Interview with a Mother and Son Team Making a Book About Excelling with Differences

“Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe ~ Different is More!”, written by Julie Coy Manier and illustrated by her son with Asperger’s, Grant Manier, is about a young giraffe who is born with jigsaw pieces instead of spots, but follows his passion to paint despite his challenges. “Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe” is a heartfelt story that resonates with anyone who feels different, but not less.

A new baby giraffe is born at the city zoo. Grant, the baby giraffe looks like a giraffe, but he’s different. His spots are not spots at all, instead he has jigsaw puzzle pieces. He looks different, he acts differently, and he has some physical challenges. But, Grant doesn’t let his differences stand in the way; he has big dreams!

Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe wants to be a talented paintbrush artist, but how will he hold a paintbrush with hooves? Grant is initially discouraged by the idea that he may never become an artist and paint colorful masterpieces. Then, he sets off on a journey through the zoo with his trusted friend, Ms. Judy, to explore the world around him in hope of finding his talent.

Follow Grant’s journey and get ready to be amazed by what different minds can do.

A Parent’s Perspective on Choosing your Child with Autism Over the Judgment of Others

Many 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?

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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.

Succeeding in Life on the Spectrum the “I’mpossible Dream”

Autistically Speaking with Alex Hale

Autism is real and like many others with the diagnosis, my son, Alex Hale, is succeeding in life on the Spectrum. His two songs “Into the Light” and “Walk a Mile” share his thoughts and emotions on the journey of an Autistic Individual, and assert that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It has been a long journey since his official diagnosis at the age of 6 years old.

There were signs of awkward behaviors, however his pediatrician initially suggested that we didn’t look for “trouble”. Once diagnosed we were in a state of awe rather than shock. We had assumed he would be diagnosed with ADHD or something of that nature. Immediately Alex’s dad and I started asking questions, reading up on Autism/Aspergers and looking for answers and methods to keep Alex mainstream.

Alex is high – functioning and as he says in his advocacy speaking engagements, you may not guess by looking at him, or meeting him initially, but spend a little bit of time with him and you will see that his social skills are a little different.

Preventing Meltdowns

Although we have addressed the topic of meltdowns previously, it is a topic that needs to be revisited often, given the intense nature of the meltdown. “People with autism, new research suggests, may have an unusually large and overactive amygdala. This may be one reason why people with autism are easily overstimulated and have a hard time understanding and managing emotions.” – University of Washington

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This is one of many neurological findings that helps to explain how meltdowns are very different from tantrums. They originate from a neurological place of sensory differences: an over-abundance of neuronal pathways. The brain, whether through too much sensory input, cascading thoughts, chemical overload or some cumulative effect of all of these, gets overwhelmed!

I know individuals with autism can help understand the horror of the meltdown better than any observer. So I would like to refer to Carly Fleischmann for her unique perspective. The following is an excerpt from her website:

Beginning School: My Sensory Overloads

When I started school, I noticed that I did not like certain things around me. For example, the fire alarm for the monthly fire drills unnerved me to no end. The feeling that it could happen at anytime almost drove me insane.

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Some other problems I would have would be certain smells in the cafeteria would make me ill or the loud noises in the hallways would make me cover my ears because it was too loud. This is called a sensory overload, where certain everyday aspects of life can be uncomfortable for a child with Aspergers. Now, the main question is “What can I do for my child?”.

Well, my mother got involved with the school. She talked to the school staff about my Aspergers and how some sounds or smells can cause a sensory overload. By doing this, they were able to accommodate me i.e. taking me out before the fire alarm went off.

The first thing you can do is do what my mother did:

Talk to the school staff that knows your child and tell them about Aspergers and sensory. Don’t be afraid to tell them the details! Then, see if they can accommodate your child like they did with me.

by Samuel Allen

Finding the Functions of Behavior in ASD Children

When a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism demonstrates challenging behaviors, we tend to blame the child’s autism. However, these challenging behaviors are not a byproduct of autism, rather learned due to ineffective means to get needs met—especially when there are barriers to communication.

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Bottom line: if an individual does not have a way to communicate appropriately, he or she will find a way to communicate in another way (e.g. screaming or hitting).

Keeping in mind the ABCs of behavior from our previous post, let’s discuss the key to changing behavior.

Consistency is Comfort – Aspergers Family Relationships

While we, and the world in which we live, is always changing our Asperger child struggles with this uncertainty. How do we, as the parent help buffer the certainty of change with the challenge it brings to those living on the spectrum? This is a good question that affects many families, and poses discussion!

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Though we cannot control the world nor the small corner in which we live, we can somewhat control the space in which we call home.

Important Things to Always Remember When Disciplining Asperger’s Children

Oftentimes aspies exhibit challenging behaviors just like any other child. However, aspies have other factors when it come to learning and emotions that render most traditional disciplinary methods ineffective; whether the discipline takes place in school, at home, or anywhere else.

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This blog outlines some important considerations for effective aspie discipline.

Using Mini-Maps to Plan for Challenging Behavior in the Community

Mini-maps can be highly effective in dealing with work avoidance behaviors at school and at home. Let’s now take this same strategy and apply it in community settings. Remember, a mini-map takes an event or task and breaks it down into smaller, more doable steps.shopping mini-mapsFor a family that has difficulty with seemingly simple shopping trips, a mini-map might be a good tool for the Aspergers family member. Mini-maps help to stay focused on the task at hand while preventing intense preoccupation with specific aspects.

Using Mini-Maps at Home to Help with Difficult Tasks

Parenting Aspergers

Remember that a mini-map is a visual strategy that takes a chunk of time and breaks it down even further. This seemingly simple strategy can be highly effective to address “rough spots” in different environments. We have seen how this can prevent work avoidance behaviors at school and now we will shift the focus to an overlapping struggle that is common at home: homework!

mini maps at home

Many students with Asperger’s struggle to navigate the waters of school life only to come home and face more academic work. It is probably safe to say that most students, with and without Asperger’s, would rather not deal with homework in the evenings. However, the difference is that the student with Asperger’s has worked harder all day long to deal with not only academic stress, but also the added challenges of social interaction and sensory overload, creating a cumulative effect with different possible results.