Growing into the Diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome

by: Jennifer Allen

As a mother of a son with Autism and founder of Aspergers101, I’m approached daily with questions. Some I consult with experts to respond and others, I know from living the role of a parent of a child with special needs.

Recently, the question was asked of me “Can you grow out of having Asperger Syndrome”?

While the answer seemed factually a swift no due to the brain’s wiring and you cannot change that, my response became layered from a very personal view.

Sam is now 23, driving, soon to graduate college and discussions of hopeful independence emerge daily. That one sentence sounds easy at first read but the road has been fraught with hurdles, heartache and sheer illumination into the world of Autism.

Samuel Allen

Sam’s brain is wired uniquely as the frontal lobe doesn’t receive the proper ‘firing’ to understand all forms of communication. Vague innuendos, sarcasm or office politics escape him completely as does the innate sense of social cues and proper attire. Medically speaking it is the fusiform gyrus blocking the signals to social cues and communication that neurotypicals utilize on a daily basis. That medical fact won’t change. So can you grow out of Asperger Syndrome as asked by the parent of a newly diagnosed child? I answer this carefully as I can clearly put myself, all those years ago, in the same frame of mind. What you are really asking is, “Will my child be alright? Will they overcome the bleak future the doctor just pinned on us? Will I be the caregiver always? Will this diagnosis go away? Bottom line: you are searching for hope.

My response to this routine question is: You may not grow out of Asperger Syndrome, but you can grow into it. Think about that and recalibrate your thinking toward your child (or yourself!) and the diagnosis.

While I realized early on that Sam will always be wired uniquely, he is equally gifted where others are not. School, peers and judgemental onlookers may have had their definition of success but I formed my own based on Sam’s perspective and strengths. Yes, behaviors can be learned by therapies and treatments but don’t think this is the rise or fall of a person diagnosed with Autism. In other words, once you teach basic manners such as shaking someones hand (and how to do it properly), looking someone in the eye (if only for a few seconds) and basic social skills (mandatory) then you can focus on what sets them apart.

There is an excellent read from Dr. Gail Saltz titled, The Power of Different. In this book Dr. Saltz delves into the challenges and gifts of those whose brain is wired differently. We asked Dr. Saltz for an overview of her studies and we are please to offer the following video from her clinical findings on the Autistic mind.

Of course there are the on-going challenges you must face head-on. Comorbidities, as mentioned above, are typically what challenge the person with Autism more than the Autism itself.

Q&A With Lisa: How do I get my child qualified for special ed?

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Q:

Dear Lisa,

“I suspect my child has autism or some related disability. He is in the early elementary years. How do I get my child qualified for Special Education services in public school and what do they offer?”

-Confused and Concerned in Texas

A:

Dear Confused and Concerned in Texas,

Thank you for asking this question that many others surely have as well. I will do my best to clarify the referral process from a parent’s perspective and possible services. However, you are always welcome to contact the campus Principal and/or the special education department of your current campus/district and present your question to them directly. Their response will give you an overview of the process which I will outline in this article through multiple resources and a flowchart.

Since you have mentioned that you suspect autism or some related disability, I have also included a resource that might help you to clarify your concerns in those terms if/when you do make the phone call to the local special education office.

Coming to Love the New “Normal” of Autism and Childhood

UntitledWe went on an extended road trip with kids. hmmm? Not bad. Better than I expected and better than it has been in the past, but kids on the spectrum are not really spur of the moment, go with the flow types of kids. They need to know what is coming next, and that is something my husband and I are not really good at. The kids both kept saying something really “normal” for 9/10 year-olds. “Are we THERE YET?” and “Can we go home now?” Strange how I have never imagined I would want them to be less “normal” for once.

My husband and I often refer to our days together “before Kids” or BC. We spent a lot of time being vagabonds, traveling and exploring. He is a photographer and I am a writer. So we would sit for hours, he taking pictures and me writing or reading. We also moved to a wonderfully scenic area of the country and have often attempted to continue this way of life, with kids in tow. But it just hasn’t worked out in this way.

I remember one time, around the time the kids were first diagnosed. We visited the very beautiful city of Moab, Colorado.

Overcoming Isolation: One of an Aspie’s Most Terrible Realities

Depression and Isolation in Adulthood with Asperger's

A life with Asperger’s in a neurotypical world is, not surprisingly, difficult. Aspies must overcome countless necessary challenges that have to do with three big categories of stimuli: environments, the brain, and relationships. Unfortunately, aspies too often face unnecessary challenges; terrible burdens on their already heavy shoulders.

Any kind of imbalance in or between the three big categories usually stems from and causes isolation. Isolation is a primary example of trauma to an aspie, regardless of age, traits, or background. Isolation primarily encompasses the relationship factor and its damaging effects on the brain, the psyche. This isolation can cause the aspie to become petrified of their environments.

Health with Aspergers: Balancing Your Mind, Body, and Soul

Managing your weight for good health can be a difficult goal to obtain and keep. From counting calories to the numerous diets available to knowing which gym facility to join or what exercises to do, the options can be overwhelming for someone that just wants to get started.

It is even more challenging for someone with a special medical need. You add a whole new layer of obstacles on top of what we already mentioned. Don’t be discouraged before you start, or even after you start, for that matter.

Weight management is a long and hard journey that requires your soul, mind, and body but it will change your life. Before we start I advise you consult your physician concerning changes in your lifestyle that affect your meals and physical activity.

What Happens to Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome? (Kids Grow Up)

Resources for Adults with AS

Adults with Asperger’s find that the accommodations and supports available for kids aren’t there for them. It’s increasingly recognized that children have sensory issues and supports are often made in schools to support social issues and social anxiety. Some accommodations are made for emotional reactivity and problems with becoming overwhelmed. Adults don’t grow out of these problems; in fact, some make the transition to college or try to find jobs and find little understanding and no support.

Group of business people assembling jigsaw puzzle and represent

Social challenges may be confounding and complicate relationships with friends, work colleagues and partners. Accommodations in school may have helped with inflexibility, concrete thinking and difficulty with changes in routine, but these considerations aren’t typically made in work situations. Many parents of young adults with AS fear that their over-reactivity and poor social judgment may get them into serious trouble in the community.

The Journey of Parenting a Child with Asperger’s with Powerful Successes

The Arc Towards Justice

When you raise children on the spectrum (and with other challenges) life is full of unknowns and uncertainties. Our son, Daniel, was not officially diagnosed until the 5th grade. We knew the way he reacted to situations and approached learning in school was not typical. Every year, as he moved through Elementary School, I would talk with the teacher about his differences.

I tried to make the teacher aware of his challenges and offer my support. The teachers were generally dismissive – I always had the feeling that they felt I was being too protective and was over involved; a helicopter parent.

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. 

Why High Functioning Autism Is Not “Easy Autism”

By Ethan Hirschberg

A few weeks ago, someone who had just learned about my blog through my temple came up to start a conversation with me. She wanted to learn more about me and my advocacy work. After talking for a few minutes, she commented that “I have it easy.” I was confused and asked for clarification, in which the response was “you know…glamorous Autism.” I was taken aback. Multiple emotions rushed through my head: anger, confusion, but also determination. I felt angry because this person has no idea what I go through on a daily basis and still had the guts to tell me that I had it “easy.” I was confused because I could not understand how someone could say something like this to me. Finally, I felt determined to keep writing and advocating because although there is an increase in understanding in this world, there is still so much more work to be done. I researched this idea of “glamorous Autism” and, to my surprise, multiple articles came up. This newer myth that I am now aware of needs to be squashed!

The Journey Through Autism

The Autism spectrum is diverse. Some individuals with Autism are nonverbal while some are high functioning savants. Each level of functioning within the Autism spectrum has its own set of unique difficulties. The difference between low functioning and high functioning is enormous and I realize that others have it much harder than I do. However, this does not mean that High Functioning Autism is “easy” or “glamorous”. High Functioning Autism has its own challenges that affect me on a daily basis.

TO READ THE REST OF THIS BLOG POST, WHICH INCLUDES 5 REASONS WHY HFA ISN’T “EASY,” PLEASE CLICK HERE TO VIEW IT ON THE JOURNEY THROUGH AUTISM!!!

Ultimate Guide: Understanding High-Functioning Autism & Aspergers Syndrome

 The following is an excerpt taken from the documentary: Coping to Excelling: Solutions for School-age Children Diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers SyndromeMedical 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.

Neurological pathways fire differently in Asperger patients than that of a typical brain function. It has become clear that individuals who are diagnosed as High-Functioning Autistic or Aspergers receive their gifts and struggles from a physical medical basis not behavioral, as you may have been pressured to believe. Once we understand exactly how the challenges occur, we can begin to lead our loved ones with Aspergers on the path from coping to excelling.

We interviewed experts in the field of Autism to offer you a quick read on understanding High-Functioning Autism and Aspergers Syndrome.