How Big Is My Problem?

By Ethan Hirschberg

Ethan Hirschberg is a teenager with High Functioning Autism. In March 2017, he started a blog called The Journey Through Autism, where he shares his personal experiences, insights, and advice to individuals on the spectrum, parents, caregivers, educators, and providers. Ethan's goal is to educate, advocate, and inspire. Please check out his blog as well as his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn!

In everyday life, there are thousands of things happening. Some of these are big deals while some are little deals. Many people on the spectrum have a difficult time trying to differentiate “big deals” and “little deals.”; in other words, what TO make a big deal out of and what NOT TO. This whole “choosing your battles” is something that I still have a hard time comprehending.

A few months ago, I was in my third period chemistry class. My teacher was handing back a quiz that the whole class previously took. When I got my quiz back, I saw that I was marked off three points. I was confused because I checked my work multiple times and still got the same answer. Then, when my teacher recited all of the answers out loud, I proved my suspicions. I saw that my answers were correct but points were still deducted from them. Later that class period I went up to my teacher and respectfully asked him why I got points marked off. He looked at my answers and said, “Because they are wrong!”. I wrote down these three answers: “49.00, 52.00, 53.00.” He said that the correct answers were “49, 52, and 53.” I did not understand why he was marking me down points since my answers and his answers were equal. Before I go any further, the numbers were numbers of atoms, and atoms cannot be divided according to Dalton’s Atomic Theory. He told me that because I added the decimal and two zeros, I indirectly inferred that atoms could technically be divided. I was extremely upset but didn’t show it. I sat back down at my desk.

The next day, I had a meeting with my school case manager. I told her about what happened. With math and science being her strong suit, she understood my teacher’s decision. However, she also completely understood mine as well. I was so upset that I wanted to submit a district grade dispute! I would have usually gone through the department chair, but since my teacher is the department chair, that was not an option! I was so ready to file that paperwork and get my three points back! But then my case manager asked me “Is this a big deal or a little deal?”. After talking for a while, we decided that this was a little deal because it was only worth three points and, even if I got them back, I would still have to be in class for many months to come with a teacher that would dislike me because of the dispute.

These types of situations have come up in my life ever since I was a toddler and my parents and special education team have helped me come up with some things to do in order to determine if a scenario is a big deal or little deal, along with how to act on it.

I created an infographic that you may be able to use in order to demonstrate what problems are big and which problems are little. Check it out below!

On a more personal level, I force myself to reflect. This is usually hard for me to do since all I want to do is act immediately, but fortunately, I (through mistakes of acting too quickly) have learned how to stop myself. I ask myself if this particular problem is a big problem worth getting worked up over, or if it’s a smaller deal that I should just let pass over. I sometimes even get advice from my parents or special education team if my emotions are running too high at the moment and I am not able to think clearly and reflect. If I am really angry about something that I know is a smaller problem, I sometimes think about bigger problems that my peers are facing and realize how lucky I am to only be having this little problem.

If you are on the Autism spectrum: reflect, reflect, reflect! It really does pay off to slow down and calm down! I rarely make good decisions when my emotions are too high. I am learning to take the time to calm down and think things through before I decide how I should act.

If you are a parent: help your child come up with his/her own chart to help decide if something is a big or little deal.

If you are an educator: take the time to talk with your student if you notice that he or she is about to turn something little into something big when it doesn’t have to be. Help him/her to calm down and then talk through the issue. Don’t blow them off because you don’t see it as a big deal. Your student hasn’t come to that same conclusion yet!

How to Recognize Disbelief or Irritation Through Facial Expressions

Reading Emotions

We often see more than one emotion on the face at the same time. Watch this video to see how disbelief or irritation can be expressed through facial expressions.

Beth is watching an action-packed trailer for some TV shows and she finds the voiceover unconvincing and the scenes coming at such as fast pace she can’t keep up.

Her lowered brow and narrow eyes show that she not only disbelieves what she is hearing – she finds it puzzling to the point of irritation.

She gently shakes her head in disbelief. Her mouth is pulled up towards her nose in irritation.

Signs to note

  • lowers her eyebrows
  • narrows her eyes
  • pulls up her mouth under her nose
  • a slow shake of the head

By John Habershon

Social Language or “Pragmatics”

Your child may not know how to use language appropriately in social situations. This undeveloped social skill can cause your child to unintentionally say harmful or rude comments to others. Even when able to say words clearly in complex sentences with correct grammar, a child still may have a communication problem – if he or she has not mastered the rules for social language known as pragmatics.

Speaking head

Pragmatics includes three major communication skills:

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:

Asperger Syndrome: Independent Living

Recorded livestream broadcast

Discover helpful tools that assist with independent living. Join Aspergers101’s Jennifer Allen and son Samuel Allen to look at life after high school including driving and transportation, choices in higher education, employment and living options. Guest panel of doctors, educators and therapists answer viewer questions at the end of broadcast. Special Guest(s) Julie Coy Manier and son Eco-Artist Grant Manier.

(Recorded from San Antonio Public Library’s livestream broadcast on Tuesday August 8th 2017/Sinclair Broadcasting)

You may download our full presentation, with templates, resources and links below.

AS101 Summer Series – Independent Living Presentation

Societal Pressures and the Mask of Fitting In

autalkz_ii___008___masks_by_mdchan-d9gsyc6

This comic actually touches upon two things (though, I hadn’t intended to do that). My main point is the “mask” we put up, and then I realized that it also lightly touches upon taking things/expressions literally.

On the shorter note, people on the spectrum have difficulties distinguishing between normal tones and sarcasm. There’s also trouble understanding expressions (like “two birds with one stone”), allegories, and metaphors. When I first heard the expression “apple of my eye”, I pictured someone’s eyes reflecting apples, for example.

When I had to read stories in high school on allegory and symbolism, it all went over my head. “Watership Down” is one of my favorite novels, but I still don’t pick up on the symbolism which is apparently in the novel. I’ll explain all that in further detail when I do a comic which actually delves more into the subject. The main subject I was trying to explain with this comic is autism vs society.

Book Review: Uniquely Human: A Different Way Of Seeing Autism

By Ethan Hirschberg

As a teenager with High Functioning Autism, I have been trying to find a book written by a professional in the field that not only is interesting, but factual. When I say factual, I am talking about information that truly represents the mind of someone on the spectrum. No stereotypes, no misrepresentation, just pure knowledge. This past November, I found that book… Uniquely Human: A Different Way Of Seeing Autism by Dr. Barry M. Prizant, Ph.D., CCC-SLP with Thomas Fields-Meyer.

Let me start out by saying that this is the best book that I have ever read in my whole entire life (and I really mean it). Every single moment I was reading this book I couldn’t believe what I was reading. With decades of experience, Dr. Prizant really knows what he’s talking about. Dr. Prizant mentioned qualities of professionals who “get it.” He really “gets it.”

Uniquely Human: A Different Way Of Seeing Autism starts out by stating that the treatment of Autism is a largely unregulated enterprise. I completely agree. There are certain licensing requirements for licensed psychologists (Ph.D./PsyD) and board-certified behavior analysts (BCBA). But, there is no other agency checking up on providers making sure that they are doing the right things for the right reasons. Because of this, there are some professionals who unknowingly worsen the situation that they’re trying to help.

Autism Book Review

Dr. Prizant also states something that foreshadows the rest of the book. He says, “Autism isn’t an illness, it’s a different way of being human.” When I think of this, I think of a famous quote by Stuart Duncan, “Autism isn’t a disability, it’s a different ability.” Everyone is different in their own way.

Another thing that is mentioned in Uniquely Human: A Different Way Of Seeing Autism is the all too known but not used enough question… why? Dr. Prizant mentions that professionals who are working with children on the Autism spectrum need to ask themselves this. He states that many providers see what a behavior is and then try to eliminate it. What they should really be doing is being a detective and finding the truth about why someone is doing something. Once you determine this, proceeding with the right treatment is much easier to do. I personally have seen an aide to a special needs child repeatedly tell the child to stop humming, when in reality, this was a much needed and extremely important stim. He says that professionals who ask why are professionals who “get it.” People who “get it” must have empathy, the human factor, sensitivity, shared control, humor, trust, and flexibility. From what I have seen with Dr. Prizant’s writing, he truly “gets it.”

The last thing that really stood out for me when reading this book was the author’s take on social language. Dr. Prizant said that people with Autism have a hard time learning a social language. He then gives a genius analogy: learning a social language is like learning a second, foreign language to someone on the spectrum. It’s harder to achieve the same fluency level as native speakers. These native speakers are “typical” people while the foreign language applies to people with Autism. This gives me a whole new perspective on my troubles with social skills knowing that in a way, it’s a foreign language to me. Dr. Prizant said that in the real world, people with Autism are left to fend for themselves; navigating a reality that makes sense to everyone else but them. For individuals with Autism, comprehending the social world can mean living in a state of confusion. This is so true for me! There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t get confused, stressed, and frustrated over my social skills. I have trouble seeing and understanding social cues, hints, sarcasm, facial expressions, etc, which makes it so difficult to understand what everyone else knows.

I recommend Uniquely Human: A Different Way Of Seeing Autism to anyone who is affected by Autism. I have not only gained insightful knowledge from reading this book but have been reminded that I’m not the only one. I especially encourage all educators and providers to read this one-of-a-kind book (it really helps). Thank you, Dr. Prizant, for not only providing me with the best book that I have ever read but for giving me more inspiration to better discover myself!

Autism and My Path Through Life: Presented by Dr. Temple Grandin

A Gift for You!

Do we have a big gift for you! Dr. Temple Grandin has graciously given her permission to offer, for a limited time, access to her talk at the Aspergers101 recent event in San Antonio, “Unlocking the Potential: An Evening with Dr. Temple Grandin”. You’ll have a front row seat to her speech: “Autism and My Path Through Life” recorded April 19th 2018 at the San Antonio Pearl Stable. The runtime 48:54 and we feel certain you will want to view it more than once!

(Click anywhere on this banner to view Dr. Grandin Speech)

Thursday, April 19th was a resounding success…an evening that truly made a difference!

“It felt very intimate, as if she truly knew that so many people in the audience were either relating to her speech or appreciating her wisdom. You could hear a pin drop and that entire audience (including myself) was absolutely spellbound.” -Dr. Jane Lynch/UTHSC

We Hope You Enjoy Viewing Our Powerful Production of the Inspirational Dr. Temple Grandin! With your kind donation Aspergers101 (501c3 non-profit) will be able to continue providing free daily content from pioneers blazing the autism trail in medicine, education, policies and on the homefront.

DONATE

Autism and My Path Through Life. Presented by: Dr. Temple Grandin

Do we have a big gift for you! Dr. Temple Grandin has graciously given her permission to offer, for a limited time, access to her talk at the Aspergers101 recent event in San Antonio, “Unlocking the Potential: An Evening with Dr. Temple Grandin”. You’ll have a front row seat to her speech: “Autism and My Path Through Life” recorded April 19th 2018 at the San Antonio Pearl Stable. The runtime 48:54 and we feel certain you will want to view it more than once!

(Click anywhere on this banner to view Dr. Grandin Speech)

Thursday, April 19th was a resounding success…an evening that truly made a difference!

“It felt very intimate, as if she truly knew that so many people in the audience were either relating to her speech or appreciating her wisdom. You could hear a pin drop and that entire audience (including myself) was absolutely spellbound.” -Dr. Jane Lynch/UTHSC

We Hope You Enjoy Viewing Our Powerful Production of the Inspirational Dr. Temple Grandin! With your kind donation Aspergers101 (501c3 non-profit) will be able to continue providing free daily content from pioneers blazing the autism trail in medicine, education, policies and on the homefront.

DONATE