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.

Facebook and Social Skills

Growing up there was nothing I wanted more in this world than for people to see me for exactly who I am, and like me for it. I drive myself mad looking for this, because identity is unstable. People change as they get older through a combination of experience, genetic predispositions, and neuroplasticity. Aspergers is one fickle diagnoses, mainly because it is susceptible to all kinds of misinterpretation.
And then this miraculous invention called Facebook came out.

Alix Generous

I joined Facebook in 2006 when it was still a relatively small community. One thing I loved about Facebook is that the social norms were different from in-person interaction, and often times made things easier on me. I can connect with people and not be criticized for my lack of eye contact or vocal tone.

Being Sensitive Towards the Siblings of ASD Children

When a family member is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, life changes. Life for the child who is diagnosed, for the parents, for the family friends and acquaintances, and life changes greatly for the siblings.

When our son, Sam, was finally diagnosed at age 9, his younger brother (by 2 years), Charlie, suddenly became the “older” brother. Whether circumstance made this 7 year old become the defender or whether his character was already programmed that way, Charlie took on Sam’s challenges with brute strength! Parenting both boys became a balancing act of  sorts, as Sam needed much attention to both discover his issues and then look to get help for them, and Charlie needed the nurturing that any young guy should have at that age.

Pets and Asperger Syndrome

By: Samuel Allen & Jennifer Allen

Allen Acres August 2014 024If you have a child with Aspergers who interacts well with animals, there’s no need to be surprised. People with Aspergers tend to bond more with animals than they do with people. In fact, many neurotypicals would see Aspies as animal whisperers due to how well they bond with animals.

One time, we visited someone who is a gypsy and she owned some cats and dogs. Seeing as how I like animals, I began petting them and they liked it. When she saw that her animals had immediately taken a liking to me, she was surprised and said it was as if I had a gift where I can bond with animals.

That scenario was a perfect example of how Aspies and animals are like bread and butter. I have a Yorkshire Terrier who I love to be around. I encourage any parent with an Aspie child to get them a pet that they would love to bond with. Whether it’s the classic dog or the trustworthy horse, having pets can prove to be very enjoyable for both the parents and the child.

By: Sam Allen


As a parent to a son with Autism, companionship was what I had desired for Sam especially during those challenging school age years. With no prospect of birthday party invitations or after school gatherings, I worried (turns out far more than I needed to) for Sam’s emotional needs. To this day, Max (pictured above with Sam) offers just the right amount of support.

Not just for those on the Spectrum

Animals will seemingly listen and not judge you based on your social skills or designer apparel labels. You can vent your troubles, remain in total silence for hours or hug them and their tail is still wagging the next day! I can recall, as a little girl, moving to a new town where families had been established as friends for generations. Coming in as a middle school student had its social challenges even for a neurotypical! Compounding the isolation, I developed a near fatal form of pneumonia where I was functioning with only one lung for weeks. It was at this point that I met a stray German Shepherd mutt that changed everything…my newfound confidant, Nellie Jean.

That dog walked me to the bus stop every morning and was there waiting for me upon my return. Our walks in the nearby woods, rides on the tractor and adventures that mirrored much the book Because of Winn-Dixie  afforded a lonely, gangly girl unconditional friendship. Companionship is a fundamental need in all of us. However when diagnosed with Autism, Asperger Syndrome or a social disorder, companionship might be difficult to come by…especially in  the early years.

Consider a pet to fill in those gaps, whether for your school-age child or for yourself as an adult. Adjust your choice of pet to fit your means whether financially (hamster to horse) or geographically (apartment to suburbs) just so there is a pet to care for…and to care right back.

by: Jennifer Allen

Peter Thiel: Asperger’s can be a big advantage in Silicon Valley

Peter Thiel — the PayPal founder, Facebook investor, and bestselling author — hates groupthink.

He avoids hiring MBAs, since he says they tend to be “high extrovert/low conviction people,” a combination of traits that “leads towards extremely herd-like thinking and behavior.”  Similarly, he says that “people end up behaving more lemming-like” in places like San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, where tons of tech companies are crammed into a .635 square mile area. All that socialization leads to conformity, he argues, preventing people from coming up with original, innovative ideas.

To Thiel, originality is the name of the entrepreneurial game, since it’s the quickest route to gaining a monopoly, as he says Google did with search. From that logic, he argues that a psychological condition usually thought of as a disorder — Asperger’s syndrome — provides a startup advantage.

The Power of Conversation

Before I started this blog I was in a place where I felt alone and had nobody to relate to. Since then I have met so many amazing people and families. I have had the opportunity to talk with and meet many people who were in the same place I once was when this journey began. I love sharing my story and feel honored to have many share theirs with me along the way. Often times I get phone calls from friends or professionals who think that I should meet a certain family. It touches my heart in so many ways, and I am so lucky to have that opportunity.

However, not everyone is in this situation, I know I never used to be. Important interactions with others are not always planned out. Unless we put our phones down, pick our heads up, and share our stories we will never know all the amazing moments and conversations that could have been.

I don’t put a sign on anyone’s neck, nor do I shout form the rooftops what is going on in my house. Okay so maybe with the exception of this blog. Lol! The point is that you never know what someone’s situation of life experience has been, so be sure to walk through life with your eyes wide open.

The other week we were at a kids’ play place and I noticed a dad intensely following around his child. I recognized his behavior in myself, that dad on high guard with his child used to be me. At one point our children were both in the same area so I put down my phone and walked near them, mostly just to make sure that both kids were going to be okay together. While I do get to relax and stay seated more in public spaces now, I know my children, and felt the shift was necessary.

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

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.

Sprinkling Interests throughout the Day

Interests can increase focus, attention and motivation.  For individuals with Asperger’s, the interests they have may even help the stressors of the day feel less stressful.  Almost any interest that a person has can be incorporated within a specific behavioral strategy.  By doing so, the likelihood that the behavior strategy will work when it is needed is increased.

One way to incorporate an interest is to simply decorate a strategy with a picture of the interest.  You can put a picture of a bird, or Batman or even a street sign in the corner of a breathing chart and the student may be more likely to use and follow that strategy when it is time to calm down.  I have seen a small decoration of an interest help a student use their schedule more successfully.  By sprinkling interests across different visual strategies, the student does not have to wait for a specific time to experience that interest.  This can help with the intense preoccupation with that interest and the ability to transition away from this preferred time to less preferred activities.

 

Challenges to Spectrum Success

A Poem to parents by: Maverick Crawford III

 Challenges to Spectrum Success

At Birth

  • A child is born into the world
  • Parents don’t expect what challenges a child could bring

The Challenges

  • Your child doesn’t make eye contact
  • Your child does not respond to their name
  • Your child does point or acknowledge you
  • Your child does not understand social or gestures to communicate
  • Your child does not make noise
  • Your child does not respond to being picked up or cuddled
  • Your child does not use facial expressions
  • Your child does not play with others
  • Your child does not share interest or enjoyment with others
  • Your child does not respond to or understand your emotions

Coming to a Positive Outlook on your Asperger’s Diagnosis

Reader Responses and Questions with Ken Kellam

The following is a group of fantastic reader responses and questions related to Ken Kellam’s recent blog titled, “If There Were a Cure for Asperger’s”.

At Aspergers101 we strive to encourage an open conversation among the community. Here is a look at what people have been saying about Ken’s blog, along with a response to one of our readers from Ken.

“I love what you have so perfectly expressed! Our biggest challenges are living among members of a society made up of people who are afraid of differences that they don’t understand, making us another marginalized culture. It’s time to educate!”

-Nanci

 

“If Aspergers was ‘cured’ I would be deprived of some of the most wonderful, creative and passionate patients and friends that I am blessed to be connected with. My life would be duller, less fulfilled and less inspired by the courage and resilience individuals on the autism spectrum have shown me.

Want to be wowed?

Want to be inspired?

Want to love what you do?

Work to reduce social discrimination against individuals on the spectrum and consider their gifts. Want to explode the myth that individuals on the spectrum cannot empathize, love, be compassionate, parent well, love well, contribute to the quality of our lives? Meet someone on the spectrum! It’s called a spectrum because we’re all on it, no right or wrong, just differences to be celebrated, peace (and who really cares about that).”

-Bob

 

“I like your blog and agree with all you say – but how long has it taken you to arrive at your positive feelings about having Asperger’s? I’ve worked with many kids who suffer badly at school, particularly as they become adolescents, and find it really hard to cope with some of the social challenges of trying to be one of a group and relate to their peers. I will try to use what you say to encourage them but I don’t think we should minimize the problems either. The neuro-typical world can be an uncomfortable place.”

-Freja