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!

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.

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 

Free 4 You: Driving With Autism webinar kicks off Thursday

by Lynette Vega, SBG San Antonio Monday, November 18th 2019

WOAI News 4- San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO — An initiative in Texas is creating safer interactions between law enforcement and those on the autism spectrum. It’s called the Texas Driving With Autism Initiative and a free webinar will be held for the public to learn more about it.

To register for the free webinar, CLICK HERE.

WEBINAR: Driving with Autism Texas Initiative

Sign Up Here For November 21st Webinar sharing all components of this trail-blazing initiative. Oh…it’s free!

Register Online Now for the Texas Driving with Autism Webinar! The Driving with Autism initiative is a first-of-its-kind program out of Texas that is improving interactions between law enforcement and drivers diagnosed with a communication challenge. Now we want to share the entire initiative with other states, law enforcement agencies and organizations who desire to duplicate the successful program. The One-Hour webinar will be hosted by Ron Lucey, the Executive Director of the Texas Governors Committee on People with Disabilities. Join Jennifer Allen, Executive Director of Aspergers101 and the force behind the initiative, Jeremiah Kuntz, Director of Vehicle Titles & Registration of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, and Skylor Hearn, Lieutenant Colonel of the Department of Public Safety as they cover the development and details of the program. Templates, videos and downloadables will be provided. There is no cost. A Q&A will follow the presentation.

What You Will Learn

1) “Communication Impediment” on State Driver’s License and ID: Offering this restriction code on Texas Driver License and State ID’s cover many diagnosis including Autism and the Deaf community. We will discuss all the diagnosis, the internal process and how to effectively market this message statewide via TV, radio and within every DPS Driver License Office. Templates included
2) Texas Law Enforcement Training: We will go over training materials and how Texas is reaching all it’s law enforcement agencies regarding understanding those with a communication challenge during a traffic stop. Also discussed will be overview of a medical study (poster) published on the effectiveness of the training on mental disorders with Texas State Troopers and what the findings mean to law enforcement agencies.
3) New Option for Disclosure in State Law Enforcement Telecommunication System: With the recent passage of the Samuel Allen Law, Texas drivers now have the option to place “Communication Impediment” in the Texas Law Enforcement Communication System (TLETS), which will alert officers prior to approaching the vehicle during a traffic stop. What does this mean for both officers and drivers and how did we pass legislation.
Bonus: Texas Driving with Autism Camp – Aspergers101 teamed up with Texas DPS Training Facility in Florence Texas to develop and offer it’s citizens a “Driving with Autism” Camp. This unique day long camp offers a one-to-one participant to trooper ratio, allowing participants hands-on experience with a law enforcement pull-over situation with no cost to the family or participant. We will share it components with you!
 

When: Thursday, November 21, 2019 at 10a – 11a (CST)

Presenters:

Jeremiah Kuntz
Director of Vehicle Titles & Registration @Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV)
Jennifer Allen Founder & CEO Aspergers101 & “Driving with Autism’ initiative

Skylor Hearn Lt. Colonel @Texas Department of Public Safety

Overview of the Texas Driving with Autism Initiative:

KXAN -TV Sept 2019: Texas Driving with Autism Initiative





Aspergers101 presents: Dr. Temple Grandin Tips for Interviewing Success

The :30 “WOW”

Statistically, 75% of persons diagnosed with High Functioning Autism / Asperger Syndrome are either under or unemployed. This is a travesty for them, their families, society and businesses. These staggering numbers cannot be ignored! There are various reasons for unemployment mainly the challenges that come with autism such as sensory sensitivities and workplace social expectations.

However, alongside challenges, there are many positive traits such as:

  • Ability to focus intensely for long periods
  • Enhanced learning ability
  • Deep knowledge of an obscure or difficult subject resulting in success scholastically and professionally when channeled.
  • Honest & hard workers who make for excellent employees when painstaking & methodical analysis are required.

Aspergers101 is proud to offer our readers suggested ways to overcome employment challenges, specifically the interview process. Dr. Temple Grandin is known worldwide for her successes with invention but in order to get to that plateau, she had to self test ways to get her foot in the employment door. As a person diagnosed with Autism, Temple share those personal techniques and interview skills below.

Interview

Temple’s Suggestions:

Don’t go into an interview cold  turkey…prepare a well thought out presentation!

Neatly show your work, presentations, articles, etc.

Wow them with your work examples in :30!