School Bullying and Aspergers in Middle School: Know Your Legal Rights

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.

School Bullying: Your Legal Rights

Guest(s): Richard Behrens

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 they have not mastered the rules for social language known as pragmatics.

Speaking head

Pragmatics includes three major communication skills:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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
  3. Following rules for conversations

    • turn taking
    • 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.

An individual with pragmatic problems may:

Teaching Conversation Skills Part 2

Prefer to listen instead of read? Check out the podcast version of this blog from Starfish Social Club below!

Welcome to part two of our conversations theme! This part will cover initiating conversations, ending conversations, interruptions, monitoring length of turn, and picking up on social cues.

You Can Read Part 1 of Teaching Conversation Skills Here

1. Initiating a conversation

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.

Five Subtle Positive Benefits of Video Games for Aspergers

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:

Video Games, Aspergers, Aspie

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Games with stories allow aspies to think in an abstract, rather than an always-concrete manner.

Rejection with ASD and Best Practices for How to Handle it

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.

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