Understanding Crisis Behavior in People with Aspergers

Some individuals with Aspergers or HFA may engage in crisis behavior that interferes with their learning, puts themselves or others at risk, prevents them from participating in various activities, or impedes the development of relationships. Crisis behavior can range in severity from low productivity to meltdowns that involve aggression, self-injury, or property destruction. Many individuals unfamiliar with Aspergers may believe these types of behaviors are intentional and malicious. However, it has become well known that problem behaviors often serve a function for the individual engaging in the behaviors. Additionally, deficits in the areas characterized by Aspergers may impact behavior.

Stressed teen girl screaming, shouting

Characteristics associated with Aspergers and how it may lead to crisis behavior:

Cognition

Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurological disorder that impacts the way that individuals think, feel, and react. Individuals with Aspergers are believed to react “emotionally” rather than “logically” during stressful situations and are unable to maintain self-control.

Generalization

Some individuals with Aspergers or HFA may have difficulty applying information and skills across settings, individuals, materials, and situations. Even though socially appropriate alternative strategies have been learned, the individual may be unable to “recall” the strategies while stressed.

The Three Different Learning Types: How Your Learning Type can Affect Employment

During inventory and work assessments, one thing that we as employment specialists learn, and sometimes the individual with Asperger’s/HFA learns as well, is what learning type they are. During the initial stages of assessing our individuals’ best possible work environment, we also discover their learning types: visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. I will now break down these types of learners and how they can affect employment.

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Visual learners

Visual learners prefer using images, pictures, colors, and maps to organize information and communicate with others. They can easily visualize objects, plans and outcomes in their mind’s eye.

Auditory Learners

Auditory Learners learn through listening. An auditory learner depends on hearing and speaking as a main way of learning.  Auditory learners must be able to hear what is being said in order to understand, and may have difficulty with instructions that are drawn. However, if the writing is in a logical order it can be easier to understand. They also use their listening and repeating skills to sort through the information that is sent to them

Kinesthetic/Tactile Learners

Kinesthetic/Tactile Learners are more likely to use their body and sense of touch to learn about the world around them. It’s more likely they like sports, exercise and other physical activities such as gardening, or woodworking. They also like to think out issues, ideas and problems while they exercise. They would rather go for a run or walk if something is bothering them, than sit at home.

A lot of the young adults I work with are visual learners. When I talk to an employer I can set up supports within management, and the coworkers that would enable the client to be trained using visual supports. If they were only receiving auditory or kinesthetic supports, they would struggle and could ultimately not be successful.

However, this can be avoided by knowing your learning type. The same goes for my auditory and kinesthetic learners: if they are only receiving visual supports and not what they need, they could also be at risk of being unsuccessful. Learning types are important to know.

by Maggie Cromeens

A Feelings Chart and Calming Activities for Children with ASD

In a previous blog we discussed the need to support students in identifying and expressing their feelings through the use of a feelings chart. The feelings chart may be on a scale of “one to three” or “one to five” with level one indicating that the student is most calm. If possible, you can increase the effectiveness of this strategy by decorating the different levels with pictures/clip art that reflect a student’s interest. I have created feelings charts with different expressive pictures of Mario Bros, dinosaurs and even The Dukes of Hazzard characters!

Happy group of kids

Once the student understands what each level means, then it is most critical to identify calming activities for each level. Each of us responds differently to different experiences and this should be highly personalized in order to actually help the student calm down when needed.

As an example:

I find shopping to be very enjoyable and calming. However, my best friend finds the very same experience to be frustrating and adds to her stress level. Most people respond positively to either gross motor [large muscle] activities or simple, repetitive tasks as a calming mechanism. The key is to find what specific activities within these two broad categories might work for an individual.

Some examples of gross motor [large muscle] activities include, but are not limited to:

College with Asperger’s: 7 Benchmarks for Effective Support on Campus

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has risen significantly since first described in the 1940s. The Center for Disease Control estimates currently 1 in 68 children in the United States lives with an ASD diagnosis, and that 46% of those diagnosed have average to above average intelligence. A large body of literature describes the significant, life-long difficulties faced by many individuals diagnosed with ASD. The support needed for college students diagnosed with more traditional disabilities are well documented. However, information is lacking in regard to effectively supporting the college instruction of students with Asperger’s Disorder and how to support their navigation of a campus society.

College Students with Asperger’s: Academic and Campus Accommodations Necessary

Researchers explored the topic of providing effective supports to college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder. Investigators convened a panel of experts to provide input on the topic, and then used a Delphi surveying method to categorize common themes identified by panel members.

The survey resulted in the creation of the Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. This tool is available as a PDF file for use in your own college assessment:

Attachment: Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with ASD

Research conclusions included:

1. Social Challenges, Independent Living Skills, and Cognitive Organizational Skills were mentioned as a need more often by expert panelist than was Academic Challenges. This suggests panelists agree that students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder are, generally, intellectually capable of performing in the classroom but struggle with the social and organizational aspects of the college lifestyle;

How to Deal with Sensory Processing Difficulties in School

Many children with sensory processing disorder or related issues can have difficulties in the school setting. Problems can arise anywhere: in the classroom, cafeteria, gymnasium, hallway, playground, and even the bus. Some of these issues can be as subtle as not eating lunch, or as difficult as destroying a classroom.

Knowing what causes these problems and how to prevent them is important for both the school and the child. This is where parents can be the best advocate for their child with Aspergers or HFA and sensory issues.

Preparing a child for school is important, but it is equally important to prepare the school for the child.

Sharing their sensory concerns with the teachers, para-professionals, principals, and others is imperative to limiting sensory difficulties in the classroom.

A typical plan should include setting up a sensory-friendly classroom with a place for the student to “get away” if necessary, providing sensory activities throughout the day to help prevent problems that may arise, catering to sensory diets, and preparing the student for changes or surprises that may come up.

A school occupational therapist can help make all of this easier, if they get involved. The occupational therapist can help teachers discover problem areas and learning differences, while providing suggestions to improve success.  Some ideas they may implement include setting up lunch bunches to relieve lunchtime stresses, providing sensory activities to use throughout the day that support the student’s ongoing needs, or modifying instruction for classroom success.

Together, the parents, teachers, and occupational therapists can develop a program that is individualized for the student with sensory issues and make this year both successful and rewarding.

For more information on sensory friendly classrooms and teacher resources, go to Future Horizons Inc. There are multiple books and other resources to help the teacher prepare for these students.

by Dr. Gayla A. Aguilar, OTR, OTD

Finding an Inclusive Work Environment as an Employee with a Disability

As an employment specialist it is my duty to assist individuals with finding an inclusive environment, where mutual respect and understanding will enable them to be successful. Locating such an environment is the first step we take on the road to employment. However, this environment often times does not just exist on its own. I have to help employers and potential employees to develop, create and maintain it.

People at Work

Inventory Assessment

One of my most successful strategies in developing a work environment with mutual respect and understanding among my clients, their coworkers, and supervisors is to have each person create an “inventory assessment”. This inventory assessment includes each person’s interests, past work experience, and hard skills, which are discussed in more detail here.

After reviewing this assessment, I identify potential places of employment and encourage the individuals to visit with either a family member or a member of our staff. This visit gives everyone the opportunity to observe the culture of the specific setting, and the nature of tasks they will be required to perform on any given day at any given time.

Making an Appointment with the Manager

3 Steps to get Your Child on an Exercise Routine

Autism, Sleep, and Exercise

Did you know that children ages 6 to 13 years need a recommended 9-11 hours of sleep? Did you know that children ages 6 to 17 years need a recommended 60 minutes of exercise every day? Lastly, did you know that research shows a correlation between individuals with autism, exercise, and sleep? David Wachob and David Lorenzi from Indiana University recently conducted a study in which 10 individuals with ASD between the ages of 9-17 years were measured for two things: time spent participating in physical activity and amount of time in restful sleep. Their 7 day study resulted in their participants having more restful sleep as they increased their physical activity during the day. In other words, an increase in exercise like outdoor play meant an increase in sleep. This, in turn, could potentially lead to more positive results like increased attention span, weight loss, behavior changes, and social interactions.

Little boy doing gymnastic exercises

But how do we get our kiddos to move? How do we get them away from the TV and computer? In this blog I will discuss 3 easy steps that will hopefully help get your family moving.

1. Our first step, and probably the most important, is to set the mood in regards to exercise.

Most kids see exercise as a chore when in reality it should be fun. Find something that your child can relate to. This can be stickers, coloring books, games, or tv time (tv time as an incentive) of their favorite show or characters, for example “Big Hero 6”.

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Decorate your workout area in pictures or printouts of their favorite character and make it more inviting. You can even use a “Big Hero 6” t-shirt as their official workout uniform. This will hopefully shed some positive/fun perspective on exercise.

2. Our second step is finding an activity to do.

Using Graphic Organizers to Improve Your Child’s Academic Success

Continuing with instructional supports, this week’s blog will focus on a simple, yet powerful strategy: graphic organizers.

Graphic organizers are tools that help your brain think.”

– Kylene Beers

Most teachers use graphic organizers but might not be fully aware of the comprehensive benefits of this visual support. Graphic organizers can accomplish the following key elements toward instructional success:

Child, Graphic Organizer

  • understand important data with very little reading involved
  • think logically
  • identify main concepts
  • assign specific labels to concepts
  • sort relevant and non-relevant details
  • make predictions
  • identify cause and effect
  • identify and understand consequences
  • organize and sequence data
  • understand time lines
  • visualize and understand abstract content

Researchers found that when content is illustrated with diagrams, the information can be maintained by students over a longer period of time.

Graphic organizers portray knowledge in a meaningful way which helps bring clarity to ideas as connections are made.

Sign the Petition!

Option to place an alert system in TLETS (Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System) protecting both law enforcement and those with autism, hearing impairment or other communication challenges.


Aspergers101 “Driving with Autism” spokesperson Samuel Allen

Aspergers101 is striving to continue improving communication between Texas law enforcement and those with a communication challenge such as autism or a hearing impairment in the “Driving with Autism and other communication impairments” Texas initiative. Make “Communication Impairment” an option when registering your vehicle with the Texas DMV. This will allow your diagnosis to be placed in The Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (TLETS) alerting the officer of the challenge prior to approaching the vehicle, averting misunderstandings.  We need signatures to help make this bill pass! Please sign the petition by clicking on the button here:)

Here is the fearful scenario: A person with Asperger Syndrome is driving and gets pulled over by an officer of the law. The stress and panic intensifies as the officer begins dialogue. This stress esulates and the officer asks the driver why are they ‘flying’ down the highway at such a great speed? Of course, the person with Asperger Syndrome takes this literally and the encounter soon takes a preventable turn toward arrest. You may plug in any of the communication challenges from below and come to the same conclusion as recent news reports dictates.

To better equip law enforcement with the knowledge of the challenge PRIOR TO approaching the vehicle is the solution. By allowing the option, when registering your vehicle with the Department of motor Vehicles as a person with a communication impairment (sub category Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Hearing Impairment, Deafness, Parkinson’s Disease, etc) an officer of the law would be alerted when entering the license plate ina pull over scenario. It’s a win-win-win however, we need to pass a bill in the upcoming 86th Texas Legislative Session to make this a reality!


  • What constitutes a Communication Impairment? Some diagnosis are:
    • Asperger Syndrome
    • Autism
    • Deafness
    • Hearing Impaired
    • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    • Parkinson’s Disease
    • Mild Intellectual Disability
    • Down Syndrome
    • Mutism and more.

Please sign the petition and then share with your friends, neighbors or anyone on your social media lists by clicking on the button:


Our intention is to complete and successfully navigate the Driving with Autism initiative in Texas, and then share with the rest of the country! Let’s work together to protect and improve communication between law enforcement and those with Autism or other communication challenges. We will keep you posted!

Thank you for your support in making a difference in the lives of those with Asperger Syndrome!

by: Jennifer Allen/Founder Aspergers101 and the “Driving with Autism” Texas initiative.