Mobile Apps Can Help Aspergers Youth: Part 1

Today, we are living in the digital era. The general population in developed countries takes pride in unprecedented access to mobile technology. After all, a major hub of compelling content is right at their fingertips. From the ability to check the weather, to video and photo sites, to self-help materials; the latest in this technology offers a sense of awe to every user.

using smart phone, mobile apps, aspergers

Unfortunately, most people in the Millennial Generation only use this technology for entertainment, rather than educational purposes. This can be viewed as an unproductive waste of time. However, there are countless applications that offer aspies (and anybody else) chances to learn about many different topics.

Newly learned skills from mobile apps can encourage the aspie to re-organize their lives in various beneficial ways, no matter what exactly that means for each individual user. From basic living skills to the aspie’s strongest interest, to establishing a professional image, to lifelong learning; an aspie can use a series of suitable apps that opens many doors to personal prosperity.

Virtually all types of devices, such as the iPhone 6, the tablet, and MacBook Pros, provide unlimited access to application stores. In the case of the iPhone 6, the treasure box of content on the App Store serves as a place to obtain rich digital content.

With this, an aspie can create a customized application bulletin board for continuous intrigue and development. If this intrigue encompasses intrinsic motivation and the desire to learn every day, the aspie will grow as fast as bamboo. Eventually they stand tall over their peers as s/he become the person any parent, teacher, or stranger would admire.

In the context of self-improvement, the basic and most critical level for a strong life foundation, the aspie must directly collaborate in-person with all parties. These include family, educators, therapists, etc. to undergo an extensive evaluation of progress in all areas. Through this, the aspie develops self-awareness.

Another way to maximize self-awareness is to look at broader principles and beliefs outside of the self. The aspie should inquire about where they stands in each principle. Mobile technology’s role is to give the aspie the opportunity to accomplish these tasks through simple, practical applications.

Using Mobile Apps to Encourage Personal Growth

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.