Stuck on Skip: The Patterns of Life

My son absolutely loves letters, shapes, numbers, and colors. He can do different activities, but spends majority of his day focusing on the things that he loves most. He loves them because he understands them and they are always constant. A q is always a q, and b always comes after a. One plus one always equals two, and a triangle will always have three sides. Or in his case, his favorite shape, a dodecahedron, will always have twenty sides. A dodecawhat? Just trust me and stay with me here.

My son spends most of his day studying these things and lining them up. In fact, he lines everything up. I often even know he was in a room because of the telltale evidence he leaves behind. For example, the other day I knew he went into my bathroom because when I went in there, there was a line of tampons on the floor organized by color. He doesn’t have all the order that he needs in life so he creates it, and I’m pretty sure he would do this all day long if I would let him. Of course the one exception is that he likes the couch throw pillows on the floor and I like them lined up on the couch. Can’t figure that one out!

Happy family on meadow at summer sunset

The point is that every day I feel like we often do the same things, over and over. I often even hear the same phrases and words over and over again. For me, this is the norm, and I am happy to live it, but sometimes I can’t help but feel like his life and mine are stuck on skip.

Like a record that just can’t get over that scratch, or for any youngsters out there, a DVD that is skipping back to the same part. Or for even younger folks, buying a movie on apple tv that won’t play through. Isn’t it amazing that no matter how far we advance as a society, our issues are still the same?

Anyway, every day is similar and it is a good thing in our house when we find something new to line up or perhaps even change the pattern, because that is change! In fact, my son is so creative in creating new patterns that when family was recently over we all felt like we were doing mind puzzles trying to find his reason and new pattern choice. I see it like he is leaving mini works of art all throughout the home. If you could see some of his more intricate letter designs I doubt you would describe it any other way. I often call him a letterologist  or letter ninja if there were such a thing.  

Aspergers101 Training for Parents

Download Your Free Guide About Asperger Syndrome

When suspecting Autism or Asperger Syndrome, a parent experiences a range of emotions. Often the shock of the diagnosis quickly gives way to a thiristing curiosity of your child’s unique brain function. Your communication depends upon that knowledge. Aspergers101 Training for Parents just published a brochure specifically for that time when a basic understanding of Asperger Syndrome is essential not only for the understanding of the caregiver, but for relatives, neighbors and educators as well. We are pleased to offer you the tri-fold brochure as a downloadable (at the end of this blog) or to request multiples for your school or organization as a gift from Aspergers101 and H-E-B!


Key Characteristics of High Functioning Autism/Asperger Syndrome are:

  • Difficulty with Communication
  • Special Interests 
  • Love of Routine 
  • Poor Concentration/Easily Distracted 
  • Difficulty with Social Relationships

What is Asperger Syndrome?

Asperger Syndrome is a neurological condition resulting in a group of social and behavioral symptoms. It is part of a category of conditions called Autism Spectrum Disorders, though the revised DSM-V leaves Asperger Syndrome out of it’s manuel and places the symptoms under Autism Spectrum Disorder(s) or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified,” or PDD-NOS.

The name, Asperger Syndrome is still used among the community as there has not otherwise been a name to specifically fit the diagnosis. Children with Asperger Syndrome usually have normal to above normal intelligence and do not have the language problems typical of autism. It can lead to difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and clumsiness.

What are the Challenges?

It is oftentimes stated that it isn’t the Autism or Asperger Syndrome that poses the greatest challenge. It is the comorbidities that often accompany ASD that is the biggest hurdle and must be treated.
A person diagnosed with Aspergers might inherit one, two or possibly more of these challenges as they age. Below lists many (but not all) of common comorbidities.

• Gastrointestinal disorders

• Sensory problems

• Seizures and epilepsy

• Intellectual disability

• Fragile X syndrome

• ADHD

• Bipolar disorder

• Obsessive compulsive disorder

• Tourette syndrome

• General anxiety

• Tuberous sclerosis

• Clinical depression

• Visual problems

Treatment(s)

Treatment of comorbid medical conditions may result in a substantial improvement of quality of life both of the child and their parents. It is imperative to first diagnose the comorbidity then get a customized treatment plan. Talk with a health professional like your child’s GP, nurse or pediatrician.


Know that your child diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome/ASD is wired differently. The brain is anatomically different in the frontal lobe making the challenges medically based. In other words, this is not a behavioral problem. Once you let that fact sink in you may begin implementing a plan to navigate through everyday hurdles.

-Jennifer Allen/Founder Aspergers101

Suggested Action Plan

Think ahead – Discuss what is coming up, remember that a ‘no surprises’ action plan is best for your Asperger child. Let them trust that you will prepare them for potential loud environments, visitors, school field trips or meals that may not fit their challenged palette. Mental preparedness often defuses potential melt-downs.

Remove obstacles – It might take awhile to discover the culprit(s), but if your child is struggling at school, chances are sensory issues come into play. Polyester in clothing, loud students, cafeteria odors, fire alarm, free time may all be culprits. Work with your child and the school to remove or ease the barriers. It will make a big difference.

Discover if medication helps –This is trial by error. Antidepressants & anti anxiety meds may greatly help patients with Asperger’s deal with the depression and anxiety that commonly accompanies the disorder. Physicians and psychiatrists may also prescribe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) stimulant medications to help patients with their impulsivity or disorganization (though sometimes the side effects are not worth the result), or antipsychotic medications for patients who act out or who are irritable and aggressive.


FAQ


How is Asperger Syndrome Diagnosed?


Diagnosis is typically between the ages of four and eleven. A comprehensive assessment involves a multidisciplinary team that observes across multiple settings, and includes neurological and genetic assessment as well as tests for cognition, psychomotor function, verbal and nonverbal strengths and weaknesses, style of learning, and skills for independent living.


 How is Asperger Syndrome treated?


·Parent Education & Training
·Social Skills Training & Speech-Language Therapy
·Cognitive Behavior Therapy
.Medication
·Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
·Sensory Integration/Occupational Therapy


What medicines typically help curb anxiety and depression?


*Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
*Antipsychotic drugs
*Stimulant medicines


Alongside deficiencies, what are some positive traits?


*Ability to focus intensely for long periods
*Enhanced learning ability
*Deep knowledge of an obscure or difficult subject resulting in success scholastically and professionally when channeled.
*Honest & hard workers who make for excellent employees when painstaking & methodical analysis are required.

Free Downloadable Brochure

Please feel free to download the Aspergers101 Training for Parents Tri-Fold brochure here. If you are a school or a Autism-related non-profit, you may request these full color brochures for hand-out(s). This generous opportunity has been provided by the H-E-B Helping Here Community Involvement Department! Request form is just below the brochure.

To Request Brochures:

Brochures are provided in groups of 50, 100, 150, 200 or 250 to schools or non-profit organizations who would like to provide parents with basic information on High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Please fill out the requested information below and we will be in touch soon!

Brochures & Shipping provided by Aspergers101 & H-E-B
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Two other excellent resources for basic training on Asperger Syndrome are:



How to Use Visual Supports for Social Skills Training

Many school students carrying the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome exhibit challenges in the area of social interactions and social skills. These social difficulties are worrisome for parents and family members who look for supports to address these challenges. Struggles in the school setting often center on their child’s inability to “fit in” with other students or an inability to grasp social expectations from their teachers and peers. Additionally, their child’s feelings of high anxiety and stress can make the learning environment challenging for them and the people around.

Depositphotos_44865227_s-2015

Over time, I’ve listened to concerns from parents and teachers regarding a student’s lack of understanding when it comes to social situations in the classroom environment. This often leads to isolation and the need for behavior support.

There is information in the literature that suggests both adult and peer mediated techniques to teach and build social skills in children with autism.

Strategies that are directed by an adult include reinforcement of shaped social skills. This is a technique where the child is reinforced when they demonstrate closer and closer approximations of a desired behavior. Peer mediated strategies incorporate the use of proximity, prompts with reinforcement, and teaching peer initiation. The literature also supports using social scripts to capitalize on visual learning methods (Krantz and McClannahan 1993).

In my experience, I’ve observed how visual supports can be very beneficial in producing non-transient messages for the student to follow and use during social situations. When paired with direct instruction using ABA techniques like shaping and reinforcement, social skills training can be accomplished.

When you set out to develop visual supports, first perform an internet search to get some ideas.

Five Toxic and Overrated Aspergers Beliefs Dispelled

What Kinds of Beliefs are overrated? One of the most significant issues against the Aspergers Community is the high number of stereotypes that surround it. Many are obvious and some are not so obvious. Such stereotypes typically arise from well-known people and situations, such as Adam Lanza and the Sandy Hook Elementary Shootings.

beliefs, aspie

The reason for these negative beliefs is that the general population makes up their own stories and opinions that are spread via the media or by word of mouth. Unfortunately, the mass media is too often the only place where the majority of society receives any information regarding Asperger’s Syndrome and those who live with it. As a result, people make snap judgments, rather than take time to put forth the real effort to educate themselves.

Thus, ignorance in the form of false rumors, stories, and beliefs is toxic and contagious to anybody inside and outside the Asperger’s Community. However, ignorance is not a simple excuse. Everybody has the responsibility of truth and knowledge, regardless of the divides between different communities. If this issue did not exist, Aspergers101 would have one less critical reason to exist.

Here are some of the more overrated beliefs that surround the Asperger’s Community and how to dispel them:

Asperger Syndrome From Diagnosis to Independence Part 1: Diagnosis

San Antonio Public Library Informational Summer Series

The summer of 2017 Aspergers101 hosted a free informational series on Aspergers at the San Antonio Public Library. We have recorded each of these valuable sessions in video and powerpoint format so that you can have access to them at any time. Below, watch the first workshop from our Informational Summer Series on Aspergers focusing on diagnosis in childhood. First, Jennifer and Sam Allen discuss the initial steps of recognizing signs of Autism in a child and seeking a diagnosis. Next, Berenice de la Cruz, Ph.D., BCBA-D and COO of Autism Community Network, gives details on the diagnosis process and the medical terminology behind Autism and Aspergers.

The following checklist for Autism and Asperger behavioral signs comes from Jennifer and Sam’s powerpoint. This checklist is not meant to be used as a professional or standalone diagnosis, but rather as a helpful guide that can support you in your journey of diagnosis for your child.

Informal Childhood Developmental Checklist

Social Interactions

 The child prefers to play alone

 The child is rarely invited by others to play in the neighborhood or to participate in activities outside of school

 The child’s social interactions and responses are immature, not keeping with his/her age or his/her cognitive abilities in other areas

 The child has difficulty interacting in group settings

 The child does not play with other children as expected: he/she may not appear interested in their games, or may not know how to join in

 The child appears to be vulnerable to teasing, bullying and being taken advantage of by others

Behavioral Observations

UNDERSTANDING HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM/ASPERGER SYNDROME

Below are excerpts taken from interviews for the documentary, Coping to Excelling: Solutions for school-aged children diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome. We hope this aids you in your on-going quest seeking information on HFA and AS as well as the knowledge you are not alone in your plight to succeed under the diagnosis. 


An amazing discovery still being understood and uncovered today involves a revolutionary find in the human mind. Over 50 years ago, Austrian pediatrician, Hans Asperger, revealed to the medical and scientific community a form of high-functioning Autism later named Asperger Syndrome. These people have always been viewed as eccentric or odd displaying repetitive behaviors and totally lacking in their social skills. The disgusted and disapproving looks you and your child may be receiving when in public or with extended family only adds to the frustration and pain.

I know. My name is Jennifer Allen and my son, Sam has Asperger Syndrome. The challenges may be great, but so can be the results. Pooled information from experts in the field of Autism is provided below so we, as parents, can successfully guide our child through a social and judgmental world.

The High- Functioning Autistic or Asperger brain is different, in its function and in its anatomy. This is not a choice the child makes. In other
words, it’s not bad parenting nor bad behavior, they are wired
differently! -Dr. Janessa Manning

Medical reports reveal a profound discovery in the brain of those with High-Functioning Autism. Studies with MRI imaging document an actual physical difference in some areas of the autistic brain verses that of a neuro-typical brain. Also the neurological pathways fire differently in Asperger patients than that of a typical brain function.

Bottom line, High-Functioning Autistic and Aspergers diagnosed individuals receive their gifts and struggles from a physical and medical basis not behavioral, as you may have been pressured to believe.

So once we understand from whence the challenges occur then we can begin to lead them on the path from Coping to Excelling. –Jennifer Allen

Dr. Temple Grandin

According to Dr. Temple Grandin: “I want to emphasize that Asperger’s and Autism are not separate conditions. Asperger’s is just the milder end of the continuum. There’s no black and white dividing line between a mild case of autism and geek and nerd. They are the same thing. It is a continuum of traits. The mind can either develop to be more thinking and cognitive or it can be developed to be more social. There’s a point where it just merges into part of your personality.”

The two conditions have very few differences, and research proves which treatments are relevant to High Functioning Autism and also applicable to Aspergers Syndrome. Thus both disorders are combined and the treatments suggested should serve your child well.

It is a lifelong condition and occurs in boys four times as often as girls. Because “Aspie” children are not mentally slow, doctors usually do not diagnose them until they are in the early elementary school grades.

In order to be diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a person must show two of these 4 traits:

  1. “Marked impairment” regarding nonverbal social cues (doesn’t make eye contact, doesn’t understand others’ body language, etc);
  2. Failure to make friends;
  3. Lack of appropriate social and emotional responses to others
  4. Inability to spontaneously share enjoyment, interests and achievements with other people.

In addition, the person must show one of these 4 behaviors:

  1. An abnormal and intense interest in one subject;
  2. Adherence to a strict set of rules, routines and rituals;
  3. Repetition of certain mannerisms like hand flapping, hair twisting or even whole body movements;
  4. An obsession in the parts or mechanics of objects.

Experts agree that once the shock of having an Autistic Child has waned, it’s time to start accepting and getting pro-active on your child’s behalf.


William H. “Billy” Edwards, MS, BCBA 

Behavioral Specialist, Billy Edwards, created the following three-step strategy for getting proactive.

  1. Give yourself the permission to grieve about it because it’s okay.
  2. The second step is to begin finding resources and the first resource you look for is probably what parent support mechanisms exist, and
  3. The third component of that would be who are the professionals that you are going to surround yourself with and that are going to help guide you?
  4. Explaining the diagnosis to your child will be easier for you and for them to accept the younger they are. Take a positive approach by listing the positive characteristics as well as having a plan of action for the more challenging ones. This will make the step easier.

Isolation: A Parent’s Journey Through Autism

We started off this summer with very high hopes and a fresh outlook on life. My friend of over 12 years was moving out to Colorado from California to help us with starting our self-sustaining farm. For the past 8 years or so, we have been dreaming of getting this started, but we have been either too busy supporting the family financially or with taking care of the kid’s needs. To do both of these we needed to be living (at the least) 100 miles away from our property. So when my friend said she would come out, live on the property and get the work started, I thought this was an ideal opportunity, and funny enough, a chance for a less isolated life.

Isolation

Things often don’t go as smoothly as you would expect, however.

It proved too much for her and her family to live on a piece of land (in the middle of nowhere) that had been all but forgotten for the last 5 years and she decided to stay in my home with her two grown kids and five large dogs. I was foolishly ok with this. I mean, how much chaos could this cause in my home? The home in which I live with my two Autistic children and my husband. Oh did I mention we live in a two bedroom home?

Let’s just say, this was doomed from the beginning.

I think that even if my kids were neuro-typical, it was only a matter of time before there would be some sort of explosion after which everyone would kiss and make up. The only difference is that I am an ASD Mom. You seriously don’t mess with ASD Moms, especially a seasoned ASD Mom.

My kids were both diagnosed at age three, and are now ten and nine. I have many battle wounds and other various bits of shrap metal under my skin. I’ve had family members and other NT mom’s try to tell me how to better parent my kids. There have been doctors, people shopping at the market and bus drivers suggest to me that if my kids can’t behave in public like “normal” kids, I should keep them at home. I’ve had every decision I’ve ever made scrutinized by every kind of person imaginable.

Moving Beyond Black and White Thinking and Learning to Live in the Gray Area:

Using Floortime as ABA Tactic

Once a child is becomes more competent in his or her ability to think multi-causally, the next focus of higher level social-emotional thinking is the capacity to understand the gray areas of life. Adolescents and young adults with Aspergers or HFA are especially prone to hitting an emotional rut when speaking in terms of “never” and “always”—hallmark terms associated with “black and white” thinking.

IMG_0365

“He never calls on me during class” or “She always gets to play the game first” are common phrases that parents or peers hear when the speaker’s ability to think and feel in more varied degrees is constricted. Not only is this harder to negotiate socially for the partner, but it’s not a very fun state for the black and white thinker either. Such polarized patterns of thinking can lead to social isolation brought on by the extremity of the speaker’s emotional response.

Getting unstuck can be supported through Floortime, where the parent or the therapist can spotlight the child or adolescent’s black and white ideation.

For example, Jason is a young teen with Aspergers who states that he never gets to play his media after school. Jason becomes agitated when discussing this with his mother and his therapist, flooded by feelings of anger and sadness that he has difficulty modulating.

The role of Floortime therapist or supported parent in this dynamic might be to:

Aspergers, Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD), and Families: A List of Resources for You

Parents of any child with differences struggle with feeling isolated. One of the challenges for families with Aspergers Syndrome (AS) and nonverbal learning disabilities (NLD or NVLD) children is that these children don’t look different. They’re bright and verbal; their quirkiness, sensitivities and apparent oppositionalism aren’t easy to understand.

Kid having a tantrum

As a result, parents often feel blamed for their children’s special challenges. I know one mother who was told bluntly by her brother, “You must be doing something wrong. Give me two weeks with that kid in my house and I’d straighten him out.”

Parents are well aware that rigidity meeting rigidity doesn’t work and only leads to meltdowns.

Aspergers and NLD children require unique parenting skills based on understanding, acceptance, and appropriate interventions. Blaming and punishment don’t make family life any better and don’t encourage positive growth in children.

Preventing Meltdowns

Although we have addressed the topic of meltdowns previously, it is a topic that needs to be revisited often, given the intense nature of the meltdown. “People with autism, new research suggests, may have an unusually large and overactive amygdala. This may be one reason why people with autism are easily overstimulated and have a hard time understanding and managing emotions.” – University of Washington

meltdown

This is one of many neurological findings that helps to explain how meltdowns are very different from tantrums. They originate from a neurological place of sensory differences: an over-abundance of neuronal pathways. The brain, whether through too much sensory input, cascading thoughts, chemical overload or some cumulative effect of all of these, gets overwhelmed!

I know individuals with autism can help understand the horror of the meltdown better than any observer. So I would like to refer to Carly Fleischmann for her unique perspective. The following is an excerpt from her website: