What to Know When Coworking With Someone With Autism

by: Dave Gentry

Never forget to pump a handshake three times- not one, and definitely not five.Seen from an autistic perspective, the social, shared, and flexible attributes of the modern shared office can be intimidating. As work and life spill into each other, they clash with coping mechanisms for autism spectrum disorder, in which high-level functioning depends on adherence to routine, scripts, and schedules. Despite this challenge, autistic professionals can have precious attributes, and demand better understanding of the relationship between the workplace and this complicated disorder.

“If you’ve met one person with Asperger’s syndrome, then you’ve met one person with Asperger’s syndrome.” In the same circles where this quote is famous, its author is a bit of a celebrity. Dr. Stephen Shore is a professor of Special Education at Adelphi University who has devoted his life to teaching and researching autism. He also has Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning subtype of autism spectrum disorder characterized by obsessive interest and poor social skills. “I wouldn’t use the phrase ‘Asperger’s sufferer,’ because some of us enjoy the way our mind works.”

Interview

The symptom affects how people behave, socialize, and communicate, and its acceptance in the workplace is “uneven.” Some employers avoid the issue, others embrace it, and others are seeking out people with ASD because some of their traits make good business sense. While genius is somewhat rare, a common affinity for routines can translate well to the work force. “They can be efficient, and have very low absentee rates.” TV and movies have introduced more savants whose quirky idiosyncrasies suggest autism, but Dr. Shore knows the reality is often different. “It’s all well and good that organizations are seeking IT people, but it’s a low percentage. We’re not all geeks with superpowers in IT.”

Resources for Parents About Bullying and Autism in School

Bullying and Autism is an issue that comes up often for parents of children on the spectrum throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) remain highly vulnerable to bullying behavior. Parents, teachers, other students, and the community must be sensitive to the particular needs of these students and vigilant in bullying prevention and intervention.

This week’s blog will point families in the direction of multiple resources available.

This first resource is quite extensive and provides a comprehensive view of bullying:

“Eyes on Bullying . . . What Can You Do? A toolkit to prevent bullying in children’s lives” 

www.eyesonbullying.org

The following are excerpts from this useful manual:

Bullying Basics

We now know that:

  • Bullying is NOT pre-wired, harmless, or inevitable
  • Bullying IS learned, harmful, and controllable
  • Bullying SPREADS if supported or left unchecked
  • Bullying INVOLVES everyone—bullies, victims, and bystanders
  • Bullying CAN BE effectively stopped or entirely prevented

Beginning in the preschool years, adults can teach children important bullying prevention skills and guide children as they practice using these skills. Social skills that form an important foundation for bullying prevention include:

  • Showing empathy toward others
  • Interacting assertively
  • Solving social problems

Bystanders also have the power to play a key role in preventing or stopping bullying.

Some bystanders… directly intervene, by discouraging the bully, defending the victim, or redirecting the situation away from bullying.

Other bystanders… get help, by rallying support from peers to stand up against bullying or by reporting the bullying to adults. Look Around…Who Is Involved?

Bystanders’ actions make a critical difference. Children and adults should think ahead about what they will do when they witness or hear about bullying.

There is also an Information Sheet on Bully Prevention at the following website:

Choices in Education

Considerations for the Student Diagnosed with Autism/Asperger Syndrome

Most children with Autism or Asperger Syndrome attend their local public school. There they get additional services like special instruction, either in the classroom or in a separate room. Or they might get special accommodations, such as extra time on tests.

But for some parents, the discovery of their children’s learning issue triggers a much broader journey. In addition to advocating for the best possible services from the school their child attends, they may carry out an exhaustive school search, switch between schools within a district, commute to another district, or even move to a different state. In some cases, parents hire education consultants or advocates to help them find the best solutions for their child. In the most extreme cases, they hire lawyers to sue districts or states to help them pay tuition for specialized private schools.

Knowing how much energy, time, and resources you can or want to invest in this process is a very personal decision, but it’s helpful at the outset to understand the range of educational options that many regions have. Special education funding varies by state and children living in isolated rural areas usually have fewer options than those living near large populations.

What the Law Requires of Your School District

If you live in the United States, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that your district provide the “Least Restrictive Environment” for your child’s education. That means that they must consider such options as mainstreaming before deciding (with your involvement) on a more specialized setting.

You may, of course, decide that your child is better off in a specialized setting but if you decide to work with public schools, you may have to prove that the mainstream setting is not working before seeking funding for a private or specialized setting.

Below is a broad overview at the following educational options:

  • Public School    
  • Private School
  • Homeschool      
  • Charter School

Public School

Autistic support classrooms have several great advantages: they are usually very small, with a high adult to child ratio. They offer supports, such as visual teaching tools, which are specifically selected for autistic students. And they may also include intensive speech and social skills training in their curriculum. Autistic support classrooms, however, tend to be quite segregated from the rest of the school. It’s not unusual for teachers of children with autism have lowered expectations of their students’ intellectual abilities.

Pros:

  • Challenges to excel
  • Social skills learned by observation
  • Real-world environment that teaches life skills
  • Prepares them for diversity critical for future neighbors & co-workers

  Cons:

  • Teacher lacks specialized training
  • Budgetary restrictions – less attention

Three Necessities for the High Functioning Autistic to Combat Depression

If you are a High Functioning Autistic (HFA), the odds are troublingly high that you also suffer from some form of depression. As someone who suffers from depression myself, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about how to find happiness when you struggle with the burdens of having an autistic brain. One possibility for the prevalence of depression in autistic brains is that HFAs, for reasons distinct to their neurological condition, are innately more likely to feel depressed.

My sense, though, is that we tend to be depressed because life is difficult for us in ways that are somewhat different from the experiences of the Neurologically Typical (a satirical term for non-HFAs). As such, any discussion of why HFAs tend to be depressed must be approached as a social justice issue, with a clear statement of ethical axioms that, if followed, would help HFAs and non-HFAs alike.

Want to be a Friend to Someone with Asperger’s? Be Sure To do These Six Important Things

A Commentary by Reese Eskridge

Too often, neurotypicals expect a perfect useful relationship from a friend. They like friendships to be easygoing with as much similarity between two people as possible. Therefore, they hold higher expectations for the other side, even though the other side shares that same expectation. Due to the absence of fulfillment, neither person makes connections or sometimes people can become unreasonably selective in the friendship process. The reason for this is that both neurotypicals and aspies often feel like outcasts around certain groups of people.

friendship Aspie

If this happens too frequently, the inclination to make friends declines. However, this shared dilemma can actually help to foster the relationship between an aspie and a neurotypical or an aspie and another aspie, if they are willing to give a chance for that to happen. After all, few things feel more reassuring than being able to take up your worst fears and issues with others, knowing that they will not condemn you for them.

Using Topic Cards to Develop Social Skills in ASD Youth

Topic cards are similar to scripts in that they can help students engage in a variety of topics, beyond their own interests. They are different in that they include just a few words that describe a topic that launch a student or group students in a particular direction. 

Using Choice to Increase Academic Success

A teacher had created a special lunch group to help a student at the middle school level engage in appropriate teen conversations. She had one main interest and it would dominate every conversation. Her interest was in princesses and everything having to do with them. For most young teen girls, princesses were not much of an interesting topic for them.

Three Useful Resources to Boost Exercise for Individuals with Aspergers

Asperger's, Technology, and Exercise

Technology and exercise? I know what you are thinking, how can I use a fitness product like a smart watch or fitness bracelet to get my child to exercise? Do I need to or am I financially able to purchase a fitness product like that? What if they don’t like it or use it and I’ve already spent the money buying it. Is there setup of the product or is it ready for use?

running and technology

Technology can be overwhelming but can also be very useful. The amount of fitness products out there is tremendous, but they each serve a purpose and a specific fit for someone. Today’s discussion will be on technology use during exercise but it will take a different perspective than you think.

Video Game Systems

Video game systems can be a contributing factor to our kids becoming less active. It is difficult for kids to move away from technology altogether so why not make it work for us? Video game systems have games available for purchase that are fitness/exercise oriented in which the person becomes the game controller.

For example, the Wii game system has: Just Dance 2016, EA Sports Active 2, and EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp. Similar game systems like the Xbox have the following games: Xbox Fitness, Nike Kinect Training, or Playfit. Lastly, the PlayStation has games like: Move Fitness, Zumba Fitness, and Sports Champions. These games use the person’s movement as a way to control the game. So, by dancing and moving you can get your kiddos to burn some calories while having fun.

Cell Phones

Isolation: A Parent’s Journey Through Autism

We started off this summer with very high hopes and a fresh outlook on life. My friend of over 12 years was moving out to Colorado from California to help us with starting our self-sustaining farm. For the past 8 years or so, we have been dreaming of getting this started, but we have been either too busy supporting the family financially or with taking care of the kid’s needs. To do both of these we needed to be living (at the least) 100 miles away from our property. So when my friend said she would come out, live on the property and get the work started, I thought this was an ideal opportunity, and funny enough, a chance for a less isolated life.

Isolation

Things often don’t go as smoothly as you would expect, however.

It proved too much for her and her family to live on a piece of land (in the middle of nowhere) that had been all but forgotten for the last 5 years and she decided to stay in my home with her two grown kids and five large dogs. I was foolishly ok with this. I mean, how much chaos could this cause in my home? The home in which I live with my two Autistic children and my husband. Oh did I mention we live in a two bedroom home?

Let’s just say, this was doomed from the beginning.

I think that even if my kids were neuro-typical, it was only a matter of time before there would be some sort of explosion after which everyone would kiss and make up. The only difference is that I am an ASD Mom. You seriously don’t mess with ASD Moms, especially a seasoned ASD Mom.

My kids were both diagnosed at age three, and are now ten and nine. I have many battle wounds and other various bits of shrap metal under my skin. I’ve had family members and other NT mom’s try to tell me how to better parent my kids. There have been doctors, people shopping at the market and bus drivers suggest to me that if my kids can’t behave in public like “normal” kids, I should keep them at home. I’ve had every decision I’ve ever made scrutinized by every kind of person imaginable.

Tips for the Asperger Driver When Being Pulled Over by an Officer

AS101 Driving with Autism

For many with Autism a fear of driving stems from anxiety that can result from being pulled over by an officer of the law. In some cases, fear of just that very scenario is the reason many never pursue obtaining their driver’s license.

pull over, police officer

Good communication skills and actions are key to making an already stressful situation go without incident for anyone, but with the diagnosis of autism, Aspergers, or speech impediments misinterpretation is almost a certainty. Dr. Louise O’Donnell, who specializes in Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology at UT Health Science Center in San Antonio Texas, offers suggestions to make a ‘pull-over’ go without incident.


Dr. Louise O’Donnell/UTHSC : Part 1

Things to remember when you are pulled over:

Empowerment: Building Success with Employees with Autism

Hosted by the Texas Governor’s Committee for People with Disabilities, presenters offer expert advice for solutions to common workplace challenges such as sensory, social, and thinking and processing in this previously recorded webinar. Jennifer Allen with Aspergers101 offers insight into the most common workplace challenges experienced by people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and provides specific suggestions for accommodations. Take this opportunity to hear more about how Vocational Rehabilitation and local workforce boards, public universities, and private employers have discovered how to successfully balance the needs of the business’ bottom line with the employment goals of people with Autism via Texas Workforce Commission’s Jennifer Hines. Packed with a powerful punch, Jenn Byron-Ross/Director of Recruiting at grocery giant H-E-B, shares the company’s best practices and how they are attracting talented people on the Autism spectrum for jobs across the organization—from bagger to software developer. There is so much valuable information for both the employer and the employee packed into this webinar. Be sure to look below the video for some downloadables and/or materials provided to you as a reference from the webinar!

Presenters:

Jennifer Hines with Texas Workforce Commission/Vocational Rehabilitation revels how local workforce boards, public universities, and private employers have discovered how to successfully balance the needs of the business’ bottom line with the employment goals of people with Autism.


Jennifer Allen with Aspergers101 offers insight into an employer’s basic understanding of Autism and Asperger Syndrome while discussing the most common workplace challenges experienced by people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and offer specific suggestions for accommodations.


Finally, the Director of Recruiting at H-E-B, Jenn Byron Ross, shares best employer practices and how they are attracting talented people on the Autism spectrum for jobs across the organization—from bagger to software developer.

Resources: