Volunteer of the Year Award

VOYA Health and Wellness

Award

Our dedicated and passionate founder and CEO, Jennifer Allen, was awarded the Health and Wellness Volunteer of the Year Award at the San Antonio United Way VOYA Awards. Her efforts, drive, and unendingly giving heart have made amazing progresses for our city and the Aspergers community at large, and we are so thankful to be on this journey with her.

Jennifer accepted this incredible honor at the VOYA Awards ceremony on May 17th, 2016.

Congratulations Jennifer!

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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.

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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.

Looking back at the struggles and finding peace with the successes

Forward: Many years after childbirth the memory of the pain subsides and the first embrace of your child remains strong. You don’t forget the pain…but the thrill of your child’s arrival occupies the majority of your feelings.

The same has occurred with the maturing of my autistic son Sam. I found this brief blog (below) that I had written when he was still in early grade school. The feelings were still fresh and I thought I would re-post as many will relate to the raw feelings that have seemed to fade and the years roll on.

A doctor once told me, “With aspergers and high functioning autism, it gets easier for them, socially, as they age.” I have found this to be true!

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The story of Sam cannot be told with just a list of positive aspects. It is their lifetime of physical and mental struggle that you work to overcome for your child. Such is the daily journey of my son…one that my husband, youngest son and I take with him daily as he lives with a form of autism titled Aspergers.

A Parent’s Perspective

1455977_10200795465710973_510450068_n03a85a733c36Many times in our lives, we come upon a fork in the road. One choice leads you down a certain path and the other choice leads you down a very different road. Finding out your child has Autism is complex enough, but eventually we all come to a similar fork in the road. Do I choose my child, or do I choose to please the surrounding neurotypicals. . .those judgmental people around me?

It sounds simplistic but we realized almost immediately after the diagnosis that you can be judged, alienated, and sometimes even rejected by your peers and perhaps even family. It hurts because you know your child cannot help the ‘tantrums’ when the baby in the grocery store won’t stop screaming, or that your child’s complete lack of athletic skills will never match the soccer mom’s expectation of a friendly neighborhood soccer game. So eventually you and your child are excluded.

When these and many other similar situations would continue to arise I realized my son would always elicit these looks from unforgiving people, because his Autism was not going away. So, we chose our child. As soon as our family as a unit took that path everything became easier! I no longer worry about other’s lack of knowledge when it comes to sensory issues or brain function. We as a family could have our own fun. Quirky doesn’t bother me anymore, in fact it’s almost cool, and definitely a relief.

Together our family is a strong unit accepting and excelling in our son’s unique interests. Our family weekends are no longer with people that make for awkward or unforgiving situations, but we welcome anyone who would like to be with us, just as we are! Now, many years later, the same families who alienated us for the differences have surprisingly praised our strong family unit, “hiccups” and all!

By Jennifer Allen

College and Aspergers Syndrome

Top of the Spectrum News: College and Aspergers Syndrome

Guest(s): Dr. Marc Ellison/Executive Director of the West Virginia Autism Training Center 

Dr. Marc Ellison and his staff have created a template most colleges dream about…a successful program whereas a person diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism have a support team living in the dorm with them ensuring success. In this first, in a three-part series with Dr. Ellison, Jennifer and her Asperger diagnosed son Sam discuss how you can ensure college success if you are on the spectrum.

 Note: Dr. Marc Ellison blogs weekly for Aspergers101 and you can read his content in our Education-College blog tab at the top of our website. Dr. Ellison is a Professor and recently named Executive Director of the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University.

“Asperger’s High” actress/writer meets with Sam

If you haven’t seen it, here is “Asperger’s High”, a mock drama situated around a fictitious sitcom as seen on youtube.

Sam and Jennifer interview it’s very talented co-writer and actress, Leslie Tsina, below.  Tsina talks about the making of the mock drama “Aspergers High” with some behind-the-scene tidbits, reactions from the autism community and her future projects within this Top of the Spectrum segment.

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Aspergers and Drivers Ed

Having a son with Aspergers Syndrome is always a learning curve as 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.

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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.

Why Feel Blame?

In our home it’s a gift to have Aspergers. That’s what we believe and that’s what our son believes to his core. While researchers and scientists continue their quest to discover the source of Autism, I know I love my son exactly for who and what he is.

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His uniqueness and contributions to the world seem advanced, and his intense interests and thought processes are from a different mind, literally. What a gift! This, of course, is not without its challenges but I’ve always felt privileged to raise a son on the spectrum. Because of this, I believe that a mother feeling ‘blame’ should never come into the equation.

A Quote Worth Contemplating…

When asked about living with Autism, without prompt nor expectation of any kind, this quote came from our son Sam during an interview for the documentary “Coping to Excelling”. 

“Don’t worry about the impairments that God included in this package….think about the good stuff in the package God gave you.”                                                                                                               -Sam Allen July 2011

These are Sam’s words of advice to anyone living with an impairment, disability or challenge of any kind. His words, though brief, are quite powerful for someone in their mid-teens. I share this because as a person of faith, this is a good way of thinking…maybe for us all.