Mentorship and Role Models are Crucial for Those with ASD

With my decades of direct support with individuals who have Autism I have noticed a few commonalities with social skills modeling and maintaining positive healthy friendships. Mentorship and role models are incredibly important for adults with ASD. There are many ways that you can make sure that this invaluable resource is available to your adult children, and it is never too early to start.

As we all know society is ever-changing. What we, as educators and parents have feared for our adult children years ago is pretty much the same now but with even more dangers. We live in constant fear of bullying online and making positive friendships both at work and volunteering in the community. Even the city bus is a fear of uneasiness. “What if’s” are in our minds constantly.

The goals I have tried to teach families are to have a buddy system and to gradually fade out.

I work and have always worked with Youths in Transition. As a support team we search out an appropriate buddy for each individual long term and then begin to fade out. Most times we have to pay individuals to be a friend or advocate for our children. It’s just a fact of life. Your adult child is like anyone else. For a friendship to develop we need consistency, time, and a sense of safety.

Using the High IQ of ASD to Foster Emotional Intelligence

Using a Break Down to Avoid Breakdowns

As many people in the Asperger’s Community understand, aspies often have trouble dealing with emotions. The emotional intelligence of a child’s mind is not much different from an aspie’s mind. Unfortunately, without useful tools, this emotional thinking carries into adulthood and can lead to poor decision making.

Emotional Intelligence

If an adult aspie has a low EQ (Emotional Quotient), then impulse control, critical thinking, voice control, behavior self-modification, and problem solving fail to appropriately play their roles. In school, this means a bad reputation for the aspie with ramifications that make it worse for everybody. A low EQ could affect the relationship of the aspie student with the school faculty and also result in peer bullying. In the workplace, this usually means a write-up or an immediate layoff. At home, it means family tension.

Indeed, negative emotions and behaviors are contagious. They always create toxic environments and habits in the aspie’s life.

Ideally, everybody would like to get on top of this important issue in order to establish a solid foundation of peace. What sort of step-by-step process is necessary to do this? The answers vary depending on the aspie’s age, personal dilemmas, comorbidities, learning schema and environments, mentalities, and general life satisfaction.

In adulthood, the amount of contributing factors significantly increases. The main reason for this is that many professional life aspects are added to personal life aspects.

The good news is that even with a low EQ, aspies have a high IQ (Intelligence Quotient). Aspies can use their IQ to discipline their own minds and to break down each complex and difficult situation.

A 9 step process for the aspie to break down difficult emotions and avoid all definitions of a breakdown

Equal Accessibility in Public Spaces and Public Services: Universal Design and Aspergers

The idea of universal accessibility in public spaces is often thought of with wheelchairs and stairs. However, there are many different abilities that are often not visible and could create hardship for those who do not necessarily “fit the mold” of the environment they are in. Universal accessibility should be broadened to consider those with different abilities that are often not visible, especially in public service environments such as hospitals or schools.

It is not enough to tolerate difference – this is to merely allow it to exist. We must also welcome difference.

I remember the day someone first said to us that our son might be Autistic – have Asperger’s Syndrome. Daniel was in the 5th grade and my husband, Mike, was attending his annual Special Education ARD (Annual Review and Dismissal) meeting. I was in the car driving to my graduate school class when my husband called – confused and unsure of what the SPED staff was talking about.

Daniel received private speech therapy. Then, when he entered school he received speech therapy and for a time occupational therapy. We knew that he had social and communication challenges but up to that point we just thought of it as Daniel’s quirky personality. On some levels it was a relief to give it a name but it also brought so much fear and uncertainty.

Looking back, I think it was in some ways a blessing to give a name to his unique qualities relatively late in his development.

We were able to treat the challenges that came up as specific issues that needed to be addressed. When he had trouble relating to or communicating with children or teachers I would problem solve each incident with no expectation that he could not respond in a more “neurotypical” way.

The diagnosis did provide us some benefits. It allowed us some extra protections and accommodations that allowed Daniel to grow, explore, and participate in school in ways that would have been difficult otherwise. The diagnosis served as a protective shield when teachers and the school culture were not accommodating.

Daniel desperately wanted to participate in the Audio-Visual program at his high school.

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!

Parenting Styles to Support Children into an Independent Adulthood

What parenting styles work for you? Are we emotionally stunting our own children? Greetings, my name is Raeme Bosquez-Greer. I am a Program Director with Southwind Fields and I am a mother of adopted children who have cognitive disabilities. The subject I will be discussing is from the perspective of a mother who has been there and done that, then did it again.

For many years I have spoken to parents from all walks of life that have an array of parenting styles. The dynamics of relationships in a household molds the emotional balance of your child.

Regarding a person with Autism, this statement is intensified because I believe these youths on the spectrum feel more and absorb more than any other human being. This is often shown when observing social skills with a group of strangers, grocery shopping, attempting to live with a roommate and so much more.

I will admit I am everything rolled into one in regard to being a Lawn Mower Mom, and A Helicopter Mom. I hover, and I over protect. As a professional and advocate I have seen too much to not be these types of mothers.

It is very difficult currently to not be overprotective and wanting to insulate our children in a safe bubble.

Lessons Learned from 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.

Five young friends jumping outdoors smiling

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. 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.

**This blog is a continuation from a previous post by Katherine Goodsell, you can find it here.

Aspergers 101 FAQ has launched!

Announcing a new resource on Aspergers101! Today we launch Aspergers 101 Frequently Asked Questions section. 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 it will be permanently available at the top menu bar on our website under the “Asperger Syndrome” tab. 

Click on above to go to 101 FAQ Page

 

Diminishing Your ASD Child’s Social Anxiety

Introducing...StarFish Social Club!

Aspergers101 welcomes Stephanie Pepi, founder and director of Starfish Social Club as an underwriting sponsor to our newest resource: Aspergers101 FAQ page! Stephanie’s experience and passion led her to open a program solely dedicated toward helping children – adults challenged (if not crippled) with a lack of social skills. We look forward to her future contributions in the area of social development but thought you would like to get to know her, given advice to parents during a socially awkward outing and the rapidly growing non-profit to watch, Starfish Social Club.

Aspergers101: Tell us about Starfish Social Club. 

Starfish Social Club provides small group, direct social skills instruction to students with social learning challenges, ages 4 through adult. Students learn new skills, practice in a safe environment, and engage with similar peers in leisure activities on a weekly basis. The only requirements for enrollment are the ability to converse with peers and a desire to learn and practice new skills. Community outings (without mom and dad!) are available most weekends as well. Our goals are to increase social awareness and provide opportunities for students to form relationships with others.

Aspergers101: What areas and ages do you serve?

We serve students age 4 and up, including adults. There are no disability requirements; anyone with a social learning challenge is welcome. The majority of our students are on the autism spectrum. Most of our students have ADHD. Other common diagnoses are learning disabilities, anxiety, and mood disorders. We are located in the north central area of San Antonio and groups meet at our location.

Aspergers101: Your resume is quite impressive, from special education administrator to the track coach for a special olympics team! What led/inspired you to launch Starfish Social Club?

Students with social learning challenges are incredibly misunderstood. Students with social challenges but no ‘behavior’ issues are very often overlooked for services. These students go through school confused and often become socially neglected. Students with ‘behavior’ issues are really students with social learning challenges that aren’t being addressed effectively.  These students go through school frustrated and often socially rejected. ‘Social skills’ can be a very vague, abstract concept and sometimes educators and parents are put in the position of teaching ‘social skills’ without really even understanding the complexity of it all. Social skills are much more than making and keeping friends, they are also about getting and keeping a JOB! There are lots of opportunities for someone with a high school diploma, but how many for someone who doesn’t know how to disagree appropriately? Has poor hygiene? Doesn’t filter their thoughts? Doesn’t acknowledge the presence of others? There is a saying that offense wins games, but defense wins championships. I believe academic skills win school life, but social skills win real life. My goal is to empower kids with the social skills they need to be successful outside of and after school.

Aspergers101: You work with school systems, what do you see as the most challenging social struggles for students with special needs?

Most students with Asperger Syndrome realize around 2nd/3rd grade that they are struggling socially. A lot of kids who struggle start to feel different and alone. While there are lots of kids with social challenges in the world, they aren’t always able to find each other. Most friendships are formed based on similar interests/goals/personalities.

Interests can serve as calming mechanisms for the brain with Aspergers

The fact that special interests can serve as calming mechanisms is largely true for neuro-typical persons as well. Think of your favorite interests outside of your job and your family. What do you enjoy doing when left to your own devices? Some common interests include the following:

  • Reading
  • Gardening
  • Sports
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Photography
  • Exercising
  • Shopping
  • Traveling
  • Collecting Items

Whatever your interest[s] might be, you probably find them enjoyable, fulfilling, and even relaxing.  The interesting thing about interests is that one person’s most favorite activity/thing might be another person’s least favorite thing to do.

Shopping might be a relaxing and enjoyable activity for someone as they comb through racks and racks until they find that crazy deal of all deals! That very same experience might cause stress and even heart palpitations for another as they search for the nearest exit. As with most strategies, interests are highly individualized.

For persons with Aspergers, interests may take many forms and be especially intense.