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!

Food and Picky Eaters with Asperger’s: Understanding, Involvement, and Support

Just like physical characteristics and personalities, we all have different taste palates. Are you a sweet-tooth person? Do you enjoy bitter or sour? Are spicy foods appetizing to you? Well, individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s have additional components that they factor in when deciding if they like a food or not.

They may have a texture component like crunchy or soft. What about a color component like only yellow foods or green foods? Food temperature can also help determine if they are willing to taste that food.

Due to the added components that have to line up before making a decision to taste a food item, the act of trying new foods can be an overwhelming event for someone with Asperger’s.

What can we do to help the process of trying and accepting new foods when working with someone with these difficulties? How can we place ourselves in their shoes and hopefully understand their view of new foods?

5 Focuses For Creating a Learning Environment in the Home

Continued learning experiences after school

When it comes to setting the stage for learning, individuals on the Autism Spectrum need to continue their learning experiences even after school. This requires responsibility from therapists, caregivers, and parents. Each must work together to help create a learning environment in the home that continues to provide opportunity to expand the vital skills a child is working on. This includes setting up a home environment, understanding your child’s classroom setup or making suggestions at their after school program.

Child playing at home

Here are five goals to focus on when evaluating a school-related learning environment in the home for children with Aspergers or HFA.

Lessons Learned: Part 2

Lessons Learned From the Kids with Diverse Abilities:

I say diverse abilities because one thing that I have learned from working and playing with children and adults with developmental disabilities is that they understand more than neuro-typical children and adults do. You may understand if you’ve ever heard the phrase “Dance like no one is watching,” and if you crave the freedom and joy that behaving that way can bring.

Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, summertime

They live their lives like no one is watching. They may not even have the ability to sensor their thoughts. This really brings a sense of freedom and joy that no one else (I know) can truly understand. It is the rest of the world who has a problem with what a child like this does and says. If society could be “okay” with this, than they could be “okay” with truly BEING authentic with who they are. These children taught me so much about being authentic and not worrying about what other people see or think. It was years later, when I became a mother again, that I realized just how much they taught me.

Book Review: Uniquely Human: A Different Way Of Seeing Autism

By Ethan Hirschberg

As a teenager with High Functioning Autism, I have been trying to find a book written by a professional in the field that not only is interesting, but factual. When I say factual, I am talking about information that truly represents the mind of someone on the spectrum. No stereotypes, no misrepresentation, just pure knowledge. This past November, I found that book… Uniquely Human: A Different Way Of Seeing Autism by Dr. Barry M. Prizant, Ph.D., CCC-SLP with Thomas Fields-Meyer.

Let me start out by saying that this is the best book that I have ever read in my whole entire life (and I really mean it). Every single moment I was reading this book I couldn’t believe what I was reading. With decades of experience, Dr. Prizant really knows what he’s talking about. Dr. Prizant mentioned qualities of professionals who “get it.” He really “gets it.”

Uniquely Human: A Different Way Of Seeing Autism starts out by stating that the treatment of Autism is a largely unregulated enterprise. I completely agree. There are certain licensing requirements for licensed psychologists (Ph.D./PsyD) and board-certified behavior analysts (BCBA). But, there is no other agency checking up on providers making sure that they are doing the right things for the right reasons. Because of this, there are some professionals who unknowingly worsen the situation that they’re trying to help.

Autism Book Review

Dr. Prizant also states something that foreshadows the rest of the book. He says, “Autism isn’t an illness, it’s a different way of being human.” When I think of this, I think of a famous quote by Stuart Duncan, “Autism isn’t a disability, it’s a different ability.” Everyone is different in their own way.

Another thing that is mentioned in Uniquely Human: A Different Way Of Seeing Autism is the all too known but not used enough question… why? Dr. Prizant mentions that professionals who are working with children on the Autism spectrum need to ask themselves this. He states that many providers see what a behavior is and then try to eliminate it. What they should really be doing is being a detective and finding the truth about why someone is doing something. Once you determine this, proceeding with the right treatment is much easier to do. I personally have seen an aide to a special needs child repeatedly tell the child to stop humming, when in reality, this was a much needed and extremely important stim. He says that professionals who ask why are professionals who “get it.” People who “get it” must have empathy, the human factor, sensitivity, shared control, humor, trust, and flexibility. From what I have seen with Dr. Prizant’s writing, he truly “gets it.”

The last thing that really stood out for me when reading this book was the author’s take on social language. Dr. Prizant said that people with Autism have a hard time learning a social language. He then gives a genius analogy: learning a social language is like learning a second, foreign language to someone on the spectrum. It’s harder to achieve the same fluency level as native speakers. These native speakers are “typical” people while the foreign language applies to people with Autism. This gives me a whole new perspective on my troubles with social skills knowing that in a way, it’s a foreign language to me. Dr. Prizant said that in the real world, people with Autism are left to fend for themselves; navigating a reality that makes sense to everyone else but them. For individuals with Autism, comprehending the social world can mean living in a state of confusion. This is so true for me! There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t get confused, stressed, and frustrated over my social skills. I have trouble seeing and understanding social cues, hints, sarcasm, facial expressions, etc, which makes it so difficult to understand what everyone else knows.

I recommend Uniquely Human: A Different Way Of Seeing Autism to anyone who is affected by Autism. I have not only gained insightful knowledge from reading this book but have been reminded that I’m not the only one. I especially encourage all educators and providers to read this one-of-a-kind book (it really helps). Thank you, Dr. Prizant, for not only providing me with the best book that I have ever read but for giving me more inspiration to better discover myself!

How to cope with Anxiety and Fear

Q&A with Lisa Rogers

 

Q: Dear Lisa,

Currently my son has a fear of his pants falling down. We tried belts that he buckles too tightly. He still fears the pants will fall and the buckle gives extra sensory problems. We tried sweatpants that he ties tightly, still fearful. All day he hikes his pants up. I tried to show him the pants can’t be pulled down but this doesn’t help. He also insists on wearing underwear two sizes too big. He is 8 and diagnosed as PDD-NOS. Could you direct me to any information to help him? This fear is causing multiple meltdowns daily. I don’t know what to do.

Thank you.

-Anonymous

A: Dear Mom or Dad,

Multiple meltdowns each day can certainly take its toll on your son and your family. I understand how critical this issue is for you and will do my best to provide helpful information for you to consider.

In order to be most helpful, I do need to ask a few questions first.

Autism and My Path Through Life: Presented by Dr. Temple Grandin

A Gift for You!

Do we have a big gift for you! Dr. Temple Grandin has graciously given her permission to offer, for a limited time, access to her talk at the Aspergers101 recent event in San Antonio, “Unlocking the Potential: An Evening with Dr. Temple Grandin”. You’ll have a front row seat to her speech: “Autism and My Path Through Life” recorded April 19th 2018 at the San Antonio Pearl Stable. The runtime 48:54 and we feel certain you will want to view it more than once!

(Click anywhere on this banner to view Dr. Grandin Speech)

Thursday, April 19th was a resounding success…an evening that truly made a difference!

“It felt very intimate, as if she truly knew that so many people in the audience were either relating to her speech or appreciating her wisdom. You could hear a pin drop and that entire audience (including myself) was absolutely spellbound.” -Dr. Jane Lynch/UTHSC

We Hope You Enjoy Viewing Our Powerful Production of the Inspirational Dr. Temple Grandin! With your kind donation Aspergers101 (501c3 non-profit) will be able to continue providing free daily content from pioneers blazing the autism trail in medicine, education, policies and on the homefront.

DONATE

Autism and My Path Through Life. Presented by: Dr. Temple Grandin

Do we have a big gift for you! Dr. Temple Grandin has graciously given her permission to offer, for a limited time, access to her talk at the Aspergers101 recent event in San Antonio, “Unlocking the Potential: An Evening with Dr. Temple Grandin”. You’ll have a front row seat to her speech: “Autism and My Path Through Life” recorded April 19th 2018 at the San Antonio Pearl Stable. The runtime 48:54 and we feel certain you will want to view it more than once!

(Click anywhere on this banner to view Dr. Grandin Speech)

Thursday, April 19th was a resounding success…an evening that truly made a difference!

“It felt very intimate, as if she truly knew that so many people in the audience were either relating to her speech or appreciating her wisdom. You could hear a pin drop and that entire audience (including myself) was absolutely spellbound.” -Dr. Jane Lynch/UTHSC

We Hope You Enjoy Viewing Our Powerful Production of the Inspirational Dr. Temple Grandin! With your kind donation Aspergers101 (501c3 non-profit) will be able to continue providing free daily content from pioneers blazing the autism trail in medicine, education, policies and on the homefront.

DONATE

Lessons Learned: Part 1

I know that this blog is about Aspergers and Autism but I think my job here is also to help people make connections in their life experiences, and how they can relate to other people’s lives. So I will begin with this story.

Lessons Learned From Gang Kids:

Helping Hand

After the arrival of my eldest son and finding myself as a single mom, I decided I needed to go back to school and get an education. When I was in High School, no adult had ever made me feel that an education was an option for me. In fact, my guidance counselor advised me to seek out a trade school or business course such as bookkeeping or typing. I explained that I wanted to become a psychologist or a counselor and he would always comment, “well, that would take a lot of years of college and quite a bit of tuition.” This was a conclusion he did not make from my inability to learn or my aptitude for empathy for others.