Is Higher Education Ready to Support Students with Asperger’s? ~ Part 1

In 2013, to fulfill the requirements of my doctoral degree, I surveyed disability service professionals at 578 degree-granting, four-year public institutions of higher education. The survey was designed to determine the current readiness of higher education to support the academic, social and communication, and independent living needs of college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder. 230 colleges participated in the survey.

The survey was designed around the Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Asperger’s Disorder, a checklist of efforts determined by experts as integral to effective college supports for this student population.

The 2012 study demonstrated college students with Asperger’s Disorder required specialized supports, and that disability services available traditionally on campus to this population were generally ineffective. The 2013 nation-wide survey explored, in part, whether or not colleges had specialized supports for this student population outside of traditional disability services.

The first research question addressed academic supports, and asked:

“What is the current state of readiness within higher education to meet the academic needs of college students with Asperger’s Disorder as described in the Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Asperger’s Disorder?

The areas of support investigated and the results of the survey follow:

College Students with Aspergers Speak Out: Take Our Advice

Important advice from students who have 'been there and done that'

Colleague and friend Andrew Nelson, a coordinator in the West Virginia Autism Training Center’s Family Focus Positive Behavior Support program, supports individuals with ASD in their transition to college as part of his day-to-day duties. In his work, Andrew began to notice similar questions and issues were being raised by various students.

Many of the questions were about basic procedures of higher education, such as how one applies to and gets into a university. Other questions – like “Do I have to do my own laundry?” – were about campus living.

To help answer these questions, Andrew went straight to the experts: college students on the spectrum!

In his video interview with three Marshall University students, Andrew explores in brief the topics of: college admission, financial aid, effective support strategies, independent living, and the importance of building on-campus relationships. 

All in under 6 minutes!

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.

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 

Why High Functioning Autism Is Not “Easy Autism”

By Ethan Hirschberg

A few weeks ago, someone who had just learned about my blog through my temple came up to start a conversation with me. She wanted to learn more about me and my advocacy work. After talking for a few minutes, she commented that “I have it easy.” I was confused and asked for clarification, in which the response was “you know…glamorous Autism.” I was taken aback. Multiple emotions rushed through my head: anger, confusion, but also determination. I felt angry because this person has no idea what I go through on a daily basis and still had the guts to tell me that I had it “easy.” I was confused because I could not understand how someone could say something like this to me. Finally, I felt determined to keep writing and advocating because although there is an increase in understanding in this world, there is still so much more work to be done. I researched this idea of “glamorous Autism” and, to my surprise, multiple articles came up. This newer myth that I am now aware of needs to be squashed!

The Journey Through Autism

The Autism spectrum is diverse. Some individuals with Autism are nonverbal while some are high functioning savants. Each level of functioning within the Autism spectrum has its own set of unique difficulties. The difference between low functioning and high functioning is enormous and I realize that others have it much harder than I do. However, this does not mean that High Functioning Autism is “easy” or “glamorous”. High Functioning Autism has its own challenges that affect me on a daily basis.

TO READ THE REST OF THIS BLOG POST, WHICH INCLUDES 5 REASONS WHY HFA ISN’T “EASY,” PLEASE CLICK HERE TO VIEW IT ON THE JOURNEY THROUGH AUTISM!!!

How Big Is My Problem?

By Ethan Hirschberg

Ethan Hirschberg is a teenager with High Functioning Autism. In March 2017, he started a blog called The Journey Through Autism, where he shares his personal experiences, insights, and advice to individuals on the spectrum, parents, caregivers, educators, and providers. Ethan's goal is to educate, advocate, and inspire. Please check out his blog as well as his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn!

In everyday life, there are thousands of things happening. Some of these are big deals while some are little deals. Many people on the spectrum have a difficult time trying to differentiate “big deals” and “little deals.”; in other words, what TO make a big deal out of and what NOT TO. This whole “choosing your battles” is something that I still have a hard time comprehending.

A few months ago, I was in my third period chemistry class. My teacher was handing back a quiz that the whole class previously took. When I got my quiz back, I saw that I was marked off three points. I was confused because I checked my work multiple times and still got the same answer. Then, when my teacher recited all of the answers out loud, I proved my suspicions. I saw that my answers were correct but points were still deducted from them. Later that class period I went up to my teacher and respectfully asked him why I got points marked off. He looked at my answers and said, “Because they are wrong!”. I wrote down these three answers: “49.00, 52.00, 53.00.” He said that the correct answers were “49, 52, and 53.” I did not understand why he was marking me down points since my answers and his answers were equal. Before I go any further, the numbers were numbers of atoms, and atoms cannot be divided according to Dalton’s Atomic Theory. He told me that because I added the decimal and two zeros, I indirectly inferred that atoms could technically be divided. I was extremely upset but didn’t show it. I sat back down at my desk.

The next day, I had a meeting with my school case manager. I told her about what happened. With math and science being her strong suit, she understood my teacher’s decision. However, she also completely understood mine as well. I was so upset that I wanted to submit a district grade dispute! I would have usually gone through the department chair, but since my teacher is the department chair, that was not an option! I was so ready to file that paperwork and get my three points back! But then my case manager asked me “Is this a big deal or a little deal?”. After talking for a while, we decided that this was a little deal because it was only worth three points and, even if I got them back, I would still have to be in class for many months to come with a teacher that would dislike me because of the dispute.

These types of situations have come up in my life ever since I was a toddler and my parents and special education team have helped me come up with some things to do in order to determine if a scenario is a big deal or little deal, along with how to act on it.

I created an infographic that you may be able to use in order to demonstrate what problems are big and which problems are little. Check it out below!

On a more personal level, I force myself to reflect. This is usually hard for me to do since all I want to do is act immediately, but fortunately, I (through mistakes of acting too quickly) have learned how to stop myself. I ask myself if this particular problem is a big problem worth getting worked up over, or if it’s a smaller deal that I should just let pass over. I sometimes even get advice from my parents or special education team if my emotions are running too high at the moment and I am not able to think clearly and reflect. If I am really angry about something that I know is a smaller problem, I sometimes think about bigger problems that my peers are facing and realize how lucky I am to only be having this little problem.

If you are on the Autism spectrum: reflect, reflect, reflect! It really does pay off to slow down and calm down! I rarely make good decisions when my emotions are too high. I am learning to take the time to calm down and think things through before I decide how I should act.

If you are a parent: help your child come up with his/her own chart to help decide if something is a big or little deal.

If you are an educator: take the time to talk with your student if you notice that he or she is about to turn something little into something big when it doesn’t have to be. Help him/her to calm down and then talk through the issue. Don’t blow them off because you don’t see it as a big deal. Your student hasn’t come to that same conclusion yet!

Middle School, High School, and College Through the Eyes of a Young Autistic

Middle school. The darkest and most hideous, oppressive years a human can fathom. When the hormones are just ripe enough to make you want to take on the whole world, but maturity has not yet developed enough to realize there are things such as consequences. But me, I did not get into any real trouble, instead I became profoundly confused and unhappy. These are years that are difficult to handle under even the best of circumstances. On top of this, my family moved from the Northeast to the Southwest just as I was about to start middle school. To take a young child from one environment and to suddenly thrust them into new ones is very distressing and painful.

ChristopherS2

For the Autistic it can be hell. Somehow I managed to survive it all, and to escape being beat up by the other kids. One thing I didn’t escape? Humiliation. I had a tendency to laugh uncontrollably at the things I thought were funny at the time. I had always been led to believe that laughing at someone’s joke was the best genuine way to prove that you understood it, and that you admired their sense of wit. But somehow, laughing at everyone’s joke meant I was weird. Wanting to learn was weird. Humming music that I liked was weird. Reading books that I wasn’t required to because of a class was weird. My hair was weird.

Seriously. Other than my hair, someone explain to me what’s weird about any of that.

View Entire Summer Series: From Diagnosis to Independence

One year ago, Aspergers101 launched a Summer Series on Autism in conjunction with the San Antonio Public Library System. WOAI-TV live-steamed all four conferences and area experts on Autism participated in a panel discussion at the conclusion of every power-packed workshop.

Kicked off by Ron Lucey with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and announced by Ramiro Salazar, Director of SA Public Library System at the Press Conference, it was a huge endeavor that allowed free access to information on Autism.

This is community and teamwork at it’s finest!

We want to share all four sessions with you.

The topics are as follows:

  1. Diagnosis 2. Social Development 3. Choices in Education and 4. Independent Living

Press Conference Announcing Aspergers101 Summer Series with the San Antonio Public Library  Asperger Syndrome: From Diagnosis to Independence.
May 3rd 2017 10:30a San Antonio Public Library Downtown

SUMMER SERIES VIDEO LIBRARY

Do you suspect someone you love has autism or Asperger Syndrome? This program explores the signs, the medical explanation, and the hardwired facts. Topics discussed: signs of autism, the importance of diagnosis, grief, and moving forward with awareness. Hosted by Jennifer Allen, Founder of Aspergers101 and her son Samuel Allen. Special guest: Dr. Berenice de la Cruz, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Chief Operating Officer, Autism Community Network. MORE: the San Antonio Public Library and Aspergers101 announced a partnership and upcoming four-part educational series that will focus on understanding and excelling with high-functioning autism or Asperger Syndrome. A well-known team of autism experts (many of whom live successfully on the spectrum) will participate in discussions about important related topics. A question and answer session with the panel experts will follow each night. The series will be presented by Jennifer Allen, Founder and CEO of Aspergers101. Aspergers101 is a local nonprofit dedicated to empowering and educating individuals with high-functioning autism and Asperger Syndrome, their advocates, and the community.

#1 Diagnosis (May 9th 2017)

Download the pdf Powerpoint Presentation on “Diagnosis” here: Diagnosis

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#2 Social Development (June 13th 2017)

Download the pdf Powerpoint Presentation on “Social Development” here: Social Development

Resources: App’s, ibooks and videos on non-verbal communications Momentum Research , Social Quest, Model Me Going Places, The Social Navigator are all at a cost but seem to rate well.

Practical Solutions for College Success

It’s that time of year! Colleges and universities across the U.S. are already preparing for the Summer/Fall term. At Marshall University, (and many colleges across the country), incoming freshmen arrive on campus several days before classes start to adapt to the campus community.Lonely male student posing while his classmates are talking

Acclimation to campus can be especially difficult for students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder. Taylor and Colvin, in their article “Universal Design: A Tool to Help College Students with Asperger’s Syndrome Engage on Campus” (2013) provide helpful suggestions to institutions of higher learning that could make the orientation for students with ASD more effective.