Autism Does Not Define Him

Our son Sam is now 22 years old. Together we have discovered Autism first from a stage of confusion, then diagnosis and ultimately the journey toward understanding and adjustment.  This journey hasn’t been taken by just Sam or me. The education and life-changing decisions included our family of four and those whose chose to remain linked to us either by love or simple curiosity. Autism became us. As we learned to navigate the education system, employment and higher education, we’ve taken you along.

Through our website Aspergers101, together we have reached for stories of enlightenment and searched to navigate our next stage in life. Now at age 22, driving and nearing college graduation, Sam has reached a personal plateau that bares sharing. With an absolute delivery he declared, “Autism does not define me”.  He further went on to explain that up til now, he would introduce himself to educators, peers or the seldom few who initiate conversation as “Hi I am Sam…and I have autism.” He felt he owed them an ‘explanation’ for his social awkwardness, his lack of eye contact or his seemingly bland behavior.

Drivers with autism encouraged to put extra info on license

By: Wes Rapaport

As the Aspergers101 “Driving with Autism” initiative sweeps Texas, we are thrilled to have been featured in a news report by Nexstar Broadcasting reporter Wes Rapaport.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new public service announcement was unveiled urging drivers with autism to consider applying for a note on their driver’s license that informs law enforcement about potential interaction challenges. The video message informs Texans about the “communication impediment” restriction code.

Samuel Allen, who is on the autism spectrum, said having the marker on his driver’s license feels “like a big safety net,” and makes him more comfortable when he gets in his car.

“If I showed [it] to the officer, they are going to know that I have autism or some kind of impediment that will keep me from communicating properly with the officer,” Allen explained.

An example of a "communication impediment" note, listed on the back of a sample driver license. (File photo)

An example of a “communication impediment” note, listed on the back of a sample driver license. (Jennifer Allen photo)

Legislation was passed in the last session that took effect in September, allowing brochures and posters highlighting the “communication impediment” code, in large part due to work done by Aspergers101, which Allen’s mother Jennifer founded.

“I’m just a mom of a son with autism that I want him to be protected, and it just happened to be there are open doors to make policy changes that make commonsense,” Jennifer Allen said. She added that she worried about her son being pulled over or having some other need to interact with an officer, and not having the tools necessary to successfully navigate those challenges.

“We can’t rely on other cards and things that they can reach and give to an officer of the law because that could be misconstrued as they’re reaching for a weapon, so if it’s directly on the driver’s license then that is indeed a safety net,” she stated.

“Driving with Autism and other Communication Impediments”

:30 Public Service Announcement

We at Aspergers101 would like to thank all who’ve taken part in getting the “Driving with Autism and other Communication Impediments” initiative state-wide in Texas! Through your comments we’ve edited the final Public Service Announcement, added closed captioning and it is now airing across Texas on both TV and radio stations…thank you! The framed posters and informative tri-fold brochures are now in all DPS Driver License Offices informing citizens of their option to utilize the restriction code informing law enforcement of the diagnosis of: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Deafness, Parkinson’s Disease, Mild Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome, Mutism and other communication challenges. You will begin to see other diagnosis highlighted, we will have someone whose been deaf since birth sign in a PSA similar to Sams. What a blessed journey this has been for our family…to God be the Glory, great things he has done.  – Jennifer Allen/Founder & CEO Aspergers101

 

So what is a communication impediment with a Peace Officer? 
Most common diagnosis include: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Mild intellectual disability, Deafness, Speech & languages disorders, Expressive Language Disorder, Down Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Deafness, Brain Injury or Parkinson’s Disease.

How can you get Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer on your Texas driver license or state ID?

Only two actions required:
1. Have your doctor complete and sign a Physician’s Statement, Form DL101, affirming the Autism, Asperger, speech disability or other appropriate diagnosis.
2. On driver license application KL14A/S be sure and complete line 7 on the form.

For more information contact Jennifer Allen at: jallen100@att.net or go to: https://aspergers101.com/drivingwithautism/  

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

Child just Diagnosed with Aspergers?

I’m Here to Say it’ll be Alright.

11012954_10204462766751207_2317137543922936014_nI’m pretty sure those of you who have discovered that your child has high-functioning autism went into some kind of state of shock when you found out about the diagnosis. My own mother felt the room spinning when they suggested the possibility of me having high-functioning autism.

But, at the same time, she also experienced a feeling of relief for finally having a diagnosis that explained the foreign behaviors.

It’s okay to feel shocked when the diagnosis comes in. It can be a lot to take in, but I can assure you that there is nothing to worry about. In fact, I’d consider the diagnosis to be a stepping stone towards a journey.

Now, some of you may be worried after getting the diagnosis that your child may not be able to drive, or to find a romantic love interest. Take a look at me; I have Aspergers and I’m driving to and from college every Monday through Thursday with no hitch, and I’ve even had some girlfriends in recent times.

Of course, there are going to be rough patches throughout the journey, but that’s what makes the journey all the more interesting. Because, let’s face it, normal is boring.

In conclusion, there’s no need to treat the diagnosis as a lethal disease, and I see no reason for the child not to know about their high-functioning autism. Take the time to explain what it is, and make sure they understand that high-functioning autism is far from anything even close to a disease.

By Samuel Allen

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.

Eustacia-Cutler

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.

Depositphotos_4086937_s

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