Search the series of blogs below to learn about the topic of Social Development.
Perhaps one of the highest hurdles for a person with AS or HFA is social skills. This is a direct result from difficulty reading social situations and cues; understanding one’s own feeling states; and challenges with picking up social learning. You may seek the aid of the many services available to help those diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome to learn social functioning, including:
social skill groups
speech and language therapy
special education services
These skills may be learned but know the brain is hard-wired differently than that of a neurotypical. That is why consistent training and practice is very important.
As most teens and adults with Asperger syndrome know, people with Asperger syndrome can be significantly depressed. The rates of diagnoses of depression vary among studies, from 18% to 22%. The most commonly quoted rate of a depression in the general population of the US is 6.7%. Most of the research shows both genders have these high rates of depression.
Studies focused on males and females and not those who are transgender. There are more people who identify as transgender in the AS population than in the general population and transgender people have a higher rate of depression. One would guess that someone who is both AS and transgender might have a high tendency towards depression.
Interestingly, non-autistic full siblings and half-siblings of individuals with ASD (not just Asperger syndrome) also had higher rates of depression than the general population, although at half the rate of those with ASD. Studies of suicide attempts are also very troubling. In studies of suicide, the rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts are prevalent, especially in adolescence and young adulthood.
It’s critical to identify depression, since it can be treated.
It’s obviously important to understand why rates of depression and suicidal thoughts are so high. One factor, given the findings in siblings, is that there is an increased genetic vulnerability to depression, although large studies haven’t supported a common genetic overlap. We have to look to other factors to account for these high rates of depression.
It’s important to diagnose clinical depression for anyone for a simple reason – depression is treatable with a variety of modalities:
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.
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 they have not mastered the rulesfor social language known as pragmatics.
Pragmatics includes three major communication skills:
Using language for different purposes
greeting (e.g., Hello, goodnight)
informing (e.g., I’m going to go to bed now.)
demanding (e.g., Turn out the lights, please.)
promising (e.g., I’m going to wake up early and make waffles.)
requesting (e.g., I would like an extra blanket.)
Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation
speaking differently to a toddler than to an adult, or with a sibling vs. a teacher
sharing background information with an unfamiliar listener
speaking differently in a movie theater than on a playground
Following rules for conversations
introducing a topic of conversation
staying on topic
rephrasing when misunderstood
using verbal and nonverbal signals
knowing how closely to stand to others
using appropriate facial expressions and eye contact
Remember: It is important to understand the rules of your communicative situation.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Games with stories allow aspies to think in an abstract, rather than an always-concrete manner.
Being a person on the Autism Spectrum and dealing with abuse from many places, I understand that being rejected is tough. Having Autism, I never felt that I fit in with the ‘normal’ children. I had to sit away from everyone in class and was seen as being weird or stupid. My family members did not seem to understand what I was going through because they didn’t have Autism.
I have been rejected many times and in many ways. I was rejected for jobs through email saying, “Dear Maverick, we regret to inform you that your application will not move forward, we encourage you to reapply.” For a long time I never got past the interview process and if I did, no feedback was given on the interview. Sometimes I had to log into my portal and find out my application was rejected three days ago and was never notified by anyone.
In the past there were employers where I would walk in with my resume and I was dressed sharp but I was automatically turned down. The reason why I was turned down was because of my facial expression, not being able to look someone in the eye, or I appeared to be stupid, slow, scared. All of these negative perceptions were because they did not understand me or what I was going through. Employers are not supposed to discriminate against you because of your disability but I had potential employers that did so with me, whether knowingly or unknowingly.
When I applied to graduate school, I applied to about three schools, and was denied by all three of them. In a previous blog I told you how many times I was denied admission from universities and the same for scholarships. Life is a competition and everyone is competing with each other trying to reach one goal whether it’s a job opportunity, scholarship, school, promotion or others. We are living in a society where ideally everyone can win a prize and we all should be winners. It’s good for children to believe that they are winners so that they can then have the confidence in themselves that they can do anything they put their mind to.
But when children become adults, they are in a reality where there exists only a few winners. In order to be the winner, you have to work hard and compete the best way you can against everyone else.
Sometimes it’s unfair, biased, and wrong but unfortunately this is how life is. It’s important that we give a child the fish early on in their life, so when they get old enough we teach them how to fish so they are able to do things for themselves.
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.
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
• Bipolar disorder
• Obsessive compulsive disorder
• Tourette syndrome
• General anxiety
• Tuberous sclerosis
• Clinical depression
• Visual problems
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.
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.
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.
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!
Two other excellent resources for basic training on Asperger Syndrome are:
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.
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:
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.