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!

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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.

Child with Asperger’s? Insight from someone who knows

Samuel Allen insightSo you’ve just found out that your child has Asperger’s Syndrome/High-Functioning Autism. What’s the next step? As an 18-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome, I can provide some insight:

People with Asperger’s seem to lean towards wanting space from others, and in some cases, family members as well.

If an Aspie is feeling unnerved by loud noises in the house, give them space and let their room be their sanctuary; it’s their quiet zone.

It has calmed me down in the past, so it should work for other Aspies as well. I’m mindful not to keep music and TV in other rooms too loud.

Solitary Sons with Aspergers: Guidance from Coach Dema Stout

Reader Responses Part II

Contributing writer with Aspergers, Ken Kellam, answered questions from some of our readers. Doug and Kelly both had concerns about their adult sons with Aspergers. Now, Dema Stout–Coach and creator of an adult Aspergers Meetup in San Antonio–adds her own insight and guidance.

Click here to read the full reader questions and responses from Ken Kellam.

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