School Bullying and Aspergers in Middle School: Know Your Legal Rights

It’s understood that bullying will happen to those who have Aspergers Syndrome, especially during the challenging middle school years. Where can you turn? One school counselor discusses your options in this edition of Top of the Spectrum News.

School Bullying: Your Legal Rights

Guest(s): Richard Behrens

How Do People Diagnosed With Autism Get Hired?

What kind of agencies are out there to connect me, and my child’s skills, to a potential employer?

My name is Raeme Bosquez-Greer. I have been an Employment Specialist for the most challenging students for over 20 years. Challenging in my vocabulary means that they are harder to place in a competitive employment setting.

All states and cities have agencies similar to the Texas Workforce Commision, a department of rehabilitation and Alamo Area Council of Governments, which I’ll refer to as “The Agencies” for the remainder of this blog. These are the main agencies the parents of a 15+ year old student can go to for their first steps in seeking training, job developing and employment. This umbrella of agencies contracts third party providers to complete services.  These providers, like myself, specialize in a variety of disabilities including Autism and Neurodevelopmental challenges. We are paid commission for the services that we provide.

The Agencies mentioned above will educate you regarding all the services they offer either themselves or through the 3rd party providers. They will give you a list of providers to select from. You call the providers on the list and interview them with questions specific to your son or daughters needs and you select the provider that you want to work with.

The agency will give you example questions but you can also ask your own based on what best fits your child.

Example questions you might want to focus on are:

  1. How long have you worked in the field of vocational rehabilitation?
  2. What is your success rate with students with Autism or related challenges?
  3. What are your credentials?
  4. Describe your most challenging case and did you have a positive outcome?
  5. What are the most common barriers to overcome for my son or daughter to become successfully employed?

For the state agencies, a student can begin the paperwork process as early as 15 years old. A vocational representative is required to be at the high school a minimum of once a week.  I recommend you contact your child’s case manager frequently and ask to make an appointment with their appointed vocational representative.  Start services early so that your child has time to learn the skills that they need and overcome any barriers by the time they graduate.

An example of my own daughter receiving services:

Finding the ABILITY in Asperger’s

Many say that Asperger’s isn’t a disability, it’s a different ability and I completely agree. We all know that children and adults with Asperger’s bring so many unique gifts to the table. With that said, it is important as a parent that you understand and truly believe that statement. You need to take that thought and hold onto it because as a parent trying to help your child navigate this world, it isn’t always going to feel that way.

Child with balloons

It is our job and right as parents to worry in general, but during times of struggle it elevates a little, okay a lot, and your worries and fears stretch far beyond the soccer field. The game plan, the therapies, and the progress are all part of your life too. The struggle lies in the fact that the plan will need to change, that was once right no longer will be. Just as you think you are smooth sailing, a small change in life may cause the need to reset everything.

Many people see children with Asperger’s and they don’t understand that their needs are lifelong. They don’t see that even if you watch your child succeed at a young age, there will be new territory to navigate as they get older and new situations arise. Of course every child is different, heck every person is, but there is a big underlying root of anxiety, fear, and discomfort for those living the Aspie life.

Perhaps that doesn’t make you feel any better and might even scare you more. I’m sorry if that’s the case, but I truly believe it is important to acknowledge all of the feelings and territory that come with the job. This is a job that comes with a lot of hard work, confusion, sadness, worry, and readjusting. There are going to be days when it doesn’t feel like “a different ability” for you or your child and you need to allow yourself to feel that.

You need to hear and find others who know the guilt that you may sometimes feel when you doubt yourself.

There is a guilt that you feel when you are sad for your child during times of struggle, and when deep down inside you wish that struggle wasn’t there. You will have people tell you that all children struggle, which they do, but it won’t help or bring you any comfort. There are days that you will just feel lost and you will cry.

No matter what happens in life, one thing will always remain true. You will find a way to help your child and come up with a new plan to address life’s new obstacles. You will always rediscover your footing and help them do the same. You will always love and adore your son or daughter and you will never stop fighting for them.

While some days or time periods may scare you or even bring doubt, you will always once again feel that Asperger’s is simply a different ability, and those are the moments that are going to carry you through.

So even if you don’t feel it at the time, always carry that thought with you because I promise that the storm will pass and once it does you are always going to need the reassurance! It may be a wild ride, but the times that you get to celebrate that extra “ability” and triumph are what makes it all worthwhile.

By Jessica Nieminski

Teaching Conversation Skills Part 2

Prefer to listen instead of read? Check out the podcast version of this blog from Starfish Social Club below!

Welcome to part two of our conversations theme! This part will cover initiating conversations, ending conversations, interruptions, monitoring length of turn, and picking up on social cues.

You Can Read Part 1 of Teaching Conversation Skills Here

1. Initiating a conversation

This is a really difficult task, even for people without social learning challenges. The first step is to ‘read the room’ to determine if it’s an appropriate time and/or place to start a conversation. Lunch at school is a great time and place, but in the middle of Algebra is not. A place where people are waiting is usually acceptable (waiting room, public transportation, in line at a store), but not if the intended conversation partner is on the phone or talking to someone else.

*Note: If you are initiating a conversation with someone you know, you can typically do so with a basic conversation starter. Examples include:

Initiating a conversation with a stranger or acquaintance takes a little more work as these openers would typically make a stranger or acquaintance feel a bit uncomfortable. The remainder of this section applies to initiating a conversation with a stranger or acquaintance.

  • Hey, what’s up?
  • How are you?
  • How was your weekend?
  • What are you up to?
  • How have you been?

Once it’s been determined that the conditions are appropriate, think of something you notice about that person as a starter. We typically recommend things that are outside the torso area so our intentions aren’t misinterpreted.

Five Subtle Positive Benefits of Video Games for Aspergers

Sure, it is compelling to think that video games have no real-life value, especially for aspies, who desire long solitude. They enable an aspie to escape from the world around them and enter virtual realities that do not test their development in various ways. Thus, video games do not embrace significant personal or professional growth. However, aspies and their families can leverage some not-so-obvious benefits from limited video game time, rather than playing them for either countless hours or no hours whatsoever. Here are some of the greatest subtle benefits:

Video Games, Aspergers, Aspie

  1. Aspies can learn about the various aspects of storytelling using a video games’ entertainment value to remain interested in the big picture.

From the general plot to the narrative arc, to the specific rhetorical techniques that game developers use in each game, the aspie can learn to connect the dots in a grand scheme. As they play the game one action leads to another. This kind of learning is best mainly because the aspie brain best processes one thing at a time in a chronological, fact-oriented sequence.

  1. Video games challenge aspies to think strategically to accomplish goals.

One may find that an aspie who is addicted to their video games completes the game 100% within a matter of days, or shorter. Not only that, they remember every detail about the game. However, this remarkable knowledge did not come without making a few mistakes and starting over.

Amateur players do not progress through every level or location in each game smoothly the first or even the first several times around. They learn by understanding their choke points; the points where they inevitably go wrong, as well as anything they missed. This trial-and-error mindset attributes to all kinds of “real world” situations and serves as a more appropriate substitute to fear of moving forward or pursuing a professional endeavor.

  1. Increasing difficulty on video games enables aspies to think critically in order to develop emotional intelligence.

Difficult situations require difficult actions, even in the virtual world. In the case of younger aspies, video games can serve as a means to develop emotional intelligence. It can make a child go from a complainer to a decisive, empowered strategist.

Frankly, however, this scenario is unlikely to take place without a little reflection on the part of the aspie and their family. More specifically, parents could (and should) take the opportunity to not only set reasonable limits with the aspie, but to also inquire about what exactly the aspie takes from game playing. Afterwards, the parent can then persuade the aspie to attribute this constructive process to various situations, such as the aspie’s typical situations at school. This thought-provoking technique fosters mature growth and the taking of adult-level responsibility.

  1. Games with stories allow aspies to think in an abstract, rather than an always-concrete manner.

Using Mini-Maps at Home to Help with Difficult Tasks

Parenting Aspergers

Remember that a mini-map is a visual strategy that takes a chunk of time and breaks it down even further. This seemingly simple strategy can be highly effective to address “rough spots” in different environments. We have seen how this can prevent work avoidance behaviors at school and now we will shift the focus to an overlapping struggle that is common at home: homework!

mini maps at home

Many students with Asperger’s struggle to navigate the waters of school life only to come home and face more academic work.

It is probably safe to say that most students, with and without Asperger’s, would rather not deal with homework in the evenings. However, the difference is that the student with Asperger’s has worked harder all day long to deal with not only academic stress, but also the added challenges of social interaction and sensory overload, creating a cumulative effect with different possible results.

It is difficult for neuro-typical persons to truly understand this internal struggle that persons with Asperger’s deal with on a daily basis. I found myself in a situation recently and thought it might be a glimpse into what going through a stressful day as a person with Asperger’s might feel like:

Texas Senate Bill 976: The Samuel Allen Law

A Revolutionary Resolve between Drivers with Autism and Law Enforcement

Introducing…. “SB 976: The Samuel Allen Law” being carried by Texas Senator Bryan Hughes (R) for Aspergers101. While it is still just a bill it is weeks away from going to the Texas Legislative floor for vote in front of the House, Senate and then Governor for hopeful passage.

If passed, this bill would allow a person with a Communication Impediment (subcategory: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Deafness, Hearing Impairment, PTSD, Parkinson’s Disease, Mild Intellectual Disability and more) the option for disclosure when registering their vehicle through the Texas DMV. This would place the diagnosis privately in the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (TLETS) alerting the officer PRIOR to approaching the vehicle in a pull-over scenario. This will not only save lives, it will keep the diagnosis hidden from public scrutiny as stated in SB 976 section e:

  (e)  Information supplied to the department relating to an
 applicant's health condition is for the confidential use of the
 department and the Department of Public Safety and may not be
 disclosed to any person.
Samuel Allen at the Texas State Capitol

History of the Driving with Autism Initiative:

Jennifer Allen, founder of Aspergers101 and the Driving with Autism initiative said that the passage of this bill would be the remaining piece of the puzzle for the initiative she began almost 5 years ago. “Driving with Autism” began when her son Sam wanted to obtain his driving permit. Upon realizing that “Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer” was a restriction code option on the Texas driver license, she and Sam approached the DPS DL office counter with all documents only to be met with confusion on the validity of the code. Assuring the DPS employee that she had found this option on-line it took a call to DPS Headquarters in Austin to confirm. Jennifer knew that if DPS was unaware, the public is unaware and a valuable tool was being overlooked by all.

It was from this point that Jennifer and Samuel approached the Texas DPS with a plan. Their non-profit, Aspergers101, would absorb all costs and promote the unknown code not just to those diagnosed with Autism, but to all diagnosis falling into the established “Communication Impediment’ category.

What constitutes a Communication Challenge? Most common diagnoses include: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Mild intellectual disability, Deafness, Speech & languages disorders, Expressive Language Disorder, Down Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Deafness, Brain Injury or Parkinson’s Disease. 

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: