Aspergers and Driver’s Ed: The Options Available to You

Driving with Autism in Texas

This blog was originally published when Jennifer had initially discovered the discrepancies in the Texas State DPS system when it came to the “Communication Impediment” as an option for those with Autism. Since then, Jennifer and Aspergers101 have worked tirelessly to change current laws and promote this beneficial option for drivers with Autism in Texas. To learn more about what Jennifer Allen and Aspergers101 have done for drivers with Autism in the state of Texas, go here:

Driving with Autism Initiative

Having a son with Aspergers Syndrome is always a learning curve. I haven’t had a living template from which to go by. Every small milestone in Sam’s young life has seemed so much larger hurdling than it was in mine or my husband’s life. So as we approached the driver’s education opportunity in high school, we rolled up our sleeves and got busy in research. Though gifted with a high intellect, oftentimes those with Aspergers Syndrome or High functioning Autism are 2 to 3 years behind on an emotional level. Emotions often play into driving (ie…people with road rage) so I took that into account when Sam approached the typical 16 year old age of driving.

While we wanted him to go with his class, we held back a bit and it didn’t seem to bother Sam.

We waited a year for Drivers Ed and I went to the district, before he began, and spoke to the Director of Student Driving about Aspergers Syndrome.

They were aware of it but I made sure the driving instructor assigned to Sam knew about how sarcasm, loud noises from fellow student drivers or impromptu journeys would not fare well. Though a bit older than the other student drivers, Sam did well and completed the course.

The next big step was the actual test at the DPS. Here is where I want to share valuable information!

Through persistence on our part, we were able to have “Communication Impediment” put on the restrictions section (where they list use for glasses and such) of Sam’s Drivers license. This offers some security for when/if Sam is pulled over by a policeman and the officer is threatening to him. The officer will see on Sam’s license that he has Autism, and difficulty communicating as we know could be misconstrued for bad attitude.

Please check into this for yourself or for your child’s sake! You might have to put on your investigative hat (our local DPS office had never heard of this). But, when they checked with the state level (we’re in Texas) it was confirmed you could put Autism in the computer with “Communication Impediment” on the backside of the license under restrictions.

Sam is 19 now and just got his first vehicle.

He drives to the nearest community college and to work by himself. He is a good driver but by holding him back a bit (let the emotion catch up) and mapping out a driving route with least potential issues, this hurdle wasn’t so high after all.

by Jennifer Allen

Asperger Syndrome From Diagnosis to Independence Part 2: Social Development

San Antonio Public Library Informational Summer Series

During the summer of 2017 Aspergers101 hosted a free informational series on Aspergers at the San Antonio Public Library. We have recorded each of these valuable sessions in video and powerpoint format so that you can have access to them at any time. Below, watch the second workshop from our Informational Summer Series on Aspergers focusing on social development.

First, Jennifer and Sam Allen discuss important strategies for parents, professionals, and peers to utilize when socializing with those with Aspergers. Next, Louise O’Donnell, Ph.D. Neuropsychologist and Assistant Professor at UT Health Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics talks about the neurological aspects of social development for those with Aspergers and Autism.

The following are excerpts from Jennifer and Sam Allen’s powerpoint presentation on social development.

Remember when communicating with someone diagnosed with ASD:

  • They know what they want and don’t want.
  • They know what they want to get across.
  • They know what they feel.
  • What they may find challenging is finding a way to let us know what those thoughts and feelings are.

Strategies for Improving Social Integration

1. Opportunities to interact with neuro-typical children

The first strategy is to ensure the child has opportunities to observe and interact with mainstreamed children at their school. This is to ensure that their peers not only demonstrate appropriate social/emotional behavior but also are sufficiently skilled socially to know how to modify their social behavior in order to accommodate and support the child with Asperger’s Syndrome. Some children with Asperger’s Syndrome attend schools for emotionally disturbed children; such circumstances may not provide an appropriate peer group.

2. Knowledge of the nature of Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger Syndrome From Diagnosis to Independence Part 1: Diagnosis

San Antonio Public Library Informational Summer Series

The summer of 2017 Aspergers101 hosted a free informational series on Aspergers at the San Antonio Public Library. We have recorded each of these valuable sessions in video and powerpoint format so that you can have access to them at any time. Below, watch the first workshop from our Informational Summer Series on Aspergers focusing on diagnosis in childhood. First, Jennifer and Sam Allen discuss the initial steps of recognizing signs of Autism in a child and seeking a diagnosis. Next, Berenice de la Cruz, Ph.D., BCBA-D and COO of Autism Community Network, gives details on the diagnosis process and the medical terminology behind Autism and Aspergers.

The following checklist for Autism and Asperger behavioral signs comes from Jennifer and Sam’s powerpoint. This checklist is not meant to be used as a professional or standalone diagnosis, but rather as a helpful guide that can support you in your journey of diagnosis for your child.

Informal Childhood Developmental Checklist

Social Interactions

 The child prefers to play alone

 The child is rarely invited by others to play in the neighborhood or to participate in activities outside of school

 The child’s social interactions and responses are immature, not keeping with his/her age or his/her cognitive abilities in other areas

 The child has difficulty interacting in group settings

 The child does not play with other children as expected: he/she may not appear interested in their games, or may not know how to join in

 The child appears to be vulnerable to teasing, bullying and being taken advantage of by others

Behavioral Observations

UNDERSTANDING HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM/ASPERGER SYNDROME

Below are excerpts taken from interviews for the documentary, Coping to Excelling: Solutions for school-aged children diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome. We hope this aids you in your on-going quest seeking information on HFA and AS as well as the knowledge you are not alone in your plight to succeed under the diagnosis. 


An amazing discovery still being understood and uncovered today involves a revolutionary find in the human mind. Over 50 years ago, Austrian pediatrician, Hans Asperger, revealed to the medical and scientific community a form of high-functioning Autism later named Asperger Syndrome. These people have always been viewed as eccentric or odd displaying repetitive behaviors and totally lacking in their social skills. The disgusted and disapproving looks you and your child may be receiving when in public or with extended family only adds to the frustration and pain.

I know. My name is Jennifer Allen and my son, Sam has Asperger Syndrome. The challenges may be great, but so can be the results. Pooled information from experts in the field of Autism is provided below so we, as parents, can successfully guide our child through a social and judgmental world.

The High- Functioning Autistic or Asperger brain is different, in its function and in its anatomy. This is not a choice the child makes. In other
words, it’s not bad parenting nor bad behavior, they are wired
differently! -Dr. Janessa Manning

Medical reports reveal a profound discovery in the brain of those with High-Functioning Autism. Studies with MRI imaging document an actual physical difference in some areas of the autistic brain verses that of a neuro-typical brain. Also the neurological pathways fire differently in Asperger patients than that of a typical brain function.

Bottom line, High-Functioning Autistic and Aspergers diagnosed individuals receive their gifts and struggles from a physical and medical basis not behavioral, as you may have been pressured to believe.

So once we understand from whence the challenges occur then we can begin to lead them on the path from Coping to Excelling. –Jennifer Allen

Dr. Temple Grandin

According to Dr. Temple Grandin: “I want to emphasize that Asperger’s and Autism are not separate conditions. Asperger’s is just the milder end of the continuum. There’s no black and white dividing line between a mild case of autism and geek and nerd. They are the same thing. It is a continuum of traits. The mind can either develop to be more thinking and cognitive or it can be developed to be more social. There’s a point where it just merges into part of your personality.”

The two conditions have very few differences, and research proves which treatments are relevant to High Functioning Autism and also applicable to Aspergers Syndrome. Thus both disorders are combined and the treatments suggested should serve your child well.

It is a lifelong condition and occurs in boys four times as often as girls. Because “Aspie” children are not mentally slow, doctors usually do not diagnose them until they are in the early elementary school grades.

In order to be diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a person must show two of these 4 traits:

  1. “Marked impairment” regarding nonverbal social cues (doesn’t make eye contact, doesn’t understand others’ body language, etc);
  2. Failure to make friends;
  3. Lack of appropriate social and emotional responses to others
  4. Inability to spontaneously share enjoyment, interests and achievements with other people.

In addition, the person must show one of these 4 behaviors:

  1. An abnormal and intense interest in one subject;
  2. Adherence to a strict set of rules, routines and rituals;
  3. Repetition of certain mannerisms like hand flapping, hair twisting or even whole body movements;
  4. An obsession in the parts or mechanics of objects.

Experts agree that once the shock of having an Autistic Child has waned, it’s time to start accepting and getting pro-active on your child’s behalf.


William H. “Billy” Edwards, MS, BCBA 

Behavioral Specialist, Billy Edwards, created the following three-step strategy for getting proactive.

  1. Give yourself the permission to grieve about it because it’s okay.
  2. The second step is to begin finding resources and the first resource you look for is probably what parent support mechanisms exist, and
  3. The third component of that would be who are the professionals that you are going to surround yourself with and that are going to help guide you?
  4. Explaining the diagnosis to your child will be easier for you and for them to accept the younger they are. Take a positive approach by listing the positive characteristics as well as having a plan of action for the more challenging ones. This will make the step easier.

Give the Gift of Information!

DVD: "Coping to Excelling: Solutions for School-Age Children Diagnosed with Autism or Asperger Syndrome"

Excellent basic overview of High Functioning Autism and Aspergers Syndrome!

The Coping to Excelling documentary sheds illuminating light on the topic of High-Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome in school-aged children. Narrated by a Mother of a son with Asperger’s, this engaging program allows the viewer to ‘see through the eyes’ of those on the high end of the autism spectrum while getting advice from experts such as Dr. Temple Grandin, Dr. Tony Attwood, Jennifer McIlwee Myers, Billy Edwards and many more!

“I would strongly recommend the Coping to Excelling DVD not only for parents, especially those of a newly diagnosed child, but also for teachers and professionals!”

– Dr. Tony Attwood

 

 

 

The DVD, Coping to Excelling, is divided into 5 chapters each lasting just over 10 minutes. The chapters may be viewed independently or the entire Documentary (lasting 68 minutes) may be viewed in it’s entirety.

Chapters include:

  • Understanding High-Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome – a broad overview
  • The Family Unit – The importance thereof
  • Choices in Education – Pro’s and con’s of all methods
  • Bullying – re-enactments and solutions
  • Social Development – suggestions and tools from the experts

 

Purchase Here

 

 

Product details

Parenting Aspergers: A Father’s Unlikely Success

by: Jennifer Allen

I was inspired to share the story of the ongoing relationship (both struggles and triumphs) of my husband Herb and our son Sam after creating the below series of photos.

Parenting someone diagnosed with High functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome begins as a challenge to the adult who had expectations about who their children would be.

Those expectations may be for their son/daughter to be just like them, or to become the person they never were. But these preconceived notions must be disposed of for the child’s success. This is the case with many families facing the newfound diagnosis of Autism or Asperger Syndrome. The high divorce rate among parents with a diagnosed child is testament to the fact that it can be a great struggle that places strain on all areas of life.

When Sam’s Autism diagnosis was revealed to Herb and I some 14 years ago it was raw, new, and life changing to say the least. Our first-born Samuel was struggling in elementary school and until that point we didn’t know why. The Autism/Asperger fact sheet described each misunderstood challenge Sam was displaying and this allowed us insight into creating better communication with our son.

Herb Allen (l) enjoys his sons (Sam) humor.

Herb is a man’s man.

His rugged good looks and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality would not seem a sensitive fit toward parenting a son such as Sam. Sam is unique. But not even Sam knew how he fit in to the world around him, much less how to blossom under a father like Herb.

Once the shock of the word “Autism” wore off, it was time to learn how our son saw the world. I immersed myself into this new and foreign reality. We hung close to those on the same path and chose Sam over society and its demands of conforming to social expectations. In other words, we chose Sam.

Choosing to venture into unknown obsessions (i.e. trains, science, planetary systems, Pokémon, and weather to name a few) gave Herb and his son a common bond. This certainly isn’t a popular decision. You realize this when neighbors, family members, and society in general are taking their kids to soccer games, parties, sporting events, and social clubs without even looking your way.

Alone Time for Teens with Aspergers is Crucial: Allow Them Their Space

Breathing room or ‘alone time’ is good for anyone, but for someone on the spectrum it is crucial. When Sam was very young I found myself, as his mother, wanting to arrange play dates with other children who were not exactly knocking on our door for playtime. My reasoning was he must be lonely, so I did everything in my power to elicit playmates. Offering the best snacks, coolest toys, or excursions to area attractions, but it didn’t take long before no one came around.

Depositphotos_9398452_s-2015

My son was alone.

What I’ve come to realize is that this is alright with Sam.

He really prefers time alone verses a party. Really. It was me who was projecting my ideas of companionship on him, a neuro-typical brain trying to outguess his autistic brain.

Fast forward 10 or so years and his contentment with an occasional relationship is greatly satisfying for him, and he does have a few. His time alone, however, is a structured necessity for him that keeps him grounded and on-task for the really important things such as work or school.

So as parents we should relax just a bit. Although socialization, to a degree, is important, allow your Aspergers child to be their own person.

Time to read, explore, invent, create or yes, online gaming to a degree can all be good for someone with Aspergers Syndrome. Sam even found companionship via social media sites.

If I could look back at my earlier self I would say “Relax just a bit. He is not as uncomfortable not being invited to parties classmates give, it is only me who is uncomfortable with this”.

Look a bit closer at your Asperger child to understand just how far to push socialization at an early age. You might be going to great means only to satisfy yourself, when in reality a simple outing like a trip to a museum with you might more than suffice.

by Jennifer Allen

Growing into the Diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome

by: Jennifer Allen

As a mother of a son with Autism and founder of Aspergers101, I’m approached daily with questions. Some I consult with experts to respond and others, I know from living the role of a parent of a child with special needs.

Recently, the question was asked of me “Can you grow out of having Asperger Syndrome”?

While the answer seemed factually a swift no due to the brain’s wiring and you cannot change that, my response became layered from a very personal view.

Sam is now 23, driving, soon to graduate college and discussions of hopeful independence emerge daily. That one sentence sounds easy at first read but the road has been fraught with hurdles, heartache and sheer illumination into the world of Autism.

Samuel Allen

Sam’s brain is wired uniquely as the frontal lobe doesn’t receive the proper ‘firing’ to understand all forms of communication. Vague innuendos, sarcasm or office politics escape him completely as does the innate sense of social cues and proper attire. Medically speaking it is the fusiform gyrus blocking the signals to social cues and communication that neurotypicals utilize on a daily basis. That medical fact won’t change. So can you grow out of Asperger Syndrome as asked by the parent of a newly diagnosed child? I answer this carefully as I can clearly put myself, all those years ago, in the same frame of mind. What you are really asking is, “Will my child be alright? Will they overcome the bleak future the doctor just pinned on us? Will I be the caregiver always? Will this diagnosis go away? Bottom line: you are searching for hope.

My response to this routine question is: You may not grow out of Asperger Syndrome, but you can grow into it. Think about that and recalibrate your thinking toward your child (or yourself!) and the diagnosis.

While I realized early on that Sam will always be wired uniquely, he is equally gifted where others are not. School, peers and judgemental onlookers may have had their definition of success but I formed my own based on Sam’s perspective and strengths. Yes, behaviors can be learned by therapies and treatments but don’t think this is the rise or fall of a person diagnosed with Autism. In other words, once you teach basic manners such as shaking someones hand (and how to do it properly), looking someone in the eye (if only for a few seconds) and basic social skills (mandatory) then you can focus on what sets them apart.

There is an excellent read from Dr. Gail Saltz titled, The Power of Different. In this book Dr. Saltz delves into the challenges and gifts of those whose brain is wired differently. We asked Dr. Saltz for an overview of her studies and we are please to offer the following video from her clinical findings on the Autistic mind.

Of course there are the on-going challenges you must face head-on. Comorbidities, as mentioned above, are typically what challenge the person with Autism more than the Autism itself.

Ultimate Guide: Understanding High-Functioning Autism & Aspergers Syndrome

 The following is an excerpt taken from the documentary: Coping to Excelling: Solutions for School-age Children Diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers SyndromeMedical reports reveal a profound discovery in the brain of those with High-Functioning Autism. Studies with MRI imaging document an actual physical difference in some areas of the autistic brain verses that of a neuro-typical brain.

Neurological pathways fire differently in Asperger patients than that of a typical brain function. It has become clear that individuals who are diagnosed as High-Functioning Autistic or Aspergers receive their gifts and struggles from a physical medical basis not behavioral, as you may have been pressured to believe. Once we understand exactly how the challenges occur, we can begin to lead our loved ones with Aspergers on the path from coping to excelling.

We interviewed experts in the field of Autism to offer you a quick read on understanding High-Functioning Autism and Aspergers Syndrome.

Ode to the Special Needs Mom

Neurotypical Mom, as a Special Needs Mom your world is foreign to me. Rotating seasons of soccer, cool moms club, overnight parties, and college sororities comprise a universe outside my own. Church youth camps and activities that have the word “team” in them are just painful reminders that I have a special needs child. Your child is included, mine is not. And I must find a way to turn these negatives into positives for the sake of my child’s future.

Super Mom, Special needs mom

Raised competitive from a small town with sports and cheerleading in a world that didn’t include Autism makes it even more difficult to confess these surprising emotions. I’m not a whiner but what I want to do is shout “It’s not fair!” The only ones that hear or seem to want to understand this alien and painful feeling are what I’ve grown to refer to as special needs moms.