What to Know When Coworking With Someone With Autism

by: Dave Gentry

Never forget to pump a handshake three times- not one, and definitely not five.Seen from an autistic perspective, the social, shared, and flexible attributes of the modern shared office can be intimidating. As work and life spill into each other, they clash with coping mechanisms for autism spectrum disorder, in which high-level functioning depends on adherence to routine, scripts, and schedules. Despite this challenge, autistic professionals can have precious attributes, and demand better understanding of the relationship between the workplace and this complicated disorder.

“If you’ve met one person with Asperger’s syndrome, then you’ve met one person with Asperger’s syndrome.” In the same circles where this quote is famous, its author is a bit of a celebrity. Dr. Stephen Shore is a professor of Special Education at Adelphi University who has devoted his life to teaching and researching autism. He also has Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning subtype of autism spectrum disorder characterized by obsessive interest and poor social skills. “I wouldn’t use the phrase ‘Asperger’s sufferer,’ because some of us enjoy the way our mind works.”

Interview

The symptom affects how people behave, socialize, and communicate, and its acceptance in the workplace is “uneven.” Some employers avoid the issue, others embrace it, and others are seeking out people with ASD because some of their traits make good business sense. While genius is somewhat rare, a common affinity for routines can translate well to the work force. “They can be efficient, and have very low absentee rates.” TV and movies have introduced more savants whose quirky idiosyncrasies suggest autism, but Dr. Shore knows the reality is often different. “It’s all well and good that organizations are seeking IT people, but it’s a low percentage. We’re not all geeks with superpowers in IT.”

Three Necessities for the High Functioning Autistic to Combat Depression

If you are a High Functioning Autistic (HFA), the odds are troublingly high that you also suffer from some form of depression. As someone who suffers from depression myself, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about how to find happiness when you struggle with the burdens of having an autistic brain. One possibility for the prevalence of depression in autistic brains is that HFAs, for reasons distinct to their neurological condition, are innately more likely to feel depressed.

My sense, though, is that we tend to be depressed because life is difficult for us in ways that are somewhat different from the experiences of the Neurologically Typical (a satirical term for non-HFAs). As such, any discussion of why HFAs tend to be depressed must be approached as a social justice issue, with a clear statement of ethical axioms that, if followed, would help HFAs and non-HFAs alike.

Want to be a Friend to Someone with Asperger’s? Be Sure To do These Six Important Things

A Commentary by Reese Eskridge

Too often, neurotypicals expect a perfect useful relationship from a friend. They like friendships to be easygoing with as much similarity between two people as possible. Therefore, they hold higher expectations for the other side, even though the other side shares that same expectation. Due to the absence of fulfillment, neither person makes connections or sometimes people can become unreasonably selective in the friendship process. The reason for this is that both neurotypicals and aspies often feel like outcasts around certain groups of people.

friendship Aspie

If this happens too frequently, the inclination to make friends declines. However, this shared dilemma can actually help to foster the relationship between an aspie and a neurotypical or an aspie and another aspie, if they are willing to give a chance for that to happen. After all, few things feel more reassuring than being able to take up your worst fears and issues with others, knowing that they will not condemn you for them.

Using Topic Cards to Develop Social Skills in ASD Youth

Topic cards are similar to scripts in that they can help students engage in a variety of topics, beyond their own interests. They are different in that they include just a few words that describe a topic that launch a student or group students in a particular direction. 

Using Choice to Increase Academic Success

A teacher had created a special lunch group to help a student at the middle school level engage in appropriate teen conversations. She had one main interest and it would dominate every conversation. Her interest was in princesses and everything having to do with them. For most young teen girls, princesses were not much of an interesting topic for them.

AS101 Training for Employers

A Guide to Understanding High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome

Training employers to better understand those with Autism Spectrum Disorders is always a favorite workshop to me. It’s like helping someone find a hidden treasure they otherwise would have missed or overlooked without navigating via a map. This could be said of parenting workshops however, without the parental bond, it’s simply explaining to a neurotypical “Brain Wiring 101”. You can witness the employers gain of understanding ASD by the end of the workshop! The blog below is a basic reference for any employer, co-worker or interested party, to gain a better understanding for working with (and advancing) those employees diagnosed with Autism or Asperger Syndrome. At the end of the blog, we’ve included a link to download a tri-fold brochure with all this information on it, a thank you to H-E-B Community for making the brochure possible!

Aspergers101 Training for Employers

A Glimpse at 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. People 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.

Key Characteristics of High Functioning Autism/Asperger Syndrome are:

• Difficulty with Social Relationships

• Difficulty with Communication

• Special Interests

• Love of Routine

• Poor Concentration/Easily Distracted

A full day of work may be difficult. Areas of challenge may include social cues, sensory and thinking and processing or more. Know that gifts and challenges are unique to the individual with ASD so don’t be afraid to discuss a customized plan if they require one.

Common Workplace Challenges

  • 1) Social Interaction
  • 2) Sensory Issues
  • 3) Thinking and Processing

Let’s look closer at each listed workplace challenge, both the challenges and suggested accommodations.

1) SOCIAL INTERACTION

Challenges:

*Does not know how to engage with coworkers (small talk)

• Unsettled over workplace rules such as breaks, being late,basic expectations

• Difficulty initiating or maintaining eye contact

• Co-workers and managers display frustration and/or bullying to the employee with autism

Customer Service with Aspergers: Greeting Customers with a Smile

Smile and Succeed

One of the most important job skills every employee, including those on the autism spectrum, must learn is how to greet a customer properly. If employees learn this valuable skill, they will be way ahead of the pack. Their employer will notice and customers will become life-long evangelists.

Smile

Many employees (and business owners!) fail miserably at this simple task, turning customers off forever and losing them to the competition, or to the online marketplace, often without even realizing it.

In my previous life I owned a specialty retail store. I developed an extensive and innovative six-week customer service and sales training program for new employees, where they were introduced to proven techniques and had to pass a test before joining the sales team. The program worked. I watched as confidence – and customer satisfaction and sales – soared. The tenets taught in this first training program provided the basis of my award-winning book Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service.

Starting with that all important smile and friendly greeting at the front door, we took our store from a start-up to a beloved award-winning specialty retail business.

Decreasing Neurological Stress

by: Lisa Rogers

How do we decrease neurological stress?  The following is an excerpt from my recent book titled Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers: Practical Ideas for Students with ASDs and Other Special Educational Needs.
A research team funded by the National Institutes of Health (2006) found that, in people with autism, brain areas normally associated with visual tasks also appear to be active during language-related tasks, providing evidence to explain a bias towards visual thinking that is common in autism.beliefs, aspie
Although grammatically incorrect, the following statement is about neurological processing. Visual’s a strength, auditory ain’t. As you say this, make goggles and cover your eyes with your hands. Then, cup your hands and make ear muffs over your ears. This will help your brain to remember an essential understanding that is the foundation for taking a different course of action when responding to the behavior of those struggling with neurological stress.
To process information auditorily means to capture transient information, the spoken word, interpret its meaning and find the most appropriate response within the vast catalog of possibilities in the brain. That requires a great deal of work for any brain, but often becomes a daunting task for individuals with ASDs. If someone gave you a list of 20 grocery items to buy verbally, you would probably be able to remember the first six or seven and forget the others. To decrease your stress about keeping all 20 items in your brain and increase the likelihood that you will successfully purchase the entire list, you would probably want to write them down.  Furthermore, you feel a sense of accomplishment as you check off each item.

Acknowledging Autism

Over the years one question is always asked at the end of every autism workshop Sam and I have been privileged to present. To paraphrase, it goes like this:

The Question:

“Sam this question is for you. We just found out our teenage son has (this part she whispers) Autism. I am unsure whether to tell him, his siblings or anyone else for that matter. What are your thoughts…should we tell?”

Since the question is directed at Sam…all eyes are on him waiting his response. For this reference, the woman asking the question is a composite of all the mothers who’ve asked this of Sam more times than I can count. She stands with tears in her eyes and is truly grappling with the recent diagnosis of Autism yet has hope after hearing Sam talk about growing up on the spectrum. She relates, she hurts and she hopes. So answering this common question takes thought. Samuels response is why I am writing this post. It comes straight from the heart of a young man who understands what autism ‘feels’ like. He is able to offer an insight, perhaps, into her own sons inner workings, workings that the parent has yet to grasp.

So when Sam, on his own, offered up his opinion it seemed appropriate to share with you now as it always seems to sooth the inquiring Moms fears.

The Response:

“Why would you not tell your son of his diagnosis? Believe me, he knows he is wired differently. He already knows he is not like his peers and probably feels like an outcast. It might even be a relief to know he has autism as there will finally be an explanation for most everything he is experiencing such as frustration, social loss and even physical pain. At the very least, he (and you) can begin to face the challenges through treatment(s). The diagnosis of autism isn’t a death sentence. It’s a road map of the brain. Understand the brain and map out a direction. Don’t think of Autism as a weight…think of it as a pair of wings in which to fly. ”

Inevitably, the Mom appears relieved and hugs Sam as if to thank him for permission to let the word, Autism, come into their lives. I know because we started from the same place.

8 Signs Of Autism Spectrum Disorder In Women That Are Often Missed

By SUZANNAH WEISS /as published on Bustle

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is frequently misunderstood, and that’s especially true in the case of women. The stereotypical person many people think of on the autism spectrum may be a Rain Man character who is male, anti-social, and gifted with numbers, but the population is actually very diverse. Many women with autism go their whole lives believing something is wrong with them because people have misunderstood their traits.

While autism has traditionally been pathologized (and continues to be in misguided warnings about vaccines causing autism), many people on the autism spectrum consider it a positive or neutral personality trait. However, much stigma around autism remains, which may be particularly intense for women, since their traits can conflict with society’s “ideal” feminine behavior.

In addition, autism is less likely to be identified in women because they don’t always match the stereotype and often work hard to conceal their traits. “‘She can’t have ASD because she makes eye contact, she has a friend, she is caring’… there are many gender stereotypes that lead women with ASD to not be diagnosed or misdiagnosed,” Tasha Oswald, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and founder and director of Open Doors Therapy, tells Bustle.

“Girls often present with milder forms of social troubles than their male peers, due to teachers’ biases and assessments that the girls are more socially adept than boys,” Christine Scott-Hudson, MA MFT ATR, licensed psychotherapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio, tells Bustle. “Girls in general are also socialized not to disappoint or offend their teachers or peers, and so girls on the autism spectrum may intentionally keep behaviors, responses, and feelings to themselves in order to remain pleasing.”

Here are some signs of autism that may be particularly applicable to women, but can be missed, according to experts.

Note: The signs below refer to just one form of autism — what was previously called “Asperger syndrome, or Asperger’s”. Transition to adulthood specialist Cady Stanton, M.S. says that even though the term “Asperger’s” no longer exists, it’s a term many people are familiar with. According to Autism Speaks, it now falls under the umbrella term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5), as of 2013. Typical to strong verbal language skills and intellectual ability differentiate it from other forms of autism.

1. Difficulty With Social Situations

“Just like males with ASD, women with ASD struggle socially, but like a double-edged sword, that struggle is both worsened and helped by the higher societal expectations placed on women to be socially aware and adhere to etiquette,” says Oswald. In other words, it’s not that women have different social symptoms than men; they just may be more likely to mask them.

“Difficulty catching on to others’ intentions, reading social cues, and understanding the unwritten rules of our society are core social challenges present in those with ASD,” Oswald says.

2. Being a Target of Bullies

Many girls are the target of bullies in school, but this may be particularly harsh for those on the autism spectrum.

Maverick Crawford III – Beating the Odds for Success

A Testament to Overcoming Adversity

Lao Tzu said it best,”A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” If this holds true, Maverick Crawford III has certainly walked many miles as a person diagnosed with Autism. Aspergers101 is proud to have Maverick as a regular blogger as his insights into overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles proves to be a favorite among those seeking inspiration. Today, we feature Maverick in a one-on-one interview as he discusses his recent award from the University of Texas at San Antonio, the COPP (College of Public Policy) Most Outstanding Student for the 2017-2018 academic year and the hardships he overcame to achieve success. 

Maverick Crawford III

What did it mean to you to win the most outstanding student award?

A few days before the ceremony, I received several emails from a staff working for the Associate Dean of COPP. The emails were in regards to have a meeting with Dr. Romero in the in her office and then by Starbucks, but then I was in for a surprise the next day. I come to meet Dr. Romero at Starbucks, but she has not arrived, and two minutes later she came out of an auditorium. She asked for me to talk to some high school seniors and I accepted, and that’s was when she announced that I won the Most Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award. For the longest time even on the day I received the beautiful glass award with my name and the name of the award, it seemed like a dream to me. I would have never thought I would win. I was in disbelief and shock, but I was extremely humbled to receive the award.

Tell us a little bit about your role while you interned at the U.S. Pretrial Services.

I deal with offenders on a different level shadowing officers. I got to sit in on an interview with a person who was recently arrested. I did two interviews and asked them questions about their background. These questions helped to determine if the offenders can be released on bond. I had to complete a report at the end of the interview. One of the defendants that I interviewed had autism, and I was able to explain to the Pretrial Officer about a possible sanction to place on the defendant to ensure the safety of the community, and they will appear back in court, and it worked. I told them to have detailed step instructions with kept the defendant on a strict routine because people with autism react significantly with strict adherence to a schedule. This helped me learn more about the administration of the court system and how the material I learn the classroom applies and operated.

Preparing for the Future

How did your double major in criminal justice and public administration prepare you for your future?

It prepared me for a career in public service. Those majors helped me be a better advocate for underprivileged communities. It’s vital that their voices are heard too. Dr. Patricia Jaramillo was a significant influence in adding public administration to my degree plan. She told me I could still graduate on time with a double major from COPP. Dr. Jaramillo and other professors in the College of Public Policy are dedicated to preparing the students for a career in public services by educating them through their experiences and expertise in their respective fields. When I took the public administration courses, I was able to see how the government plays out. When I took criminal justice courses at UTSA, I learned about alternative ways that not hold the offender accountable, but gets the underlying issues of their behavior like Restorative Justice, Specialty Courts, and Juvenile Justice.

Tell us a little bit about your diagnosis with an intellectual disability and autism. What was it like for you growing up?

The community I was from is set up for autistic people, people like me, to fail; without the ability to succeed in any form or fashion. Another big issue in the minority community is that mental health is not addressed and no one believes in it. Since mental health was somewhat a myth to the community, it was a struggle I endure in my life. I was diagnosed with a severe speech impediment, severe mental retardation, severe expressive and receptive language disorder, severe sensory integration dysfunction, auditory processing disorder, dysgraphia (a disorder that causes inability to write coherently), issues with motor processing, anxiety, seizure disorder, and depression. My speech impediment was so severe, I remained silent most of the time to not to embarrass myself.