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.

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.

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

How to cope with Anxiety and Fear

Anxiety symptoms and reactions are very common in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They can interfere with functioning across home, community and school settings. Scientific studies have found that from 11 to 84 percent of youth with autism suffer from anxiety symptoms – intense fear, trouble concentrating, rapid heartbeat, tension, restlessness or sleeplessness. Lisa Rogers with Educating Diverse Learners answers a reader’s question about helping her son overcome his daily stressor. 

Q: Dear Lisa,

My son has fears. One thought gives him daily anxiety: that of his pants not staying up. We tried belts that he buckles too tightly. He still fears the pants will fall and the buckle gives extra sensory problems. We tried sweatpants that he ties tightly, still fearful. All day he hikes his pants up. I tried to show him the pants can’t fall down but this doesn’t help. He also insists on wearing underwear two sizes too big. He is 8 and diagnosed as PDD-NOS. Could you direct me to any information to help him? This fear is causing multiple meltdowns daily. I don’t know what to do.

Thank you.

-Anonymous

A: Dear Mom or Dad,

Multiple meltdowns each day can certainly take its toll on your son and your family. I understand how critical this issue is for you and will do my best to provide helpful information for you to consider.

In order to be most helpful, I do need to ask a few questions first.

  • Is your son able to explain in any way what is causing or contributing to this fear? You mention that this is a current situation and so any insight about the reason for this development will be helpful. As you know, children on the autism spectrum are often rule-driven and literal in their interpretation of language. Perhaps something an adult said with good intentions about the importance of keeping your pants up or a scene from a movie could be a root cause? On the surface this might seem silly, but this can help in better understanding your son and his very real fear.
  • If your son is able to communicate through words or pictures, you might try cartooning as a way to acquire insight. When he is calm and all is well, you can sit together and draw a cartoon where you ask him to describe his thoughts while he is walking with his pants snug and tight around his waist. If not too stressful for him, you could even draw a picture with pants falling down on a stick figure and ask him to describe his ideas/feelings about this.
  • Have you already tried suspenders or even overalls to provide a sense of security beyond a belt or tie? It sounds like there are compounding sensory issues and so these might not be feasible options.

For now, here are a few ideas to consider . . .

I. Due to neurological differences, individuals with autism often experience a higher level of stress and anxiety. Structure, however, makes events predictable and helps to reduces stress, confusion, and anxiety.

So while you want an answer to your immediate problem, adding structure may be a critical preventive key to decrease anxiety which may be contributing to the presenting problem. A few ways to add structure at both school and home include the following:

  • Establish set routines at school and at home
  • Create daily schedules, weekly calendars and lists
  • Use visual cues like checklists with photos
  • Establish clear visual cues so that they can understand what work is expected, how much work is required, and how they know when they are finished the work
  • Make transitions predictable and regular
  • Provide tools, such as “surprise cards” to help deal with unanticipated or even planned changes in the routine

Here are a couple of resources for building structure at home:

http://www.freeprintablebehaviorcharts.com/autism_and_routines.htm
http://asdteacher.com/picturechoiceboard/

II. Does your son have any favorite characters or things? If so, these special interests can be used to help him deal with his anxiety/fear about his pants falling down. Power Cards have been found to be effective for some children with special interests.

A Power Card involves including special interests with visual aids to teach and reinforce academic, behavioral and social skills to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. By using their special interest, the individual is motivated to use the strategy presented in the scenario and on the Power Card. It’s a positive strategy that is often entertaining as well as inexpensive and simple to develop.

It can be used when an individual lacks the understanding of his/her expectations, to clarify choices, to teach cause and effect between a specific behavior and its consequence, to teach another’s perspective, to aide in generalization, or as a visual reminder of appropriate behavioral expectations of a situation.

How to Deal with Tough Professors and Classes as an ASD Student

When you are attending college you are going to have tough professors who at times can be unfair towards students. These professors either don’t care about your needs or are just academically tough. Having a tough professor can be intimidating for a person on the autism spectrum because those with ASD already have challenges with advocating for themselves. On top of it these students have to debate their needs with a professor who is strict.

Having tough professors is hard to deal with, and I was in your shoes as a college student, here I provide ways to help deal with tough professors.

Relax

Relax and be cautious: the class has just started and a professor acts tough to either intimidate you or motivate you to do better in the course. Never take the tough attitude to heart, it does not last long, and it’s just a tactic they use. Now the class may be difficult, which can add plenty of stress for a person on the autism spectrum disorder, but just know the toughness gets less and less as the semesters go on.

Never Give Up

I would advise you never to give up or drop the course no matter how tough the professor is or how difficult the course may be. Always know that you have support (which I will explain in detail) about how to approach a tough professor. There a resources and people in colleges out there dedicated to helping you succeed in college and getting the best help possible.

Look at the teaching style

You can learn so much from a tough teacher but their delivery of the material is important to understand as well. If the teacher just assigns busy work or book work or is rude and impatient towards the students, then you have a bad instructor. With tough teachers you learn a great deal of information and resources but the class is difficult. Be vigilant about important assignments in the course, and if the professor cannot give you a clear and precise answer about the assignments in detail, you need to seek help elsewhere. Assignments should be given out as you progress through the course as the material builds off of itself. Remember being rude and not giving clear and detailed information is not signs of toughness its signs of a bad professor.

Tough professor challenge their students

All professors in college challenge their students but each has a different way of approaching it. The best professors remember that they were once students too and don’t assign or do something that they would not do, or have not done themselves, in college. Professors believe if they challenge you, they can see your true potential, and if you gain one thing from it overall that’s growth.

Know your disability service staff

As a student with a disability you have one advantage with educational support staff. The staff is dedicated to helping you achieve your educational goals, getting you the best resources and help, and making sure you meet the academic standards of the college as a student with a disability. You can always rest assured that if you need any help with the courses and professors not meeting your disability needs or mistreating you, you know the disability staff at any college is there for you.

Know the professor’s boss

It is important when dealing with a tough, unfair or bad professor: you must know who their boss is. This could be the lead professor, department chair, or dean of that college that houses your degree plan. For example, The University of Texas at San Antonio is structured like this: my major was Criminal Justice, and I had a professor whose boss was the department chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at UTSA, and their boss was the Dean of the College of Public Policy that Criminal Justice is housed under. Know who their bosses are so that if you have any issues with a tough, unfair, biased, or bad professor you can call them, email them, visit them on campus and express your concerns about that professor. They are there for the students as well, and it is their job and your job to make sure your academic goals and the academic goals of the college are being met.

Know the professor’s office hours and emails

Know your professors’ emails and office hours and take full advantage of the office hours and emails. Show up to their office and email them as much as possible. This shows that you are determined and that you are serious about your educational needs. Those emails and office hours are for the students, and a good professor will allow you to call, email or visit them during those offices ours or set up an office meeting when the student is available. Good professors will respond to your email in a  timely manner and will be concerned with your educational learning goals as well. Take advantage of office hours and get all of your questions on the table and don’t leave until you and the professors are on the same goals and have a plan to help you succeed. If you leave with no plan go back to step 6 or 5.

Know the syllabus