Look How Far We’ve Come Together!

Aspergers101 is dedicated to you. I created this resource through a reflection of my own need to gain daily information on raising my son diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. After yearning to know why our son Sam divided so quickly from his kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and then 3rd grade classmates, we learned of a form of Autism called Asperger Syndrome. Once diagnosed, I quickly immersed myself in learning all I could about how my son functioned. What set him off, why the distance and most importantly, how we as a family could help Sam survive without us as we age.

Aspergers101 saved us really. In providing you with the daily information I craved so many years ago, it’s work kept the attention on you, your need all while working on Sam’s success. He became a strong advocate out of his own desire to shine light on a path less traveled. Sam has now taken the lead in workshops, conferences

and training to describe what it ‘feels’ like to have Autism. He is honest about the challenges but positive about the attributes. He has grown into a young man!

I’ve always said, don’t think of Autism as a weight, but a pair of wings in which to soar! – Sam Allen

It’s a success story yet you know as we fight for our children diagnosed with autism and ascend that steep hill at an exhausting pace, there comes a time, a moment, that we should pause our climb to look how far our child has come! This is one of those times.

L to R Charlie Allen, Samuel Allen and Jennifer Allen

 

Our younger son Charlie and I attended the Corporate Philanthropy & Non Profit Awards luncheon from the San Antonio Business Journal recently to support Sam as he was a finalist in the category of Volunteer of the Year for a Non-Profit. After the finalists were acknowledged and the winner, from a nearby table, was announced we relaxed and enjoyed the dessert before us. It was a total shock when, at the end of the luncheon, the “Spirit of Giving” Award was presented. As they began to describe the person of honor…it became apparent it was Sam! As he made his way to the stage a rousing standing ovation took place for a young man who was once told “you can’t….” by a doctor oh so long ago. They say it takes a village to raise a child with Autism…our village consists of God, a dedicated & selfless father like Herb, a supportive and protective brother with the heaping heart and soul that is Charlie, some very special educators and and handful of family and friends who are not afraid to embrace ‘different’ for all it’s glorious beauty.

Last question (to Sam) in the article: What advice do you have for someone who would like to get involved in a nonprofit? 

Just remember you are doing this for the good of the people. Seeing the smiles on their faces will pay off more than the money ever will. Be prepared to be a better person.” – Sam

There is such an instant bond with any family raising a child with special needs. A look of  “I get it, the challenges, loss and the euphoric highs at achievements deemed ordinary by neurotypicals”. In an instant this bond is acknowledged and suddenly you don’t feel so isolated. I want to reach out across the internet divide to thank you for allowing me to connect with you. You have been a huge part of my family’s journey and Sam’s moment of success!

by: Jennifer Allen

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The article was published on November 16th 2017 and written by Tricia Schwennesen, the Associate Editor of the San Antonio Business Journal.  Here is a link to the full story: https://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/news/2017/11/16/spirit-of-giving-samuel-allen.html

A Day with the great Eustacia Cutler!

Note: This was one of our most popular posts and we thought it worthwhile to share again… 

Occasionally in life, if you are lucky, you brush alongside greatness. Not celebrity, but greatness. A person truly inspired to invent, revolutionize, and create with the added momentum to actually implement their gift toward worldwide betterment.

I was blessed to have been afforded many hours with such greatness.

Eustacia Cutler was born into a privilege that most only have viewed actress Grace Kelly portray on film. Her book, A Thorn in My Pocket, depicts her life in a nostalgia that few today can even begin to imagine. Her Cotillion, the Dedham Polo Club, times at the Vineyard, life at Cambridge, Harvard, and stories of shared company of notables such as Winston Churchill, George Gershwin and Robert Frost. Talk more with Eustacia, and you will learn of her father’s invention revolutionizing flight. However, all of this is not the sum of the greatness of Ms Cutler. You’ve heard the statement not everything that glitters is gold? You see, Eustacia was married and had 4 children, one of whom had Autism.

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In the 50s the pressure to institutionalize such a child came from doctors and family members. But when the pressure came from her husband, she went completely against the grain for the sake of her child, Temple.

Yes, as most of you know Eustacia Cutler is the mother of Dr. Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin who went on to revolutionize the cattle industry as well as turn the world’s perception of Autism on its ear. Most of this information you probably already know, but the part you do not know is the day I was afforded time alongside Eustacia Cutler.

The 23rd Annual Texas Autism Conference was held in Corpus Christi this past week, and Sam and I had been asked to speak at one of the break-out sessions. The keynote speaker was Eustacia Cutler, who at the age of 88 offered such valuable and insightful information to the thirsty crowd of educators, parents and professionals, they were brought to their feet more than once. Her clarity, concern and connection with all in the room (primarily the mothers) intrigued my autistic son, Sam who was one of 4 to jump at the chance when the offer came to come up to the podium alongside her for a personal Q & A. When Sam (one of very few males in attendance) approached her and announced his name, and that he had Aspergers Syndrome the applause resonated with acceptance. Sam poised the question if Ms. Cutler was familiar with Moore’s Law which states that technology will grow at an exponential rate and if so, how does she perceive it will affect people with aspergers? Without missing a beat and looking my son straight in the eye she stated we, as humans, have a challenge ahead of us. Technology is essential, but perhaps Sam could be a forerunner bearing the seemingly impossible task of keeping the human factor within the technology field.

Her mind ever-sharp and in the moment allowed for many ‘ahh’ moments to walk away with. Here are just a few:

Choosing Your Child Over the Judgement of Others

Like many times in life, you 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 the same fork in the road. Do I choose my child or do I choose to please the surrounding neurotypicals, those judgmental people around me?

This sounds simplistic, but parents realize almost immediately after the diagnosis that you are 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, many other similar situations would arise I realized my son would elicit these judgmental looks from people as a certainty because the autism was not going to be going away. So, we chose our child over others’ perceptions of what we should be.

As soon as our family as a unit took that path everything became easier! I no longer worried about others’ lack of knowledge when it comes to sensory issues or brain function. We as a family would 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 my 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

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

Should I tell my newly diagnosed child they have Aspergers Syndrome?

I get asked this question a lot at speaking engagements. Being an adult with Aspergers Syndrome, I feel that there will come a point when a parent will decide on whether they should tell their child if they have Aspergers or not. Some parents may want to hesitate on telling their child that they have Aspergers because they feel it might have negative repercussions on their child’s feelings.

Aspergers SyndromeOther parents will want to tell their child because they feel that Aspergers shouldn’t be kept a secret, and their child has the right to know about their gift.

In my opinion, I feel a parent should tell their child that they have Aspergers. My parents told me that I have Aspergers, and I wasn’t bothered one bit!

In fact, I encourage every parent who reads this to tell their child about Aspergers Syndrome, and what it is. More than likely they already know they’re ‘different,’ and knowing their diagnosis will mean they can better understand themselves.

My experience throughout the school-age years is that Aspergers is a big benefit, since I find socialization to be a hindrance to my school work – which should be the primary goal during that time. I would tell parents to think of Aspergers as a positive thing, and a gift that the whole family should cherish the remainder of their lives.

By Samuel Allen

DPS boosts Training on How to Deal with Drivers with Autism

by Samantha Ketterer- Houston Chronicle

The Texas Department of Public Safety will begin training officers on how to interact with people with autism, one of several initiatives the agency announced Monday to help with traffic stops involving motorists with communication difficulties.

The agency also will expand the definition of “communication impediment,” a notation that appears on driver licenses if a person chooses. The notation previously was aimed at protecting deaf people, but now will be available for those on the autism spectrum.

Maj. Jason Hester, of the DPS Education, Training and Research Division, said the department did not see a specific need for the program before being approached by Aspergers101, an advocacy group on the communication impediment.

“We don’t have any documented incidents,” Hester said. “However, we just think that it was a great initiative to have the additional information, to have that out there. We have a responsibility to provide for a safer Texas.”

Samuel Allen, who is 21 and has autism, said people with communication impediments may not understand figures of speech and could react to a police officer in a way that he could see as disrespectful.

conference img 3“Learning to drive can be a very scary concept, and especially moreso if you have high-functioning autism or Aspergers,” said Samuel Allen, the son of Aspergers101 founder Jennifer Allen. “I feel protected knowing that ‘communication impediment’ is printed on my driver’s license.”

Aspergers101 also is collaborating with the agency in providing “Driving with Autism” summer camps to help people with communication difficulties learn how to drive and interact with police officers.

Ron Lucey, executive director of the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities, voiced his support for the initiatives, saying they can help people with autism be more “transportation independent.”

A Father Addresses his Relationship with his Autistic Son

I am the father of a son with Aspergers Syndrome and through the years of my wife and I raising him, it has had many challenges for me.  As a father I wanted him to take interest in outdoor activities, sports and other things that we could do together but while he was not interested in these things there were other items of interest that I had to adapt to in order to spend the most amount of quality time with him.

While he may not have had interest in what I thought a young boy should be interested in, he has opened my eyes to a different world that has brought us closer together over the years. I just had to be the one to approach his interests with an open mind and with the idea that these were things we could do as a father and son.

Some words of advice from a father of an aspie, learn to be a listener, take interest in his actiMy Son: Through the eyes of a Fathervities, not those you think a young man should take interest in, find things to do outside the home that you can teach him and he is interested in.  Also, be supportive and patient as typically those with aspergers will find it difficult to relate to things we take for granted as well as conveying their thoughts in the same manner we are accustomed to.  They will never forget the times you spend with them and the memories you are making.

 

by: Herb Allen

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.

How I Feel Living with Autism – The Story Behind our Logo!

One of the highlights when Sam and I speak at autism conferences is the reaction to a simple painting he had done depicting how it ‘feels’ to have autism. His interpretation offers a great insight and a relate-ability satisfying most neurotypical minds.  As a result to the overwhelming positive feedback…we’ve removed the puzzle piece and incorporated Sam’s painting into our logo!

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We’ve re-posted his story below and thank you for your continued support, feedback and most of all…our common ground of supporting those with High Functioning Autism and Aspergers Syndrome.       –Jennifer Allen

How I Feel Living with Autism

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“I painted this abstract picture to show neurotypicals what it feels like to have Aspergers Syndrome. At the time, I was enrolled in Art Appreciation I at Northeast Lakeview College. One day after class, I was at home and suddenly felt like painting, so I got some brushes, a canvas, and some acrylic paint and began to paint while envisioning the picture and its message in my mind. The black and white background represents how aspies tend to see the world in a black-and-white perspective and that we tend to act monotonous. The colors inside the head represent how our minds are bursting with extraordinary ideas. The white lines above the head represent how when we try to say what’s on our minds, it tends to get distorted by our social awkwardness.”            by: Samuel Allen

 

Celebrating the Uniqueness of Autism!

New Year...New Initiative

Happy New Year! As Aspergers101 begins the year 2016…we go in with a bang for our Autism/Asperger Community. Celebrating the Uniqueness of Autism is a campaign designed to do just that…celebrate the quirks and perks of Aspergers Syndrome. One way Aspergers101 will reach out is through a collaborative effort with the Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s TV Station in San Antonio Texas, WOAI-TV.

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General Manager John Seabers and  Creative Services Director Terry McFarlane graciously agreed to partner with Aspergers101 in bringing the message of Celebrating the Uniqueness of Autism to the viewers through a series of PSAs (Public Service Announcements) to air on WOAI, News 4 San Antonio, and digital Channel 4.2 Antenna TV as well as a worldwide reach on Aspergers101.org.

Agreeing to host the PSA series is senior veteran anchor Randy Beamer with the initial ads featuring the talents of Dr. Temple Grandin, Samuel Allen and Houston Eco-Artist Grant Manier. Each posses unique talents that could have been overlooked if not for someone standing up for them and guiding them toward their area of expertise.

We want to share these initial PSAs with you here:

Spotlight on: Inventor, Autism Activist and Author Dr. Temple Grandin