An Interview with the Author of Overcoming the Odds: A New Book About the Journey with Aspergers as a Young Black Man

1) Tell us an overview about your new book titled, “Overcoming the Odds: My Journey to Finding Personal Strength and Triumph”

My book is a memoir based on my challenges and obstacles that I had in my life such as autism, abuse, mental illness and much more. Its primarily a sad true story about a man with autism that no one had high hopes for: the doctor said that he would never amount to anything and would be institutionalized.

Book

It took me a long time throughout my journey to find that personal strength and triumph because no one taught me anything about how to live life or survive as a black man in this world along with having a disability.

All of the odds were stacked against the author: he had autism, he was a fatherless black child, with a single parent mother in a dangerous community with low performing schools. He was bullied, had no friends, no one believed in him, experienced bad teachers, had disabilities along with autism. It seemed as if the author was unloved or born into the wrong family. His family or community had no knowledge or did not believe in autism or any mental or neurological illness. He felt hurt, betrayed, used and abused, to name a few.

The author wore many masks in the story to hide from the abuse and being an outcast but it did not work. He tried to block out or ignore the ignorance but that did not work. He tried to mimic a relative that was so perfect at what they did in order to fit in with family but that did not work. He pretended to be happy, that did not work. He tried to lie or cover over the abuse he went through to make the abusers look good but that did not work. He even tried the unthinkable. And that did not work. After all else had failed, he tried a different route which was the most positive route where I learn to discover my own personal strength and triumph.

2) What inspired you to write this book?

After everything I went through, and after giving a speech to 200 people about my journey on having autism, it hit me.

I was inspired when one of my professors told me, “Maverick we need more minority voices in the autism community.”

Dr. Temple Grandin: Practice Prior to Drivers Ed

AS101 Driving with Autism

Though driving with an Autism diagnosis is not for everyone, many do decide to obtain their driver license and go on to live independent lives. Aspergers101 teamed with Dr. Temple Grandin to provide helpful information when considering if driving is for you, or your teen.

Long before driver education, Temple suggests first mastering your skills by practicing on a bicycle (coordination, motor skills). Then tackle driving in a safe remote area such as the country or large parking lot. You’ll begin mastering such challenging tasks, such as multi-tasking, prior to any driving on congested roadways.

One suggestion she has is that before you take a driver education course, you need to find a safe place and practice, and after that, practice even more! Getting the ‘knack’ of driving includes working on your coordination, motor skills, and multi-tasking which all come into play when learning to drive, even more so for those on the autism spectrum.

Anxiety can often be reduced (for the driver with Autism) by lots of driving practice in a safe remote location.  

– Dr. Temple Grandin

Once you’ve mastered working the brake, blinker, gas and other essential tasks while driving, you’ll then be ready to be thrown into a group/driver education training.

For College Students with Aspergers: The Importance of Follow-Up With Your Professors

One of the most challenging aspects of supporting college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder is the need for follow-up with professors, college staff, and others. Follow-up is important to ensure deadlines are met and that assignments are turned in according to each syllabus. The fast pace of college, combined with the severe anxiety and executive dysfunction common to the spectrum, create the perfect conditions for students with ASD to forget deadlines or avoid high pressure academic or social situations on campus.

Follow Up Professors in College

I’ve known dozens of students with ASD who promised: “I will work on my speech for Communications class this evening after dinner.” And they mean it sincerely when they say it. Stress and commitments mount as the day moves forward, however, and by dinner time students who made the promise may feel overwhelmed and overstimulated and avoid the assignment. Some may become focused so intensely on another subject or topic that they forget about working on their speech.

It’s easy to presume that students who miss deadlines or forget to turn in assignments are simply immature, disinterested, or unfocused.

Many educators say “If he would just try harder he’d be just fine.” Some students who fit this profile are labeled “not college material,” as a result, and find their on-campus reputations compromised. Part of the frustration that education and support personnel experience in this scenario comes from their lack of understanding about the autism spectrum. They recognize the sincerity of the student when he said: “I’ll work on my speech after dinner.” They believe the student really meant his promise, and expect that he will follow through.

Understanding Crisis Behavior in People with Aspergers

Some individuals with Aspergers or HFA may engage in crisis behavior that interferes with their learning, puts themselves or others at risk, prevents them from participating in various activities, or impedes the development of relationships. Crisis behavior can range in severity from low productivity to meltdowns that involve aggression, self-injury, or property destruction. Many individuals unfamiliar with Aspergers may believe these types of behaviors are intentional and malicious. However, it has become well known that problem behaviors often serve a function for the individual engaging in the behaviors. Additionally, deficits in the areas characterized by Aspergers may impact behavior.

Stressed teen girl screaming, shouting

Characteristics associated with Aspergers and how it may lead to crisis behavior:

Cognition

Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurological disorder that impacts the way that individuals think, feel, and react. Individuals with Aspergers are believed to react “emotionally” rather than “logically” during stressful situations and are unable to maintain self-control.

Generalization

Some individuals with Aspergers or HFA may have difficulty applying information and skills across settings, individuals, materials, and situations. Even though socially appropriate alternative strategies have been learned, the individual may be unable to “recall” the strategies while stressed.

3 Steps to get Your Child on an Exercise Routine

Autism, Sleep, and Exercise

Did you know that children ages 6 to 13 years need a recommended 9-11 hours of sleep? Did you know that children ages 6 to 17 years need a recommended 60 minutes of exercise every day? Lastly, did you know that research shows a correlation between individuals with autism, exercise, and sleep? David Wachob and David Lorenzi from Indiana University recently conducted a study in which 10 individuals with ASD between the ages of 9-17 years were measured for two things: time spent participating in physical activity and amount of time in restful sleep. Their 7 day study resulted in their participants having more restful sleep as they increased their physical activity during the day. In other words, an increase in exercise like outdoor play meant an increase in sleep. This, in turn, could potentially lead to more positive results like increased attention span, weight loss, behavior changes, and social interactions.

Little boy doing gymnastic exercises

But how do we get our kiddos to move? How do we get them away from the TV and computer? In this blog I will discuss 3 easy steps that will hopefully help get your family moving.

1. Our first step, and probably the most important, is to set the mood in regards to exercise.

Most kids see exercise as a chore when in reality it should be fun. Find something that your child can relate to. This can be stickers, coloring books, games, or tv time (tv time as an incentive) of their favorite show or characters, for example “Big Hero 6”.

ACBighero6

Decorate your workout area in pictures or printouts of their favorite character and make it more inviting. You can even use a “Big Hero 6” t-shirt as their official workout uniform. This will hopefully shed some positive/fun perspective on exercise.

2. Our second step is finding an activity to do.

Sign the Petition!

Option to place an alert system in TLETS (Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System) protecting both law enforcement and those with autism, hearing impairment or other communication challenges.


Aspergers101 “Driving with Autism” spokesperson Samuel Allen

Aspergers101 is striving to continue improving communication between Texas law enforcement and those with a communication challenge such as autism or a hearing impairment in the “Driving with Autism and other communication impairments” Texas initiative. Make “Communication Impairment” an option when registering your vehicle with the Texas DMV. This will allow your diagnosis to be placed in The Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (TLETS) alerting the officer of the challenge prior to approaching the vehicle, averting misunderstandings.  We need signatures to help make this bill pass! Please sign the petition by clicking on the button here:)

Here is the fearful scenario: A person with Asperger Syndrome is driving and gets pulled over by an officer of the law. The stress and panic intensifies as the officer begins dialogue. This stress esulates and the officer asks the driver why are they ‘flying’ down the highway at such a great speed? Of course, the person with Asperger Syndrome takes this literally and the encounter soon takes a preventable turn toward arrest. You may plug in any of the communication challenges from below and come to the same conclusion as recent news reports dictates.

To better equip law enforcement with the knowledge of the challenge PRIOR TO approaching the vehicle is the solution. By allowing the option, when registering your vehicle with the Department of motor Vehicles as a person with a communication impairment (sub category Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Hearing Impairment, Deafness, Parkinson’s Disease, etc) an officer of the law would be alerted when entering the license plate ina pull over scenario. It’s a win-win-win however, we need to pass a bill in the upcoming 86th Texas Legislative Session to make this a reality!


  • What constitutes a Communication Impairment? Some diagnosis are:
    • Asperger Syndrome
    • Autism
    • Deafness
    • Hearing Impaired
    • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    • Parkinson’s Disease
    • Mild Intellectual Disability
    • Down Syndrome
    • Mutism and more.

Please sign the petition and then share with your friends, neighbors or anyone on your social media lists by clicking on the button:


Our intention is to complete and successfully navigate the Driving with Autism initiative in Texas, and then share with the rest of the country! Let’s work together to protect and improve communication between law enforcement and those with Autism or other communication challenges. We will keep you posted!

Thank you for your support in making a difference in the lives of those with Asperger Syndrome!

by: Jennifer Allen/Founder Aspergers101 and the “Driving with Autism” Texas initiative.

Asperger Fact Sheet

by AANE Staff

We thought this a great basic overview (reference sheet) of Asperger Syndrome compiled by the staff at the Asperger/Autism Network. Nice to share if you or someone you know suspects autism.

About Asperger Syndrome:

  • It is a neurological condition that affects the way information is processed in the brain.
  • AS is a hidden disability. Many people appear very competent, but they have difficulties in the areas of communication and social interaction.
  • AS has a genetic and hereditary component and may have additional interactive environmental causes, as yet unknown.
  • AS is a developmental disability. All individuals have social/emotional delays, but continued growth seems to be life-long.
  • The incidence of AS is thought to be 1 in 250. As many as 50% of people with AS may be undiagnosed.
  • There are currently four males diagnosed with AS for every one female, but the true ratio may be as high as one female for every two males.

AS affects each person differently, although there is a core set of features that most people with AS have, to different extents, including:

  • Having a very high intelligence and good verbal skills.
  • Having challenges with the use and understanding of language in social contexts.
  • Having trouble understanding what others are thinking and feeling (called Theory of Mind or perspective taking).
  • Needing to be taught social behavior that is “picked up on” intuitively by others.
  • Having difficulty understanding non-verbal cues such as hand movements, facial expressions, and tones of voice.
  • Facing challenges with organization, initiation, prioritizing – considered executive functioning tasks.
  • Focusing on small details rather than on the bigger picture
  • Demonstrating intense interest areas such as movies, geography, history, math, physics, cars, horses, dogs or reptiles. These interest areas change every 3 months to several years
  • Building friendships through mutual interest areas or activities.
  • Viewing the world in black and white, with difficulty compromising or seeing gray areas.
  • Feeling different, like aliens in our world.
  • Sometimes experiencing anxiety and/or depression.
  • Sometimes experiencing extreme and debilitating hyper- or hypo-sensitivity to light, noise, touch, taste, or smell. The environment can have a profound impact on their abilities to function.

 

Other elements and traits some individuals with AS have:

  • Eye contact can be difficult, sometimes painful,  and usually distracting (or if taught poorly, some individuals may stare).
  • Some people with AS are clumsy, most have poor fine motor skills; although some excel in individual sports.
  • Some individuals with AS have additional diagnoses, such as ADD, bi-polar, OCD.
  • Some have superior skill in a particular areas such as painting, writing, math, music, history, electronics, or composing.
  • People with AS may have difficulties working in groups.

Aspergers101: Where we’ve been and where we will go together in 2019!



Coming in 2019

  
*Exclusive content from world-renowned experts in the field of Autism. Making the Aspergers101.org award-winning website the forefront in credible and lifelong information of living your best with Asperger Syndrome.

*State Policy Changes – Aspergers101 will go into the 86th Texas Legislative Session come January 2019 with a proposed new Bill benefiting those drivers with a communication impediment such as Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Deafness, Parkinson’s, Mild Intellectual Disability and more. This Bill, if passed, will allow a driver the option to register their vehicle as a person with a communication impediment so if an officer of the law pulls them over and runs their license plate, it will be known prior to approaching the vehicle that the driver may not understand the officer. Due to recent deaths resulting from such a misunderstood interaction, this passage would make Texas the first state in the union to recognize Autism by both the DPS and DMV. Jennifer Allen has the backing/support of the Texas DMV, the Texas DPS and the Texas Governors Committee on People with Disabilities.

*Aspergers101 “on the road” Conferences, trainings and workshops scheduled throughout 2019.  

*Exclusively Train UT Health Science Center’s Doctors-in-Training on humanizing families and those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

*Launch Aspergers101 Video Training Downloadable Section on Aspergers101.org target date: August 2019. Includes law enforcement, parents, educators and churches.


Consider your year-end giving to the continuing service of Aspergers101. Aspergers101 is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to providing continual information on Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism. You can read more at the link below.