A Farewell from Founder Jennifer Allen
It is with a grateful yet pricked heart that I announce my retirement of Aspergers101 effective, today December 31st, 2019. The timing is right as we leave accomplishing more than our small family-run organization is able to propel any further. We will be handing off a large portion of Aspergers101 to our Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities who will graciously keep our “Driving with Autism” Texas initiative thriving and permanently available on their website to Texans and all states nationwide, beginning in January 2020.
When we started the work of Aspergers101, many years before it became a registered 501c3 non-profit organization in 2014, our son Samuel was in elementary school and struggling as there were little to no resources to learn about Asperger Syndrome. I felt as though me and my family had been crashed and deserted on a small island with little resources on survival. Navigating Autism wasn’t just new to us, the medical community had only begun to turn their attention toward this often overlooked, misdiagnosed condition. I quit my full time job and immersed myself in understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders. I immersed myself in my family. From that difficult time grew a love toward those struggling as we did. The heartbeat of Aspergers101 has always been to the rhythm of my desire to make available the information I never had with Sam. It is you who inspired Aspergers101.
We’ve included several downloadables of information we’ve published on Asperger Syndrome over the years and hope you take advantage by keeping them for yourself and/or sharing with someone in need!Jennifer Allen/Founder Aspergers101
Fast forward to today at the eve of 2020 and there are many autism resources available for you than ever before. Movies, TV shows, websites, clinics, employers, law enforcement and schools now have a better understanding (and accommodation) of those on and around the autism spectrum. We’ve got a long way yet to go… but have come quite a distance in the past decade. Our son Samuel is now 24 years old, college graduate, driving and thriving with full time employment in IT at H-E-B! As our family takes another fork in the road toward Sam’s independence, it is time that we must part our journey together. It lasted longer and went much higher and further than I could have ever imagined, but I pass the baton off to the next trailblazer whose time, endurance, funds, resources and age enables them to serve. There are so many excellent organizations geared toward autism and asperger syndrome and that is why I am certain of the time to step aside and wish you the very best on your continued journey!
“A look forward” at the end of this blog, will offer an explanation for how Aspergers101 will live on. However, before we look forward, I invite you to read on and take a look back at all we’ve been through together over the past decade! It’s been quite a journey we’ve taken together. We’ve included several downloadables of our information we’ve published on Asperger Syndrome over the years and hope you take advantage by keeping for yourself and/or sharing with someone in need! Below offers you a bullet-point glimpse at the highlights of Aspergers101 and the outreach that exceeded our vision. This includes conferences & meet-ups with so many of you, televised broadcasts, our endearing friendship & partnership with Dr. Temple Grandin, the making and airing of our family documentary “Coping to Excelling”, the 2 Texas Legislative successes and oh so much more!
A Look Back
Our Documentary “Coping to Excelling: Solutions for School-Age Children Diagnosed with Autism or Asperger Syndrome”
Coping to Excelling is a one-hour documentary shedding light on the topic of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome in school-aged children. Written and narrated by Jennifer Allen, the Mother of a son with Asperger’s, this engaging program allows the viewer to see through the eyes of those on the high end of the autism spectrum while getting advice from experts. Features include: 3-D animation, original music from Herb Allen and Rudy Gatlin, interviews with Dr. Temple grandin and Dr. Tony Attwood and classroom reenactments. A lesser known fact: the music to the documentary did not come easy for me. My husband Herb made it easy when he pulled out his guitar and had written an instrumental song he so passionately titled: Sam’s Song. He wrote it with minor and major chords untypically played together to display the unusual beauty found in his son with autism. It was that moving piece of music that country artist Rudy Gatlin (Gatlin Brothers Band) and Randy Willis took and created the soundtrack to Coping to Excelling.
You can hear Herb’s simple rendition of “Sam’s Song” here.
If you would like to purchase a copy of Coping to Excelling: you have only a couple of days to order here.
The Aspergers101 Website
We humbly began over 6 years ago with appx 120 page views monthly. Today, Aspergers101 (according to Google Analytics) assisted over over 40,000 people monthly!
The Story Behind the Logo
The story behind our logo: “I painted this abstract picture to show neurotypicals what it feels like to have Aspergers Syndrome. At the time, I was enrolled in Art Appreciation I at Northeast Lakeview College. One day after class, I was at home and suddenly felt like painting, so I got some brushes, a canvas, and some acrylic paint and began to paint while envisioning the picture and its message in my mind. The black and white background represents how aspies tend to see the world in a black-and-white perspective and that we tend to act monotonous. The colors inside the head represent how our minds are bursting with extraordinary ideas. The white lines above the head represent how when we try to say what’s on our minds, it tends to get distorted by our social awkwardness.” by: Samuel Allen
“Driving with Autism” Texas State Initiative
The Strength of the Trailblazing “Driving with Autism” Texas initiative is 3-Fold:
1) Communication Impediment on Driver License & State ID – Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer is a restriction code now offered on Texas State ID and Driver License for those wanting to alert law enforcement of a challenge with communication. This option is marketed to Texas citizen via PSAs airing statewide as well as tri-fold brochures and posters (Spanish/English) in all Texas DPS Driver License Offices.
Texas Transportation Code §521.125 allows the Texas Department of Public Safety to include a notice on the driver license or identification card of those who indicate they have a health condition that may impede their ability to communicate with a peace officer.
The health condition must be supported by a written statement (Download Physician’s Statement form DL-101) from a licensed physician and presented at the driver license office before the communication impediment notice may be included on the back of the driver license or identification card.
You may go to the Texas DPS website for forms here: TX DPS- Driver License – Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer
2) Law Enforcement Training in TCOLE – In an effort to train all Texas Law Enforcement agencies on understanding persons with a Communication Impediment, Jennifer Allen and Aspergers101 has teamed up with the Texas Governors Committee on People with Disabilities in writing and producing video and training modules now published and available to all law enforcement agencies through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE).
3) Communication Impediment in TLETS – The option for disclosure of a communication impediment when registering a vehicle through the Texas DMV. If selected, Communication Impediment will be privately placed in the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (TLETS) thus alerting the officer of the challenge PRIOR to approaching the vehicle in a pull-over scenario. Form VTR-216 must be completed by a licensed physician if the applicant has a physical health condition or a licensed physician, licensed psychologist, or a non-physician mental health professional if the applicant has a mental health condition. Form VTR-216 is available online at www.TxDMV.gov or you may click and download Form VTR-216 here.
Asperger Awareness Brochure Series – Distributed locally, statewide & worldwide
Informative tri-fold brochures have made their way into schools, homes, work, churches and even Texas state law enforcement offices. The goal to provide information proved valuable when placed directly into the hands of those needing it most. Much of our funding went toward this end as we felt knowledge was just the beginning and a great way to start your journey. Below were just some of those brochures you helped provide to others!
“From Diagnosis to Independence” Livestream Series with SA Public Library
This free Workshop Series focused on first understanding then excelling with Autism or Asperger Syndrome throughout the Summer of 2017. Partnering with the San Antonio Public Library, each workshop was live streamed live by San Antonio’s WOAI News 4 and made available (at no charge) thereafter on Aspergers101 website. Hosted by Jennifer Allen, Founder of Aspergers101, a well known team of autism experts were assembled (and those living successfully on the spectrum) provided viewers 4 live stream sessions covering the topics of:
1) Diagnosis, 2) Education, 3) Social Development 4) Independent Living.
The uniqueness is offering this series for free with a live Q & A after each session in which patrons have asked our expert panel questions (recorded) pertaining to Autism/Aspergers.
Law Enforcement Training
Standard Law Enforcement Training on mental disorders is typically taught during the required 5 hours of training per year. Standard training for mental disorders does not differentiate the more aggressive disorders such as Bipolar Disorder, psychotic, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder from the non-aggressive such as Autism. That is why we needed a more efficient and accurate training on A.S.D. because persons with Autism and Asperger Syndrome are increasing in numbers and must feel free to go on to drive and lead independent lives.
There is a greatly feared scenario among families who have a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)or Asperger’s syndrome. It goes like this: A young man diagnosed with high-functioning autism is pulled over for speeding. As the trooper approaches the vehicle the young man’s anxieties kick in. Since his disability is not apparent, the officer notices the man fidgeting and deduces shiftiness or guilt, then proceeds to suspect something is wrong. When he questions the young man’s behavior by asking if something is wrong, the autistic mind takes the statement literally and the young man begins to tell the officer, “Yes, something is wrong. You pulled me over and I’m supposed to be at work in 10 minutes!” The officer mistakes this truth as flippant behavior and proceeds accordingly. The situation escalates as the misinterpretation is misconstrued for defiance. As the number of citizens diagnosed with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome continues to increase, Aspergers101 offered training for law enforcement including considerations for police when encountering a person with autism during a traffic stop. Together, we worked alongside the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and changed the laws in the State of Texas to reflect this need.
Workshops & Conferences
Training to better understanding of Autism and Asperger Syndrome took us all over the state and beyond. Sam offered a first hand glimpse into Autism without abandon! Charlie took part to help with siblings trials and tribulations and triumphs. Herb offered his insight into fathering a son with autism. This training included: Schools, Region Centers, Colleges, In-House Professional Development, Texas State Autism Conferences/Region Education Workshops, Law Enforcement Agencies, Medical Student Workshops, Churches, Employer training and much more.
Many children carrying the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger Syndrome, exhibit challenges in the areas of sensory, academic and social skills at school. These challenges are worrisome if not debilitating for the student, the parent and the educator who look for supports to overcome these hurdles. I shared our family’s personal journey from kinder through college, while providing applicable classroom techniques collected from experts in the field of autism. This training provided an essential foundation of understanding the autistic mind and how that factors into a school setting. Bottom line….how to recognize and successfully navigate ASD in the classroom. This training was most important to me personally as this was so important to catch autism early on.
“Celebrating the Uniqueness of Autism” Texas Televised PSA Series
Legislation(s) Passed: HB#1434 (Driving with Autism materials in DPS Offices) & The Samuel Allen Law SB#976 (Communication Impediment DMV designation option in TLETS)
Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer is a restriction code now offered on Texas State ID and Driver License for those wanting to alert law enforcement of a challenge with communication. This option was marketed to Texas citizen via Public Service Announcement airing statewide as well as in tri-fold brochures and posters (Spanish/English) in all Texas DPS Driver License Offices. It was placing the materials in the DPS Offices that took legislative action. HB 1434 was carried by Ron Simmons Office and passed during the Texas 85th Legislative Session. Here is a behind the scenes video we shared on social media sites that made light of the time spent at the capitol!
SB 976: The Samuel Allen Law
This was an important part of the Driving with Autism initiative and took over 4 years to pass. Sam and I first met with the TExas Executive Director of DMV, Whitney Brewster, to suggest the low cost option of protecting drivers with autism from miscommunication from law enforcement. This would be done with a code that no one could see except the officer pulling the person over. We worked with Texas Senator Bryan Hughes to submit SB 976 to pass during the 86th Texas Legislative Session. Here’s how it works. The option for disclosure of a communication impediment when registering a vehicle through the Texas DMV. If selected, Communication Impediment will be privately placed in the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (TLETS) thus alerting the officer of the challenge PRIOR to approaching the vehicle in a pull-over scenario. Form VTR-216 must be completed by a licensed physician if the applicant has a physical health condition or a licensed physician, licensed psychologist, or a non-physician mental health professional if the applicant has a mental health condition. Form VTR-216 is available online at www.TxDMV.gov or you may click and download Form VTR-216 here. The law passed and became effective in Texas September 1st 2019.
San Antonio Event at the Pearl – Unlocking the Potential w/Dr. Temple Grandin, Tina James/HEB, Ron Lucey/GCPD, Dr. Gail Saltz/Power of Different (Sold Out)
Media Support and Outreach
Always grateful for the means of outreach. Social media played a huge role as did TV, radio and print. An ongoing partner quick to respond where autism was/is concerned has been John Seabers, Senior Vice President / Corporate Group Manager at Sinclair Broadcast Group. His devotion to community has been apparent all these years through a partnership that gained thousands access to information we provided. Below is a brief journey afforded us through the eyes of the media.
There were so many more milestones but as I write this blog, my WordPress is informing me I am maxed out on video space! Bottom line: What a journey!
As you know, Aspergers101 mirrored my family’s trek with Autism except we happened to make that journey with you and thousands of families all over the world experiencing ASD. Together we learned by adhering to the Aspergers101 mission & motto:
“To empower and educate individuals with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome, their advocates and the community so that we can provide optimum support and expanding opportunities for lifelong growth and fulfillment.”
Make no mistake, Aspergers101 is a non-profit and has only been sustained by those who so generously gave. It takes money to operate a non-profit. Just minimal existence is costly. Fundraising has been my least favorite task as the Founder and Executive Director, but a necessary one. My graitute runs deep for the individuals who made sure it kept going! First to my husband Herb, who took on the financial strain to support all 4 of us while I stayed home seeking answers during those early years. He, Sam and Charlie are the foundation and inspiration of Aspergers101. They all made notable sacrifices and gave of their time to share and encourage at more events than I can count. They did this out of love and compassion for those they never met and did so without financial compensation. They have allowed me to disappear into my home ‘office’ for days at a time, writing curriculum, laws and articles without complaint. We gave, but oh how our family has been blessed! Gratitude goes to many of you who graciously gave at our events, online fundraisers or volunteered at events/workshops. Thank you as you kept us going! Know that we received the bulk of our ongoing funding from only a couple of people. These individuals (either would not wish to be acknowledged!) made sure Aspergers101’s had enough revenue to keep the information flowing. Both are strong women. Both are Moms who knew a free, online resource was necessary and they knew this from their own experience. There are no words for this kind of support except that these dear women genuinely live their busy and productive lives wanting to make a difference for others. Ron Lucey is the Executive Director of the Texas Governors Committee on People with Disabilities and was there to support and advance any initiative that would better the lives of those with Autism. He and his staff of 3 were an army of ‘doers’ that brought so much to you, without fanfare. Then there were those behind the scenes, that Aspergers101 contracted for their expertise, who brought you credible information on a daily basis for years! The foundation of Aspergers101 is in the content. It was important to offer you credible, useful information daily and our volunteer bloggers gave freely of their expertise (medical, education, parental and autism-related fields) and time. To Yusuf Chowdhury (Online Business Owners), Amanda Haas (UpWrite), Gerald Newton (Tri-Merge) and our senior editor since Aspergers101 inception, Gabriela Lemos, there was never a better team with greater heart than you! To our past and present Board of Directors, LaDonna Mack, Sandra Murphy and David Clapp…you led by your heart(s) and gave of your time.
This is the last entry on Aspergers101. Please download anything you would like to utilize or share as the website will remain online for just a few more days for you to do so! As mentioned earlier, the entire “Driving with Autism” initiative will live on through the graciousness of Ron Lucey and his team at the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. We are working together to make this a seamless transition and though there is a tease on their website now…know that by the end of January 2020 you will be able to access full information on their site! I feel confident this will give our “Driving with Autism” initiative the platform for sustainability and growth that will serve ours and generations to follow. It is a huge breakthrough that will be built upon bettering communications between law enforcement and those with autism, deafness and so many more diagnosis. Here is the web address:
Sustainability is a word that has popped up in our vocabulary over the past decade so I will use it in describing how Aspergers101 content lives on. All remaining funds will go toward purchasing and delivering our informative tri-fold brochures to educational agencies and autism organizations for distribution. Our autism training continues at UT Health San Antonio for doctors in training. Sam and I recorded a one-hour training that will live on offering doctors a glimpse of families living with autism. Our training is now published and will forever be available in the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) offerings to all law enforcement agencies on better understanding those with autism, deafness in a pull-over traffic stop. In addition, grocery giant, H-E-B, will be absorbing the Aspergers101 employer training materials and I cannot think of a better organization to utilize our materials for ongoing use in their incredible “Bridges” program.
Most of all, Aspergers101 will be sustained through you. Hopefully some of the material has aided you in your journey and it does feel good that together, through education and knowledge, we’ve raised (and are raising) our children on the spectrum .
I am forever grateful to you and where we have journeyed together. My prayer for you, as we part ways and you continue your path of raising a child with autism or asperger syndrome: To remember that education is key, learn everything you can about your child’s diagnosis and address each issue as it arises. Day by day. Never compare yourself to others or what ‘might have been’. Look at the miracles surrounding you, they are there. Abandon those who are making you or your child’s life difficult. Seek and grow the abilities within your child, they have many. Choose your child, never society’s expectations. Breathe. You can do this! I leave you with my personal motto and one I attribute to all things accomplished…To God be the Glory!
Blessings, Jennifer Allen/Retired Founder & CEO Aspergers101