Growing into the Diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome

by: Jennifer Allen

As a mother of a son with Autism and founder of Aspergers101, I’m approached daily with questions. Some I consult with experts to respond and others, I know from living the role of a parent of a child with special needs.

Recently, the question was asked of me “Can you grow out of having Asperger Syndrome”?

While the answer seemed factually a swift no due to the brain’s wiring and you cannot change that, my response became layered from a very personal view.

Sam is now 23, driving, soon to graduate college and discussions of hopeful independence emerge daily. That one sentence sounds easy at first read but the road has been fraught with hurdles, heartache and sheer illumination into the world of Autism.

Samuel Allen

Sam’s brain is wired uniquely as the frontal lobe doesn’t receive the proper ‘firing’ to understand all forms of communication. Vague innuendos, sarcasm or office politics escape him completely as does the innate sense of social cues and proper attire. Medically speaking it is the fusiform gyrus blocking the signals to social cues and communication that neurotypicals utilize on a daily basis. That medical fact won’t change. So can you grow out of Asperger Syndrome as asked by the parent of a newly diagnosed child? I answer this carefully as I can clearly put myself, all those years ago, in the same frame of mind. What you are really asking is, “Will my child be alright? Will they overcome the bleak future the doctor just pinned on us? Will I be the caregiver always? Will this diagnosis go away? Bottom line: you are searching for hope.

My response to this routine question is: You may not grow out of Asperger Syndrome, but you can grow into it. Think about that and recalibrate your thinking toward your child (or yourself!) and the diagnosis.

While I realized early on that Sam will always be wired uniquely, he is equally gifted where others are not. School, peers and judgemental onlookers may have had their definition of success but I formed my own based on Sam’s perspective and strengths. Yes, behaviors can be learned by therapies and treatments but don’t think this is the rise or fall of a person diagnosed with Autism. In other words, once you teach basic manners such as shaking someones hand (and how to do it properly), looking someone in the eye (if only for a few seconds) and basic social skills (mandatory) then you can focus on what sets them apart.

There is an excellent read from Dr. Gail Saltz titled, The Power of Different. In this book Dr. Saltz delves into the challenges and gifts of those whose brain is wired differently. We asked Dr. Saltz for an overview of her studies and we are please to offer the following video from her clinical findings on the Autistic mind.

Of course there are the on-going challenges you must face head-on. Comorbidities, as mentioned above, are typically what challenge the person with Autism more than the Autism itself.

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.

Counteracting Anxiety, Depression, and Social Withdrawal in College

Success for Autism in Higher Education

Researchers investigated possible predictors of first year success for college students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

college success

Eleven freshmen students enrolled at two universities. Each student received specialized supports for ASD at their respective colleges and participated in periodic assessments of social, emotional, and academic functioning. Investigators examined factors related to academic achievement, levels of anxiety and depression, life satisfaction, college adjustment, and social functioning.

Understanding and Managing Sensory Issues While Driving

Driving with Autism

Every inexperienced driver can get nervous when they first begin to drive. In the case of Aspergers drivers, those nerves jangle even more, as they take in a lot more stimuli in the driver’s seat. Tension arises due to many, and frequently simultaneous, stimuli input.

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These include general anxiety, excessive sunlight, car and traffic noises (i.e. horns honking), bumps, high speed, and excessively high and low temperatures in the car. Any one of these stimuli potentially triggers meltdowns and panic attacks; not ideal when behind the wheel. Fortunately, there are methods to manage and control such stimuli to make them pleasant, instead of unpleasant.

Overcoming Isolation: One of an Aspie’s Most Terrible Realities

Depression and Isolation in Adulthood with Asperger's

A life with Asperger’s in a neurotypical world is, not surprisingly, difficult. Aspies must overcome countless necessary challenges that have to do with three big categories of stimuli: environments, the brain, and relationships. Unfortunately, aspies too often face unnecessary challenges; terrible burdens on their already heavy shoulders.

Any kind of imbalance in or between the three big categories usually stems from and causes isolation. Isolation is a primary example of trauma to an aspie, regardless of age, traits, or background. Isolation primarily encompasses the relationship factor and its damaging effects on the brain, the psyche. This isolation can cause the aspie to become petrified of their environments.

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.

Three Necessities for the High Functioning Autistic to Combat Depression

An Asperger's Bill of Rights

If you are a High Functioning Autistic (HFA), the odds are troublingly high that you also suffer from some form of depression. As someone who suffers from depression myself, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about how to find happiness when you struggle with the burdens of having an autistic brain. One possibility for the prevalence of depression in autistic brains is that HFAs, for reasons distinct to their neurological condition, are innately more likely to feel depressed.

My sense, though, is that we tend to be depressed because life is difficult for us in ways that are somewhat different from the experiences of the Neurologically Typical (a satirical term for non-HFAs). As such, any discussion of why HFAs tend to be depressed must be approached as a social justice issue, with a clear statement of ethical axioms that, if followed, would help HFAs and non-HFAs alike.

Texas Driver License Now Recognizes Those Who are Deaf or Hearing Impaired

Aspergers101 Exclusive

If you reside in the state of Texas, you are now able to get a restriction code directly on your driver license (or State ID) stating you are hearing impaired or deaf. It’s called Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer and it is available to anyone challenged with communication such as Deafness, Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Parkinson’s, Mild Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome, Mutism, PTSD and more.

This is the same campaign Aspergers101 initiated over 2 years ago resulting in Texas Legislative changes, however now the campaign is alerting residents statewide of the broader options, notably, the 7% who are hearing impaired.  Emma Faye Rudkin, has graciously accepted the role of spokesperson in our statewide Public Service Campaign now airing throughout Texas. Emma is profoundly deaf since an early age illness but has become a major advocate for those who cannot hear. She is the founder of the non-profit organization Aid the Silent, in 2017 became Miss San Antonio and San Antonio Woman of the Year in the SABJ 2018 class of 40 Under 40.  Her faith in Jesus is her strength and her passion for others drives her onward. She is inspired and inspires. We at Aspergers101 are grateful for Emma’s participation in the Driving with Autism and other Communication Impediments initiative in alerting others of the new driver license code.

The :30 PSA, as seen below, notifies drivers of the code and how it may save them in a pull-over scenario.

Our interview with Emma Faye Rudkin below:

AS101: Why do you think this new Texas DPS code is a good thing for those who are deaf or hard of hearing?

Emma Faye Rudkin: The new restriction code is crucial as a deaf person. My biggest anxiety while driving is being pulled over and unable to understand the officer. This removes a lot of barriers for deaf people and it is clearer than the old code. Officers need to be notified right away as they look at my license instead of me struggling to explain that I am deaf and need help communicating. The new code makes it obvious for the officer at the beginning to understand I cannot hear his instructions and questions.

I read a horrifying story of a deaf man being killed in Oklahoma by a police officer because of miscommunication and not following his instructions. That could happen to any deaf person if 

Easing the Mind and Relaxing the Body, Yoga as a Practice for ADHD

Attention deficiency can become a barrier for many things to many people. Children diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome often times are also diagnosed with Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity disorder and may have a hard time concentrating in class, have a hard time sitting still during dinner, or may lack consistency. Adults diagnosed with ADHD may struggle with organization at work or home.

Silhouette of a beautiful yoga woman at sunset (in surreal colors)

ADHD is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often persists into adulthood. ADHD includes a combination of problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.

Besides proper medication, practicing Yoga can be another support to help ease the mind and relax the body.

If There Were a Cure For Asperger’s Syndrome

Many diseases during our lifetime have been, if not eradicated completely, at least greatly minimized. These include smallpox and polio, among others. But will there ever be a cure for Asperger Syndrome? For that matter, does there need to be?

school icons on the blackboard

Remember that A.S. isn’t a defect so much as a difference: That is, the Aspy brain is wired somewhat differently than that of the so-called “neurotypical.”

While those differences do cause problems in a neuro-typical world at times, they can also be very beneficial if channeled and directed properly. For example, Einstein probably had A.S., but in spite of, or perhaps because of that, he went on to fill his resume with accomplishments that would give anyone cause for envy. Would you say he needs to be “cured”?