College Students with Aspergers Give Their Experienced Advice: Part 3

Continuing our occasional theme of listening to the advice of college students who have “been there and done that,” please join me in listening to recommendations provided by four graduates of Marshall University.

College Students

Bradley, Nathan, Stephen, and Brian, each 2013 graduates of the university, responded to questions about personal goals, their experience with support programs, what they liked about campus, etc. But it is the final question I’d like to focus on for this essay.

What advice would you give the freshman “you,” if you could talk with your younger self prior to entering college?

Lessons Learned: Part 2

Lessons Learned From the Kids with Diverse Abilities:

I say diverse abilities because one thing that I have learned from working and playing with children and adults with developmental disabilities is that they understand more than neuro-typical children and adults do. You may understand if you’ve ever heard the phrase “Dance like no one is watching,” and if you crave the freedom and joy that behaving that way can bring.

Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, summertime

They live their lives like no one is watching. They may not even have the ability to sensor their thoughts. This really brings a sense of freedom and joy that no one else (I know) can truly understand. It is the rest of the world who has a problem with what a child like this does and says. If society could be “okay” with this, than they could be “okay” with truly BEING authentic with who they are. These children taught me so much about being authentic and not worrying about what other people see or think. It was years later, when I became a mother again, that I realized just how much they taught me.

Lessons Learned: Part 1

I know that this blog is about Aspergers and Autism but I think my job here is also to help people make connections in their life experiences, and how they can relate to other people’s lives. So I will begin with this story.

Lessons Learned From Gang Kids:

Helping Hand

After the arrival of my eldest son and finding myself as a single mom, I decided I needed to go back to school and get an education. When I was in High School, no adult had ever made me feel that an education was an option for me. In fact, my guidance counselor advised me to seek out a trade school or business course such as bookkeeping or typing. I explained that I wanted to become a psychologist or a counselor and he would always comment, “well, that would take a lot of years of college and quite a bit of tuition.” This was a conclusion he did not make from my inability to learn or my aptitude for empathy for others.

Middle School, High School, and College Through the Eyes of a Young Autistic

Middle school. The darkest and most hideous, oppressive years a human can fathom. When the hormones are just ripe enough to make you want to take on the whole world, but maturity has not yet developed enough to realize there are things such as consequences. But me, I did not get into any real trouble, instead I became profoundly confused and unhappy. These are years that are difficult to handle under even the best of circumstances. On top of this, my family moved from the Northeast to the Southwest just as I was about to start middle school. To take a young child from one environment and to suddenly thrust them into new ones is very distressing and painful.

ChristopherS2

For the Autistic it can be hell. Somehow I managed to survive it all, and to escape being beat up by the other kids. One thing I didn’t escape? Humiliation. I had a tendency to laugh uncontrollably at the things I thought were funny at the time. I had always been led to believe that laughing at someone’s joke was the best genuine way to prove that you understood it, and that you admired their sense of wit. But somehow, laughing at everyone’s joke meant I was weird. Wanting to learn was weird. Humming music that I liked was weird. Reading books that I wasn’t required to because of a class was weird. My hair was weird.

Seriously. Other than my hair, someone explain to me what’s weird about any of that.

Adults with Aspergers and Social Techniques: Learning Personal Space

Q&A with Ken Kellam

Q: Could you go into detail on other types of relationships (friends, co-workers, acquaintances, etc.) that you have had? Do you have a specific example of a misstep? Or situation that you were able to handle because of something you had been taught?

social skills, aspergers, personal space

A: Years ago, I was asked to help lead songs for a college-age Bible study (I was 30). Eventually, some of the women in the group went to the leader and told him they were uncomfortable with the way I looked at them. I was asked not to come back. I was in complete shock, and kept trying to figure out where I went wrong.

The Power of Conversation

Before I started this blog I was in a place where I felt alone and had nobody to relate to. Since then I have met so many amazing people and families. I have had the opportunity to talk with and meet many people who were in the same place I once was when this journey began. I love sharing my story and feel honored to have many share theirs with me along the way. Often times I get phone calls from friends or professionals who think that I should meet a certain family. It touches my heart in so many ways, and I am so lucky to have that opportunity.

However, not everyone is in this situation, I know I never used to be. Important interactions with others are not always planned out. Unless we put our phones down, pick our heads up, and share our stories we will never know all the amazing moments and conversations that could have been.

I don’t put a sign on anyone’s neck, nor do I shout form the rooftops what is going on in my house. Okay so maybe with the exception of this blog. Lol! The point is that you never know what someone’s situation of life experience has been, so be sure to walk through life with your eyes wide open.

The other week we were at a kids’ play place and I noticed a dad intensely following around his child. I recognized his behavior in myself, that dad on high guard with his child used to be me. At one point our children were both in the same area so I put down my phone and walked near them, mostly just to make sure that both kids were going to be okay together. While I do get to relax and stay seated more in public spaces now, I know my children, and felt the shift was necessary.

Coming to a Positive Outlook on your Asperger’s Diagnosis

Reader Responses and Questions with Ken Kellam

The following is a group of fantastic reader responses and questions related to Ken Kellam’s recent blog titled, “If There Were a Cure for Asperger’s”.

At Aspergers101 we strive to encourage an open conversation among the community. Here is a look at what people have been saying about Ken’s blog, along with a response to one of our readers from Ken.

“I love what you have so perfectly expressed! Our biggest challenges are living among members of a society made up of people who are afraid of differences that they don’t understand, making us another marginalized culture. It’s time to educate!”

-Nanci

 

“If Aspergers was ‘cured’ I would be deprived of some of the most wonderful, creative and passionate patients and friends that I am blessed to be connected with. My life would be duller, less fulfilled and less inspired by the courage and resilience individuals on the autism spectrum have shown me.

Want to be wowed?

Want to be inspired?

Want to love what you do?

Work to reduce social discrimination against individuals on the spectrum and consider their gifts. Want to explode the myth that individuals on the spectrum cannot empathize, love, be compassionate, parent well, love well, contribute to the quality of our lives? Meet someone on the spectrum! It’s called a spectrum because we’re all on it, no right or wrong, just differences to be celebrated, peace (and who really cares about that).”

-Bob

 

“I like your blog and agree with all you say – but how long has it taken you to arrive at your positive feelings about having Asperger’s? I’ve worked with many kids who suffer badly at school, particularly as they become adolescents, and find it really hard to cope with some of the social challenges of trying to be one of a group and relate to their peers. I will try to use what you say to encourage them but I don’t think we should minimize the problems either. The neuro-typical world can be an uncomfortable place.”

-Freja

My Battle Plan for Communication as an Adult with Aspergers

For much of my life, I have had a hard time understanding not only the non-verbal communication of others, but how my own non-verbal communication affected others. Sometimes, if I was irritated at someone, I would simply keep my mouth shut, the rationale being “They can’t hold me accountable for something I didn’t say.”

What I failed to realize was that sometimes silence speaks louder than anything you could say, or that you could say one thing, but your facial expressions, actions, and certainly body language tell the real story.

During a Meltdown

In previous blogs we have addressed the complex topic of meltdowns. While the main message is to have a plan to PREVENT a meltdown, we must also be prepared if a meltdown does occur.

Portrait of unhappy screaming teen girl

I will start by outlining what NOT to do. I think this is best said coming from someone that has lived through a meltdown with neurological implications.  The following is an excerpt from a message from Mr. John Scott.

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