Suspect Aspergers?

Our son has Aspergers Syndrome. However, getting the diagnosis didn’t come easy and the path to that diagnosis was rocky to say the least. That was over 10 years ago and still the following checklist we received from our school district is the best heads-up to having Aspergers Syndrome that I’ve seen to date. It cuts to the chase.

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The following is only meant as a ‘checklist’. Remember, this is not an official document, and is only meant to act as a flag for a strong suspicion of Aspergers Syndrome, a doctor or trained therapist would need to make the official diagnosis.

However if you are looking for a guideline of sorts, it doesn’t get much better or black and white than the form below. It was spot on for us describing our son Sam. We’ve also put it in a downloadable format at the bottom. May it lead you towards illumination!                  -Jennifer Allen/Aspergers101

Gyms, Teenagers, and Asperger’s

Helping your teenager stay physically active and healthy

Your adolescent is getting taller, eating more, and gaining weight. It happens parents, our kids grow and eat more while moving less. Between school and therapies who has time for the gym, right? Well, unfortunately, we tend to place fitness in the back burner when in reality it should be in the forefront.

Teenager Workout

Our health should have as much importance to us as education or physical therapy or speech therapy. Adolescence is a great time to begin incorporating health and fitness and I will be discussing some quick pointers to help with that transition. 

The Autism Charm

Jewelry Designed to Impart how it “Feels” to have Autism

One of the highlights when Sam and I speak at autism conferences is the reaction to a simple painting he had created depicting how it ‘feels’ to have autism. His interpretation offers a great insight and a relate-ability satisfying most neurotypical minds.  As a result to the overwhelming positive feedback…we incorporated Sam’s painting into our logo and now have made it into jewelry to wear!


Make no mistake, this is a fundraiser. 100% of all proceeds will directly fuel the cost to provide Aspergers101 as an ongoing free resource and it’s outreach! You can read more about our work at the end of the blog but the focus of this blog is on you and our most uncommon path of raising a child with Autism/Asperger Syndrome.

The Path Less Traveled

The Autism Charm was created out of experience. Both mine and Sam’s journey, though unique to us, is shared by everyone who has a child diagnosed with Autism or Asperger Syndrome. It’s a path less traveled. Early on, a parent finds themselves a bit of an Indiana Jones forging their way through the bramble and uncertainty of EVERYTHING…but you forge on. Years of working together seems each grade advancement was a huge accomphlishment and for a moment, a plateau to rest until onward and upward yet again. You know the path. It was on this isolated journey I met a friend who had, up until that time, also forged it with her son…alone. We formed a most valuable, immediate friendship that felt like an exclusive club! There were others out there and that felt good.

The Parents Bond of Autism

It was from this newly formed friendship that I realized our paths should not be forged alone. If anything, being down the path a bit my family and I then decided to reach out to help others just starting out. Knowledge was power and there is nothing more powerful than a mothers bond of a child with autism…we know each others struggles! Do you find yourself immediately drawn to another parent whose child is on the spectrum? An empathy and fierce loyalty is instant! To remind me of this bond and that I am not alone as I feel, my friend gave me a bracelet that I’ve worn out! It has a symbol of autism that though only she and I wore, that was a daily reminder that I can get through this….there are others!

The Autism Charm Design

So now we, Aspergers101, have taken the logo Samuel designed and made it into a charm bracelet or necklace! We hope you wear it with pride and know that you are never alone in your struggles. Of course, it is through my families faith in God that offers us peace but good to be reminded that others tread the brambled path of Autism. I’ll repost Sam’s description of his design:




“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

We hope you like and share The Autism Charm bracelet and/or necklace!

You can learn more about Aspergers101 and it’s work here: About Us

Getting an ASD Diagnosis in Elementary School: A Crucial Window of Time

Going through the Kinder through third grade for my Aspergers son was by far our (and his) most difficult time. A perfect storm comes together for the parent, the teacher and especially the undiagnosed child on the higher end of the autism spectrum when beginning the school age years.

Kindergarten teacher reading to children in library

Often thrust into a social situation where no one has a clue that autism even exists can easily mask itself as bad behavior. This crucial window of time has been my inspiration to create Aspergers101 so that you can have more information at your fingertips than we did! The signs could come earlier if your child is in day-care or daily with other children. Although our son (who was our first) did show early signs…it didn’t become ‘in our face’ until he started public school.

Remember, your child cannot tell you that the ringing of the class bell hurts their ears like an icepick to the brain as it starts off the day (as it does every class period). Nor that the polyester in their clothes hurts their skin. At this age they just ‘act out’ when they’ve had enough.

The teacher sees this as a potentially problematic child, and the parent becomes frustrated by not knowing why all this is happening now that they are at school. This is when the perfect storm can happen. You’ve got teacher, parent and student colliding, often treating ‘bad behavior’ verses the real cause which is autism.

Aspergers 101 Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, we've answered 101 of your questions about Asperger Syndrome!

Whether you are beginning to suspect your child (or yourself) might have a form of Autism or Asperger Syndrome, or you are already on your journey, this resource was compiled for you!

We polled the 101 top requested questions on Asperger Syndrome and put them in one place for those seeking information on High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome! These questions range from the origins of Asperger Syndrome, the early signs all the way through adulthood. Some questions merited a one word response while others provide you with a detailed bullet-point answer. We would like to thank our underwriting sponsor: The Starfish Social Club for supporting and providing you this on-going free resource! To access Aspergers101 FAQ page either click on the ad below or find it  permanently located at the top of our menu bar on our website under the “Asperger Syndrome” tab. 

Click on above to go to 101 FAQ Page

 

Animal Shelter Volunteer Work for Kids and Teens with Autism: Master Social and Job Skills

Volunteering at an animal shelter is a great way for tweens, teens and young adults on the autism spectrum to practice and improve social and job skills. They also learn responsibility and a respect for animals. As visitors come into animal shelters to look at animals available for adoption, it’s the perfect place for teens to improve face-to-face communication. The experience they gain volunteering at an animal shelter molds them into more effective volunteers and prepares them for the workforce.

Animal Shelter

Volunteering at an animal shelter is a fantastic opportunity, especially for teens with Aspergers. It has been widely discussed that children, teens, and adults with Aspergers form strong bonds with pets, and can greatly benefit from animal companionship.

Their time spent volunteering will produce better outcomes (adoptions) if they have good communication skills. Here are some top social skills from my book to ensure teens maximize the chance of an animal getting adopted, and master important social and job skills:

1. Smile and Say Hello:

When you see another person, whether a co-volunteer, staff member or visitor, smile and say “Hello”. Your smile will set the tone for positive future interactions and brighten the person’s day. It may even lead to an animal getting adopted or a financial donation. It all starts with a smile!

I used to volunteer at an animal shelter walking dogs. Often I would be in the back of the shelter bringing a dog in or taking one out. There would be people in the back of the animal shelter looking for animals to possibly adopt. I would smile and say “Hello”. I’d ask if they had questions about any of the dogs I walked. Often they would. After telling them about the animals, I’d suggest they spend time with any animal they were interested in. About 70% of the time they’d end up adopting an animal just because I engaged them and was able to provide helpful information. You can do the same thing!

2. Turn Off the Electronics:

When you are volunteering, keep your phone at home, or turned off, on silent or vibrate mode, and out of sight. This is part of being a professional volunteer and lays the foundation for good work habits.

3. Say Please and Thank You:

Preparing Autistic Students for a New Activity

Priming: A Method of Preparation

In a previous post, we reviewed strategies for solving math word problems. One of the comprehensive strategies noted was priming. This week, we will take a closer look at this strategies in order to apply it across subject areas and grade levels.

priming

Priming is a method of preparing a student with ASD for an activity that he or she will be expected to complete by allowing the student to preview the activity before it is presented for completion.

Priming helps to:

Transitioning to Middle School

Q&A with Lisa Rogers

 

Q: Dear Lisa,

My son has High functioning Autism and is in general education classes in public school. He will be going to Middle School next year and I was wondering how should I prepare the teachers for him, and him for the teachers? This will be different as he no longer has just one teacher but will have many. We have had our ARD and I know the school does so much but I’m nervous and wanted to know what I can do as his parent.

-Sharon Kaiser/Plano, TX

Middle School

A: Dear Sharon,

I’m so glad to have this question. Too often, April or May rolls around and then we begin to have a conversation about transitioning to a new school in the following Fall Semester. By planning ahead, parents and teachers can alleviate the anxiety associated with such a big change and increase success from Day 1 of school. Of course, each person on the spectrum responds to and deals with change in their own way. By including your son in the process, you can make decisions that are tailored to his needs.

Possible activities to consider include the following:

  • Determine the point of contact[s] at the new school
  • Plan a visit to the new campus; coordinate with a small group of friends if possible
  • Set up a Circle of Friends or buddy/social coach
  • Provide a map of the new campus
  • Build a schedule that includes student interests
  • Build a schedule that will meet sensory needs
  • Write a social story about the new campus and new staff. You can find a sample social story in video format at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk0Nag4zvJk
  • Consider beginning to switch several classrooms at the elementary campus to practice this new aspect of Middle School life in a safe environment
  • Ensure the new staff have training in autism to build common understanding
  • Ensure that visual supports are in place to prevent stress. Signs on the first week of school can help navigate a new environment [e.g. schedule, scripts, narratives, etc.]
  • Discuss whether or not the student will benefit from a “Home Base”. A “Home Base” is a predetermined location for the student to regain composure or work through a problem.
  • Develop a plan for communication between home and school

In addition, I strongly recommend creating a portfolio of your child’s strengths, needs and interests.

Making and Using Keychain Rules to Help Behavior for Children with Autism

Q: “I’ve heard that if my son (who is on the autism spectrum) is having a problem staying on task while in school that he should use the “keychain rules”. Would you please explain this term to me?”  – Curious in Nashville, Tenn

Rules listA: Keychain rules are short statements or phrases of desired expectations that capitalize on the tendency toward rules and structure.

They serve as reminders in a quick and easy format that prevent much discussion about them. Rather than say, “stay in your seat” over and over without much impact, the teacher can now say, “Please check keychain rule number 4”. Again, if the rules are attached to a heightened interest, their effectiveness is enhanced.

This student’s interest in Greek mythology was incorporated to his keychain rules as much as possible through the addition of pictures.

Keychain Rule #1: Use appropriate words and voice

  • Say nice things to others
  • Speak in a respectful tone [level 1, 2, or 3]

Keychain Rule #2: Follow directions from teachers

  • Teachers and Mom are trying to help me, so be sure to say “O.K. I’ll try”
  • Give my teachers and Mom a smile or a “thumbs up”

Keychain Rule #3: I will be in control of my body

  • Stay in my assigned seat
  • Keep hands and feet to myself

Challenged with Social Skills? Preparing Youth for Employment.

by Raeme Bosquez-Greer

In my 20 plus years of experience I have found that every student is different and every employer is different. This question cannot be answered in one broad answer, we are all very different. In this blog entry, I will give an example of what has worked in my position as an Autism Specialist, Job Developer and Advocate.

Billy is 16 years old and has been in a secluded classroom for 12 years. In this self-contained classroom, he is very quiet and does not feel he is like anyone else.  In the cafeteria or during breaks he is made fun of and bullied due to his awkward gait, thick glasses and because he tends to keep his head down. He has very little self-esteem or self – confidence. He does not share this with anyone because he does not want to bring any undue attention to himself. Both of his parents work 40 hours a week and allow their son to come home and play video games in his room every evening. He is also allowed to eat his meals in his room each night.

Now Billy is 18. His parents would like for him to move out, get his own apartment and get a JOB.

Parents must understand that no matter how intelligent your son or daughter is if he or she does not get exposure and experience at an early age the barriers to the real world of work will take longer to overcome.

Now that Billy is 18 they are searching for resources, making phone calls and calling everyone in the Special Education department for assistance in meeting these goals.

The parents never really attended Billy’s ARD meetings together and only listened on the phone due to their work schedules.  Billy was assigned a placement specialist to assist with and solve with what we call barriers to employment. The student is lost, confused and scared. He has been enabled in the contained classroom for many years and was able to isolate in his room and play video games with no chores or expectations.

Placement Specialist must first:

  1. Establish a trusting rapport with student.
  2. Engage with the student and go out in the community to see what volunteer or work sites are near his home.
  3. Obtain transferrable skills that would assist with accountability and self-confidence.  Learn what is socially appropriate and inappropriate.

Note that the time frame to overcome all barriers is different for each of your children.

Your ideal timeline and the reality of how long this process will take depends on the severity of barriers we must overcome to obtain gainful employment.  It is our job as parents to not enable our child and to be involved in this process. To be successful in the real world of work these skills must be taught and reiterated at home before they become barriers. Parents must understand that no matter how intelligent your son or daughter is if he or she does not get exposure and experience at an early age the barriers to the real world of work will take longer to overcome.

by Raeme Bosquez-Greer/Job Adventures

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Glossary:

Transferable Skills:  Skills developed in one situation which can be transferred to another situation. They are sometimes called generic, soft or key skills

Accountability: The fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility.