Aspergers101 to Retire

A Farewell from Founder Jennifer Allen

The office of Aspergers101 (l to r) Jennifer Allen and son Samuel consult
Photo: Kin Man Hui /San Antonio Express-News

It is with a grateful yet pricked heart that I announce my retirement of Aspergers101 effective, today December 31st, 2019. The timing is right as we leave accomplishing more than our small family-run organization is able to propel any further. We will be handing off a large portion of Aspergers101 to our Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities who will graciously keep our “Driving with Autism” Texas initiative thriving and permanently available on their website to Texans and all states nationwide, beginning in January 2020.

When we started the work of Aspergers101, many years before it became a registered 501c3 non-profit organization in 2014, our son Samuel was in elementary school and struggling as there were little to no resources to learn about Asperger Syndrome. I felt as though me and my family had been crashed and deserted on a small island with little resources on survival. Navigating Autism wasn’t just new to us, the medical community had only begun to turn their attention toward this often overlooked, misdiagnosed condition. I quit my full time job and immersed myself in understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders. I immersed myself in my family. From that difficult time grew a love toward those struggling as we did. The heartbeat of Aspergers101 has always been to the rhythm of the desire to make available the information I never had with Sam. It is you who inspired Aspergers101.

We’ve included several downloadables of information we’ve published on Asperger Syndrome over the years and hope you take advantage by keeping them for yourself and/or sharing with someone in need!

Jennifer Allen/Founder Aspergers101

Fast forward to today at the eve of 2020 and there are many autism resources available for you than ever before. Movies, TV shows, websites, clinics, employers, law enforcement and schools now have a better understanding (and accommodation) of those on and around the autism spectrum. We’ve got a long way yet to go… but have come quite a distance in the past decade. Our son Samuel is now 24 years old, college graduate, driving and thriving with full time employment in IT at H-E-B! As our family takes another fork in the road toward Sam’s independence, it is time that we must part our journey together. It lasted longer and went much higher and further than I could have ever imagined, but I pass the baton off to the next trailblazer whose time, endurance, funds, resources and age enables them to serve. There are so many excellent organizations geared toward autism and asperger syndrome and that is why I am certain of the time to step aside and wish you the very best on your continued journey!

What’s Next?

“A look forward” at the end of this blog, will offer an explanation for how Aspergers101 will live on. However, before we look forward, I invite you to read on and take a look back at all we’ve been through together over the past decade! It’s been quite a journey we’ve taken together. We’ve included several downloadables of our information we’ve published on Asperger Syndrome over the years and hope you take advantage by keeping for yourself and/or sharing with someone in need! Below offers you a bullet-point glimpse at the highlights of Aspergers101 and the outreach that exceeded our vision. This includes conferences & meet-ups with so many of you, televised broadcasts, our endearing friendship & partnership with Dr. Temple Grandin, the making and airing of our family documentary “Coping to Excelling”, the 2 Texas Legislative successes and oh so much more!

3 Steps to get Your Child on an Exercise Routine

Did you know that children ages 6 to 13 years need a recommended 9-11 hours of sleep? Did you know that children ages 6 to 17 years need a recommended 60 minutes of exercise every day? Lastly, did you know that research shows a correlation between individuals with autism, exercise, and sleep? David Wachob and David Lorenzi from Indiana University recently conducted a study in which 10 individuals with ASD between the ages of 9-17 years were measured for two things: time spent participating in physical activity and amount of time in restful sleep. Their 7 day study resulted in their participants having more restful sleep as they increased their physical activity during the day. In other words, an increase in exercise like outdoor play meant an increase in sleep. This, in turn, could potentially lead to more positive results like increased attention span, weight loss, behavior changes, and social interactions.

Little boy doing gymnastic exercises

But how do we get our kiddos to move? How do we get them away from the TV and computer? In this blog I will discuss 3 easy steps that will hopefully help get your family moving.

1. Our first step, and probably the most important, is to set the mood in regards to exercise.

Most kids see exercise as a chore when in reality it should be fun. Find something that your child can relate to. This can be stickers, coloring books, games, or tv time (tv time as an incentive) of their favorite show or characters, for example “Big Hero 6”.

ACBighero6

Decorate your workout area in pictures or printouts of their favorite character and make it more inviting. You can even use a “Big Hero 6” t-shirt as their official workout uniform. This will hopefully shed some positive/fun perspective on exercise.

2. Our second step is finding an activity to do.

Ready to Graduate? Tips for Asperger’s Students and Those Supporting Them

Hillary Adams and Jackie Clark presented “Bridging the Gap: Supporting Students with ASD as they Transition from College to the Workforce” at the 2014 Autism Society conference held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Representing the West Virginia Autism Training Center, Adams and Clark provided several tips and considerations for those who are about to graduate and those who support them.

Tips included:

  • Utilize campus resources related to employment, especially those services provided traditionally on college campuses through a Career Service office. Begin a relationship with that office early; don’t wait until the final year
  • Participate in mock interviews, especially if those interviews can be videotaped for critique and coaching
  • Search for employment opportunities that fit interest as well as skill
  • Become aware of accommodation needs, and learn the self-advocacy skills necessary to request them. Learn to be more interdependent, understanding who in a potential workplace could best help you when help is needed
  • Plan the transition early, and plan it with others who are invested in your future

One of the coolest tips provided by Adams and Clark was the use of a Telephone Interview Checklist. This script supports college graduates as they undergo a telephone interview with a potential employer.

The checklist does the following:

Training for Employers on Workplace Diversity and Asperger Syndrome

As part of our continued segment on Employment, today we bring you a sample of ASTEP’s (Asperger Syndrome Training & Employment Partnership) training offerings for Employers.

employment, employer training

Seeking employment is a crucial topic for those with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism. Let’s look at the critical tools, tips, and training for both employers hiring potential employees with Aspergers, and for those on the spectrum searching for employment. It is important to prepare yourself for the workplace, and the initial interview. By understanding the view of the employer, you can collect a set of skills and information that will help you become a desirable employee to the place of work you are applying, and a successful sustained work-life.

It is also crucial for employers to have the knowledge and tools necessary in fully utilizing and incorporating their employees with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism.

An interview is a two-way street. (A polite street, with traffic rules.)

Ask questions. The employer should, and will typically, provide an opportunity for you to ask questions at or near the end of the interview.

Always prepare questions to ask. 

Having no questions prepared sends the message that you have no independent thought process, are ill-prepared, or some combination of the two.

Employers make judgments about you based on the questions you ask. 

Have you done your research on the organization? (If yes, good.) Are you asking dull questions that you can have answered from an internet search? (Not good.) Are your questions intelligent, thoughtful and cordial? (Very good.)

How many questions to ask? 

There’s no set number. It’s not a formula. It really depends on what you need to know. A good rule of thumb is to enter an interview with three to five questions that you are prepared to discuss. You may in fact have 20 questions on your mind, but there may not be sufficient time allotted to cover that many questions. So, prioritize your questions based on the interview situation:

  • Is this the first interview? Ask for information that matters most early.
  • Is this the second interview? By now you should know the basics, so ask more probing questions.
  • Is this an all-day interview during which you are meeting with different groups and individuals? Ask questions that fit the roles of each individual and ask one question to everyone you meet with so you can compare responses.

Show you’ve done your homework. 

Example: “I read on the company website that employees recently presented at conference XX. Is that a typical opportunity in the job for which I am interviewing?”

Know the nature of the organization and appropriate terminology. 

Not all employing organizations are “companies.” Governmental agencies and not-for-profit organizations are usually not referred to as companies. Most educational institutions are not for-profit (although some are), and may call themselves schools, colleges, universities, institutions, etc. Some for-profit organizations may call themselves firms or businesses or agencies.

You will appear more prepared if you use appropriate terminology as used by the specific organization. 

Some of your prepared questions may be answered during the course of an interview. If this happens, you can simply state something to the effect that, you were interested in knowing about XX, but that was addressed during the interview and express appreciation for the thorough information you were given. You can also ask for additional clarification if appropriate.

Do not ask questions that are clearly answered on the employer’s web site or in any literature provided by the employer to you. 

This would simply reveal that you did not prepare for the interview, and you are wasting the employer’s time by asking these questions.

Good questions are open-ended, and cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” 

If you are having trouble developing questions, consider the following samples as food for thought to help you consider your own questions. However, don’t ask a question if you are not truly interested in the answer; it will be obvious to the employer.

Your questions should show your own thought process.

  • What are the company’s strengths and weaknesses compared to its competition?
  • How does upper management view the role and importance of this department and this position?
  • What is the organization’s plan for the next five years, and how does this department fit in?
  • Could you explain your organizational structure?
  • What do you most enjoy about your work with this company?
  • How have various types of decisions been made?
  • What are the various ways employees communicate with one another to carry out their work?
  • How will my leadership responsibilities and performance be measured? By whom?
  • What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?
  • Can you please describe the company’s management style and the type of employee who fits well with it?
  • What are some of the skills and abilities necessary for someone to succeed in this job?

Ten Ideas to Live Healthier and Feel Better: Divergent Thinkers (Aspergers, NLD) and Everyone

with Marcia Eckerd, Ph.D.

  1. Respect yourself.   As hard as things have been, focus on your strengths. Your path, however bumpy, has gotten you the be the person you are. You are unique, and no one else can contribute your insight and perspective.
  2. Reach out for support.   If you have family or friends who “get it,” that’s terrific. If not, there’s communities of support out there on Facebook, like “The Aspergian Has An Article for That” and “Autism Support and Discussion Group”. People have had similar experiences and are working on the same issues.
  3. Advocate for yourself. No one can see inside you.   Consider how best to communicate to the person who is listening. With some people, you can probably say what you want plainly. For others, help them understand. You might try this: say something positive (I want to do a good job), then your need: (but I need a quieter place to work) and then something positive (I’ll be able to get that done). Or, another example: positive (I want us to get along), need (so I need you to be clear and not expect I know what you want), positive (that will really help).
  4. Take care of your health.  Your body is critical to your mood, your ability to think and your wellbeing. Too many people don’t get enough sleep, eat well or take the time to take care of themselves. Treat yourself to a recharging walk to somewhere you enjoy (or nap), whatever works for you.
  5.  Meditate   It’s been proven that mediation can structurally change your brain to be more stress resilient, and it’s like creating a center of calm for yourself. There’s many ways to do it (mindfulness, repeating a phrase, yoga, even walking). You’ll find great apps to lead you through mediation like Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer.
  6. Know yourself     Know your triggers for emotional and sensory overload and early warning signs in your thinking, feeling or body that say it’s getting too much. Have strategies you’ve pre-thought for calming down, whether it’s something like taking a walk, listening to music, doing a minute or two of meditation, anything that works.
  7. Have strategies    If you can’t escape going into difficult situations, have strategies for handling it. Short doses, taking time outs. Use self-advocacy to share that this situation is difficult and what might be helpful. If that doesn’t work and this situation keeps recurring, there’s something fundamentally wrong with this situation and you might have to think about how to change it.
  8. Have compassion for yourself    We all do our best and no one is perfect. You may have made mistakes and regret them but that’s how we learn. You need to give yourself the compassion you’d want to give a friend in the same situation.
  9. Let go of anger     This saying is allegedly attributed to the Buddha: He who holds onto anger is like the man who drinks poison and expects the other person to die. Anger stimulates your stress response so your autonomic nervous system stays in fight/flight mode. This is bad for your health, your immunity and your outlook on yourself and life. I’m not saying forget, just do whatever re-centers your focus on how you overcame (or can overcome) whatever obstacle you encountered. You’ve undoubtedly had some good experiences; focus on them as balancing the negative.
  10. Learn the serenity prayer.    Give me the serenity to accept what I can’t change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Employment with ASD: Embracing Disability Hiring

CHICAGO — Seyfarth Shaw, one of the city’s largest law firms, occupies nine floors of a skyscraper at 131 S. Dearborn St. Shalonda Sanders is responsible for picking up and delivering packages on each of them, plus keeping certain areas clean. It is a job she cherishes.

“I love my co-workers, all of them,” Sanders, 35, said of the 15-member office services team of which she is a part. “Downstairs,” she said, referring to the mail center, “I consider us as one.”

Sanders, who suffered brain damage when she was struck by a car as a child, was hired at Seyfarth about a year ago with the help of Best Buddies Illinois, after many years of trying unsuccessfully to gain paid employment.

The local chapter of the national nonprofit, best known for fostering one-on-one friendships between people with disabilities and a network of volunteers, had recently launched a jobs program to place people with intellectual and developmental disabilities into competitive jobs.

Shalonda Sanders, 35, works in the mailroom delivering letters, documents and FedEx packages to law office employees at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago. Sanders, who was hit by a car at age 9 and left with brain trauma that slurs her speech and causes some tremors, was placed in the job through Best Buddies. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Shalonda Sanders, 35, works in the mailroom delivering letters, documents and FedEx packages to law office employees at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago. Sanders, who was hit by a car at age 9 and left with brain trauma that slurs her speech and causes some tremors, was placed in the job through Best Buddies. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

The program, one of many attempting to tackle the massive unemployment rate among those with intellectual disabilities, is part of a movement away from what are known as sheltered programs that keep workers with disabilities apart from the mainstream workforce and often pay less than minimum wage. Its challenge is to show companies that tapping into this underused talent pool isn’t just a good thing to do, but good for the bottom line.

Texas Embraces Driver License Designation for those with Autism or Hearing Impaired

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! Two versions of the Public Service Announcement currently are airing across Texas on both TV and radio stations. Samuel Allen/Spokesperson of the Aspergers101 Driving with Autism initiative speaks on behalf of those with Autism or other diagnosis that may be slower to respond to an officer of the law. Emma Faye Rudkin, Founder & President of Aid the Silent organization, speaks on behalf of those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The framed posters and informative tri-fold brochures are in all DPS Driver License Offices informing citizens of their option to utilize the code informing law enforcement of the diagnosis of: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Deafness, Parkinson’s Disease, Mild Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome, Mutism and other diagnosis.

Samuel Allen/Aspergers101
Emma Faye Rudkin/Aid the Silent

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 the Texas DPS Physician’s Statement, Form DL101, affirming the Autism, Asperger, speech disability or other appropriate diagnosis.
2. On Texas DPS driver license application KL14A/S be sure and complete line 7 on the form.

For more information go to the Texas Department of Public Safety website: https://www.dps.texas.gov/DriverLicense/commImpedimentWithPO.htm

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

Transitioning to Adulthood with Aspergers

Individuals diagnosed with Aspergers or another autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be presented with many challenges throughout their lives—especially during the transitional periods. As the individuals age and learn to use different skills in various environments, families, educators, medical professionals and the individuals themselves begin to anticipate the transition to adolescence and, eventually, to adulthood. Given the differences in abilities and behaviors that many individuals with Aspergers or HFA experience, it can often be overwhelming to plan for tomorrow much less several years later.

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Among the many skills that an individual must learn to successfully transition to adolescence and adulthood, daily living skills are often neglected.

Examples of daily living skills are bathing, grooming, preparing meals, managing finances, using public transportation, etc. These daily skills are necessary for independent functioning in the home and within the community.

A recent study discovered that individuals with ASD improved in daily living skills during adolescence and the early twenties. These skills plateaued around late twenties and began to decline in the early thirties—this shows the importance of honing these skills earlier in life instead of waiting until later.

Some positive findings were that inclusive schooling had a positive influence on adult outcomes. The study also found, “that vocational independence predicts improvements in autism symptoms and significant improvements in behavioral problems.” Daily living skills could also be increased by engaging in some type of work activity.

It is encouraging that daily living skills can continue to be gained at later points in development as other skills plateau. The authors suggest that more research is needed to develop behavioral and pharmacological interventions for older individuals on the autism spectrum.

While individuals with Aspergers or HFA may have challenges with the daily living skills necessary for transitional periods, it is important for their independence and quality of life to begin this journey at an early age to ensure success.

by Lupe Castañeda, M.S., BCBA

Have you thought about or experienced the transitional periods in your or your child’s life?

How did you cope with these experiences? 

Sources:

Smith L.E, Maenner, M.J. & Seltzer, M. (2012). Developmental Trajectories in Adolescents and Adults with Autism: The Case of Daily Living Skills. Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.  51(6): 622–631.