Look How Far We’ve Come Together!

Aspergers101 is dedicated to you. I created this resource through a reflection of my own need to gain daily information on raising my son diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. After yearning to know why our son Sam divided so quickly from his kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and then 3rd grade classmates, we learned of a form of Autism called Asperger Syndrome. Once diagnosed, I quickly immersed myself in learning all I could about how my son functioned. What set him off, why the distance and most importantly, how we as a family could help Sam survive without us as we age.

Aspergers101 saved us really. In providing you with the daily information I craved so many years ago, it’s work kept the attention on you, your need all while working on Sam’s success. He became a strong advocate out of his own desire to shine light on a path less traveled. Sam has now taken the lead in workshops, conferences

and training to describe what it ‘feels’ like to have Autism. He is honest about the challenges but positive about the attributes. He has grown into a young man!

I’ve always said, don’t think of Autism as a weight, but a pair of wings in which to soar! – Sam Allen

It’s a success story yet you know as we fight for our children diagnosed with autism and ascend that steep hill at an exhausting pace, there comes a time, a moment, that we should pause our climb to look how far our child has come! This is one of those times.

L to R Charlie Allen, Samuel Allen and Jennifer Allen

 

Our younger son Charlie and I attended the Corporate Philanthropy & Non Profit Awards luncheon from the San Antonio Business Journal recently to support Sam as he was a finalist in the category of Volunteer of the Year for a Non-Profit. After the finalists were acknowledged and the winner, from a nearby table, was announced we relaxed and enjoyed the dessert before us. It was a total shock when, at the end of the luncheon, the “Spirit of Giving” Award was presented. As they began to describe the person of honor…it became apparent it was Sam! As he made his way to the stage a rousing standing ovation took place for a young man who was once told “you can’t….” by a doctor oh so long ago. They say it takes a village to raise a child with Autism…our village consists of God, a dedicated & selfless father like Herb, a supportive and protective brother with the heaping heart and soul that is Charlie, some very special educators and and handful of family and friends who are not afraid to embrace ‘different’ for all it’s glorious beauty.

Last question (to Sam) in the article: What advice do you have for someone who would like to get involved in a nonprofit? 

Just remember you are doing this for the good of the people. Seeing the smiles on their faces will pay off more than the money ever will. Be prepared to be a better person.” – Sam

There is such an instant bond with any family raising a child with special needs. A look of  “I get it, the challenges, loss and the euphoric highs at achievements deemed ordinary by neurotypicals”. In an instant this bond is acknowledged and suddenly you don’t feel so isolated. I want to reach out across the internet divide to thank you for allowing me to connect with you. You have been a huge part of my family’s journey and Sam’s moment of success!

by: Jennifer Allen

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The article was published on November 16th 2017 and written by Tricia Schwennesen, the Associate Editor of the San Antonio Business Journal.  Here is a link to the full story: https://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/news/2017/11/16/spirit-of-giving-samuel-allen.html

A Day with the great Eustacia Cutler!

Note: This was one of our most popular posts and we thought it worthwhile to share again… 

Occasionally in life, if you are lucky, you brush alongside greatness. Not celebrity, but greatness. A person truly inspired to invent, revolutionize, and create with the added momentum to actually implement their gift toward worldwide betterment.

I was blessed to have been afforded many hours with such greatness.

Eustacia Cutler was born into a privilege that most only have viewed actress Grace Kelly portray on film. Her book, A Thorn in My Pocket, depicts her life in a nostalgia that few today can even begin to imagine. Her Cotillion, the Dedham Polo Club, times at the Vineyard, life at Cambridge, Harvard, and stories of shared company of notables such as Winston Churchill, George Gershwin and Robert Frost. Talk more with Eustacia, and you will learn of her father’s invention revolutionizing flight. However, all of this is not the sum of the greatness of Ms Cutler. You’ve heard the statement not everything that glitters is gold? You see, Eustacia was married and had 4 children, one of whom had Autism.

Eustacia-Cutler

In the 50s the pressure to institutionalize such a child came from doctors and family members. But when the pressure came from her husband, she went completely against the grain for the sake of her child, Temple.

Yes, as most of you know Eustacia Cutler is the mother of Dr. Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin who went on to revolutionize the cattle industry as well as turn the world’s perception of Autism on its ear. Most of this information you probably already know, but the part you do not know is the day I was afforded time alongside Eustacia Cutler.

The 23rd Annual Texas Autism Conference was held in Corpus Christi this past week, and Sam and I had been asked to speak at one of the break-out sessions. The keynote speaker was Eustacia Cutler, who at the age of 88 offered such valuable and insightful information to the thirsty crowd of educators, parents and professionals, they were brought to their feet more than once. Her clarity, concern and connection with all in the room (primarily the mothers) intrigued my autistic son, Sam who was one of 4 to jump at the chance when the offer came to come up to the podium alongside her for a personal Q & A. When Sam (one of very few males in attendance) approached her and announced his name, and that he had Aspergers Syndrome the applause resonated with acceptance. Sam poised the question if Ms. Cutler was familiar with Moore’s Law which states that technology will grow at an exponential rate and if so, how does she perceive it will affect people with aspergers? Without missing a beat and looking my son straight in the eye she stated we, as humans, have a challenge ahead of us. Technology is essential, but perhaps Sam could be a forerunner bearing the seemingly impossible task of keeping the human factor within the technology field.

Her mind ever-sharp and in the moment allowed for many ‘ahh’ moments to walk away with. Here are just a few:

Born into Aspergers

Alix Generous

I want to address the difference between “in spite of” and “because of”. One of the greatest equalizers that spans across all barriers of humanity is that we individually cannot choose when we are born and when we die. I was born a sensitive and socially honest soul into a superficial and insincere social environment.

Alix Generous Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 11.10.58 PM
If I was born in a world where people constantly strive for self-improvement, valued relationships rather than objects, and looked for acceptance over status, I think I would have been just fine. The kind who prefers the former bullied me to think I’m crazy but I don’t think I am. So if I take this perspective, I did succeed in spite of these kinds of environments.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to help people.

Meet Grant: The Jigsaw Giraffe!

a heartfelt story that resonates with anyone who feels different, but not less.

“Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe ~ Different is More!”, written by Julie Coy Manier and illustrated by her son with Asperger’s, Grant Manier, is about a young giraffe who is born with jigsaw pieces instead of spots, but follows his passion to paint despite his challenges. “Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe” is a heartfelt story that resonates with anyone who feels different, but not less.

A new baby giraffe is born at the city zoo. Grant, the baby giraffe looks like a giraffe, but he’s different. His spots are not spots at all, instead he has jigsaw puzzle pieces. He looks different, he acts differently, and he has some physical challenges. But, Grant doesn’t let his differences stand in the way; he has big dreams!

Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe wants to be a talented paintbrush artist, but how will he hold a paintbrush with hooves? Grant is initially discouraged by the idea that he may never become an artist and paint colorful masterpieces. Then, he sets off on a journey through the zoo with his trusted friend, Ms. Judy, to explore the world around him in hope of finding his talent.

Follow Grant’s journey and get ready to be amazed by what different minds can do.

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.

Star opens up about son’s Aspergers Syndrome

We are re-posting a portion of a Disability Scoop interview with  ‘Covert Affairs’ Star Christopher Gorham whose son has Aspergers Syndrome. This Hollywood actor has been in such TV programs as  Ugly Betty, Popular, Odyssey 5, Jake 2.0, Medical Investigation, Out of Practice, Harper’s Island and Covert Affairs. Gorham is currently working on his next project “Justice League: Throne of Atlantis,” where he provides the voice of the Flash.

Disability Scoop: Personally speaking, your son was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome not too long ago. What was that like?

Christopher Gorham: We got a diagnosis fairly late. He was 9-years-old, which is kind of the blessing and the curse of that diagnosis. Because he’s very high functioning we didn’t really know that something was off until later. It’s upsetting to hear that something is wrong with your child. At the same time, it’s a relief to know what’s wrong with your child because if you know what’s wrong then you can start to take steps to help them.

Disability Scoop: When did you first notice that something might not be right?

 (Photo: Courtesy of Robert Ascroft/USA Network)

(Photo: Courtesy of Robert Ascroft/USA Network)

Christopher Gorham: Second grade was when we really knew we needed to start investigating and finding help. What we were doing didn’t seem to be working and things were getting worse and he was just getting further and further away from his peers. (He was) not understanding the subtleties of socializing, not getting sarcasm, not understanding the difference between someone who’s really being nice to you and someone who’s actually making fun of you, not understanding that all attention isn’t positive. It’s really hard for a parent when your son comes home and tells you that his best friends are the two or three kids who are actually the meanest to him.

Disability Scoop: How has this new diagnosis changed your family’s day-to-day life?

Christopher Gorham: You get the diagnosis and then instead of just taking the kids to Taekwondo after school, now suddenly you’ve got occupational therapy and you’ve got speech therapy and you’ve got the psychologist and you’ve got the behavioral specialist. Your week is filled with therapies to help support him and it becomes so hard to find the balance.

Disability Scoop: How do you manage it all while shooting the show?

Beware of the Martyr Complex

Taking Care of the Care-Giver : An Aspergers101 Exclusive Series

Taking care of yourself is a must when you are a care-giver or more specifically a guardian of a child with special needs. 

Dr. Ghia Edwards, Psy.D.

“We have to give out of the overflow versus an empty tank. When we give out of our overflow, we are built up enough to give healthy help and joy. When we let our tank go down, it is like a car that begins to knock because the sediment on the bottom of the tank, is ruining the smooth running of the car. In these situations the car doesn’t run well, much like us when we do not have positive healthy, nourishing self care. We can only give out that which we have, we must center on the Spirit, Soul, Mind and Body”. – Dr. Ghia Edwards, Psy.D. 

We welcome our Aspergers101 readers to a series dedicated to you, the care-giver. Pause and re-fresh as Dr. Ghia Edwards takes us into the first of a series of four blogs aimed specifically to you. Note: You might especially enjoy the added audio portion inserted into the text below!

“We cannot help anyone if we are not helping ourselves first”, we have all heard this before but what does this actually mean and how do we put it into practice. The Inner Workings of a Healthy Helper. Spirit, Soul, Mind and Body health keep the caregiver from running into the weeds. It’s like they say when you are flying, “In the event of an emergency apply your own mask first, then help others around you”. It’s quite a simple practice, so WHY oh why do we not implement it in our lives, we’ll I have theory.
When we are caregiving we are getting a payoff of some sort. If it’s just knowing that we are doing the correct thing for those we are caring for but with that comes being needed. Being needed is seductive, it is alluring, it feels great to know you are valuable but it can be just a step away from being a martyr. Beware of the martyr complex!  It’s subtle but in my line of work I have seen this over and over again and perhaps even participated in the behavior myself. Yes I am a recovering over doer aka martyr.
Here are some solutions to help us NOT become a martyr.

Asperger Syndrome explained perfectly on “Arthur”

In a little over 2 minutes, this episode of the childrens animated program, Arthur, explains Aspergers Syndrome in a way that even judgmental adults can understand! Great way to have your visiting relatives and holiday guests understand your Asperger child’s actions and reactions during a lengthy stay.

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.