Look How Far We’ve Come Together!

Aspergers101 is dedicated to you. I created this resource through a reflection of my own need to gain daily information on raising my son diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. After yearning to know why our son Sam divided so quickly from his kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and then 3rd grade classmates, we learned of a form of Autism called Asperger Syndrome. Once diagnosed, I quickly immersed myself in learning all I could about how my son functioned. What set him off, why the distance and most importantly, how we as a family could help Sam survive without us as we age.

Aspergers101 saved us really. In providing you with the daily information I craved so many years ago, it’s work kept the attention on you, your need all while working on Sam’s success. He became a strong advocate out of his own desire to shine light on a path less traveled. Sam has now taken the lead in workshops, conferences

and training to describe what it ‘feels’ like to have Autism. He is honest about the challenges but positive about the attributes. He has grown into a young man!

I’ve always said, don’t think of Autism as a weight, but a pair of wings in which to soar! – Sam Allen

It’s a success story yet you know as we fight for our children diagnosed with autism and ascend that steep hill at an exhausting pace, there comes a time, a moment, that we should pause our climb to look how far our child has come! This is one of those times.

L to R Charlie Allen, Samuel Allen and Jennifer Allen

 

Our younger son Charlie and I attended the Corporate Philanthropy & Non Profit Awards luncheon from the San Antonio Business Journal recently to support Sam as he was a finalist in the category of Volunteer of the Year for a Non-Profit. After the finalists were acknowledged and the winner, from a nearby table, was announced we relaxed and enjoyed the dessert before us. It was a total shock when, at the end of the luncheon, the “Spirit of Giving” Award was presented. As they began to describe the person of honor…it became apparent it was Sam! As he made his way to the stage a rousing standing ovation took place for a young man who was once told “you can’t….” by a doctor oh so long ago. They say it takes a village to raise a child with Autism…our village consists of God, a dedicated & selfless father like Herb, a supportive and protective brother with the heaping heart and soul that is Charlie, some very special educators and and handful of family and friends who are not afraid to embrace ‘different’ for all it’s glorious beauty.

Last question (to Sam) in the article: What advice do you have for someone who would like to get involved in a nonprofit? 

Just remember you are doing this for the good of the people. Seeing the smiles on their faces will pay off more than the money ever will. Be prepared to be a better person.” – Sam

There is such an instant bond with any family raising a child with special needs. A look of  “I get it, the challenges, loss and the euphoric highs at achievements deemed ordinary by neurotypicals”. In an instant this bond is acknowledged and suddenly you don’t feel so isolated. I want to reach out across the internet divide to thank you for allowing me to connect with you. You have been a huge part of my family’s journey and Sam’s moment of success!

by: Jennifer Allen

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The article was published on November 16th 2017 and written by Tricia Schwennesen, the Associate Editor of the San Antonio Business Journal.  Here is a link to the full story: https://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/news/2017/11/16/spirit-of-giving-samuel-allen.html

A Day with the great Eustacia Cutler!

Note: This was one of our most popular posts and we thought it worthwhile to share again… 

Occasionally in life, if you are lucky, you brush alongside greatness. Not celebrity, but greatness. A person truly inspired to invent, revolutionize, and create with the added momentum to actually implement their gift toward worldwide betterment.

I was blessed to have been afforded many hours with such greatness.

Eustacia Cutler was born into a privilege that most only have viewed actress Grace Kelly portray on film. Her book, A Thorn in My Pocket, depicts her life in a nostalgia that few today can even begin to imagine. Her Cotillion, the Dedham Polo Club, times at the Vineyard, life at Cambridge, Harvard, and stories of shared company of notables such as Winston Churchill, George Gershwin and Robert Frost. Talk more with Eustacia, and you will learn of her father’s invention revolutionizing flight. However, all of this is not the sum of the greatness of Ms Cutler. You’ve heard the statement not everything that glitters is gold? You see, Eustacia was married and had 4 children, one of whom had Autism.

Eustacia-Cutler

In the 50s the pressure to institutionalize such a child came from doctors and family members. But when the pressure came from her husband, she went completely against the grain for the sake of her child, Temple.

Yes, as most of you know Eustacia Cutler is the mother of Dr. Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin who went on to revolutionize the cattle industry as well as turn the world’s perception of Autism on its ear. Most of this information you probably already know, but the part you do not know is the day I was afforded time alongside Eustacia Cutler.

The 23rd Annual Texas Autism Conference was held in Corpus Christi this past week, and Sam and I had been asked to speak at one of the break-out sessions. The keynote speaker was Eustacia Cutler, who at the age of 88 offered such valuable and insightful information to the thirsty crowd of educators, parents and professionals, they were brought to their feet more than once. Her clarity, concern and connection with all in the room (primarily the mothers) intrigued my autistic son, Sam who was one of 4 to jump at the chance when the offer came to come up to the podium alongside her for a personal Q & A. When Sam (one of very few males in attendance) approached her and announced his name, and that he had Aspergers Syndrome the applause resonated with acceptance. Sam poised the question if Ms. Cutler was familiar with Moore’s Law which states that technology will grow at an exponential rate and if so, how does she perceive it will affect people with aspergers? Without missing a beat and looking my son straight in the eye she stated we, as humans, have a challenge ahead of us. Technology is essential, but perhaps Sam could be a forerunner bearing the seemingly impossible task of keeping the human factor within the technology field.

Her mind ever-sharp and in the moment allowed for many ‘ahh’ moments to walk away with. Here are just a few:

Concerns About Solitary Sons with Aspergers

Reader Responses by Ken Kellam

My son, now 30yrs old has had difficulties since childhood, and we know he has Aspergers. During his teens he was extremely angry and sad but he came through this period. Today he lives independently, has his own home and car but for the past year he has not spoken at all to anyone. His life is restricted to his job, which is in jeopardy because of his refusal to speak to his co-workers. He was visiting me on Sunday but now that has ended. He literally speaks less than a “Yes” or “No” to anyone. We have been to social service, doctors, clinicians, speech therapists, psychologists, and he refuses to see any of them. Everything I read online is about children. Any advice?

-Doug

Perspective

Letting Go of the Grief

Taking Care of the Care-Giver : An Aspergers101 Exclusive Series

We welcome our Aspergers101 readers to a series dedicated to you, the care-giver. Pause and re-fresh as Dr. Ghia Edwards takes us into the second of a series of four blogs aimed specifically toward you.

Caregivers, we are a special breed, we push through the pain to attend to the needs of those we care for but did you know that grief is a strong part of the lives of the caregiver. The medical definition of grief:

Grief: The normal process of reacting to a loss. The loss may be physical ( Such as death), social (Such as divorce), or occupational ( Such as a job). Emotional reactors of grief can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness and despair. Physical reactions of grief can include sleeping problems, changes in appetite, physical problems, or illness. https://www.medicinenet.com

When we are in the caregiver role, we can lose ourselves in the role we play and in that loss comes the grief. We no longer get to necessarily go to lunch and dinners with friends like we use to, or grab a cup of coffee with a family member. We don’t get our usual alone time or get to finish that clay pot we started to create in that art class, sometimes we just are at a loss for the things we have given up, albeit willingly. 

There is such joy in caring for the people that we love but there is a tug of war that can happen and take over on the negative side, IF we are not actively pursuing our own healthy mindfulness state. Below are 10 helpful suggestions of how to heal your soul and below that, I am giving you a tool of self assessment on stress and depression of a person in our roles. After you score it please reach out and share the results with a safe person, clergy, friend, therapist. if you don’t have that person in place yet, pick up the phone and call my office, we understand and we care. There are many of us who understand the Spirit,Soul,Mind and Body process that the caregiver goes through but I say we need to bring more joy to the journey and that is only done in us realizing that we have to face what we are going through, be real with the circumstances and proactive in our own healing process.

How to Help HEAL YOUR  SOUL When You are Grieving:

Born into Aspergers

Alix Generous

I want to address the difference between “in spite of” and “because of”. One of the greatest equalizers that spans across all barriers of humanity is that we individually cannot choose when we are born and when we die. I was born a sensitive and socially honest soul into a superficial and insincere social environment.

Alix Generous Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 11.10.58 PM
If I was born in a world where people constantly strive for self-improvement, valued relationships rather than objects, and looked for acceptance over status, I think I would have been just fine. The kind who prefers the former bullied me to think I’m crazy but I don’t think I am. So if I take this perspective, I did succeed in spite of these kinds of environments.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to help people.

An Assessment of Personal Readiness for College with ASD

In a previous blog I wrote about the topic of readiness within higher education to support college students with Asperger’s Disorder. The series touched on the ability of colleges to provide effective academic, social, and independent living supports. The “Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Asperger’s Disorder,” a tool to assess readiness of a specific institution, was provided.

But how can individual ASD students know that they are ready for college?

Challenged with Social Skills? Preparing Youth for Employment.

by Raeme Bosquez-Greer

In my 20 plus years of experience I have found that every student is different and every employer is different. This question cannot be answered in one broad answer, we are all very different. In this blog entry, I will give an example of what has worked in my position as an Autism Specialist, Job Developer and Advocate.

Example:

Billy is 16 years old and has been in a secluded classroom for 12 years. In this self-contained classroom, he is very quiet and does not feel he is like anyone else.  In the cafeteria or during breaks he is made fun of and bullied due to his awkward gait, thick glasses and because he tends to keep his head down. He has very little self-esteem or self – confidence. He does not share this with anyone because he does not want to bring any undue attention to himself.  Both of his parents work 40 hours a week and allow their son to come home and play video games in his room every evening. He is also allowed to eat his meals in his room each night.

Now Billy is 18. His parents would like for him to move out, get his own apartment and get a JOB.

Parents must understand that no matter how intelligent your son or daughter is if he or she does not get exposure and experience at an early age the barriers to the real world of work will take longer to overcome.

Now that Billy is 18 they are searching for resources, making phone calls and calling everyone in the Special Education department for assistance in meeting these goals.

Meet Grant: The Jigsaw Giraffe!

a heartfelt story that resonates with anyone who feels different, but not less.

“Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe ~ Different is More!”, written by Julie Coy Manier and illustrated by her son with Asperger’s, Grant Manier, is about a young giraffe who is born with jigsaw pieces instead of spots, but follows his passion to paint despite his challenges. “Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe” is a heartfelt story that resonates with anyone who feels different, but not less.

A new baby giraffe is born at the city zoo. Grant, the baby giraffe looks like a giraffe, but he’s different. His spots are not spots at all, instead he has jigsaw puzzle pieces. He looks different, he acts differently, and he has some physical challenges. But, Grant doesn’t let his differences stand in the way; he has big dreams!

Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe wants to be a talented paintbrush artist, but how will he hold a paintbrush with hooves? Grant is initially discouraged by the idea that he may never become an artist and paint colorful masterpieces. Then, he sets off on a journey through the zoo with his trusted friend, Ms. Judy, to explore the world around him in hope of finding his talent.

Follow Grant’s journey and get ready to be amazed by what different minds can do.

Temple Grandin Explains: Choosing the Right Job for People with ASD

Jobs need to be chosen that make use of the strengths of people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Both high and low functioning people have very poor short-term working memory, but they often have a better long-term memory than most neurotypicals. I have great difficulty with tasks that put high demands on short-term working memory. I cannot handle multiple tasks at the same time.

employment, jobs

 

Table 1 is a list of BAD jobs that I would have great difficulty doing.

Table 2 is a list of easy jobs for a visual thinker like me.

I have difficulty doing abstract math such as algebra and most of the jobs on Table 2 do not require complex math. Many of the visual thinking jobs would also be good for people with dyslexia.