good job.

Some individuals, while they are still in high school, should be encouraged to take courses at a local college in drafting, computer programming or commercial art. This will help keep them motivated and serve as a refuge from teasing.

Families with low income may be wondering how they can afford computers for their child to learn programming or computer aided drafting. Used computers can often be obtained for free or at a very low cost when a business or an engineering company upgrades their equipment.

Many people do not realize that there are many usable older computers sitting in storerooms at schools, banks, factories and other businesses. It will not be the latest new thing, but it is more than adequate for a student to learn on.

In conclusion: a person with Asperger’s syndrome or autism has to compensate for poor social skills by making themselves so good in a specialized field that people will be willing to “buy” their skill even though social skills are poor.

This is why making a portfolio of your work is so important. You need to learn a few social survival skills, but you will make friends at work by sharing your shared interest with the other people who work in your specialty. My social life is almost all work related. I am friends with people I do interesting work with.


Table 1

Bad Jobs for People with High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome: Jobs that require high demands on short-term working memory

  • Cashier — making change quickly puts too much demand on short-term working memory
  • Short order cook — Have to keep track of many orders and cook many different things at the same time
  • Waitress — Especially difficult if have to keep track of many different tables
  • Casino dealer — Too many things to keep track of
  • Taxi dispatcher — Too many things to keep track of
  • Taking oral dictation — Difficult due to auditory processing problems
  • Airline ticket agent — Deal with angry people when flights are cancelled
  • Future market trader — Totally impossible
  • Air traffic controller — Information overload and stress
  • Receptionist and telephone operator — Would have problems when the switch board got busy

Table 2

Good Jobs for Visual Thinkers

  • Computer programming — Wide-open field with many jobs available especially in industrial automation, software design, business computers, communications and network systems
  • Drafting — Engineering drawings and computer aided drafting. This job can offer many opportunities. Drafting is an excellent portal of entry for many interesting technical jobs. I know people who started out at a company doing drafting and then moved into designing and laying out entire factories. To become really skilled at drafting, one needs to learn how to draw by hand first. I have observed that most of the people who draw beautiful drawings on a computer learned to draw by hand first. People who never learn to draw by hand first tend to leave important details out of their drawings.
  • Commercial art — Advertising and magazine layout can be done as freelance work
  • Photography — Still and video, TV cameraman can be done as freelance work
  • Equipment designing — Many industries, often a person starts as a draftsman and then moves into designing factory equipment
  • Animal trainer or veterinary technician — Dog obedience trainer, behavior problem consultant
  • Automobile mechanic — Can visualize how the entire car works
  • Computer-troubleshooter and repair — Can visualize problems in computers and networks
  • Small appliance and lawnmower repair — Can make a nice local business
  • Handcrafts of many different types such as wood carving, jewelry making, ceramics, etc.
  • Laboratory technician — Who modifies and builds specialized lab equipment
  • Web page design — Find a good niche market can be done as freelance work
  • Building trades — Carpenter or welder. These jobs make good use of visual skills but some people will not be able to do them well due to motor and coordination problems.
  • Video game designer — Stay out of this field. Jobs are scarce and the field is overcrowded. There are many more jobs in industrial, communications business and software design computer programming. Another bad thing about this job is exposure to violent images.
  • Computer animation — Visual thinkers would be very good at this field, but there is more competition in this field than in business or industrial computer programming. Businesses are recruiting immigrants from overseas because there is a shortage of good programmers in business and industrial fields.
  • Building maintenance — Fixes broken pipes, windows and other things in an apartment complex, hotel or office building
  • Factory maintenance — Repairs and fixes factory equipment

Table 3

Good Jobs for Non-Visual Thinkers: Those who are good at math, music or facts

  • Accounting — Get very good in a specialized field such as income taxes
  • Library science — reference librarian. Help people find information in the library or on the Internet.
  • Computer programming — Less visual types can be done as freelance work
  • Engineering — Electrical, electronic and chemical engineering
  • Journalist — Very accurate facts, can be done as freelance
  • Copy editor — Corrects manuscripts. Many people freelance for larger publishers
  • Taxi driver — Knows where every street is
  • Inventory control — Keeps track of merchandise stocked in a store
  • Tuning pianos and other musical instruments, can be done as freelance work
  • Laboratory technician — Running laboratory equipment
  • Bank Teller — Very accurate money counting, much less demand on short-term working memory than a busy cashier who mostly makes change quickly
  • Clerk and filing jobs — knows where every file is
  • Telemarketing — Get to repeat the same thing over and over, selling on the telephone. Noisy environment may be a problem. Telephone sales avoids many social problems.
  • Statistician — Work in many different fields such as research, census bureau, industrial quality control, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, etc.
  • Physicist or mathematician — There are very few jobs in these fields. Only the very brilliant can get and keep jobs. Jobs are much more plentiful in computer programming and accounting.

Table 4

Good Jobs for Nonverbal People with Autism or People with Poor Verbal Skills

  • Reshelving library books — Can memorize the entire numbering system and shelf locations
  • Factory assembly work — Especially if the environment is quiet
  • Copy shop — Running photocopies. Printing jobs should be lined up by somebody else
  • Janitor jobs — Cleaning floors, toilets, windows and offices
  • Restocking shelves — In many types of stores
  • Recycling plant — Sorting jobs
  • Warehouse — Loading trucks, stacking boxes
  • Lawn and garden work — Mowing lawns and landscaping work
  • Data entry — If the person has fine motor problems, this would be a bad job
  • Fast food restaurant — Cleaning and cooking jobs with little demand on short-term memory
  • Plant care — Water plants in a large office building

Temple Grandin, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
(November, 1999)

This article was written in 1999 by the Assistant Professor at Colorado State University Dr. Temple Grandin. It is still very relevant today as it applies to job seekers who are on the autism spectrum. As published at: Indiana Institute on Disability and Community 

The Destroying Sociopath

The Monster that Seeks to Manipulate, Fracture and Demolish

It is not Aspergers nor Autism, but it’s a comorbidity that, if undiagnosed may devour, destroy and create a lifetime of chaos in the families they ‘belong’ to. A sociopath is a term used to describe someone who has antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). People with ASPD can’t understand others’ feelings. They’ll often break rules or make impulsive decisions without feeling guilty for the harm they cause. People with ASPD may also use “mind games” to control friends, family members, co-workers, and even strangers. They may also be perceived as charismatic or charming. Know this is NOT autism, it is a comorbidity commonly known as ASPD or Antisocial Personality Disorder.

The above is a clinical definition, but to those abused in the wake of their path, it reads a lifetime of pain. It is a destroyer. It’s what you pray for protection from…and it just might be a family member.

Some people respond to the emotionless stare of a skilled manipulator with discomfort, while others feel hypnotized by them.

The parent must see the signs to recognize and acknowledge their child (or self) has such symptoms. If not for the child, than for the lifetime of grief and destruction (sometimes death) the sociopath will inflict upon all family members and those in their path. Getting early treatment is vital in dealing with all aggressive mental disorders including bi-polar, schizophrenia, mania, oppositional defiant disorder and more. With appropriate diagnosis and treatment, people may find relief from their symptoms and discover ways to cope effectively.

They are compulsive liars and even if they do apologize, it’s never genuine

Sociopaths are people who have little to no conscience. They will lie, cheat, steal and manipulate others for their own benefit. They know exactly what they are doing, they just don’t care because they don’t think that way. If you are naive enough, they will brainwash you into doing exactly what they say and what they want which is the only time a sociopath is truly happy.
Sociopaths can hide this well if you haven’t known them for long. They’re really nice and charming at first, almost too nice, but it’s extremely fake. The niceness will last until a problem occurs in which they are at fault however, you will be manipulated to believe that you are in the wrong. There is no reasoning with this person. Things have to be their way or it’s the highway. They will blame you for hurting them (even if they’re the ones who hurt you) or blame the world for all their problems. They are compulsive liars and even if they do apologize, it’s never genuine. Most are anti social and have few to no friends because most people around them don’t want to associate with them. However the sociopath will again tell you that “people hate me for no reason/the world is against me”. It is said that the only person who will put up with a sociopath is someone who is off their rocker or someone who has absolutely no self respect or quite possibly, it is a relative and not so easy to disassociate.

Sociopathy is more likely the product of childhood trauma and physical or emotional abuse. Because sociopathy appears to be learned rather than innate, sociopaths are capable of empathy in certain circumstances, and with certain individuals, but not others.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), released by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, lists both sociopathy and psychopathy under the heading of
Antisocial Personality Disorders (ASPD). These disorders share many common behavioral traits, which leads to some of the confusion.

Samaki Bilakichwa Studies of depression and personality disorders.

Key traits that sociopaths and psychopaths share include:

  • A disregard for laws and social mores
  • A disregard for the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent or aggressive behavior

Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage. They are more likely than are psychopaths to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society. They are sometimes unable to hold down a steady job or to stay in one place for very long. It is often difficult, but not entirely impossible, for sociopaths to form attachments with others.

Many sociopaths are able to form an attachment to a particular individual or group, although they have no regard for society or its rules in general. Therefore, the meaningful attachments of any sociopath will be few in number and limited in scope. As a rule, they will struggle with relationships.   

One surprising aspect is to see how they enjoy other people’s pain and hardship.

Bill Eddy, LCSW, JD, Training Director of the High Conflict Institute in San Diego

Profile of the Sociopath

Common features of descriptions of the behavior of sociopaths.

  • Glibness and Superficial Charm

  • Manipulative and Conning
    They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.

  • Grandiose Sense of Self
    Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”

  • Pathological Lying
    Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.

  • Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
    A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.

  • Shallow Emotions
    When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.

  • Incapacity for Love

  • Need for Stimulation
    Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.

  • Callousness/Lack of Empathy
    Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.

  • Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
    Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.

  • Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
    Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet “gets by” by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc.

  • Irresponsibility/Unreliability
    Not concerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.

  • Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
    Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts.

  • Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
    Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.

  • Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility
    Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.

Facebook and Social Skills

Growing up there was nothing I wanted more in this world than for people to see me for exactly who I am, and like me for it. I drive myself mad looking for this, because identity is unstable. People change as they get older through a combination of experience, genetic predispositions, and neuroplasticity. Aspergers is one fickle diagnoses, mainly because it is susceptible to all kinds of misinterpretation.
And then this miraculous invention called Facebook came out.

Alix Generous

I joined Facebook in 2006 when it was still a relatively small community. One thing I loved about Facebook is that the social norms were different from in-person interaction, and often times made things easier on me. I can connect with people and not be criticized for my lack of eye contact or vocal tone.

I can filter my blunt comments, and assess my honesty before I say anything. Additionally, I can access hundreds of people within minutes who share my obscure interests, like Russian history or Phantom of the Opera. I think some of the first groups I joined were “addicted to piano,” and “when I was your age Pluto was a planet.” I had lived in 3 states and 2 countries at that point, and I could keep in touch with all of my friends from around the world.
Nowadays it seems like everyone I know is on Facebook and as a result, I have to keep my freak flag on a leash. Both of my grandmas are now on Facebook, and one of them said to me: “You better watch what you post because it might come back to bite you.”

What does that even mean? Do you even know how to use Facebook grandma? Turns out she did and also learned how to use an iPad way before I’d even seen one. To give you an idea of some of the posts my grandma was referring to, here is an example:

Dear girl who cheated off my exam today,
You’re a jerk.
Unfortunately for you, So am I. I put all the wrong answers in for you to copy and waited until you left to put the right ones in. It’s called studying.
sincerely,
Your passive aggressive classmate, Alix
I think social media’s impact on how we incorporate technology in our daily lives can condition us to display Asperger-type symptoms, the kind that my social skills training and family taught me not to do. Growing up my mom taught me to never use my cell phone at the table. To this day I never pull out my cell phone at a nice restaurant, even when asked to. Now when my friends and I go out, one is Instagramming their cocktail, the other answering a text from her husband, etc.
I don’t meet very many people my age who impress me with their ability to hold down a sincere conversation. I went to a youth group activity that was a meet and greet for young adults.  I knew absolutely no one. I turned to this guy next to me and asked casually “What’s your name?”. He responded with one word “Martin,” and didn’t even look me in the eye, but instead was looking down at his phone where he had Facebook open.
I was talking to a CEO who runs a prominent company, he told me that when he hires graduates he looks for people who can look him in the eye,  shake his hand, and carry on a conversation on top of meeting a few of the skills that would contribute to his company (e.g. using a computer program, or proficiency in Spanish, etc). He looks for people who have complex analytical skills or specialize in mastering one area. He could care less about the transcripts or grade point average of our degree.
There is hope for us with autism and there is a reason we should constantly strive to improve our social skills on top of pursuing our interests, because there are people who appreciate us for who we are and what we have. But in order to bridge that gap, we must have those social skills, even if Facebook and other social media is degrading the quality of interactions we have with people in person.
By Alix Generous

Thanksgiving Reminder: “One Size Does Not Fit All” with Autism

The holiday season is a time of friends, family, parties, food, and gifts. It is also a time of tight schedules, inter-personal drama, and occasional overspending. Yes, we all know that holiday cheer comes with its typical share of stressors, but adults with autism spectrum disorders may face a completely different set of challenges than you might expect. Specific sensory needs, unexpected social demands, and changes in routine may be overwhelming to an autistic individual during this time. As friends and families of adults with autism, we can do our part to ease these stresses and help them better cope with all of the holiday parties and family gatherings. Madison House asked advisory board member and self-advocate, Jeffrey Deutsch, Ph.D., to comment on what the public should know about autism and the holiday season. Together, we’ve come up with a list of suggestions that we hope you and your friends find helpful.

1. If you’ve met one Autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person

These sensory issues can also be directly relevant in the holiday setting. For example, a person on the spectrum might be reluctant to wear certain clothing garments or eat certain foods that are considered important for the season. In being mindful of these sensitivities, gift buying for someone with autism can be a little more challenging. When purchasing a gift for a someone on the spectrum, consider asking the individual directly what he would like, if he has any special interests, etc. If you are still unsure as to what to buy, Visa gift cards can be used anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. This is a great option if you’d like the recipient to be able to purchase his or her own gift with flexibility similar to cash.

2. The Right to “Alone Time”

Many people on the autism spectrum are introverted. It is important to remember, especially during the holidays, that things can get overwhelming, and we all value the opportunity to duck out, go off to another room, or take a moment outside and be alone. Those who are socially oriented should take note that not everyone shares their desire for company, and even those who do may not feel like chatting at a given moment. Even with the best intentions, insisting on trying to talk to someone who has asked to be left alone or reprimanding them for being “unfriendly” may be perceived as a form of harassment. A good rule of thumb: People define “personal space” differently. Try not to apply your own definition to the person standing next to you.

3. Practice Tolerance

Be tolerant of certain behaviors even if you don’t ultimately accept them as appropriate. This means that it is okay to insist on certain standards of decorum, such as politeness. However, an individual deviating from socially acceptable norms does not necessarily indicate rudeness. It is okay to correct inappropriate behaviors, but try not to get upset at the person because his intentions might be well-meaning. Pulling the person aside privately and teaching acceptable behavior is one good way to approach this scenario.

4. Plan in Advance

People with autism have a tendency to be at their best when they know of plans in advance and when those plans are adhered to within reason. Changing plans midstream places undue challenges in a variety of different areas. Make a conscious effort to explain to our autistic loved ones how a future event will ensue as it could alleviate a stressful situation later. Dr. Deutsch provided a hypothetical scenario to explain how one with autism might experience a change in plans:

“If you first say, ‘We’ll go to Grandma’s on Thanksgiving 5-8pm’, and then, the day before Thanksgiving, say, ‘Actually, instead of going to Grandma’s house, we’ll all go to Outback Steakhouse from 7 till close,’ we may get cranky. We might have visualized our Thanksgiving in advance: first, doing whatever we do at home until it’s time to leave, then being at Grandma’s house in a familiar atmosphere (including only being around people we’ve at least met before), and then going home to watch a movie before going to bed. Now, we have to change that visualization to doing chores for a couple of hours at home, going out to what may be an unfamiliar restaurant packed with definitely unfamiliar people — who may or may not take our stimming or other habits in stride — and afterwards having to go straight to bed due to the late hour. That change may not give us time to mentally prepare.”

5. Dietary Restrictions

Many people with autism are on special diets in which they cannot consume certain ingredients such as gluten or casein. Just as you would provide options for your vegetarian friends, there is a need to make provisions for these guests. If you know that someone with autism will be attending your holiday event, ask if the individual has dietary restrictions. This way, you can prepare suitable meal options for that person and everyone can be included in the festivities.

by: Shannon Doty and Dr. Jeffrey Deutsch

Madison House Autism Foundation

The Either Or Trap

I have three questions for you…

1. How many times a day, a week do you find yourself with a big old stressful decision?

2. How many of those decisions are simple and completely straight forward?

3. How many times does it feel like you’re saddled with two crappy choices?

beliefs, aspie

The human brain is fascinating and capable of many feats! It’s also prone to getting stuck. When making decisions, one of those sticking points is the Either Or Trap. You know what I mean, EITHER you do this OR that. Here’s why this is oh so common: your brain gets fixated on your habits of perception – the way you see life, people, situations, and then shuts down to any other options. It’s as if there really are only these two options. This is problematic because you literally can’t see other possibilities so you most likely aren’t going to seek out more solutions and people with opposing perceptions. You then make EITHER this decision OR that decision. 

This can feel oddly good at times, like any habit can, yet you also know the sweet freedom that comes from breaking a bad habit.

How can you avoid the Either Or Trap?

  • Acknowledge the tendency for the TRAP
  • Ask what if these didn’t work…what else…
  • Seek out people who think differently than you 
  • Set a timer – mind dump as many possibilities as you can saying AND
  • Ask what you really want to see –  as in wouldn’t it be GREAT IF…

You can absolutely expand your perception. This expansion cultivates more options that are actually connected to your purpose. You then have the freedom to experiment.

Let’s look at an example to see it in action

Your child doesn’t like trying new things – change can be tricky for them because it’s such an unknown. Unknown has been code for it’s scary and must be avoided. Yet, you know it would be helpful for them to expand their repertoire. And necessary.

They don’t wanna so they yell, argue, heavily complain, and shut down.

You EITHER:

Start to think it’s not worth all this extreme hassle and pressure so you let it go…

With that, may come it’s all on them – go do what they want to do – fine, whatever.

OR:

You think they have to learn sometime so come hell or high water now is the time!

With that, may come it’s all on them – sink or swim, baby.

It often comes down to extremes.

The Either Or Trap is all about two extremes.

What if there were other options? I assure you there are…

It’s just that in the heat of the moment with your pattern of survival it’s hard to see – literally your brain has defaulted where you can’t see beyond the two extremes.

Let’s look at expanding perception

  • Define what’s blocking the new experience attempt – what is IT (anxiety, disinterest)
  • Address the specifics – get to the root of fear with AND what else – not the symptom
  • Develop parameters – what will the attempt look like, how long, and debrief plan

Let’s look at potential options

  • Bust out your calendar together – what are the daily, weekly tasks and activities?
  • How much calendar time builds the skills and attitude you actually want?
  • What do you actually want for them? for you? for siblings? for whole family?
  • Brainstorm topics and situations they know nothing or very little about.
  • Choose a topic or situation to experience for a set period of time experiment.

Clarity of focus about what you actually desire breeds connection with what you actually want to do. All the doing and trying without connection keeps a cycle of doing and trying. This breeds fatigue, frustration, and eventually forget-it-ness.