Autism in the workforce: I am Autistic, I am not broken

By: Rick Jacobs

 It is palpable, that moment when you tell someone or a group of professionals you are on the Autism Spectrum. As if you just vomited on their shoes, they get a look of shock and concern. Their speech patterns change. Their facial expressions alter. You are no longer the same person that was hired or that started the conversation.

Often, you hear things like “I never would have guessed,” “You don’t look Autistic,” or they simply start talking to you like you suddenly became a five-year old with a limited vocabulary and a hearing problem.

I am Autistic, I am not damaged, I am not less intelligent. I am just a little different than you are. I see things differently, experience things differently, and struggle with social conventions. 

I understand the complex, hyper-detailed volumes of information that I am surrounded by. I don’t understand corporate culture or how to conform to workplace norms. I understand strategy, nuance of facts, projections, and planning. I don’t understand the look on your face or if you are joking with me or not. I am flat in affect when listening and processing, which may look like I am checked out or not paying attention.

I am super sensitive to my surroundings and have intense feelings, but I don’t let them rule me. I seek facts, I want to know that what I know is true and correct, not that I am right. I have intense intuition and gut feelings, I just don’t act on it until I have examined the facts, seen the possible options and outcomes, and have a plan for mitigating potential issues. I love stupid loud crazy music concerts, but a loud social gathering or cubicle space stresses me out, so no, I don’t want to go to the bar to hang out after work.

The problem with being an older Autism Spectrum person in a corporate world is that you are either weird or a problem employee because you don’t socialize like everyone else or you are a special case that everyone must tiptoe around and tread lightly. I am also often seen as not promotable, because of the belief that I might not understand how to connect with people. Actually, I connect very well and quickly, except I am also very aware of BS and will call it out. Don’t lie to me. I know.

A Life In Paint: How One Adult With Asperger’s Found His Place in the World Through Art

An Aspergers101 Exclusive with Artist Carl Parker

I happened upon the brilliance of Carl Parker by accident. He had engaged in a discussion on the Aspergers101 Facebook Page and his positive nature was very apparent among the sea of negative comments. Found out quickly that Carl is the real deal! His positive outlook and adult Asperger diagnosis proved to be a powerful combination when creating his artwork. Each piece tells a story that he narrates via blogs. He describes each creation with a beauty that allows it’s viewers a rare glimpse into his world. I know this was no accidental encounter. So proud to share with our readers the brilliance & artistry of Carl.

About the Artist: Carl Parker is a dynamic, Canadian artist whose work focuses on the life experience. His style is abstract expressionist. He creates thought-provoking and emotionally engaging works and explores the beauty and subtlety of both rural and urban life, having experienced both himself.  His art can be found in private and corporate collections throughout the world, including Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Europe. To date, he has shown his work in various cities including Toronto, Calgary, Florence, Italy and Paris.  His piece, Rustic Place, can currently be viewed at the Ontario Legislative Assembly’s In Camera Dining Room. 

Aspergers101: Clearly you are an artist with great talent. What inspires you?

Carl Parker: I began drawing at around age 8. I remember using a Spider-Man comic and being on my bedroom floor on my stomach. I was fascinated by how wonderful the character was drawn, so I attempted it myself. I was hooked. I’ve always been inspired by the human form. Over time, I would let my own style to develop with my painting of figures. I’m inspired by showing the emotions and complexities of us humans in my own, individual painting style.

Carl Parker shown with his work “Rustic Place” which is currently on display in the Ontario Legislature’s In Camera Dining Room.

Aspergers101: Upon learning you were diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, did this affect your art in any way? Do you think it plays a part?

Carl Parker: I feel the Asperger’s plays a part in my unusual style. It pushed me to always be different in everything I do. This always felt like a sense of healthy pride for me, and never a weakness. To me, the Asperger’s is absolutely was not a negative. It gave me ambition to be a good artist. My late-in-life diagnosis was good for me, I wanted to know, and have since become a very level and successful person in this beautiful world of ours. Nobody paints like me. That makes me smile.

The person on the spectrum CAN experience triumphs of massive proportions. They CAN contribute important things to the world.

Carl Parker

Aspergers101: How would you describe the meaning in your paintings…are they connected?

Carl Parker: When someone sees and/or feels something in my art, I have done my job. I’ve contributed something and when the viewer connects with the piece, I feel joy and excitement because I’ve translated a piece of life, effectively in a powerful way. When a person has Asperger’s, they can often feel the need to isolate themselves from people and society in general, but with my art, I can connect with people. This is huge in such a healthy and progressive way. For me, my art is actually therapy. They say people with Asperger’s have a hard time showing their emotions and seem cold. In my paintings, people find emotion. It’s a magnificent thing when emotion is found, both for me and the viewer. I’ve noticed my art has the power to transcend all worries, hang-ups, negativity, and the pointless aspects of the trivial sort of mind. All pettiness begins to fall away. How brilliant this is.

Parenting the Anxious Child

It is said that 40 million Americans live with an anxiety disorder, which is more than the occasional worry or fear. We all experience anxiety to some level. Anxiety in children is common when separated from their parents or from familiar surroundings. However there is a type of anxiety that is more severe and may be misdiagnosed. Anxiety left unchecked or treatment may become paralyzing to everyday life.

Below we’ve gathered several lists for you. What does anxiety look like? How can it manifest, when is it critical to consult a doctor and what methods are available to self calm. Here we go….

Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks). These feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control, are out of proportion to the actual danger and can last a long time. You may avoid places or situations to prevent these feelings. Symptoms may start during childhood or the teen years and continue into adulthood.

Depression, Aspergers, Help, Resources

Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobias and separation anxiety disorder. You can have more than one anxiety disorder. Sometimes anxiety results from a medical condition that needs treatment.

According to research from the Mayo Clinic, several types of anxiety disorders exist:

  • Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.
  • Anxiety disorder due to a medical condition includes symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are directly caused by a physical health problem.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder includes persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about activities or events — even ordinary, routine issues. The worry is out of proportion to the actual circumstance, is difficult to control and affects how you feel physically. It often occurs along with other anxiety disorders or depression.
  • Panic disorder involves repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks). You may have feelings of impending doom, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a rapid, fluttering or pounding heart (heart palpitations). These panic attacks may lead to worrying about them happening again or avoiding situations in which they’ve occurred.
  • Selective mutism is a consistent failure of children to speak in certain situations, such as school, even when they can speak in other situations, such as at home with close family members. This can interfere with school, work and social functioning.
  • Separation anxiety disorder is a childhood disorder characterized by anxiety that’s excessive for the child’s developmental level and related to separation from parents or others who have parental roles.
  • Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) involves high levels of anxiety, fear and avoidance of social situations due to feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness and concern about being judged or viewed negatively by others.
  • Specific phobias are characterized by major anxiety when you’re exposed to a specific object or situation and a desire to avoid it. Phobias provoke panic attacks in some people.
  • Substance-induced anxiety disorder is characterized by symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are a direct result of misusing drugs, taking medications, being exposed to a toxic substance or withdrawal from drugs.
  • Other specified anxiety disorder and unspecified anxiety disorder are terms for anxiety or phobias that don’t meet the exact criteria for any other anxiety disorders but are significant enough to be distressing and disruptive.

Parents should be alerted to the signs so they can intervene early to prevent lifelong complications. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry offers you different types of anxiety in children.

Symptoms of separation anxiety include:

• constant thoughts and intense fears about the safety of parents and caretakers

• refusing to go to school

• frequent stomachaches and other physical complaints

• extreme worries about sleeping away from home

• being overly clingy

• panic or tantrums at times of separation from parents

• trouble sleeping or nightmares

Asperger’s, “The Twilight Zone,” and The Perception of Beauty

Remember Ellie Mae on “The Beverly Hillbillies?” She was portrayed by Donna Douglas, in her day considered one of the most beautiful women on television. But she also once played a character who wasn’t so beautiful.

In an episode of “The Twilight Zone” titled, “Eye of the Beholder,” Douglas portrayed a woman who was so ugly, she underwent an operation to make her less so. The suspense was built up by the fact that we never saw her face until the bandages around them were removed. When they were removed, they revealed her to be the strikingly beautiful woman she was, but the doctor recoiled in horror and said, “No change, no change at all.”

At that point, we saw the faces of the doctors and nurses around her, which were all distorted and misshapen in grotesque fashion. In the end, she’s sent to live in a colony with similarly “ugly” people, and accompanied by a handsome male escort.

She asks him, “Why are some of us born so ugly?”

Obviously, her character was not inherently ugly, but she was simply born in the wrong world. That’s a dilemma similar to that which the Aspie faces.

Greta Thunberg Says Asperger’s Is Her Superpower

by: MOLLY LONGMAN

While dozens of world leaders made their voices heard at the UN Climate Action summit in New York City Monday, it was a 16-year-old’s rallying cry that had people — including the president — talking.

Photo: Alex Wong: Getty Images

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg is known internationally for continuously and courageously working to combat climate change. She was the face of the Global Climate Strikes, inspiring millions of people — more specifically, young people — to rally in more than 150 countries, as CBS News reports. And, she says her Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis is her “superpower.”She told  “CBS This Morning” that Asperger’s, which is a condition on the autism spectrum that affects social interaction and nonverbal communication, has helped her deliver her message to the masses. “What I want people to do now is to become aware of the crisis that is here,” she said.

She’s not afraid to speak up for what she believes in, even if she’s talking to VIPs of parliaments and governments. “I just know what is right and I want to do what is right,” she told CBS. “I want to make sure I have done anything, everything in my power to stop this crisis from happening… I have Asperger’s, I’m on the autism spectrum, so I don’t really care about social codes that way.”

Before her name became internationally recognized, she hadn’t shared about being on the autism spectrum, in part, because she knew “many ignorant people still see it as an ‘illness’, or something negative,” she tweeted. Asperger’s was officially categorized as a diagnosis on the autism spectrum 2013, according to the Autism Society.

Running a Spartan Race with Asperger’s

(Repost)

Thirty-six year old Justin Coleman is a runner. It just so happens he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2013. He is a long-time contributing member of the San Antonio Area Adults with Asperger’s Meetup group.

Recently, Justin competed in the Spartan Dallas Ultra. This race had over 60 obstacles and was over 31 miles long.  There were thousands of participants from all over the world. Justin feels that he made history for autistic people by finishing and receiving a buckle trophy.

Justin runs in several races a year, both obstacle type races and regular ultra marathons. Costumes are often a part of the specialty races. His Facebook friends are treated to frequent pictures of Justin and his running buddies. He has a grueling workout schedule to maintain his conditioning, plus he works for Amazon and will be re-entering a college program at Northeast Lakeview in San Antonio this spring.

In 2016 Justin even started traveling out of state to races. Congratulations, Justin, for all your achievements.

Here are Justin’s own words about his running and obstacle course passion:

My name is Justin and I became the first man with Asperger’s to not only run an ultramarathon but it was actually a race called a Spartan ultra (used to be called the ‘ultra beast’).

To put the whole idea in elementary terms, for a regular ‘beast’ race you have a minimum of 13 miles with at least 30 obstacles that an individual has to overcome, whether it’s climbing over a wall, crawling under a barbwire with the ground being either grass or a mix of mud with water, or even pulling up a sandbag using a pulley system.

Now imagine having to do 2 laps of this race. This was my very first time doing an ultra race of any form. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a ‘walk in the park’, as with this race there is a time limit that you HAVE to complete the race by.

Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism: Auditory

First, let’s have sensory processing disorder explained by someone with a personal experience with it. Watch this video of Amythest Schaber, a person living with an autism spectrum disorder.

Differences in auditory processing are one of the more commonly reported sensory processing impairments. In one chart review of developmental patterns in 200 cases with autism 100% of the participants demonstrated difficulties with auditory responding.

Health with Aspergers: Balancing Your Mind, Body, and Soul

Managing your weight for good health can be a difficult goal to obtain and keep. From counting calories to the numerous diets available to knowing which gym facility to join or what exercises to do, the options can be overwhelming for someone that just wants to get started.

It is even more challenging for someone with a special medical need. You add a whole new layer of obstacles on top of what we already mentioned. Don’t be discouraged before you start, or even after you start, for that matter.

Weight management is a long and hard journey that requires your soul, mind, and body but it will change your life. Before we start I advise you consult your physician concerning changes in your lifestyle that affect your meals and physical activity.

Autism: Effective Treatment Options

By: The Autism Science Foundation

Scientists agree that the earlier in life a child receives early intervention services the better the child’s prognosis. All children with autism can benefit from early intervention, and some may gain enough skills to be able to attend mainstream school. Research tells us that early intervention in an appropriate educational setting for at least two years prior to the start of school can result in significant improvements for many young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). As soon as autism is diagnosed, early intervention instruction should begin. Effective programs focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills.

sensory

Early diagnosis of ASD, coupled with swift and effective intervention, is paramount to achieving the best possible prognosis for the child. Even at ages as young as six months, diagnosis of ASD is possible. Regular screenings by pediatric psychiatrists are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even if your child is not diagnosed with an ASD before the age of 3, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), your child may be eligible for services provided by your state. In addition, many insurance companies will provide additional assistance for the coverage of proven therapies. More information on autism and insurance can be found here.

The most effective treatments available today are applied behavioral analysis (ABA), occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and pharmacological therapy. Treatment works to minimize the impact of the core features and associated deficits of ASD and to maximize functional independence and quality of life. In 2012, the Missouri Guidelines Initiative summarized the findings from 6 reviews on behavioral and pharmacological interventions in autism. The consensus paper includes current evidence of what interventions have been studied and shown effective, why or why not, and can be found here.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) works to systematically change behavior based on principles of learning derived from behavioral psychology. ABA encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative behaviors. In addition, ABA teaches new skills and applies those skills to new situations

Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) is a type of ABA for very young children with an ASD, usually younger than five, often younger than three.

Understanding Comorbidities

Top of the Spectrum News

As many as 85% of children with autism also have some form of comorbid psychiatric diagnosis. ADHD, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed comorbidities, with anxiety and depression being particularly important to watch for in older children, as they become more self-aware. Understanding and treating psychiatric comorbidities are often far more challenging than the Aspergers/Autism itself as discussed in this edition of Top of the Spectrum News.

The diagnosis of comorbidities can be challenging because many people with ASD have difficulty recognizing and communicating their symptoms. It takes time to uncover the cause of a meltdown or aggravation but to aid you in your search, we listed the most common comorbidities below:

  • Epilepsy/seizures
  • Sleep disorders/disturbance
  • ADHD
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Feeding/eating challenges
  • Obesity
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder

Top of the Spectrum News is a product of Aspergers101.