My Son with Aspergers: Through the Eyes of a Father

I am the father of a son with Aspergers Syndrome and through the years of my wife and I raising him, it has had many challenges for me.  As a father I wanted him to take interest in outdoor activities, sports and other things that we could do together but while he was not interested in these things there were other items of interest that I had to adapt to in order to spend the most amount of quality time with him.

My Son: Through the eyes of a Father

While he may not have had interest in what I thought a young boy, now a man, “should” be interested in, he has opened my eyes to a different world that has brought us closer together over the years. I just had to be the one to approach his interests with an open mind and with the idea that these were things we could do as a father and son.

The many times that my son was being called names or bullied by his peers I had to be supportive and encouraging in creative ways, primarily to teach him how to ignore those and look forward to the future with special father and son times together.

Some words of advice from a father of an aspie:

  • Learn to be a listener;
  • Take interest in his activities, not those you think a young man should take interest in;
  • Find things to do outside the home that you can teach him and he is interested in;
  • Be supportive and patient, as typically those with Aspergers will find it difficult to relate to things we take for granted as well as conveying their thoughts in the same manner we are accustomed to;
  • Above all, be a father as well as a dad, they will never forget the times you spend with them and the memories you are making.

by Herb Allen

Using Narratives in School to Address Sensory Differences

Although sensory differences are very real and must be recognized as such, narratives can help to deal with these differences. For instance, there was a high school student that was having significant difficulty with the hallway transition from class to class. Not only was there the loud bell that signals the transition, but then it was followed by a crowded hallway and noisy teenagers talking in groups.

narrative

 

One way to address this might be to allow an early release from class to avoid much of this hallway chaos. Another option is to provide a narrative that helps deal with this difficult transition.

The following is an example of such a narrative:

Passing Period at High School

My name is ___________. I am a student at _________ High School.

In High School, there are different periods. A bell rings at the end of each period.

When the bell rings, the students walk in the hall to go to their next class.

Sometimes, the students make a lot of noise as they walk down the hallway. This might hurt my ears.

That is O.K. The passing period lasts only for a few minutes. Soon, the halls will be quiet again.

I remember that I can just wear my headphones & listen to music during the passing period.

Then, I will get to walk to my next class where it is nice and quiet.

I can do this!

Staff noticed that the student would repeat the story to himself while walking down the hall. A narrative can validate feelings, provide a solution and even offer comfort during a stressful time.

The following is another example of a narrative addressing sensory issues. This time, the narrative was written for a student that wanted to hug her classmates frequently and deeply to get that deep pressure feeling.

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

The Power of Different

Autism certainly has its challenges (especially the comorbidities that may come attached) but surprising are the unique talent/gifts that medical science continues to uncover in the autistic brain. It’s both the challenges and the gifts that are explored in “The Power of Different: The Link between Disorder and Genius”, a book by Dr. Gail Saltz. Saltz is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and a psychoanalyst with the New York Psychoanalytic Institute.

Dr. Gail Saltz

As a columnist, bestselling author, and podcast host, Dr. Saltz is one of the nation’s foremost experts on a variety of psychological and mental health issues. Aspergers101 featured Dr. Saltz in last years San Antonio event, Unlocking the Potential: An Evening with Dr. Temple Grandin, where Saltz referred to medical science discoveries of the autistic mind. It’s that video clip we want to share with you as Dr. Saltz reminds us clinically and emotionally, the power of different.

The Power of Different Podcasts

Have you ever noticed that many of the people most famous in history for having been extraordinary artists, musicians, writers, scientists, leaders, inventors were also uniquely different? Have you wondered why so many struggled with mental illness, dyslexia or some other unusual deficit? A significant percentage of today’s extraordinary individuals are quietly also todays sufferers. According to Dr. Saltz, there is a connection between talent, ability, creativity and minds that are wired differently and that is what she explores on her “The Power of different” podcast. Saltz will offer you their stories as well as experts in brain sciences who will help shed light on this phenomenon. You can email Dr. Saltz directly with your questions and show suggestions at thepowerofdifferent@gmail.com.

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.

Acting and Aspergers

Therapy and a Livelihood for Some on the Spectrum

Is acting your thing? Many diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome have taken to the stage or screen as their profession or hobby. Take Dan Aykroyd and Darryl Hannah or even Sir Anthony Hopkins who all have disclosed the Asperger diagnosis.

Therapists have often used acting out parts in a play for effective social skills building exercises. An example is given by author Cindy Schneider who is a pioneer in the field of drama therapy for people with autism. In her book, Acting Antics: A Theatrical Approach to Teaching Social Understanding to Kids and Teens with Asperger Syndrome, she states the following traits gained by acting:

  1. self-confidence not only in performing but in interactions
  2. improved self-esteem; pride in their accomplishments
  3. improved recognition of emotions in others
  4. improved identification and labeling of own emotions
  5. new leisure time activity in a group where they can be successful
  6. new awareness of volume levels and beginning modulation of level
  7. new skills for functioning as part of a group
  8. new skills for following directions
  9. improved ability to interact with peers
  10. increased self-confidence through success

It’s not easy to find a drama therapist specializing in autism since the field is so new. However, Nichelle Rodriguez the owner of Cast and Crew Universe, has come up with a camp designed for therapy and success.
Nichelle says, “One of our Aspie actors just earned a co-star role on a Netflix series and the mother will be a main speaker this summer.”

Nicole’s special offer to Aspergers101 readers:
“Your readers just need to mention Aspergers 101 for one complimentary Parent Conference pass.”!


Here is more:

AN INVITATION TO HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA….

Empowerment: Building Success for Employees Diagnosed with Autism

Are you an employer looking to better your practice of hiring persons diagnosed with autism? Or perhaps you are looking for employment yourself but have had difficulty getting past the interview process. We wanted to offer you a powerful resource from a recent webinar titled: Empowerment: Building Success for Employees Diagnosed with Autism. Presenters offer expert advice on common workplace challenges such as sensory, social, and thinking and processing then provide suggested accommodations to maximize performance. Simply hiring those with autism isn’t a win for either party, but looking beyond personality alone and hiring the talent of the person with autism is where companies like H-E-B have discovered the win-win scenario.


(Recorded April 29, 2019) Webinar hosted by Randi Turner/Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. Total Runtime: 1:13:00

Presenters:

Jennifer Hines with Texas Workforce Commission/Vocational Rehabilitation revels how local workforce boards, public universities, and private employers have discovered how to successfully balance the needs of the business’ bottom line with the employment goals of people with Autism.

Jennifer Allen with Aspergers101 offers insight into an employer’s basic understanding of Autism and Asperger Syndrome while discussing the most common workplace challenges experienced by people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and offer specific suggestions for accommodations.

Finally, the Director of Recruiting at H-E-B, Jenn Byron Ross, shares best employer practices and how they are attracting talented people on the Autism spectrum for jobs across the organization—from bagger to software developer.

Aspergers101 would like to offer you the following downloadables for continued information on employing those with Autism or those seeking employment by Dr Temple Grandin.


Download

Aspergers101 Training Brochure for Employers


Download

The :30 WOW! Dr. Grandin’s Interview Tips for those with Asperger Syndrome (pdf)


If you would like a copy of training materials contact the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities at 512-463-5739 or email gcpd@gov.texas.gov

Why Is There A Rise In Autism?

by: Klaire Smith

The estimation of changes in the patterns and numbers of the cases of autism in the US has recently become fairly complicated with the main debate being about the documented cases of the autism spectrum disorder.  In the previous years, it was much easier to pin down the exact rates of autism as the cases also did not appear as much as they do now. For example, in the 1970s, and 1980s, the reports on ASD concluded that every 1 out of the 2000 children suffered from autism.

Autism

The results of the survey conducted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2012 and 2013, show that the number of cases went up significantly to every 1 in every 80 children having ASD.

In the following year, the CDC conducted a National Health Interview Survey to note any progressions in the patterns of autism across the US. The survey showed that ASD was more prevalent than it had ever been, with every 1 in 45 children having the symptoms of autism.

What caused such a big rise in the number of autism cases?

The new questionnaire used in the 2014 survey by the CDC may hold an important role in it. The questionnaire used in the most recent survey also asked about Asperger’s syndrome unlike the ones conducted previously.

Asperger’s syndrome used to have its own, separate diagnosis until 2013 when it was enlisted with the autism spectrum disorders and no longer considered a different health condition.

 With the new addition to the autism diagnosis, the 11000 families which were requested to complete the survey were questioned about the diagnosis of a pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger’s, and autism spectrum disorder. Read more on the CDC’s report here.

The question regarding Asperger’s syndrome held a significant role in the sudden rise in the rates of autism cases in the most recent survey.

But it is argued that there are also a number of other reasons which have played an equally important role.

Are Asperger’s syndrome and Autism similar?

Autism and Asperger’s syndrome have similar symptoms in children and cause about same issues. Children who have either of the conditions have similar troubles like the inability to make eye contact and expressing their feelings and problems in picking up body language.