Sibling Friendship and Aspergers: When Childhood Friends Outgrow Each Other

I don’t know if telling this story will date me, but I guess it doesn’t matter that I grew up in the sixties. I remember as a child, that song and story about Puff the Magic Dragon. The special friendship he and Christopher Robbins had together, but then the boy grows up and Puff hangs his head and cries. (Or was that Tom Dooley and Winnie the Pooh? LOL) Anyway, my kids have been best of friends since the beginning of time and long before that. My daughter, Carmen, and son, Jesse, have a sort of love for each other that I pray every day never ends. They even have a secret language and I often hear them babbling away together and cracking each other up with their private jokes. My son looks at his sister and her funny little ways and I can see it in his eyes that she brightens his day, and he her’s.

childhood, siblings, friends

In just the last couple of years, this has been a growing concern for me. They are getting to an age where most siblings just can’t tolerate the sight of each other. Luckily this hasn’t been the case in my home, but I see something else occurring. My daughter has been developing in a more sophisticated way than my son. Her speech has greatly improved, her social skills are growing in leaps and bounds, and she is succeeding in general ed classes.

I am sad to say that in some ways, she is leaving her brother behind.

Self-Care and Parenting Aspergers: Pencil in YOU

The day you become a parent changes everything and there will always have to be a give and take to find the balance that our souls so desperately crave. The problem lies in the fact that for many of us, while we know parenthood is an amazing blessing, it often turns into an all take experience.

As parents, we are desperate to understand and help our children succeed and prevail over any challenges that may come their way. Far too often I see parents who, out of the most genuine love, lose themselves while helping their children.

I believe that cases of this increase when your child may need extra interventions and have daily struggles that require more to get through the basics.

Pencil In You

Having a child diagnosed on the spectrum can bring a variety of different emotions and responsibilities depending on the day. Your priorities often change because they have to, and the scale of give and take seems to tip even more off balance.

While you are in love with your child and grateful for them you are also tired, stressed, and often worried. The stress of processing your reality and navigating it year after year can add a lot of stress to the other members in the household as well.

Now to get to the good stuff! It’s time to put all that aside and think about YOU!

It’s time to get some balance in your life and that means that as parents we need to take some time to be selfish. Just go with me here and I promise you that in the end the other members of your household will be grateful, and so will you.

I get it, you may not have the time, money, or energy for anything extra. However, those are all excuses, so get out your calendar because it’s about time you penciled yourself and your priorities in.

Here are a few steps you need to take in order to keep yourself happy, healthy, and functioning:

Aspergers and Driver’s Ed: The Options Available to You

Driving with Autism in Texas

This blog was originally published when Jennifer had initially discovered the discrepancies in the Texas State DPS system when it came to the “Communication Impediment” as an option for those with Autism. Since then, Jennifer and Aspergers101 have worked tirelessly to change current laws and promote this beneficial option for drivers with Autism in Texas. To learn more about what Jennifer Allen and Aspergers101 have done for drivers with Autism in the state of Texas, go here:

Driving with Autism Initiative

Having a son with Aspergers Syndrome is always a learning curve. I haven’t had a living template from which to go by. Every small milestone in Sam’s young life has seemed so much larger hurdling than it was in mine or my husband’s life. So as we approached the driver’s education opportunity in high school, we rolled up our sleeves and got busy in research. Though gifted with a high intellect, oftentimes those with Aspergers Syndrome or High functioning Autism are 2 to 3 years behind on an emotional level. Emotions often play into driving (ie…people with road rage) so I took that into account when Sam approached the typical 16 year old age of driving.

While we wanted him to go with his class, we held back a bit and it didn’t seem to bother Sam.

We waited a year for Drivers Ed and I went to the district, before he began, and spoke to the Director of Student Driving about Aspergers Syndrome.

They were aware of it but I made sure the driving instructor assigned to Sam knew about how sarcasm, loud noises from fellow student drivers or impromptu journeys would not fare well. Though a bit older than the other student drivers, Sam did well and completed the course.

The next big step was the actual test at the DPS. Here is where I want to share valuable information!

Through persistence on our part, we were able to have “Communication Impediment” put on the restrictions section (where they list use for glasses and such) of Sam’s Drivers license. This offers some security for when/if Sam is pulled over by a policeman and the officer is threatening to him. The officer will see on Sam’s license that he has Autism, and difficulty communicating as we know could be misconstrued for bad attitude.

Please check into this for yourself or for your child’s sake! You might have to put on your investigative hat (our local DPS office had never heard of this). But, when they checked with the state level (we’re in Texas) it was confirmed you could put Autism in the computer with “Communication Impediment” on the backside of the license under restrictions.

Sam is 19 now and just got his first vehicle.

He drives to the nearest community college and to work by himself. He is a good driver but by holding him back a bit (let the emotion catch up) and mapping out a driving route with least potential issues, this hurdle wasn’t so high after all.

by Jennifer Allen

Mental Health in Your Community: Learning to Support Your Child’s Diagnosis

The community I was from is set up for autistic people, people like me, to fail. One of the big issues in a minority community is that mental health is not addressed and no one believes in it. The resources are usually not available or difficult to find for people in minority communities. There are also long-standing traditions of mental health denial because of a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality. Because minority communities have often faced severe oppression and suffering in many ways, they have built an ideology about being strong and not helpless or weak. This has had many adverse effects on the mental wellbeing of the people within those communities.

Your Child's diagnosis, becoming an expert

Since mental health was somewhat of a myth to the community, it was a struggle I endured in my entire life.

I’m an African American male who comes from a community where if you displayed behavior that is associated with a mental illness, you were punished. African American communities often believe strongly in going to church, and they will tell you to pray about it and not seek help from a mental health professional. If you seek help from a mental health professional, you are viewed as weak. They tell your child to “man up, it’s all in your head, you’re making it up, etc.”

It’s hard to accept a mental health diagnosis in the Black community because of traditions we have been taught with.

Nobody in my community accepted my autism diagnosis, and I was ridiculed for seeking help. It was not until I was 22 years old, when I had my third suicide attempt, that I received help and support for my autism and other disabilities.

Today, to help others avoid this struggle, I have composed a list of ways you can accept your child’s diagnosis no matter how severe it is. Remember, you can be victorious and become an expert and advocate for your child.

Mobile Apps Can Help Aspergers Youth: Part 1

Today, we are living in the digital era. The general population in developed countries takes pride in unprecedented access to mobile technology. After all, a major hub of compelling content is right at their fingertips. From the ability to check the weather, to video and photo sites, to self-help materials; the latest in this technology offers a sense of awe to every user.

using smart phone, mobile apps, aspergers

Unfortunately, most people in the Millennial Generation only use this technology for entertainment, rather than educational purposes. This can be viewed as an unproductive waste of time. However, there are countless applications that offer aspies (and anybody else) chances to learn about many different topics.

Newly learned skills from mobile apps can encourage the aspie to re-organize their lives in various beneficial ways, no matter what exactly that means for each individual user. From basic living skills to the aspie’s strongest interest, to establishing a professional image, to lifelong learning; an aspie can use a series of suitable apps that opens many doors to personal prosperity.

Virtually all types of devices, such as the iPhone 6, the tablet, and MacBook Pros, provide unlimited access to application stores. In the case of the iPhone 6, the treasure box of content on the App Store serves as a place to obtain rich digital content.

With this, an aspie can create a customized application bulletin board for continuous intrigue and development. If this intrigue encompasses intrinsic motivation and the desire to learn every day, the aspie will grow as fast as bamboo. Eventually they stand tall over their peers as s/he become the person any parent, teacher, or stranger would admire.

In the context of self-improvement, the basic and most critical level for a strong life foundation, the aspie must directly collaborate in-person with all parties. These include family, educators, therapists, etc. to undergo an extensive evaluation of progress in all areas. Through this, the aspie develops self-awareness.

Another way to maximize self-awareness is to look at broader principles and beliefs outside of the self. The aspie should inquire about where they stands in each principle. Mobile technology’s role is to give the aspie the opportunity to accomplish these tasks through simple, practical applications.

Using Mobile Apps to Encourage Personal Growth

School Bullying and Aspergers in Middle School: Know Your Legal Rights

It’s understood that bullying will happen to those who have Aspergers Syndrome, especially during the challenging middle school years. Where can you turn? One school counselor discusses your options in this edition of Top of the Spectrum News.

School Bullying: Your Legal Rights

Guest(s): Richard Behrens

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:

Finding the ABILITY in Asperger’s

Many say that Asperger’s isn’t a disability, it’s a different ability and I completely agree. We all know that children and adults with Asperger’s bring so many unique gifts to the table. With that said, it is important as a parent that you understand and truly believe that statement. You need to take that thought and hold onto it because as a parent trying to help your child navigate this world, it isn’t always going to feel that way.

Child with balloons

It is our job and right as parents to worry in general, but during times of struggle it elevates a little, okay a lot, and your worries and fears stretch far beyond the soccer field. The game plan, the therapies, and the progress are all part of your life too. The struggle lies in the fact that the plan will need to change, that was once right no longer will be. Just as you think you are smooth sailing, a small change in life may cause the need to reset everything.

Many people see children with Asperger’s and they don’t understand that their needs are lifelong. They don’t see that even if you watch your child succeed at a young age, there will be new territory to navigate as they get older and new situations arise. Of course every child is different, heck every person is, but there is a big underlying root of anxiety, fear, and discomfort for those living the Aspie life.

Perhaps that doesn’t make you feel any better and might even scare you more. I’m sorry if that’s the case, but I truly believe it is important to acknowledge all of the feelings and territory that come with the job. This is a job that comes with a lot of hard work, confusion, sadness, worry, and readjusting. There are going to be days when it doesn’t feel like “a different ability” for you or your child and you need to allow yourself to feel that.

You need to hear and find others who know the guilt that you may sometimes feel when you doubt yourself.

There is a guilt that you feel when you are sad for your child during times of struggle, and when deep down inside you wish that struggle wasn’t there. You will have people tell you that all children struggle, which they do, but it won’t help or bring you any comfort. There are days that you will just feel lost and you will cry.

No matter what happens in life, one thing will always remain true. You will find a way to help your child and come up with a new plan to address life’s new obstacles. You will always rediscover your footing and help them do the same. You will always love and adore your son or daughter and you will never stop fighting for them.

While some days or time periods may scare you or even bring doubt, you will always once again feel that Asperger’s is simply a different ability, and those are the moments that are going to carry you through.

So even if you don’t feel it at the time, always carry that thought with you because I promise that the storm will pass and once it does you are always going to need the reassurance! It may be a wild ride, but the times that you get to celebrate that extra “ability” and triumph are what makes it all worthwhile.

By Jessica Nieminski

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.