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!

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

Give the Gift of Information!

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

What If It Snowed In San Antonio?

A Care-giver Series: by Dr. Ghia Edwards

This is the third installment of my piece speaking about the health of a caregiver and it has been an interesting journey these past weeks. We as caregivers get in such and stay in such serious modes, that sometimes it takes something drastic to pop us out of our self imposed prisons of heaviness and sometimes fear. It was almost two years ago to the date that in San Antonio and much of Texas it full on snowed! Now for some of us who were raised around snow, (my parents were bi coastal people), this could have seemed mundane but it was not anything of the sort. I was so happy and joyful that it was snowing, I surprised myself and as I looked around me, everyone and I mean everyone was smiling and laughing and making snowballs and snowmen. Then it hit me, it hit me why I had to wait till this very moment to write this very thing. Life and it’s tragedies are real but in those moments of lifting and or explaining, or seeing people’s faces in reaction to perhaps a behavior your person was exhibiting, in those moments the divine breaks in. Now maybe it’s not snow in the south or something as drastic as that but I believe wholeheartedly that we are given sweet miracle moments that release us from the prison and remind us that we are free to live and enjoy and to find joy in the big and little things in life. I can tell you, I love each and every one of you who are struggling to be, when you don’t even know if you can put one foot in front of the other. I send you thoughts and knowledge that you can find the divine and joy in your task of caregiving, you just have to seek them, to go after them because joy can seem fleeting like the melting snow but the take away is this. When we can choose to see the beauty in a smile, or in a victorious moment where we somehow connect to and with our people, then that is where we see the miracles happen of this season and all year round . We may feel exhausted and cranky sometimes as caregivers but let us remember the beauty we are giving we get back in unexpected ways. Seek those moments and I know you will not be disappointed.

Joy and Peace,

Dr. Ghia

dr.ghia7@gmail.com

 

Apart From the Crowd: Isolation in the Early Years of Diagnosis

A Quick Read

Even before the official diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, we knew our son Sam walked apart from the crowd. His early intense interest in a subject matter, and not in his peers, was the perfect mix for oddity starting the early sociable elementary years.

While we, as Sam’s parents, grew to walk alongside (and later celebrate) the unique perspective Sam had on the world, it was me who was shocked to be set apart from the crowd.

(l to r) Charlie, Jennifer, Herb and Sam

The elementary years were full of field trips, lunch visits, and homeroom activities. When it came time for picking groups for the field trips, my son was not one who other mothers wanted for their sons. At this early age, most mothers were positioning their children to be the best, only with the best, and we didn’t fit their criteria.

So for many of those early years Sam and I sat alone as other mothers invited the more social children to sit with them. Support did not come in familiar places: relatives, neighbors, team sports, youth groups or, field trip Moms. In fact, it was those who were actually abusive to Sam that set the stage for above and beyond parental protection. So different from my youth or perceived visions of parenthood. After the shock and heart wrenching pain for my son, the realization sat in that I too, was isolated.

How Our Family Responded to Isolation

Our family had hit a harsh reality, so we decided to fight back in a way that did no harm to anyone, but bolstered our son’s confidence. We chose our son over the crowd. We eliminated the negative and stuck to the positives. My Mom and Dad (both have since passed) were so very supportive and loving and choose to take a big role in both our sons lives. We clung to that love and our sons were nurtured and flourished. You don’t need or should expect everyone in your family(s) to be supportive, just enjoy who does and build upon that. Together the four of us found a loving church home, become interested in all things our sons were interested in, enjoyed those who did make a conscience effort to be a positive part of our sons lives, traveled on weekends (verses attending typical soccer games), and marched to a new rhythm I had never heard before! At first it was scary, going a route we’ve never taken before. However, after removing the negatives, the anxious worry quickly subsided and Sam (and the rest of us) blossomed!

Hello to star-gazing, train following, computer lessons, pokemon’ tournaments….well you have your list too!

Being apart from the crowd became the norm and our sons both flourished.

I write this not to feel sad or ‘wallow’ in self-pity. Nor have I listed the struggles (you can refer to other posts covering that) of the journey. I write about the choice because it is that simple. Because this probably happens to many parents of a child on the spectrum. I want to encourage you to persevere and hold onto the unique qualities that are the very being of your Asperger child and to let go of any expectations you may have of others taking part. Bottom line: Forge your own path for your child and take along the handful of people who do want to be a part.

It does get easier the older they get, and the reward will be a son or daughter who knows that their uniqueness is a gift. Recently Sam was asked what it “felt” like to have Autism. His matter of fact reply was priceless: “Don’t think of Autism as a weight, think of it as a pair of wings”.

Being apart from the crowd is a great thing indeed.

By Jennifer Allen

Temple Grandin Explains: Choosing the Right Job for People with ASD

Jobs need to be chosen that make use of the strengths of people with Autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Both high and low functioning people have very poor short-term working memory, but they often have a better long-term memory than most neurotypicals. I have great difficulty with tasks that put high demands on short-term working memory. I cannot handle multiple tasks at the same time.

employment, jobs

Table 1 is a list of BAD jobs that I would have great difficulty doing.

Table 2 is a list of easy jobs for a visual thinker like me.

I have difficulty doing abstract math such as algebra and most of the jobs on Table 2 do not require complex math. Many of the visual thinking jobs would also be good for people with dyslexia.

The visual thinking jobs on Table 2 put very little demand on fast processing of information in short-term working memory. They would fully utilize my visual thinking and large long-term memory. Table 3 is a list of jobs that non-visual thinkers who are good with numbers, facts and music could do easily.

They also put low demands on short-term working memory and utilize an excellent long-term memory. Table 4 shows jobs that lower functioning people with autism could do well. For all types of autism and Asperger’s syndrome, demands on short-term working memory must be kept low. If I were a computer, I would have a huge hard drive that could hold 10 times as much information as an ordinary computer but my processor chip would be small.

To use 1999 computer terminology, I have a 1000 gigabyte hard drive and a little 286 processor. Neurotypicals may have only 10 gigabytes of disc space on their hard drive and a Pentium for a processor. I cannot do two or three things at once.

Some job tips for people with Autism or Asperger’s syndrome:

  • Jobs should have a well-defined goal or endpoint.
  • Sell your work, not your personality. Make a portfolio of your work.
  • The boss must recognize your social limitations.

It is important that high functioning autistics and Asperger’s syndrome people pick a college major in an area where they can get jobs. Computer science is a good choice because it is very likely that many of the best programmers have either Asperger’s syndrome or some of its traits. Other good majors are: accounting, engineering, library science, and art with an emphasis on commercial art and drafting. One could major in library science with a minor in history, but the library science degree makes it easier to get a good job.

Some individuals, while they are still in high school, should be encouraged to take courses at a local college in drafting, computer programming or commercial art. This will help keep them motivated and serve as a refuge from teasing.

Families with low income may be wondering how they can afford computers for their child to learn programming or computer aided drafting. Used computers can often be obtained for free or at a very low cost when a business or an engineering company upgrades their equipment.

Many people do not realize that there are many usable older computers sitting in storerooms at schools, banks, factories and other businesses. It will not be the latest new thing, but it is more than adequate for a student to learn on.

In conclusion: a person with Asperger’s syndrome or autism has to compensate for poor social skills by making themselves so good in a specialized field that people will be willing to “buy” their skill even though social skills are poor.

This is why making a portfolio of your work is so important. You need to learn a few social survival skills, but you will make friends at work by sharing your shared interest with the other people who work in your specialty. My social life is almost all work related. I am friends with people I do interesting work with.


Table 1

Bad Jobs for People with High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome: Jobs that require high demands on short-term working memory

  • Cashier — making change quickly puts too much demand on short-term working memory
  • Short order cook — Have to keep track of many orders and cook many different things at the same time
  • Waitress — Especially difficult if have to keep track of many different tables
  • Casino dealer — Too many things to keep track of
  • Taxi dispatcher — Too many things to keep track of
  • Taking oral dictation — Difficult due to auditory processing problems
  • Airline ticket agent — Deal with angry people when flights are cancelled
  • Future market trader — Totally impossible
  • Air traffic controller — Information overload and stress
  • Receptionist and telephone operator — Would have problems when the switch board got busy

Table 2

Good Jobs for Visual Thinkers

  • Computer programming — Wide-open field with many jobs available especially in industrial automation, software design, business computers, communications and network systems
  • Drafting — Engineering drawings and computer aided drafting. This job can offer many opportunities. Drafting is an excellent portal of entry for many interesting technical jobs. I know people who started out at a company doing drafting and then moved into designing and laying out entire factories. To become really skilled at drafting, one needs to learn how to draw by hand first. I have observed that most of the people who draw beautiful drawings on a computer learned to draw by hand first. People who never learn to draw by hand first tend to leave important details out of their drawings.
  • Commercial art — Advertising and magazine layout can be done as freelance work
  • Photography — Still and video, TV cameraman can be done as freelance work
  • Equipment designing — Many industries, often a person starts as a draftsman and then moves into designing factory equipment
  • Animal trainer or veterinary technician — Dog obedience trainer, behavior problem consultant
  • Automobile mechanic — Can visualize how the entire car works
  • Computer-troubleshooter and repair — Can visualize problems in computers and networks
  • Small appliance and lawnmower repair — Can make a nice local business
  • Handcrafts of many different types such as wood carving, jewelry making, ceramics, etc.
  • Laboratory technician — Who modifies and builds specialized lab equipment
  • Web page design — Find a good niche market can be done as freelance work
  • Building trades — Carpenter or welder. These jobs make good use of visual skills but some people will not be able to do them well due to motor and coordination problems.
  • Video game designer — Stay out of this field. Jobs are scarce and the field is overcrowded. There are many more jobs in industrial, communications business and software design computer programming. Another bad thing about this job is exposure to violent images.
  • Computer animation — Visual thinkers would be very good at this field, but there is more competition in this field than in business or industrial computer programming. Businesses are recruiting immigrants from overseas because there is a shortage of good programmers in business and industrial fields.
  • Building maintenance — Fixes broken pipes, windows and other things in an apartment complex, hotel or office building
  • Factory maintenance — Repairs and fixes factory equipment

Table 3

Good Jobs for Non-Visual Thinkers: Those who are good at math, music or facts

  • Accounting — Get very good in a specialized field such as income taxes
  • Library science — reference librarian. Help people find information in the library or on the Internet.
  • Computer programming — Less visual types can be done as freelance work
  • Engineering — Electrical, electronic and chemical engineering
  • Journalist — Very accurate facts, can be done as freelance
  • Copy editor — Corrects manuscripts. Many people freelance for larger publishers
  • Taxi driver — Knows where every street is
  • Inventory control — Keeps track of merchandise stocked in a store
  • Tuning pianos and other musical instruments, can be done as freelance work
  • Laboratory technician — Running laboratory equipment
  • Bank Teller — Very accurate money counting, much less demand on short-term working memory than a busy cashier who mostly makes change quickly
  • Clerk and filing jobs — knows where every file is
  • Telemarketing — Get to repeat the same thing over and over, selling on the telephone. Noisy environment may be a problem. Telephone sales avoids many social problems.
  • Statistician — Work in many different fields such as research, census bureau, industrial quality control, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, etc.
  • Physicist or mathematician — There are very few jobs in these fields. Only the very brilliant can get and keep jobs. Jobs are much more plentiful in computer programming and accounting.

Table 4

Good Jobs for Nonverbal People with Autism or People with Poor Verbal Skills

  • Reshelving library books — Can memorize the entire numbering system and shelf locations
  • Factory assembly work — Especially if the environment is quiet
  • Copy shop — Running photocopies. Printing jobs should be lined up by somebody else
  • Janitor jobs — Cleaning floors, toilets, windows and offices
  • Restocking shelves — In many types of stores
  • Recycling plant — Sorting jobs
  • Warehouse — Loading trucks, stacking boxes
  • Lawn and garden work — Mowing lawns and landscaping work
  • Data entry — If the person has fine motor problems, this would be a bad job
  • Fast food restaurant — Cleaning and cooking jobs with little demand on short-term memory
  • Plant care — Water plants in a large office building

Temple Grandin, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
(November, 1999)

This article was written in 1999 by the Assistant Professor at Colorado State University Dr. Temple Grandin. It is still very relevant today as it applies to job seekers who are on the autism spectrum. As published at: Indiana Institute on Disability and Community 

Preparing the Autistic Driver for the Road: A Look at Motor Skills

Aspergers101 asks the experts about driving safely with Autism. In this blog we focus especially on preparing to drive with motor skill challenges.

Dr. Berenice de la Cruz, Training and Research Director at the Autism Community Network, offers a great overview into the differences of the Autistic brain and how those differences affect the skills it takes to drive.


Dr. Berenice de la Cruz/Training and Research Director/Autism Community Network

There are three structural differences in the Autistic brain. These differences will most likely affect:

  1. motor skills
  2. communication (social) skills
  3. sensory processing

Both fine and gross motor skills are typical challenges for many diagnosed with High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. implicit_learning_hero

So when it comes to learning to drive, or at least considering if driving may be an option, it is imperative to overcome the challenges that can impede safe driving.

Dr. Temple Grandin asserts that if she did not have the ability to drive she would never have been able to visit all of the feed/stock yards to do her prep work for her cattle handling designs. When learning to drive motor skills can be a challenge, especially with multi-tasking, but not impossible to overcome.

Dr. Grandin’s advice is to practice, a lot:

Respecting Neurological Differences and Decreasing Stress for the ASD Student in Class

studentPerhaps most relevant to a student in the classroom: when you are stressed you are less likely to embrace difficult tasks. On your most stressful day, you will probably put the complex tax form in the “to do” box and leave it for a better day.

For our students, neurological stress can be the major underlying factor contributing to difficulties in communication, socialization, and academic performance.

Because of this, it is our essential job as parents and educators to respect the neurological differences and decrease that stress in creative and varied ways.

From breathing techniques to visual strategies and beyond, we will strive to decrease neurological stress so that our students and children can present their best self each and every day.

A schedule is a core strategy that creates an anchor for students who struggle to make sense of their day and their environment.

This is true of any classroom for any type of student. It has been well documented that learners benefit from having a daily agenda. Except, the difference is that while all students benefit from a daily agenda or schedule, students with Asperger’s Syndrome and other special needs have a greater need for this simple, yet fundamental strategy.

For a younger student, this might be a simple posting of the daily activities on the board. For an older student that transitions from classroom to classroom, the daily schedule might be best in a notebook. However, each class period or subject should post the specific activities for that day.

For example, a high school teacher can help to decrease the many stressors of high school life by posting something as simple as: