Transitioning to Adulthood with Aspergers

Individuals diagnosed with Aspergers or another autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be presented with many challenges throughout their lives—especially during the transitional periods.

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As the individuals age and learn to use different skills in various environments, families, educators, medical professionals and the individuals themselves begin to anticipate the transition to adolescence and, eventually, to adulthood. Given the differences in abilities and behaviors that many individuals with Aspergers or HFA experience, it can often be overwhelming to plan for tomorrow much less several years later.

Building a Community for College Success with Aspergers: One Student’s Experience

An Asperger Student's Personal Experience

Each summer the West Virginia Autism Training Center, located at Marshall University, conducts a college experience for rising high school seniors interested in learning about the college lifestyle. Students take a typical class, live in dorms, participate in skills groups, and attend study halls.

And in between all that, they try to have some fun.

Significant to the experience is the building of “community” – in both the physical and social sense of the word – in which students can feel safe and connected to others. The college support program strives to create an experience where students can recognize and realize their potential. A large part of realizing one’s potential for higher education is feeling grounded and confident on campus.

Stimming and Visible Self-Calming Behaviors with Autism

AuTalkz with Nikki J.

Stimming is one of the “stereotypical” autistic behaviors. Many people think of people with autism as folks who constantly flap their hand or rock back and forth. Those behaviors are called “stimming”, which is a motion that interacts with the senses to help calm an autistic person down (self calming) if they feel overwhelmed by the environment.

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Stimming is harmless, and isn’t just hand flapping or rocking. It can manifest in many different ways, but again, is all harmless.

Encouraging Emotional Self-Regulation for Aspergers Youth in the Classroom: Implementing the Feelings Chart

 Now that you have created a very personalized feelings chart for a person with Asperger’s, it is time to implement the strategy so that it is effective in both preventing the escalation of problem behaviors, and deescalating a situation once it has occurred.
Feelings Chart

A key feature to this, and almost any other strategy, is to teach and review it when the individual is calm and there is no problem at the moment.  These conditions help to ensure that the brain is at its best, most rational thinking, and that the strategy is not associated with a negative or difficult situation.

The Chill Pass: “Borrow From Tomorrow”

After looking at student data, it was determined for a particular student that 4 chill passes would be sufficient for the morning and 4 more for the afternoon. If she did not use her morning chill passes, then she could add them to the afternoon allotment, especially since afternoons were her most difficult time. Her 4 chill passes included one for 2 minutes, one for 3 minutes, one for 5 minutes and another for 10 minutes.

Chill Pass

She learned the concept of how to use the chill passes quickly and would evaluate the situation carefully before deciding which amount of time she would need in the chill zone. For this student, the teacher also added the feature of combining her chill passes so that she could choose a maximum amount of time of 20 minutes in the chill zone at one time if the situation called for such measures.

Friendship with Autism and Different Peer Groups

AuTalkz

Nikki J. is a comic artist that uses comedy to depict her personal experiences living with Autism. You can read more of Nikki’s posts on Aspergers101 here and find the rest of Nikki’s comics on her webpage here.

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Besides, this, there was another time I made friends with someone 10 years younger than me. It was fun to just forget about the adult world and have fun wrestling on their trampoline or skating the local streets.

While kids can be very judgmental, I often found that the younger crowd didn’t care or question the fact that I was older than them, or see a problem with it. I never saw a problem with it, either. Friends were friends no matter what age they were.

It was also less social pressure hanging out with my younger friends.

by Nikki J

Moving Beyond Black and White Thinking and Learning to Live in the Gray Area: Using Floortime as ABA Tactic

Once a child is becomes more competent in his or her ability to think multi-causally, the next focus of higher level social-emotional thinking is the capacity to understand the gray areas of life. Adolescents and young adults with Aspergers or HFA are especially prone to hitting an emotional rut when speaking in terms of “never” and “always”—hallmark terms associated with “black and white” thinking.

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“He never calls on me during class” or “She always gets to play the game first” are common phrases that parents or peers hear when the speaker’s ability to think and feel in more varied degrees is constricted. Not only is this harder to negotiate socially for the partner, but it’s not a very fun state for the black and white thinker either. Such polarized patterns of thinking can lead to social isolation brought on by the extremity of the speaker’s emotional response.

Advice From a College Professor of Students on the Autism Spectrum

Dr. Julio Alves, of Marshall University, has worked extensively with college students diagnosed with ASD in his role as instructor of Classical Guitar Music Theory. Students who pursue a degree in Fine Arts face a significant hurdle in that they must pass both academic and rigorous performance evaluations to graduate.

A video interview with Dr. Alves can be seen below.  The video isn’t professionally edited; in fact, the camera is a little shaky and the transitions between questions aren’t perfect.

Oh, but the content!

The insight and advice shared by Dr. Alves is worth sitting through twelve minutes of less-than-perfect editing. Some gems to watch out for:

  • At the 1:25 mark, Dr. Alves describes his initial anxiety upon learning that he would be providing instruction to one or more guitar majors diagnosed with ASD. He points out that his training to be a college professor did not include learning to teach students with ASD, and he felt both excited and afraid of the challenge.
  • At the 2:30 mark Dr. Alves states that he, as a teacher, may have learned more from the student (about himself, and his ability to teach) than the student learned from him.
  • At the 3:20 mark he explains the initial doubts he had about how well students with ASD could perform in college, and how that bias changed over time.
  • At the 4:35 mark Dr. Alves discusses the importance of relationship development with students. He provides a real-life anecdote that beautifully illustrates the importance of relationship building, and explains how professors must take the lead in building the relationship. The story also proves how well students with ASD can perform in the classroom when information is crafted to fit their learning styles.
  • At 9:27 Dr. Alves provides some basic tips to professors who teach college students living on the autism spectrum. He emphasizes the importance of creating a learning environment that feels comfortable and safe for students.

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeWo0B5qolo

by Dr. Marc Ellison

Getting an ASD Diagnosis in Elementary School: A Crucial Window of Time

Going through the Kinder through third grade for my Aspergers son was by far our (and his) most difficult time. A perfect storm comes together for the parent, the teacher and especially the undiagnosed child on the higher end of the autism spectrum when beginning the school age years.

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Often thrust into a social situation where no one has a clue that autism even exists can easily mask itself as bad behavior. This crucial window of time has been my inspiration to create Aspergers101 so that you can have more information at your fingertips than we did! The signs could come earlier if your child is in day-care or daily with other children. Although our son (who was our first) did show early signs…it didn’t become ‘in our face’ until he started public school.

Communicating Strengths and Needs in College

Writing a requested accommodations letter to your professors

Whether or not a student should formally disclose an autism spectrum disorder to disability support staff at a college or university is a personal decision one should make after thoughtful consideration. It is my opinion, however, that students have the potential for a better college experience when they provide faculty with information that improves the ability of the instructor to communicate with the student and accommodate his or her academic and social needs.

Using Choice to Increase Academic Success

We at Marshall University have found that providing professors with information and examples about preferred instruction styles can help facilitate a successful classroom experience. Your school might have disability services in place that offer facilitation between professors and students to help fit their accommodations. Oftentimes these services take the form of a letter written to the instructor that explains the student’s necessary accommodations for the class, which the professor must adhere to.

Look to see if your campus offers such services, and set up an appointment with a disability services representative to discuss your options. If your school does not offer services such as these, you can create this letter yourself.

Here is one example of how a letter to your professors could look.