Maverick Crawford III – Beating the Odds for Success

A Testament to Overcoming Adversity

Lao Tzu said it best,”A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” If this holds true, Maverick Crawford III has certainly walked many miles as a person diagnosed with Autism. Aspergers101 is proud to have Maverick as a regular blogger as his insights into overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles proves to be a favorite among those seeking inspiration. Today, we feature Maverick in a one-on-one interview as he discusses his recent award from the University of Texas at San Antonio, the COPP (College of Public Policy) Most Outstanding Student for the 2017-2018 academic year and the hardships he overcame to achieve success. 

Maverick Crawford III

What did it mean to you to win the most outstanding student award?

A few days before the ceremony, I received several emails from a staff working for the Associate Dean of COPP. The emails were in regards to have a meeting with Dr. Romero in the in her office and then by Starbucks, but then I was in for a surprise the next day. I come to meet Dr. Romero at Starbucks, but she has not arrived, and two minutes later she came out of an auditorium. She asked for me to talk to some high school seniors and I accepted, and that’s was when she announced that I won the Most Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award. For the longest time even on the day I received the beautiful glass award with my name and the name of the award, it seemed like a dream to me. I would have never thought I would win. I was in disbelief and shock, but I was extremely humbled to receive the award.

Tell us a little bit about your role while you interned at the U.S. Pretrial Services.

I deal with offenders on a different level shadowing officers. I got to sit in on an interview with a person who was recently arrested. I did two interviews and asked them questions about their background. These questions helped to determine if the offenders can be released on bond. I had to complete a report at the end of the interview. One of the defendants that I interviewed had autism, and I was able to explain to the Pretrial Officer about a possible sanction to place on the defendant to ensure the safety of the community, and they will appear back in court, and it worked. I told them to have detailed step instructions with kept the defendant on a strict routine because people with autism react significantly with strict adherence to a schedule. This helped me learn more about the administration of the court system and how the material I learn the classroom applies and operated.

Preparing for the Future

How did your double major in criminal justice and public administration prepare you for your future?

It prepared me for a career in public service. Those majors helped me be a better advocate for underprivileged communities. It’s vital that their voices are heard too. Dr. Patricia Jaramillo was a significant influence in adding public administration to my degree plan. She told me I could still graduate on time with a double major from COPP. Dr. Jaramillo and other professors in the College of Public Policy are dedicated to preparing the students for a career in public services by educating them through their experiences and expertise in their respective fields. When I took the public administration courses, I was able to see how the government plays out. When I took criminal justice courses at UTSA, I learned about alternative ways that not hold the offender accountable, but gets the underlying issues of their behavior like Restorative Justice, Specialty Courts, and Juvenile Justice.

Tell us a little bit about your diagnosis with an intellectual disability and autism. What was it like for you growing up?

The community I was from is set up for autistic people, people like me, to fail; without the ability to succeed in any form or fashion. Another big issue in the minority community is that mental health is not addressed and no one believes in it. Since mental health was somewhat a myth to the community, it was a struggle I endure in my life. I was diagnosed with a severe speech impediment, severe mental retardation, severe expressive and receptive language disorder, severe sensory integration dysfunction, auditory processing disorder, dysgraphia (a disorder that causes inability to write coherently), issues with motor processing, anxiety, seizure disorder, and depression. My speech impediment was so severe, I remained silent most of the time to not to embarrass myself.

Developing Social Skills

The topics discussed in this blog are often inspired by questions from readers.  This week’s topic of developing social skills is in response to such a question from a parent.

social skills

As you develop social skills, it would be helpful to identify the specific skill[s] that you and your child feels would be most beneficial.  For instance, do they struggle in initiating conversations?

If so, then two strategies might be helpful that you can work on at home.

First, conversation starters or scripts might provide the support necessary to engage in this difficult social skill.  More information can be found in a publication title:  Life Journey Through Autism:  An Educator’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome which is available as a free download at the following website:  http://researchautism.org/

A companion strategy is video modeling.

Depending on the specific skills that you want to develop, you can either make, find or purchase videos that teach how to do that specific skill. I have found some quality videos on YouTube or TeacherTube.  Another resource for purchase is available through Model Me Kids at http://www.modelmekids.com/.

In trying to provide information about programs that are evidence-based, I would like to share the following from the attached article titled:

Evidence-Based Social Skills Training for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The UCLA PEERS Program

My Son with Aspergers: Through the Eyes of a Father

I am the father of a son with Aspergers Syndrome and through the years of my wife and I raising him, it has had many challenges for me.  As a father I wanted him to take interest in outdoor activities, sports and other things that we could do together but while he was not interested in these things there were other items of interest that I had to adapt to in order to spend the most amount of quality time with him.

My Son: Through the eyes of a Father

While he may not have had interest in what I thought a young boy, now a man, “should” be interested in, he has opened my eyes to a different world that has brought us closer together over the years. I just had to be the one to approach his interests with an open mind and with the idea that these were things we could do as a father and son.

The many times that my son was being called names or bullied by his peers I had to be supportive and encouraging in creative ways, primarily to teach him how to ignore those and look forward to the future with special father and son times together.

Some words of advice from a father of an aspie:

  • Learn to be a listener;
  • Take interest in his activities, not those you think a young man should take interest in;
  • Find things to do outside the home that you can teach him and he is interested in;
  • Be supportive and patient, as typically those with Aspergers will find it difficult to relate to things we take for granted as well as conveying their thoughts in the same manner we are accustomed to;
  • Above all, be a father as well as a dad, they will never forget the times you spend with them and the memories you are making.

by Herb Allen

Social Skills and College for Students with Aspergers Syndrome

Top of the Spectrum News

Social Skills and College for Students with Aspergers Syndrome

Guest(s): Dr. Marc Ellison/Executive Director of the West Virginia Autism Training Center

This edition of Top of the Spectrum New discusses social skills and college for those with Aspergers. Dr. Marc Ellison, who has successfully created a wing for those with Autism at the Marshall University West Virginia Autism Training Center, offers insights for college preparation. Since 2002, Marshall University has successfully supported (and graduated) over 100 students with Aspergers Syndrome.

How is Autism Diagnosed? Part One

So, how is Autism diagnosed? Until recently, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), including Aspergers Syndrome, have been understood as a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders—characterized by social impairments, difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.

Psychological therapy

Changes in definition have been proposed and accepted by different organizations and groups in the United States and other parts of the world. The changes have been discussed in other posts; meanwhile, I will address how autism is diagnosed.

At the present time, a single test to diagnose autism does not exist. We do know that a biological or single genetic marker has not been identified, thus, autism cannot be diagnosed with a blood test or imaging studies. It is rather a diagnosis that is primarily identified by behavioral and developmental differences.

As parents know their children better than anyone else, they are usually the first to suspect their child is following a different developmental trajectory.

Autism has its roots in very early development—many parents would report that they saw differences shortly after birth—however, signs of Autism are usually apparent between the first and second birthdays.

Using Narratives in School 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.

narrative

 

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:

Passing Period at High School

My name is ___________. I am a student at _________ High School.

In High School, there are different periods. A bell rings at the end of each period.

When the bell rings, the students walk in the hall to go to their next class.

Sometimes, the students make a lot of noise as they walk down the hallway. This might hurt my ears.

That is O.K. The passing period lasts only for a few minutes. Soon, the halls will be quiet again.

I remember that I can just wear my headphones & listen to music during the passing period.

Then, I will get to walk to my next class where it is nice and quiet.

I can do this!

Staff noticed that the student would repeat the story to himself while walking down the hall. A narrative can validate feelings, provide a solution and even offer comfort during a stressful time.

The following is another example of a narrative addressing sensory issues. This time, the narrative was written for a student that wanted to hug her classmates frequently and deeply to get that deep pressure feeling.

Adults with Aspergers and Social Techniques: Learning Personal Space

Q&A with Ken Kellam

Q: Could you go into detail on other types of relationships (friends, co-workers, acquaintances, etc.) that you have had? Do you have a specific example of a misstep? Or situation that you were able to handle because of something you had been taught?

social skills, aspergers, personal space

A: Years ago, I was asked to help lead songs for a college-age Bible study (I was 30). Eventually, some of the women in the group went to the leader and told him they were uncomfortable with the way I looked at them. I was asked not to come back. I was in complete shock, and kept trying to figure out where I went wrong.

A little over a year later, I overheard a co-worker make a similar complaint about me (she was on her phone and didn’t realize how loud she was).

It was then that I realized I did indeed have a problem with staring, and didn’t even know when I was doing it.

I worked with a counselor who taught me techniques on giving people space, and how to give people a break from my eye contact. He taught me things about body language that I had never thought of before. I put these learned techniques into practice in subsequent social situations.

I learned to closely monitor how long I looked at someone, and how much personal space I was giving them. These things were extremely beneficial to my interaction with others, and I’m sure made others more comfortable around me.

There’s no comparison. I used to compare myself to everyone around me, and they always came out better. Is the grass really greener?

by Ken Kellam

Aspergers and Driving Judgment – Planning to Make it Clear

Driving with Autism

Aspergers youth process information differently than their neuro-typical peers. More specifically, they generally think in a visual, concrete, detail-oriented manner for every task. They like to know every detail about something, especially when it is critical to survival and to excellence at a given task; driving encompasses both survival and excellence.

Driver’s education courses and books serve as necessary and insightful preparatory activities for the inexperienced and exceptional driver. Further, each driver has different habits and preferences, good and bad. When a driver or parent uses these habits advantageously, they serve as indicators for level of comfort and as foreshadowers of future mistakes.

Among the most common and serious issues that Aspergers youth face is the fact that many of them do not always think fast enough to make snap decisions. This issue especially applies when Aspergers drivers travel in unfamiliar places in general.

For example: an Aspergers driver who usually travels on two-lane in-state roadways near his home would likely have trouble navigating through a series of one-way city streets in Baltimore, MD, considering that he does not typically watch out for one-way signs there.

As a safeguard, they desire to stick with the same few routes every day because they fit into their pre-established driving parameters. These parameters could include the avoidance of bridges due to fear of heights or bumpy roads due to sensory overload caused by bouncing in the seat.

Let’s face it, unpleasant stimulation and loss of direction often triggers meltdowns and panic attacks in the Aspergers driver, thereby further clouding his judgment. Behind the wheel, one bad situation leads to another.

To resolve these issues, there are actions that parents and Aspergers drivers can both take to make judgment clear in order to ensure safe travels.

Suspect Aspergers?

Our son has Aspergers Syndrome. However, getting the diagnosis didn’t come easy and the path to that diagnosis was rocky to say the least. That was over 10 years ago and still the following checklist we received from our school district is the best heads-up to having Aspergers Syndrome that I’ve seen to date. It cuts to the chase.

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The following is only meant as a ‘checklist’. Remember, this is not an official document, and is only meant to act as a flag for a strong suspicion of Aspergers Syndrome, a doctor or trained therapist would need to make the official diagnosis.

However if you are looking for a guideline of sorts, it doesn’t get much better or black and white than the form below. It was spot on for us describing our son Sam. We’ve also put it in a downloadable format at the bottom. May it lead you towards illumination!                  -Jennifer Allen/Aspergers101

The Power of Different

Autism certainly has its challenges (especially the comorbidities that may come attached) but surprising are the unique talent/gifts that medical science continues to uncover in the autistic brain. It’s both the challenges and the gifts that are explored in “The Power of Different: The Link between Disorder and Genius”, a book by Dr. Gail Saltz. Saltz is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and a psychoanalyst with the New York Psychoanalytic Institute.

Dr. Gail Saltz

As a columnist, bestselling author, and podcast host, Dr. Saltz is one of the nation’s foremost experts on a variety of psychological and mental health issues. Aspergers101 featured Dr. Saltz in last years San Antonio event, Unlocking the Potential: An Evening with Dr. Temple Grandin, where Saltz referred to medical science discoveries of the autistic mind. It’s that video clip we want to share with you as Dr. Saltz reminds us clinically and emotionally, the power of different.

The Power of Different Podcasts

Have you ever noticed that many of the people most famous in history for having been extraordinary artists, musicians, writers, scientists, leaders, inventors were also uniquely different? Have you wondered why so many struggled with mental illness, dyslexia or some other unusual deficit? A significant percentage of today’s extraordinary individuals are quietly also todays sufferers. According to Dr. Saltz, there is a connection between talent, ability, creativity and minds that are wired differently and that is what she explores on her “The Power of different” podcast. Saltz will offer you their stories as well as experts in brain sciences who will help shed light on this phenomenon. You can email Dr. Saltz directly with your questions and show suggestions at thepowerofdifferent@gmail.com.