Tag Archive: Asperger’s Syndrome


From the Asperger’s Association of New England website…

One of the most challenging times to deal with the deficits associated with AS is during an emergency, or when you feel threatened or unsafe.  It’s not always easy or even possible to disclose that you have AS when interacting with first responders or law enforcement officers.   Fill in and carry this wallet card with you at all times to use in difficult situations.  Be sure to fill in the names of two people who know you and who explicitly agree to serve as emergency contacts for you.

DOWNLOAD CARD BY CLICKING THIS LINK

AspergersCard

summercamp

Here’s a new list of summer resources for those with autism/Asperger’s in the U.S.A., more current for this year.  Feel free to comment if you know of additional camps to add.

Inclusion of programs on this website should in no way be considered an endorsement, as I have no personal experience with any of these organizations.  Please do your due diligence before selecting the appropriate program for your Aspergian or special needs child. 

ALABAMA

ARIZONA

CALIFORNIA

COLORADO

CONNECTICUT

FLORIDA

GEORGIA

ILLINOIS

INDIANA

KANSAS

MICHIGAN

MINNESOTA

NEW HAMPSHIRE

NEW MEXICO

NEW JERSEY

NEW YORK

NORTH CAROLINA

OREGON

PENNSYLVANIA

RHODE ISLAND

SOUTH CAROLINA

TENNESSEE

TEXAS

UTAH

VERMONT

VIRGINIA

WASHINGTON

I recently read a Facebook post by one of my favorite Aspergian authors John Elder Robison, that he was pleased to find out that the College of William and Mary in Virginia has initiated a program to better understand and work with neuro-diverse individuals.   I am inspired to see some movement in the right direction, but still dismayed at how many colleges – and employers – have such a lack of understanding and empathy for those with disorders such as autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

My daughter was not diagnosed with ASD until her sophomore year of high school.  Although there were many struggles before and after diagnosis, those challenges have gotten even larger and more life-impacting as she’s grown older and more independent.   The communication and social skill deficits create minefields out of what would be no big deal to a neurotypical individual. These minefields are ready to explode with a single misstep.  It’s nervewracking for a parent who’s hours away, and receives a phone call when each minefield explodes.

Some examples:

  • Dealing with roommates or coworkers
  • Handling medical situations/illnesses (navigating treatment and insurance)
  • Communicating with professors or employers about accommodations or special needs
  • Explaining idiosyncracies to others
  • Sensory hypersensitivity, and the emotions that come with it end up affecting performance

Adaptive services departments do what they can, but often do not advocate for the students who need them.  The colleges my daughter has experienced have well-intentioned staff, but are not really equipped to help ASD students succeed.  It’s not a matter of equipment for someone who has an obvious physical disability — it’s  matter of understanding the “invisible” disability and getting the professors to also understand and accommodate.   The most frustrating thing is that the professors are totally unsympathetic to this disability, don’t understand it at all, and expect the ASD student (who appears to be normal on the outside) to perform the same as the neurotypical student under the same circumstances.  It just doesn’t work.

The same goes for employers.   Even though she is a quick learner, hard worker and dependable, my daughter has trouble keeping a job, due to the conditions of her Asperger’s.   In high school, she was fired from a deli cashier position, stating that it was because of her Asperger’s.  She didn’t really do anything wrong, she just wasn’t as fast as they wanted her to be. However, when we parents called the manager to ask him, he said he never said that.  We had no proof, so there was nothing we could do.  At other jobs, she has dealt with sexual harassment, crooked managers, and manipulative coworkers.  At one job, she was told that she didn’t smile enough. She lost a very good job due to a jealous supervisor training her to do an important task the wrong way.  Yes, this is the way of the “real world”, but as someone with this disability, she is not able to cope with these situations and their consequences the same way a neurotypical person might in terms of self-advocating or being cognizant of other people’s motives.

Students with autism related disabilities CAN succeed in college and on the job with a little help and understanding, but there needs to be a culture of neuro-diversity acceptance.   It’s easy to recognize discrimination based on age, religion, physical handicaps, or gender, but those with mental illnesses and disorders are discriminated against every day and there’s not much that can be done to prove it. Everyone has strengths, weaknesses and different personality traits which should be embraced and used to their full potential.  It’s so disappointing when major corporations and universities fail in this area where they should be leading the way.  I feel that fair treatment of those with mental disorders will be a long time in coming, if ever.

It’s a shame since they have many strengths and talents that could be of great benefit.   Kudos to the employers and colleges who are on their way to appreciating these differences.

a book by Stephen Plowright

If you are a manager of technical people, you will already have an intuitive understanding that many of your personnel have natural traits and abilities in common that help to make them good at what they do. In many technical teams, around half of the workers will score significantly higher than average on an Asperger test. This book explains the benefits of understanding Asperger traits. Distilled to the relevant and concise facts, this manual is easily read and absorbed by busy managers. It is also useful for technical people who want to better understand their own traits and abilities, and also their rights in the workplace. For those interested in further reading, books are suggested at the end of each chapter.

For ordering information visit Lulu.com

Important Note:  I have not read the book and inclusion on the site is not an endorsement.  I am simply providing information about books related to Autism Spectrum Disorders to anyone who might be interested.

Sisters Amy Lewis Faircloth of Hampden, Maine and Joanne Lewis of Florida have published their first co-written novel about a single mother who is battling addiction struggling to raise her adopted son who is a teen on quest to find his birth parents, understand his Asperger’s Syndrome, and be a better son.

Faircloth and her teenage son both have AS, and much of the fictional story is written based on their personal traits.  The project began as a way for the sisters to do something fun together.  It took three years to complete, and after having a difficult time finding a publisher, they decided to post some of the chapters online via a blog.

The book has won the online 2011 Reader Favorite Award and is among the finalists for the Royal Palm Literary Awards, which will be announced October 22 at a writer’s conference in Orlando, Florida.

You can read the first two chapters of the book online at www.amyandjoanne.com.

New York Times Best Selling Author John Elder Robison presents another look at life with Asperger’s Syndrome with his latest release Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian. The book provides practical advice for those diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), their families and teachers — or anyone who feels like a misfit.  The underlying message of the book is that every person, Aspergian or not, has something unique to offer the world, and every person has the capacity to create strong, loving bonds with their family and friends.

A quote on his web site reads, ” I believe those of us with Asperger’s are here for a reason, and we have much to offer.”  And Robison is living proof of that.  In his memoir Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Aspergers (2007), Robison relates a variety eccentric experiences from his younger years – some humorous and some sad – which led him to a successful career even though he had a hard time fitting in.  He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 40.

Throughout their lives, and especially during childhood, many people with Asperger’s Syndrome face social deficits and alienation from others who are considered neurotypical or normal.   Read about the many facets of Aspergers here. But many Aspergians are also extraordinarily gifted in particular skills such as concentration, abstract reasoning or mechanical skills.   In Be Different, Robison argues that Asperger’s is about difference, not disability.  He also offers practical advice on how Aspergians can improve communication and social skills that keep them from taking full advantage of, or even recognizing their often remarkable gifts.

Robison has 31  appearances scheduled throughout the U.S. during 2011 to promote Be Different and is planning trips to Canada and overseas.  For more information about John Elder Robison, his appearances and his books, be sure to visit his web site www.johnrobison.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @johnrobison or read his blog at www.jerobison.blogspot.com.

Eden Autism Services is offering a Family Fun Day and Resource Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, 2011 at the Eimerman Education Center, 2801 County Barn Road in Naples, Florida.  Trained Eden staffers and volunteers will be on hand to supervise and promote play and social skills in children with autism or Asperger’s, while parents and grandparents learn more about the conditions.  Registration is requested by April 12.  To register, call (239) 992-4680, ext. 205 or visit www.edenflorida.org.

Our daughter’s psychologist always said… just get her through high school.  College will be easier once she gets to choose her courses.  Well, in some ways yes — in other ways, not so much!

Once your Aspergian is an adult, there’s little you can really control — unless they allow you to.  Privacy policies and over-enthusiastic freshman advisors will block you at every turn in the effort to ensure this young adult starts to test their wings (no matter what the consequences!)

At orientation, the big message to parents was to “let go”.  I’m sure that with NT (neurotypical) young adults, that’ is absolutely the best thing to do.  However, with Asperger’s Syndrome in the mix, the decision-making capabilities can be more diminished.  Some Aspergians will accept authority and not question things enough.  So, at orientation, parents were not allowed into the course selection process and our daughter ended up with THREE virtual courses and only two on-campus courses.

LESSON #1:  REAL CLASSROOM TEACHING WORKS BETTER FOR OUR ASPERGIAN THAN VIRTUAL COURSES

First semester completed.  We’ve been told by our daughter that she did pretty well, although she had dropped one class.  Well, wasn’t she surprised to receive a letter from the university right before second semester letting her know that she is on academic probation.  Failed two courses her first semester.   Of the courses she had trouble with — all three were “virtual” – requiring her to keep track of assignments, tests, etc. and do them on time via computer.  Two F’s and a withdraw.   For her on-campus courses, she earned an A and a B!

LESSON #2: COLLEGE PROFESSORS ARE NOT AS SYMPATHETIC AS  HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS

This was a rude awakening for someone who was pushed and prodded through high school by instructors who contacted her or us about missing assignments or low test scores.  She contacted one professor and was told pretty succinctly that she had not turned in two assignments that were  a large portion of her grade, therefore she had earned what she got.  There were some tears and (I hope) the realization that college professors are not as forgiving as her high school teachers when it comes to grades.

LESSON #3:  AN ASPERGIAN WILL HAVE OPPORTUNITIES TO EXCEL IN COLLEGE WITH THEIR SPECIALIZED AREA OF INTEREST

On the bright side, during her first semester, she joined many student organizations, including the staff of the university newspaper.  Politics within the newspaper staff resulted in editors playing favorites with some of the writers — which didn’t include her.  She attended editorial meetings and presented many ideas and articles, but was only published once or twice during the semester.  She was becoming frustrated and ready to quit, but we encouraged her to stick with it.

It paid off. This semester, she is taking some different courses (ALL ON CAMPUS, thanks to mom helping with the registration this time).  Her journalism professor took notice of her writing skills and told her how talented she is.  She mentioned to him her frustration with the school newspaper not including her articles.  He must have made a call. Right after that, she got a full-page feature article in the university newspaper and was promoted to Senior Staff Writer!  In addition, her professor has recommended her to the local newspaper as a freelance writer.

Compared to many Aspergians, our daughter is really only mildly affected, but it DOES affect her daily life.  She must learn to embrace her strengths, but know that she has a responsibility to push through and improve upon her weak areas, such as communication, time management and organizational skills, in order to gain opportunities.  In starting to let go as parents, it is a daily struggle to deal with the worry about the decisions she will make; things she might forget; things she should be doing, etc.  All parents of college students probably go through this as their sons or daughters make possibly life-altering mistakes.  However, we must remember that it IS their life, and every mistake will lead – hopefully – to learning accountability and self-sufficiency as they begin to take life on their own two feet.

Award-winning production company, Pie Town Productions, is currently developing a series that would follow one family through the everyday challenges of raising multiple children on the autism spectrum and/or with Asperger’s.  We think this could be an amazing opportunity to shed light on the misconceptions surrounding an individual’s ability to live a fulfilling life with this disorder(s).  To see additional info about Pie Town, please visit www.pietown.tv  Interested in participating on the show or finding out more?  Please email: ally_weinberg@pietown.tv

Aspergers Meets Sorority Rush

As a new freshman at a state university, my daughter’s totally engrossed in college classes and activities.  In addition to joining several organizations and interest groups, she decided to participate in sorority recruitment, otherwise known as “rush”.

As a sorority alumna, I’ve been though rush, although many years ago, so I wasn’t totally in the dark about how things operate.  However, this is 20 years later, at a different than I attended.  I found the process the same in many ways, but it was on a much larger scale, with over 500 girls participating.

Since she’s come a long way with her social skills over the past few years, and can carry on a conversation with almost anyone without them knowing anything’s amiss, she chose not to reveal her diagnosis during this process to avoid being labeled or ostracized.   However, Asperger’s Syndrome still presented some unique complications which didn’t mesh well with the process:

  • Impulsivity – she posted messages on Facebook talking about rush or certain sororities.  Although the messages were all positive, she didn’t think ahead to know that people she had friended on Facebook in other sororities, or at the college in general, might be offended by what she wrote.
  • Communication – She wasn’t able to adequately communicate with her rush counselor or her work manager about some scheduling conflicts.  This resulted in her having no choice but to withdraw from rush altogether, during the final stages.  This could have been avoided if she were more adept at handling this type of situation and necessary schedule negotiations.
  • Emotions – There’s a lot of pressure to impress the sororities because of the massive numbers of young women who are competing for a limited number of spots.  This, combined with long, late hours attending events, and the subsequent selection (or non-selection) results causes emotional overload, amplified by the effects of Asperger’s.
  • Timing – Sorority recruitment occurs during the second week of the school year, when freshmen are just adjusting to being in college for the first time, and in most cases, away from home with new-found independence.  It’s a stressful time even before you add rush activities.

Another thought to ponder is… is a sorority the right place for an Aspie?  I firmly believe that’s an individual decision, much like every activity an Aspie might be drawn to.  It depends on their comfort level and what their college goals are.  Although I didn’t have Asperger’s, I was a shy college freshman – the first one in my family to attend college.  Joining a sorority gave me an instant group of accepting friends, and great opportunities for leadership development and socializing.  I believe this would have advantages for someone who’s has very high functioning autism. Sororities strive for diversity within their ranks — people who complement each other and who share their ideals.   Perhaps there are some sororities who are on the superficial side (as depicted on TV and in movies), but by going through rush, a potential member can usually find a sorority they can identify and bond with.

Although it didn’t work out this time, she is considering trying again next fall (recruitment is only once per year).  At least she’ll know what to expect and what pitfalls to avoid.  In the meantime, she’s finding a ton of activities and causes that fit her interests and enjoying spreading her wings.

Anyone with suggestions or experiences?  Please share!