Aspergers Syndrome: The Challenge of Reading Facial Expressions

Top of the Spectrum News

“Social Expectations: The inability to read facial expressions

For neuro-typicals, reading facial expressions comes easy but for those on the spectrum this is near impossible. The difficulty that those with Autism experience in reading facial expressions is due to the different wiring in the frontal lobe of the brain. This Top of the Spectrum News video offers solutions and tools, such as observational learning.

Reading Facial Expressions is Important for Social Success

by: Raeme Bosquez-Greer

Learning to translate and digest the meanings of different facial expressions can help determine other people’s needs and foster true communication.

This works both ways. Individuals with Autism has trouble interpreting facials expressions and social cues and they often don’t express their own facial expressions and appropriate social cues.

Most professionals in an Autism related field understand that many individuals on the spectrum have a flat affect. My biggest challenge is educating the public, employers and employees that a person’s expressions does not mean the individual does not have feelings. I have taken many students to interviews where I had a sensitivity meeting with the employer prior and the employer still interviewed the individual and stated, “Next time show me a genuine SMILE.”. Educating employers is an ongoing challenge for an Employment Specialist. I have parents say to me. “Lacy likes ice cream …get her a job in an ice cream shop.” I then have to try to get Lacy a job in an ice cream shop where she has to demonstrate good customer service by greeting and smiling to the customer. This has nothing to do with her liking ice cream.

Do we put Lacy in the back room organizing the gallons of ice cream and have her do custodial work or after 23 years attempt to teach her and parents how important it is to learn to smile naturally? I can always tell when parents catch their child’s Autism early and have provided training to their child at a very young age. Smiles are more natural and social cues are taught early. It is a huge bonus for me and them if a child starts learning early. I have been removed from many cases due to my honesty and tact. I am always professional but very realistic. I will never say the Lacy’s in this world cannot ever provide customer service but it does take a great deal of training both at home and with an employment specialist.

Decreasing Neurological Stress

beliefs, aspie~~So how do we decrease neurological stress?  The following is an excerpt from my recent book titled Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers: Practical Ideas for Students with ASDs and Other Special Educational Needs.
A research team funded by the National Institutes of Health (2006) found that, in people with autism, brain areas normally associated with visual tasks also appear to be active during language-related tasks, providing evidence to

Autism Does Not Define Him

Our son Sam is now 22 years old. Together we have discovered Autism first from a stage of confusion, then diagnosis and ultimately the journey toward understanding and adjustment.  This journey hasn’t been taken by just Sam or me. The education and life-changing decisions included our family of four and those whose chose to remain linked to us either by love or simple curiosity. Autism became us. As we learned to navigate the education system, employment and higher education, we’ve taken you along.

Through our website Aspergers101, together we have reached for stories of enlightenment and searched to navigate our next stage in life. Now at age 22, driving and nearing college graduation, Sam has reached a personal plateau that bares sharing. With an absolute delivery he declared, “Autism does not define me”.  He further went on to explain that up til now, he would introduce himself to educators, peers or the seldom few who initiate conversation as “Hi I am Sam…and I have autism.” He felt he owed them an ‘explanation’ for his social awkwardness, his lack of eye contact or his seemingly bland behavior.

Self-Determination in College Success with Aspergers

Several break-out sessions of the annual Autism Society conference in Indianapolis, Indiana were focused on the support of students with ASD in higher education.

Beautiful female graduate

Dena Gassner (Adelphi University), Dr. Lorna Timmerman (Ball State University), and Jackie Clark and Rebecca Hansen (Marshall University) carried out a panel discussion on the topic, titled “Is College for Me.” Panel members discussed challenges related to success for students with ASD in higher education, and best-practice support strategies that can help overcome challenges.

A True Meaning of Inclusion at What Cost

by: Raeme Bosquez-Greer

Hi, Raeme here again.  Transitions is my specialty, my thing you might say.

In the past twenty years, I have noticed more and more students transitioning from high school to the real world of work and/or college who have very limited skills in dealing with strangers, bullies and predators.

Our students have been victimized over and over again because of the stigma surrounding them and the fact that they can be easy prey.  Predatory actions seem to have increased or at least we hear a lot more about it as the availability of news had increased dramatically over the past several years.

As a parent who has children with unique challenges I am super reliant on their case managers within the school system.  We, myself included, are spoiled in how we can just call our case manager and let her know how the weekend went, what behaviors transpired in the morning, medications etc…  And when there is an issue at school we ask them to intervene.

I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing but we need to empower our kids to stand on their own two feet and not completely rely on Mom and Dad or the case manager.  Professionals in the community, such as myself, need to assist these individuals in a seamless transition from school and to become self-aware, advocate for themselves and learn to communicate effectively.

Reality is that I know of two female students who were sexually assaulted at work or on the bus because they were easy prey.

Handy guide for everyone involved: neurotypicals and Aspie partners/kids

by: Marcia Eckerd, Ph.D.

This is an excellent guide for communication. As a parent of a son with Autism, I had to ‘learn’ to communicate with my son. This lesson of communication was learned both from the both of us….a neurotypical and an Autistic mind. The article below, by Dr. Marcia Eckerd, touches on a topic we could all better apply…that of communication.  -Jennifer Allen/Aspergers101

Why don’t people and their interacting style come with manuals? Parents and partners often misunderstand or don’t know how best to talk with someone with Asperger’s, and people with Aspergers can have trouble understanding and communicating with those who think differently than them. If you are the neurotypical partner or parent, you need to understand what different processing is like, with different needs and expectations. And the same  is true for those with Aspergers who are finding it difficult being with the people in their lives. Everyone must take the importance of understanding seriously.

Here are some rules for neurotypical partners or parents of Aspies:

  1. Understand that your Aspie often won’t necessarily understand your need to feel gratified by connecting. He or she might go to an office/room and ignore you, for example. This doesn’t mean a lack of caring – it means that this meets his or her needs, and he doesn’t get it that you need something more. He may see your need as a difficult demand if he needs some space.

What is ABA Therapy?

Applied Behavioral Analysis

So, what exactly is ABA, or Applied Behavioral Analysis?

Close-up view of pencils and African girl writing

ABA is an intervention therapy that specifically addresses behavior. ABA is one of the proven best practice therapies for children on the autism spectrum, including Aspergers. Thousands of research articles have documented the effectiveness of ABA in individuals with autism across behaviors, settings, and specialists. The behaviors that ABA seeks to address could relate to academics, communication, challenging behaviors, and other daily living skills.

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.

Q&A With Lisa: How do I get my child qualified for special ed?

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Q:

Dear Lisa,

“I suspect my child has autism or some related disability. He is in the early elementary years. How do I get my child qualified for Special Education services in public school and what do they offer?”

-Confused and Concerned in Texas

A:

Dear Confused and Concerned in Texas,

Thank you for asking this question that many others surely have as well. I will do my best to clarify the referral process from a parent’s perspective and possible services. However, you are always welcome to contact the campus Principal and/or the special education department of your current campus/district and present your question to them directly. Their response will give you an overview of the process which I will outline in this article through multiple resources and a flowchart.

Since you have mentioned that you suspect autism or some related disability, I have also included a resource that might help you to clarify your concerns in those terms if/when you do make the phone call to the local special education office.