When people think of student activities for Aspergers students, especially those in college, some may feel tempted to believe that such activities are not suitable for them. Students with Aspergers could feel hindered by a number of issues, whether it be social anxiety, time management, lack of awareness, or longer study sessions due to slower information processing, to name a few.
The ASD student and/or those around them too often assume that such issues would prevent them from getting anything out of an activity. Consequently, this commonly held false assumption only makes it so that the Asperger’s student likely does not develop the inclination to do much beyond their comfort zones.
I suggest 10 steps that can help the ASD college student get beyond this:
Take inventory of organizations in which you could get involved.
Ask a residence hall worker or go to the activities office and get a list of potential organizations and begin research
Go to events, such as student activities nights, whose purpose is to expose students or the public to organizations or look on website if there is one
Explore the organizations online and then engage with them (ideal for introverts).
Usually, word of mouth and stories from current friends/acquaintances establishes links and piques interests of those with ASD, despite any general reluctance for involvement, as well as (stereotypically) restricted interests
Do your homework: Understand the organization’s missions, visions, values, member testimonials, events, contact information.
Identify primary contacts
First priority to contact is a person in charge, or a group facilitator
Understand the steps to joining the organization
Introduce yourself or get an introduction from somebody if necessary.
Both scenarios encompass a self-introduction and this is critical because it allows others to acknowledge and accept the true personality of the Asperger’s student
For the typical driver, it is no problem to carry out the basic modes of driving, such as changing lanes, driving at night, in precipitation, on ice, in fog, off-road, or in heavy traffic. However, the Aspergers driver usually has significant difficulty with any one of these things, if not all of them. Fortunately, there are strategies to overcome all of these obstacles. An Aspergers driver, like any other driver, must get experience because of the countless possibilities for any given scenario. After all, every situation is unique. Yet, even the inexperienced Aspergers driver can get a mind for it all using simplification in techniques. Among these techniques are:
For any situation
Be sure that you do not rely on quick glances or peripheral vision, even though an Aspergers driver’s eyesight may be 20/20. Instead, analyze what you see and be prepared if something or someone moves in front of you (forward) or behind your vehicle (reverse) and do not use the accelerator when just starting to drive unless necessary for reverse movement; keep brake covered as much as possible and come to a complete stop before shifting gears.
Know which window or mirror to use in a given instant
Ex: Side mirror + blind spot mirror and looking over your shoulder to change lanes
For lower-visibility situations
At night or during inclement weather:
Do not solely rely on plain judgment if eyesight becomes less dependable; use tricks, such as watching for cars with no headlights on or using the shoulder line technique when oncoming lights are excessively bright;
NEVER stare into any lights at night; it impedes vision;
Know the different colors and flash frequencies of various kinds of lights and combine them with sounds to identify what occurs in a given instant; ex: yellow flashing lights could be tow truck or other work vehicle;
Use high beams, but not to disturb other drivers, pedestrians, or people inside buildings upon which the beams project;
Always use headlights when darkness falls, when street lights come on, in inclement weather, or when use is required by law in a given area;
Use various frequencies of wipers, depending on how much precipitation covers windshield every second; not too slow and not too fast.
These are a few of the many examples of how Aspergers drivers can utilize their own strength of detail-oriented thinking to break down relatively complex driving issues. Such a mindset ensures that the driver does not miss important details that can save many lives.
“Driving with Autism” is an Aspergers101 series that educates and empowers the driver diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Aspergers101 has teamed up with the Texas DPS in training Texas State Troopers about the uniqueness of Autism and understanding the Autistic driver. This partnership is garnering encouraging results.
by Reese Eskridge
Reese Eskridge is a Production Technician with Fairville Products, who is passionate about working in the sciences (biology) and wishes to take his work experiences further into the fields of Educational Neuroscience; Science Fiction; Freelance Writing; Disability Advocacy; Public Speaking; Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Aspergers101 is proud to offer the insights and perceptions of the talented Mr. Eskridge, who is obviously living life on the spectrum to it’s fullest!
What Kinds of Beliefs are overrated? One of the most significant issues against the Aspergers Community is the high number of stereotypes that surround it. Many are obvious and some are not so obvious. Such stereotypes typically arise from well-known people and situations, such as Adam Lanza and the Sandy Hook Elementary Shootings.
The reason for these negative beliefs is that the general population makes up their own stories and opinions that are spread via the media or by word of mouth. Unfortunately, the mass media is too often the only place where the majority of society receives any information regarding Asperger’s Syndrome and those who live with it. As a result, people make snap judgments, rather than take time to put forth the real effort to educate themselves.
Thus, ignorance in the form of false rumors, stories, and beliefs is toxic and contagious to anybody inside and outside the Asperger’s Community. However, ignorance is not a simple excuse. Everybody has the responsibility of truth and knowledge, regardless of the divides between different communities. If this issue did not exist, Aspergers101 would have one less critical reason to exist.
Here are some of the more overrated beliefs that surround the Asperger’s Community and how to dispel them:
This is Part 2 of a two-part article by Reese Eskridge on the topic of building leadership skills. You can read Part 1 here. Reese compiled the following list of personal challenges that often plague those with Autism or Aspergers. Each piece of common self-doubt listed below is accompanied with Reese’s own personal encouragement and guidance for how to overcome!
I am not competent enough about role(s)/inexperienced in creating and running events or activities: Be yourself and start with what you know you can do, create something to promote it and to enable others to use it; identify an issue or interesting concept and think about a purpose that will serve the greater good; Take opportunities and think about how you can excel in each role you play.
I do not understand what message(s) to convey… Ask yourself many questions and try to answer as many potential questions as possible (i.e. what would they like to know about…? How would they react if…?).
I have a problem with perfectionism and fear of failure… If you have challenges, thoroughly examine the challenge and work around it to achieve your purpose as the leader; what are the lessons to learn from each challenge (use keywords).
I am too fixated on minor or irrelevant details or do not know most important details; Digresses into restricted interests, rather than piques follower’s interest and serves followers’ best interests… Establish structure in a manner that ensures that you do not miss any important details; then, you can take control of a given situation by speaking with all forms of credibility.
I am too shy to speak up when needed; there is too much pressure… Recruit help where and when you need it the most, even if it means developing just yourself, and plan out and organize those resources to maximize their effectiveness; in other words, get those resources to do exactly what you want them to do. Develop passion in what you do or plan to do and the rest will come naturally.
I do not feel like I can do this independently… Don’t sweat it! Try to develop abilities to do assortments of tasks that you must accomplish and get guidance as necessary; do not get guidance if you can easily figure out tasks at hand; get help when you absolutely cannot do something yourself; learn team building strategies for this.
I am not confident in having a positive influence… Just remember that during an organized event, people are there to listen to you and do what you say, although it is better to give recommendations and to delegate responsibilities fairly, rather than simply take over. Keep it positive every step of the way and devise strategies when the going gets tough for anything. Ask yourself the potential solution to a problem when it arises and keep calm; be a role model by acting like the person you want them to act like.
I have poor organizational skills… Do not hesitate to consult with other people and resources that specifically address this. Also ask yourself, how can I best keep track of materials in general. Obtain folders, files, etc. for documents and a calendar or calendar book in which you can write down the dates and times of upcoming events, meetings, etc. Planning is the single best strategy when you or your followers are disorganized or disoriented. Make sure that everybody involved has at least one role and delegate by each person’s strengths and willingness to participate in that role. Ask who wants what and go from there.
We started off this summer with very high hopes and a fresh outlook on life. My friend of over 12 years was moving out to Colorado from California to help us with starting our self-sustaining farm. For the past 8 years or so, we have been dreaming of getting this started, but we have been either too busy supporting the family financially or with taking care of the kid’s needs. To do both of these we needed to be living (at the least) 100 miles away from our property. So when my friend said she would come out, live on the property and get the work started, I thought this was an ideal opportunity, and funny enough, a chance for a less isolated life.
Things often don’t go as smoothly as you would expect, however.
It proved too much for her and her family to live on a piece of land (in the middle of nowhere) that had been all but forgotten for the last 5 years and she decided to stay in my home with her two grown kids and five large dogs. I was foolishly ok with this. I mean, how much chaos could this cause in my home? The home in which I live with my two Autistic children and my husband. Oh did I mention we live in a two bedroom home?
Let’s just say, this was doomed from the beginning.
I think that even if my kids were neuro-typical, it was only a matter of time before there would be some sort of explosion after which everyone would kiss and make up. The only difference is that I am an ASD Mom. You seriously don’t mess with ASD Moms, especially a seasoned ASD Mom.
My kids were both diagnosed at age three, and are now ten and nine. I have many battle wounds and other various bits of shrap metal under my skin. I’ve had family members and other NT mom’s try to tell me how to better parent my kids. There have been doctors, people shopping at the market and bus drivers suggest to me that if my kids can’t behave in public like “normal” kids, I should keep them at home. I’ve had every decision I’ve ever made scrutinized by every kind of person imaginable.
In a previous blog I wrote about the topic of readiness within higher education to support college students with Asperger’s Disorder. The series touched on the ability of colleges to provide effective academic, social, and independent living supports. The “Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Asperger’s Disorder,” a tool to assess readiness of a specific institution, was provided.
But how can individual ASD students know that they are ready for college?
We at Marshall University receive numerous applications for our college support program. In fact, each year we typically receive more applications than we have spots to fill. So early on we developed an in-house tool to help assess the personal readiness of each applicant.
While not a valid assessment tool, this “Applicant Evaluation” may be a good instrument to use to assess basic readiness. At the very least it can inform the dialogue around the topic. Click on the downloadable link below for the full assessment:
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.
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.
Though driving with an Autism diagnosis is not for everyone, many do decide to obtain their driver license and go on to live independent lives. Aspergers101 teamed with Dr. Temple Grandin to provide helpful information when considering if driving is for you, or your teen.
Long before driver education, Temple suggests first mastering your skills by practicing on a bicycle (coordination, motor skills). Then tackle driving in a safe remote area such as the country or large parking lot. You’ll begin mastering such challenging tasks, such as multi-tasking, prior to any driving on congested roadways.
One suggestion she has is that before you take a driver education course, you need to find a safe place and practice, and after that, practice even more! Getting the ‘knack’ of driving includes working on your coordination, motor skills, and multi-tasking which all come into play when learning to drive, even more so for those on the autism spectrum.
Anxiety can often be reduced (for the driver with Autism) by lots of driving practice in a safe remote location.
– Dr. Temple Grandin
Once you’ve mastered working the brake, blinker, gas and other essential tasks while driving, you’ll then be ready to be thrown into a group/driver education training.
One of the most challenging aspects of supporting college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder is the need for follow-up with professors, college staff, and others. Follow-up is important to ensure deadlines are met and that assignments are turned in according to each syllabus. The fast pace of college, combined with the severe anxiety and executive dysfunction common to the spectrum, create the perfect conditions for students with ASD to forget deadlines or avoid high pressure academic or social situations on campus.
I’ve known dozens of students with ASD who promised: “I will work on my speech for Communications class this evening after dinner.” And they mean it sincerely when they say it. Stress and commitments mount as the day moves forward, however, and by dinner time students who made the promise may feel overwhelmed and overstimulated and avoid the assignment. Some may become focused so intensely on another subject or topic that they forget about working on their speech.
It’s easy to presume that students who miss deadlines or forget to turn in assignments are simply immature, disinterested, or unfocused.
Many educators say “If he would just try harder he’d be just fine.” Some students who fit this profile are labeled “not college material,” as a result, and find their on-campus reputations compromised. Part of the frustration that education and support personnel experience in this scenario comes from their lack of understanding about the autism spectrum. They recognize the sincerity of the student when he said: “I’ll work on my speech after dinner.” They believe the student really meant his promise, and expect that he will follow through.
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.
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.