10 Steps for ASD College Students to Make the Most of Student Activities

When people think of student activities for Aspergers students, especially those in college, some may feel tempted to believe that such activities are not suitable for them. Students with Aspergers could feel hindered by a number of issues, whether it be social anxiety, time management, lack of awareness, or longer study sessions due to slower information processing, to name a few.

College, students, activities, organizations

The ASD student and/or those around them too often assume that such issues would prevent them from getting anything out of an activity. Consequently, this commonly held false assumption only makes it so that the Asperger’s student likely does not develop the inclination to do much beyond their comfort zones.

I suggest 10 steps that can help the ASD college student get beyond this:

  1. Take inventory of organizations in which you could get involved.

    • Ask a residence hall worker or go to the activities office and get a list of potential organizations and begin research
    • Go to events, such as student activities nights, whose purpose is to expose students or the public to organizations or look on website if there is one
  1. Explore the organizations online and then engage with them (ideal for introverts).

    • Usually, word of mouth and stories from current friends/acquaintances establishes links and piques interests of those with ASD, despite any general reluctance for involvement, as well as (stereotypically) restricted interests
  1. Do your homework: Understand the organization’s missions, visions, values, member testimonials, events, contact information.

    • Identify primary contacts
      • First priority to contact is a person in charge, or a group facilitator
    • Understand the steps to joining the organization
  1. Introduce yourself or get an introduction from somebody if necessary.

    • Both scenarios encompass a self-introduction and this is critical because it allows others to acknowledge and accept the true personality of the Asperger’s student

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:



Five Toxic and Overrated Aspergers Beliefs Dispelled

What Kinds of Beliefs are overrated? One of the most significant issues against the Aspergers Community is the high number of stereotypes that surround it. Many are obvious and some are not so obvious. Such stereotypes typically arise from well-known people and situations, such as Adam Lanza and the Sandy Hook Elementary Shootings.

beliefs, aspie

The reason for these negative beliefs is that the general population makes up their own stories and opinions that are spread via the media or by word of mouth. Unfortunately, the mass media is too often the only place where the majority of society receives any information regarding Asperger’s Syndrome and those who live with it. As a result, people make snap judgments, rather than take time to put forth the real effort to educate themselves.

Thus, ignorance in the form of false rumors, stories, and beliefs is toxic and contagious to anybody inside and outside the Asperger’s Community. However, ignorance is not a simple excuse. Everybody has the responsibility of truth and knowledge, regardless of the divides between different communities. If this issue did not exist, Aspergers101 would have one less critical reason to exist.

Here are some of the more overrated beliefs that surround the Asperger’s Community and how to dispel them:

Teaching Conversation Skills

Starfish Social Club

During the month of February we, at Starfish Social Club, are working on conversation skills. Engaging in a successful conversation is a pretty complex process with lots of moving pieces. 

Students with social learning challenges may struggle with conversational skills for multiple reasons.

  • Students who struggle with interpreting social cues may have a difficult time knowing when to change the topic or when they’ve talked too long.
  • Those who struggle with considering the wants/needs of others may be challenged with choosing appropriate topics for the audience.
  • Slower processing speed may make keeping up with the pace of conversations difficult.
  • Lack of cognitive flexibility may cause topic changes and different opinions to be a challenge.

These skills require explicit instruction due to the social awareness factors that are a core part of each. I am listing the skills here in the order in which I feel they are easiest and most logical to teach. This is the first half of a two-part post.

Listen to the the podcast episode of this blog!

Aspergers Individuals Can Become Great Leaders, Despite Their Challenges. Part 2: Overcoming Challenges

How to overcome personal challenges

This is Part 2 of a two-part article by Reese Eskridge on the topic of building leadership skills. You can read Part 1 here. Reese compiled the following list of personal challenges that often plague those with Autism or Aspergers. Each piece of common self-doubt listed below is accompanied with Reese’s own personal encouragement and guidance for how to overcome!

Team leader

  • I am not competent enough about role(s)/inexperienced in creating and running events or activities: Be yourself and start with what you know you can do, create something to promote it and to enable others to use it; identify an issue or interesting concept and think about a purpose that will serve the greater good; Take opportunities and think about how you can excel in each role you play.
  • I do not understand what message(s) to convey… Ask yourself many questions and try to answer as many potential questions as possible (i.e. what would they like to know about…? How would they react if…?).
  • I have a problem with perfectionism and fear of failure… If you have challenges, thoroughly examine the challenge and work around it to achieve your purpose as the leader; what are the lessons to learn from each challenge (use keywords).
  • I am too fixated on minor or irrelevant details or do not know most important details; Digresses into restricted interests, rather than piques follower’s interest and serves followers’ best interests… Establish structure in a manner that ensures that you do not miss any important details; then, you can take control of a given situation by speaking with all forms of credibility.
  • I am too shy to speak up when needed; there is too much pressure… Recruit help where and when you need it the most, even if it means developing just yourself, and plan out and organize those resources to maximize their effectiveness; in other words, get those resources to do exactly what you want them to do. Develop passion in what you do or plan to do and the rest will come naturally.
  • I do not feel like I can do this independently… Don’t sweat it! Try to develop abilities to do assortments of tasks that you must accomplish and get guidance as necessary; do not get guidance if you can easily figure out tasks at hand; get help when you absolutely cannot do something yourself; learn team building strategies for this.
  • I am not confident in having a positive influence… Just remember that during an organized event, people are there to listen to you and do what you say, although it is better to give recommendations and to delegate responsibilities fairly, rather than simply take over. Keep it positive every step of the way and devise strategies when the going gets tough for anything. Ask yourself the potential solution to a problem when it arises and keep calm; be a role model by acting like the person you want them to act like.
  • I have poor organizational skills… Do not hesitate to consult with other people and resources that specifically address this. Also ask yourself, how can I best keep track of materials in general. Obtain folders, files, etc. for documents and a calendar or calendar book in which you can write down the dates and times of upcoming events, meetings, etc. Planning is the single best strategy when you or your followers are disorganized or disoriented. Make sure that everybody involved has at least one role and delegate by each person’s strengths and willingness to participate in that role. Ask who wants what and go from there.

by Reese Eskridge

Moving Beyond Black and White Thinking and Learning to Live in the Gray Area:

Using Floortime as ABA Tactic

Once a child is becomes more competent in his or her ability to think multi-causally, the next focus of higher level social-emotional thinking is the capacity to understand the gray areas of life. Adolescents and young adults with Aspergers or HFA are especially prone to hitting an emotional rut when speaking in terms of “never” and “always”—hallmark terms associated with “black and white” thinking.

IMG_0365

“He never calls on me during class” or “She always gets to play the game first” are common phrases that parents or peers hear when the speaker’s ability to think and feel in more varied degrees is constricted. Not only is this harder to negotiate socially for the partner, but it’s not a very fun state for the black and white thinker either. Such polarized patterns of thinking can lead to social isolation brought on by the extremity of the speaker’s emotional response.

Getting unstuck can be supported through Floortime, where the parent or the therapist can spotlight the child or adolescent’s black and white ideation.

For example, Jason is a young teen with Aspergers who states that he never gets to play his media after school. Jason becomes agitated when discussing this with his mother and his therapist, flooded by feelings of anger and sadness that he has difficulty modulating.

The role of Floortime therapist or supported parent in this dynamic might be to:

For College Students with Aspergers: The Importance of Follow-Up With Your Professors

One of the most challenging aspects of supporting college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder is the need for follow-up with professors, college staff, and others. Follow-up is important to ensure deadlines are met and that assignments are turned in according to each syllabus. The fast pace of college, combined with the severe anxiety and executive dysfunction common to the spectrum, create the perfect conditions for students with ASD to forget deadlines or avoid high pressure academic or social situations on campus.

Follow Up Professors in College

I’ve known dozens of students with ASD who promised: “I will work on my speech for Communications class this evening after dinner.” And they mean it sincerely when they say it. Stress and commitments mount as the day moves forward, however, and by dinner time students who made the promise may feel overwhelmed and overstimulated and avoid the assignment. Some may become focused so intensely on another subject or topic that they forget about working on their speech.

It’s easy to presume that students who miss deadlines or forget to turn in assignments are simply immature, disinterested, or unfocused.

Many educators say “If he would just try harder he’d be just fine.” Some students who fit this profile are labeled “not college material,” as a result, and find their on-campus reputations compromised. Part of the frustration that education and support personnel experience in this scenario comes from their lack of understanding about the autism spectrum. They recognize the sincerity of the student when he said: “I’ll work on my speech after dinner.” They believe the student really meant his promise, and expect that he will follow through.

Understanding Crisis Behavior in People with Aspergers

Some individuals with Aspergers or HFA may engage in crisis behavior that interferes with their learning, puts themselves or others at risk, prevents them from participating in various activities, or impedes the development of relationships. Crisis behavior can range in severity from low productivity to meltdowns that involve aggression, self-injury, or property destruction. Many individuals unfamiliar with Aspergers may believe these types of behaviors are intentional and malicious. However, it has become well known that problem behaviors often serve a function for the individual engaging in the behaviors. Additionally, deficits in the areas characterized by Aspergers may impact behavior.

Stressed teen girl screaming, shouting

Characteristics associated with Aspergers and how it may lead to crisis behavior:

Cognition

Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurological disorder that impacts the way that individuals think, feel, and react. Individuals with Aspergers are believed to react “emotionally” rather than “logically” during stressful situations and are unable to maintain self-control.

Generalization

Some individuals with Aspergers or HFA may have difficulty applying information and skills across settings, individuals, materials, and situations. Even though socially appropriate alternative strategies have been learned, the individual may be unable to “recall” the strategies while stressed.

Asperger Fact Sheet

by AANE Staff

We thought this a great basic overview (reference sheet) of Asperger Syndrome compiled by the staff at the Asperger/Autism Network. Nice to share if you or someone you know suspects autism.

About Asperger Syndrome:

  • It is a neurological condition that affects the way information is processed in the brain.
  • AS is a hidden disability. Many people appear very competent, but they have difficulties in the areas of communication and social interaction.
  • AS has a genetic and hereditary component and may have additional interactive environmental causes, as yet unknown.
  • AS is a developmental disability. All individuals have social/emotional delays, but continued growth seems to be life-long.
  • The incidence of AS is thought to be 1 in 250. As many as 50% of people with AS may be undiagnosed.
  • There are currently four males diagnosed with AS for every one female, but the true ratio may be as high as one female for every two males.

AS affects each person differently, although there is a core set of features that most people with AS have, to different extents, including:

  • Having a very high intelligence and good verbal skills.
  • Having challenges with the use and understanding of language in social contexts.
  • Having trouble understanding what others are thinking and feeling (called Theory of Mind or perspective taking).
  • Needing to be taught social behavior that is “picked up on” intuitively by others.
  • Having difficulty understanding non-verbal cues such as hand movements, facial expressions, and tones of voice.
  • Facing challenges with organization, initiation, prioritizing – considered executive functioning tasks.
  • Focusing on small details rather than on the bigger picture
  • Demonstrating intense interest areas such as movies, geography, history, math, physics, cars, horses, dogs or reptiles. These interest areas change every 3 months to several years
  • Building friendships through mutual interest areas or activities.
  • Viewing the world in black and white, with difficulty compromising or seeing gray areas.
  • Feeling different, like aliens in our world.
  • Sometimes experiencing anxiety and/or depression.
  • Sometimes experiencing extreme and debilitating hyper- or hypo-sensitivity to light, noise, touch, taste, or smell. The environment can have a profound impact on their abilities to function.

 

Other elements and traits some individuals with AS have:

  • Eye contact can be difficult, sometimes painful,  and usually distracting (or if taught poorly, some individuals may stare).
  • Some people with AS are clumsy, most have poor fine motor skills; although some excel in individual sports.
  • Some individuals with AS have additional diagnoses, such as ADD, bi-polar, OCD.
  • Some have superior skill in a particular areas such as painting, writing, math, music, history, electronics, or composing.
  • People with AS may have difficulties working in groups.

Running a Spartan Race with Asperger’s

Thirty-six year old Justin Coleman is a runner. It just so happens he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2013. He is a long-time contributing member of the San Antonio Area Adults with Asperger’s Meetup group.

Recently, Justin competed in the Spartan Dallas Ultra. This race had over 60 obstacles and was over 31 miles long.  There were thousands of participants from all over the world. Justin feels that he made history for autistic people by finishing and receiving a buckle trophy.

Justin runs in several races a year, both obstacle type races and regular ultra marathons. Costumes are often a part of the specialty races. His Facebook friends are treated to frequent pictures of Justin and his running buddies. He has a grueling workout schedule to maintain his conditioning, plus he works for Amazon and will be re-entering a college program at Northeast Lakeview in San Antonio this spring.

In 2016 Justin even started traveling out of state to races. Congratulations, Justin, for all your achievements.

Here are Justin’s own words about his running and obstacle course passion: