Are You an Aspie and Depressed? That’s Not Unusual

Asperger’s Syndrome and Depression: Part 1

As most teens and adults with Asperger syndrome know, people with Asperger syndrome can be significantly depressed. The rates of diagnoses of depression vary among studies, from 18% to 22%. The most commonly quoted rate of a depression in the general population of the US  is 6.7%. Most of the research shows both genders have these high rates of depression.

Studies focused on males and females and not those who are transgender. There are more people who identify as transgender in the AS population than in the general population and transgender people have a higher rate of depression. One would guess that someone who is both AS and transgender might have a high tendency towards depression.

Interestingly, non-autistic full siblings and half-siblings of individuals with ASD (not just Asperger syndrome) also had higher rates of depression than the general population, although at half the rate of those with ASD. Studies of suicide attempts are also very troubling. In studies of suicide, the rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts are prevalent, especially in adolescence and young adulthood.

It’s critical to identify depression, since it can be treated.

It’s obviously important to understand why rates of depression and suicidal thoughts are so high. One factor, given the findings in siblings, is that there is an increased genetic vulnerability to depression, although large studies haven’t supported a common genetic overlap. We have to look to other factors to account for these high rates of depression.

It’s important to diagnose clinical depression for anyone for a simple reason – depression is treatable with a variety of modalities:

Skills for Aspergers Students for Residence Hall Success in College

Many colleges and universities require undergraduates to live on campus, especially during their freshman and sophomore years. “Residence life” (calling on-campus living environments “dorms” is considered a faux pas in higher education these days) requires students to live as a member of a small, interactive society. To be an effective and successful member of an on-campus living environment, students are expected to understand and conform to social norms within residence halls. Students are also expected to pull their own weight both socially and in regard to independent living in their dorms.

Brick Building on University Campus

Students diagnosed with ASD are sometimes challenged in independent living skill development.

Many require additional supports to learn these skills, and in recognizing when to use them. Colleges are not prepared to teach these skills to this population. Less than 5% of public, four-year institutions report employing staff dedicated to teaching independent living skills to college students diagnosed with ASD.

A successful residence hall experience requires one to understand and conform to understood norms and few colleges have employees available to teach those skills. It becomes clear that students with ASD must begin learning and mastering necessary skills prior to their transition into college.

To master the skills necessary for a successful residence hall experience, one must know what is expected for dorm living.

Expectations include:

  • Participation in scheduled floor and resident hall activities, including scheduled floor meetings
  • Understand and follow residence hall rules
  • Interact socially with other students on your floor
  • Communicate effectively with roommate(s), including working through conflict
  • Interact with residence hall faculty and staff
  • Utilize academic support resources made available in residence hall settings

by Marc Ellison

How Do People Diagnosed With Autism Get Hired?

What kind of agencies are out there to connect me, and my child’s skills, to a potential employer?

My name is Raeme Bosquez-Greer. I have been an Employment Specialist for the most challenging students for over 20 years. Challenging in my vocabulary means that they are harder to place in a competitive employment setting.

All states and cities have agencies similar to the Texas Workforce Commision, a department of rehabilitation and Alamo Area Council of Governments, which I’ll refer to as “The Agencies” for the remainder of this blog. These are the main agencies the parents of a 15+ year old student can go to for their first steps in seeking training, job developing and employment. This umbrella of agencies contracts third party providers to complete services.  These providers, like myself, specialize in a variety of disabilities including Autism and Neurodevelopmental challenges. We are paid commission for the services that we provide.

The Agencies mentioned above will educate you regarding all the services they offer either themselves or through the 3rd party providers. They will give you a list of providers to select from. You call the providers on the list and interview them with questions specific to your son or daughters needs and you select the provider that you want to work with.

The agency will give you example questions but you can also ask your own based on what best fits your child.

Example questions you might want to focus on are:

  1. How long have you worked in the field of vocational rehabilitation?
  2. What is your success rate with students with Autism or related challenges?
  3. What are your credentials?
  4. Describe your most challenging case and did you have a positive outcome?
  5. What are the most common barriers to overcome for my son or daughter to become successfully employed?

For the state agencies, a student can begin the paperwork process as early as 15 years old. A vocational representative is required to be at the high school a minimum of once a week.  I recommend you contact your child’s case manager frequently and ask to make an appointment with their appointed vocational representative.  Start services early so that your child has time to learn the skills that they need and overcome any barriers by the time they graduate.

An example of my own daughter receiving services:

Teaching Conversation Skills Part 2

Prefer to listen instead of read? Check out the podcast version of this blog from Starfish Social Club below!

Welcome to part two of our conversations theme! This part will cover initiating conversations, ending conversations, interruptions, monitoring length of turn, and picking up on social cues.

You Can Read Part 1 of Teaching Conversation Skills Here

1. Initiating a conversation

This is a really difficult task, even for people without social learning challenges. The first step is to ‘read the room’ to determine if it’s an appropriate time and/or place to start a conversation. Lunch at school is a great time and place, but in the middle of Algebra is not. A place where people are waiting is usually acceptable (waiting room, public transportation, in line at a store), but not if the intended conversation partner is on the phone or talking to someone else.

*Note: If you are initiating a conversation with someone you know, you can typically do so with a basic conversation starter. Examples include:

Initiating a conversation with a stranger or acquaintance takes a little more work as these openers would typically make a stranger or acquaintance feel a bit uncomfortable. The remainder of this section applies to initiating a conversation with a stranger or acquaintance.

  • Hey, what’s up?
  • How are you?
  • How was your weekend?
  • What are you up to?
  • How have you been?

Once it’s been determined that the conditions are appropriate, think of something you notice about that person as a starter. We typically recommend things that are outside the torso area so our intentions aren’t misinterpreted.

Five Subtle Positive Benefits of Video Games for Aspergers

Sure, it is compelling to think that video games have no real-life value, especially for aspies, who desire long solitude. They enable an aspie to escape from the world around them and enter virtual realities that do not test their development in various ways. Thus, video games do not embrace significant personal or professional growth. However, aspies and their families can leverage some not-so-obvious benefits from limited video game time, rather than playing them for either countless hours or no hours whatsoever. Here are some of the greatest subtle benefits:

Video Games, Aspergers, Aspie

  1. Aspies can learn about the various aspects of storytelling using a video games’ entertainment value to remain interested in the big picture.

From the general plot to the narrative arc, to the specific rhetorical techniques that game developers use in each game, the aspie can learn to connect the dots in a grand scheme. As they play the game one action leads to another. This kind of learning is best mainly because the aspie brain best processes one thing at a time in a chronological, fact-oriented sequence.

  1. Video games challenge aspies to think strategically to accomplish goals.

One may find that an aspie who is addicted to their video games completes the game 100% within a matter of days, or shorter. Not only that, they remember every detail about the game. However, this remarkable knowledge did not come without making a few mistakes and starting over.

Amateur players do not progress through every level or location in each game smoothly the first or even the first several times around. They learn by understanding their choke points; the points where they inevitably go wrong, as well as anything they missed. This trial-and-error mindset attributes to all kinds of “real world” situations and serves as a more appropriate substitute to fear of moving forward or pursuing a professional endeavor.

  1. Increasing difficulty on video games enables aspies to think critically in order to develop emotional intelligence.

Difficult situations require difficult actions, even in the virtual world. In the case of younger aspies, video games can serve as a means to develop emotional intelligence. It can make a child go from a complainer to a decisive, empowered strategist.

Frankly, however, this scenario is unlikely to take place without a little reflection on the part of the aspie and their family. More specifically, parents could (and should) take the opportunity to not only set reasonable limits with the aspie, but to also inquire about what exactly the aspie takes from game playing. Afterwards, the parent can then persuade the aspie to attribute this constructive process to various situations, such as the aspie’s typical situations at school. This thought-provoking technique fosters mature growth and the taking of adult-level responsibility.

  1. Games with stories allow aspies to think in an abstract, rather than an always-concrete manner.

Rejection with ASD and Best Practices for How to Handle it

Being a person on the Autism Spectrum and dealing with abuse from many places, I understand that being rejected is tough. Having Autism, I never felt that I fit in with the ‘normal’ children. I had to sit away from everyone in class and was seen as being weird or stupid. My family members did not seem to understand what I was going through because they didn’t have Autism.

I have been rejected many times and in many ways. I was rejected for jobs through email saying, “Dear Maverick, we regret to inform you that your application will not move forward, we encourage you to reapply.” For a long time I never got past the interview process and if I did, no feedback was given on the interview. Sometimes I had to log into my portal and find out my application was rejected three days ago and was never notified by anyone.

In the past there were employers where I would walk in with my resume and I was dressed sharp but I was automatically turned down. The reason why I was turned down was because of my facial expression, not being able to look someone in the eye, or I appeared to be stupid, slow, scared. All of these negative perceptions were because they did not understand me or what I was going through. Employers are not supposed to discriminate against you because of your disability but I had potential employers that did so with me, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

When I applied to graduate school, I applied to about three schools, and was denied by all three of them. In a previous blog I told you how many times I was denied admission from universities and the same for scholarships. Life is a competition and everyone is competing with each other trying to reach one goal whether it’s a job opportunity, scholarship, school, promotion or others. We are living in a society where ideally everyone can win a prize and we all should be winners. It’s good for children to believe that they are winners so that they can then have the confidence in themselves that they can do anything they put their mind to.

But when children become adults, they are in a reality where there exists only a few winners. In order to be the winner, you have to work hard and compete the best way you can against everyone else.

Sometimes it’s unfair, biased, and wrong but unfortunately this is how life is. It’s important that we give a child the fish early on in their life, so when they get old enough we teach them how to fish so they are able to do things for themselves.

10 Steps for ASD College Students to Make the Most of Student Activities

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.

College, students, activities, organizations

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:

  1. 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
  1. 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
  1. 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
  1. 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

Aspergers Drivers Can Use Their Detail-Oriented Thinking for Challenging Situations

Driving with Autism Series

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:

driver

For any situation

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. 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;
  2. NEVER stare into any lights at night; it impedes vision;
  3. 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;
  4. Use high beams, but not to disturb other drivers, pedestrians, or people inside buildings upon which the beams project;
  5. 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;
  6. 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.

Learn more about AS101’s “Driving with Autism” here!

Please consider donating to help support this initiative.

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drivig-with-autism-decal-with-texas-2

“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

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!

You may contact Reese at: reeseesk@udel.edu

Five Toxic and Overrated Aspergers Beliefs Dispelled

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.

beliefs, aspie

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:

Aspergers Individuals Can Become Great Leaders, Despite Their Challenges. Part 2: Overcoming Challenges

How to overcome personal challenges

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!

Team leader

  • 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.

by Reese Eskridge