Using Art to Facilitate Skill Building in College Students with Aspergers

Eszter Kiss, a Provisionally Licensed Counselor employed by the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University, recently presented “Adding Color to Cognitive Behavior Therapy,” at the WV Counseling Association. The presentation centered on the use of art as a tool to facilitate communication of thoughts and behavior for individuals with ASD. Specifically, Ms. Kiss uses this technique to support college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder.

Resilience

The autism community has long recognized that many living with ASD can better communicate their inner experience through writing or art. For several reasons, an oral expression of their cognitions or emotions can be extremely difficult for those on the spectrum.

College students diagnosed with ASD often need a process through which to express and receive abstract information. Ms. Kiss’ presentation highlighted one such process.

Transitioning to Middle School

Q&A with Lisa Rogers

Q: Dear Lisa,

My son has High functioning Autism and is in general education classes in public school. He will be going to Middle School next year and I was wondering how should I prepare the teachers for him, and him for the teachers? This will be different as he no longer has just one teacher but will have many. We have had our ARD and I know the school does so much but I’m nervous and wanted to know what I can do as his parent.

-Sharon Kaiser/Plano, TX

A: Dear Sharon,

I’m so glad to have this question posed at this time of year. Too often, April or May rolls around and then we begin to have a conversation about transitioning to a new school in the following Fall Semester. By planning ahead, parents and teachers can alleviate the anxiety associated with such a big change and increase success from Day 1 of school. Of course, each person on the spectrum responds to and deals with change in their own way. By including your son in the process, you can make decisions that are tailored to his needs.

Possible activities to consider include the following:

4 Tips for Drivers with Aspergers to Get Comfortable Before They Hit the Road

Driving with Autism Series

Drivers with Aspergers like to have every detail in place in accordance with their personal preferences. They want to precisely change things like the climate control and the radio. These changes allow for comfort and, therefore, enjoyment while driving.

However, one thing to note is that the drivers may have trouble changing these things while they drive. The best thing to do is to make adjustments before the car rolls.

Here is a brief list of suggestions for the Aspergers driver to feel comfortable in their vehicle in order for them to focus only on the road while driving:

Advice From College Students with Aspergers: Part 2

The best advice one can receive about effective support for college students diagnosed with ASD comes from, of course, students themselves. Kristopher Kirk graduated from Marshall University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering (with an emphasis in Civil Engineering) in early December, 2014. At a university-sponsored Parent Weekend event, Kristopher – who has received supports from MU’s college support program during his four years at the school – provided these insights about his college experience.

Kristopher advises college students living on the spectrum:

How to Implement Antiseptic Bouncing to Prevent Escalation

We have been exploring the development and implementation of a feelings chart to help students apply coping skills when problems arise. A related strategy that accomplishes the same goal is called “Antiseptic Bouncing”.

Kindergarten teacher helping student with reading skills

The difference is that the adult recognizes that the individual with Asperger’s is beginning to have a problem, and rather than draw any attention to those brewing feelings, the adult decides to intervene more discretely.

A Short Film about Living with Asperger’s from a Filmmaker on the Spectrum

Interview with Stuart Quinn

Interview with Stuart Quinn, a filmmaker with Asperger’s Syndrome. Stuart made a short film about what it is like to have Asperger’s Syndrome from a personal perspective.

AS101: Hello Stuart, thank you for sharing your film short with our Aspergers101 audience. First, tell us a bit about yourself.

Hey I’m Stuart, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was 15 years and I am a filmmaker based in the UK.

AS101: How did you come to make your film titled “A. Syndrome” about living with Aspergers?

The film came about during my 2nd year of Drama School which in the first term we had to make a short film. The short had to be something about ourselves. It didn’t have to be directly about ourselves but maybe a theme or something that personally about us. I chose to explore what the world is like from my subjective point of view with Asperger’s.

AS101: Who is the actor and is he also on the Autism Spectrum?

Although lead character is based on me I wanted to keep an open mind when it came to casting and just find the right person. During the casting I needed to find someone who could bring the emotional qualities to the character but also do it without speaking and his eyes tell the story. Mario Pace who is the lead actor brought what I needed to the film and I was thrilled when came in to audition and gave a brilliant performance. Mario isn’t on the spectrum but he brought the emotional core to the character more than anyone else.

AS101: How is your film being distributed and what are you hopes for people who view it?

Stuart Quinn/Filmmaker

The film is available to view on YouTube with my YouTube channel for free as I want everyone to have access to view it. I would like the audience to make their own mind up when viewing the film because I have always felt the best stories I have loved always leave it up to the audience how they feel about the story and subject matter. I do hope that maybe it will inspire anyone who wants to make a movie to make one and don’t listen to negative people who say otherwise.

AS101: What would you like to say to those reading who are trying to better understand Asperger Syndrome?

Because the spectrum is so huge it’s very hard to totally understand it. Although information can be found by talking to doctors or information online etc, I think it comes down to understanding the person and who they are. Everyone who is on the spectrum will not act or respond in the same and others have different needs than others etc.

AS101: Lastly, how could someone get in touch with you if they would like more information about you or your film?

You can find me on my twitter account at @SQUINN85 and Youtube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC06CcKLNR2YLvgP8yXVQfkw

Interview by Jennifer Allen

Deciding if a Job is Right For You: Work Assessment

If you were given the chance to work at a job you were interested in for a few hours to assess your skills and abilities, and to decide if you are comfortable and really enjoy it before starting the application process would you do it?

depositphotos_17857515_s-2015

This is called a work assessment, and it is imperative to future success. Vocational rehabilitation offices offer these kinds of important services for individuals with Asperger’s. A work assessment also work in tandem with the inventory assessments.

Template to Support College Writing Assignments for Students with Aspergers

Many college students with Asperger’s need assistance with writing assignments. Whether it is for a writing intensive course or for an essay in a basic undergraduate class, the following often occurs:

Student doing the notes

  1. Students write too little. Students often presume professors will infer from their most basic of communications what the student intends and, as a result, leave out details.
    • These details, of course, are what professors want to read.
  1. Students write too much. Students are sometimes uncertain what professors want to read and end up throwing everything – including the kitchen sink – into the document. This especially happens when students are writing about a topic that has personal interest to them.
  1. Students with Asperger’s Disorder sometimes cannot predict what professors want to read in a writing assignment. This creates difficulties with emotional regulation, during which students may avoid the assignment or have an emotional meltdown.

Students can more easily complete writing assignments when provided clear instructions about the structure of an assignment and relevant examples. A template is often helpful. The following is such a template, used to help a student assigned with writing a paper for a History class.

Please note: The examples provided were not related to the assignment. They were merely examples.

Aspergers and Driving Judgment – Planning to Make it Clear

Driving with Autism

Aspergers youth process information differently than their neuro-typical peers. More specifically, they generally think in a visual, concrete, detail-oriented manner for every task. They like to know every detail about something, especially when it is critical to survival and to excellence at a given task; driving encompasses both survival and excellence.

Driver’s education courses and books serve as necessary and insightful preparatory activities for the inexperienced and exceptional driver. Further, each driver has different habits and preferences, good and bad. When a driver or parent uses these habits advantageously, they serve as indicators for level of comfort and as foreshadowers of future mistakes.

Among the most common and serious issues that Aspergers youth face is the fact that many of them do not always think fast enough to make snap decisions. This issue especially applies when Aspergers drivers travel in unfamiliar places in general.

For example: an Aspergers driver who usually travels on two-lane in-state roadways near his home would likely have trouble navigating through a series of one-way city streets in Baltimore, MD, considering that he does not typically watch out for one-way signs there. As a safeguard, they desire to stick with the same few routes every day because they fit into their pre-established driving parameters. These parameters could include the avoidance of bridges due to fear of heights or bumpy roads due to sensory overload caused by bouncing in the seat.

12 Misconceptions about People with Autism

Labels: One Size Does Not Fit All!

I remember how years back, I had a cap with a tag on the underside that claimed, “One size fits all!” At the time, even as a child, this was puzzling. Did it have some kind of elastic property to it that wasn’t immediately obvious? Did it have a strap on one side that could shrink or enlarge the fitting? Or was it something else beyond my understanding? It turned out there was nothing particularly special about it and it most certainly will not fit properly on everyone who tries to put it on. OneSizeAutism refers to a very broad spectrum. There are people within the spectrum who are fully capable of registering and understanding the materials I read and write on a regular basis, there are others far beyond my own level of language and comprehension, and then there are others who barely register their immediate surroundings at all.

There’s no one, singular face of Autism. We are many, and there’s not one, nice, neat little way of summing up what an Autistic person that you meet will actually be like. This is a hard truth for researchers and scientists, no matter what their field of expertise: trends and labels are convenient and easy to read, but they aren’t always truly reliable.