Handling Social Anxiety for Self-Fulfillment

I’m emailing with Kris Jones, an eloquent writer on Linkedin about his Asperger’s Syndrome. We’re talking about the stressors he experiences that can create extremely self-limiting anxiety. We’re going to use several blogs to talk about different stressors. Kris’s first stressor was his lack of self–fulfillment. One of the causes of this lack of self-fulfillment was Kris’ social anxiety.

Tony Attwood, expert on Asperger’s Syndrome, suggests that around 65% of adolescents with Asperger Syndrome have a secondary mood or affective disorder (such as depression or anxiety); most have anxiety.

anxiety/stress

Kris describes his thoughts and feelings which I’m calling social anxiety like so: “No one likes you. No one wants to know you. You are not interesting. Stay where you feel most comfortable – inside your house and away from others. You are not fit to be out there amongst the human race.” He says that this is representative of how he feels and it is what keeps him from going out and mingling with others his age. Even though he knows these thoughts about himself aren’t true, he can’t get past the anxiety.

Let’s break this down into parts. What causes this social anxiety?

Including Parents in the Community of Support for Aspergers Students in College

Rights afforded by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) transfer from parents to their children when those children enter college or turn eighteen years old. As a result, parents are unable to provide the same levels of support and advocacy they provided when their child was in high school.

Because of FERPA, parents of college students are generally unable to:

  • talk to instructors
  • request information about grades
  • explain to instructors how their child experiences ASD
  • or provide information about accommodations that may be helpful to their child living on the spectrum.

Depositphotos_36350039_s

While many faculty and staff fear the hovering of the stereotypical “helicopter parent,” college support staff who truly understand how best to serve students with ASD recognize the value that parents bring to a student’s community of support.

In general, parents of students with ASD have “been there and done that,” in regard to education. Many parents can provide advice about the most subtle of modifications that, when implemented, may help their child be successful in a college classroom. College support staff would be wise to consider how to effectively integrate parents into the support programs of college students with ASD.

Examples of how that can be accomplished without violating the rights of the student include:

Help student express the limits of, and exceptions to, the reciprocal exchange of information with parents.

Support staff at Marshall University recognize and appreciate the rights of adult students, and honor each request made to keep educational information private. However, prior to developing support strategies we discuss with each student the value of allowing a parent to participate in their support, and the importance of sharing information that will enhance that support.

Should the student allow some information to be shared and insist other information remain private, staff document that request and ensure all members of the team understand and adhere to the request.

Create formal events that promote community building with parents.

Each October, parents of college students supported by the WV Autism Training Center travel from across the country to attend Parents’ Weekend at Marshall University. The event typically occurs during Homecoming Weekend, promoting further the concepts of fellowship and friendship. Staff work carefully to ensure the 150 – plus participants feel part of a large, intimate community focused on the same goal.

by Marc Ellison

Making and Using Keychain Rules to Help Behavior for Children with Autism

Q: “I’ve heard that if my son (who is on the autism spectrum) is having a problem staying on task while in school that he should use the “keychain rules”. Would you please explain this term to me?”  – Curious in Nashville, Tenn

Rules listA: Keychain rules are short statements or phrases of desired expectations that capitalize on the tendency toward rules and structure.

They serve as reminders in a quick and easy format that prevent much discussion about them. Rather than say, “stay in your seat” over and over without much impact, the teacher can now say, “Please check keychain rule number 4”. Again, if the rules are attached to a heightened interest, their effectiveness is enhanced.

This student’s interest in Greek mythology was incorporated to his keychain rules as much as possible through the addition of pictures.

Keychain Rule #1: Use appropriate words and voice

  • Say nice things to others
  • Speak in a respectful tone [level 1, 2, or 3]

Keychain Rule #2: Follow directions from teachers

  • Teachers and Mom are trying to help me, so be sure to say “O.K. I’ll try”
  • Give my teachers and Mom a smile or a “thumbs up”

Keychain Rule #3: I will be in control of my body

  • Stay in my assigned seat
  • Keep hands and feet to myself

Are You an Aspie and Depressed? That’s Not Unusual

Asperger’s Syndrome and Depression: Part 1

As most teens and adults with Asperger syndrome know, people with Asperger syndrome can be significantly depressed. The rates of diagnoses of depression vary among studies, from 18% to 22%. The most commonly quoted rate of a depression in the general population of the US  is 6.7%. Most of the research shows both genders have these high rates of depression.

Studies focused on males and females and not those who are transgender. There are more people who identify as transgender in the AS population than in the general population and transgender people have a higher rate of depression. One would guess that someone who is both AS and transgender might have a high tendency towards depression.

Interestingly, non-autistic full siblings and half-siblings of individuals with ASD (not just Asperger syndrome) also had higher rates of depression than the general population, although at half the rate of those with ASD. Studies of suicide attempts are also very troubling. In studies of suicide, the rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts are prevalent, especially in adolescence and young adulthood.

It’s critical to identify depression, since it can be treated.

It’s obviously important to understand why rates of depression and suicidal thoughts are so high. One factor, given the findings in siblings, is that there is an increased genetic vulnerability to depression, although large studies haven’t supported a common genetic overlap. We have to look to other factors to account for these high rates of depression.

It’s important to diagnose clinical depression for anyone for a simple reason – depression is treatable with a variety of modalities:

Teaching Conversation Skills Part 2

Prefer to listen instead of read? Check out the podcast version of this blog from Starfish Social Club below!

Welcome to part two of our conversations theme! This part will cover initiating conversations, ending conversations, interruptions, monitoring length of turn, and picking up on social cues.

You Can Read Part 1 of Teaching Conversation Skills Here

1. Initiating a conversation

This is a really difficult task, even for people without social learning challenges. The first step is to ‘read the room’ to determine if it’s an appropriate time and/or place to start a conversation. Lunch at school is a great time and place, but in the middle of Algebra is not. A place where people are waiting is usually acceptable (waiting room, public transportation, in line at a store), but not if the intended conversation partner is on the phone or talking to someone else.

*Note: If you are initiating a conversation with someone you know, you can typically do so with a basic conversation starter. Examples include:

Initiating a conversation with a stranger or acquaintance takes a little more work as these openers would typically make a stranger or acquaintance feel a bit uncomfortable. The remainder of this section applies to initiating a conversation with a stranger or acquaintance.

  • Hey, what’s up?
  • How are you?
  • How was your weekend?
  • What are you up to?
  • How have you been?

Once it’s been determined that the conditions are appropriate, think of something you notice about that person as a starter. We typically recommend things that are outside the torso area so our intentions aren’t misinterpreted.

Rejection with ASD and Best Practices for How to Handle it

Being a person on the Autism Spectrum and dealing with abuse from many places, I understand that being rejected is tough. Having Autism, I never felt that I fit in with the ‘normal’ children. I had to sit away from everyone in class and was seen as being weird or stupid. My family members did not seem to understand what I was going through because they didn’t have Autism.

I have been rejected many times and in many ways. I was rejected for jobs through email saying, “Dear Maverick, we regret to inform you that your application will not move forward, we encourage you to reapply.” For a long time I never got past the interview process and if I did, no feedback was given on the interview. Sometimes I had to log into my portal and find out my application was rejected three days ago and was never notified by anyone.

In the past there were employers where I would walk in with my resume and I was dressed sharp but I was automatically turned down. The reason why I was turned down was because of my facial expression, not being able to look someone in the eye, or I appeared to be stupid, slow, scared. All of these negative perceptions were because they did not understand me or what I was going through. Employers are not supposed to discriminate against you because of your disability but I had potential employers that did so with me, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

When I applied to graduate school, I applied to about three schools, and was denied by all three of them. In a previous blog I told you how many times I was denied admission from universities and the same for scholarships. Life is a competition and everyone is competing with each other trying to reach one goal whether it’s a job opportunity, scholarship, school, promotion or others. We are living in a society where ideally everyone can win a prize and we all should be winners. It’s good for children to believe that they are winners so that they can then have the confidence in themselves that they can do anything they put their mind to.

But when children become adults, they are in a reality where there exists only a few winners. In order to be the winner, you have to work hard and compete the best way you can against everyone else.

Sometimes it’s unfair, biased, and wrong but unfortunately this is how life is. It’s important that we give a child the fish early on in their life, so when they get old enough we teach them how to fish so they are able to do things for themselves.

Offering ASD Students Choice to Increase Academic Success

Research indicates that incorporating specific motivations such as offering choices increases the rate of performance on academic tasks and decreases disruptive behaviors. Choice can take on many forms as related to academic tasks.

Child in school, making choice, education

As one example, students can be given several topics to choose from to complete an assignment. Students may also be given a list of several activities, of which they are to complete two. By giving them a choice, students are more likely to begin the assignment and even more likely to complete it.

Making a connection to general education strategies, differentiated instruction promotes the use of choice in a variety of ways.  At a center or station, students can choose from a list of 5 to 6 activities.

How to Implement Choice in the Classroom

A math station list of choices might include a variety of activities that would be engaging and motivating:

Five Toxic and Overrated Aspergers Beliefs Dispelled

What Kinds of Beliefs are overrated? One of the most significant issues against the Aspergers Community is the high number of stereotypes that surround it. Many are obvious and some are not so obvious. Such stereotypes typically arise from well-known people and situations, such as Adam Lanza and the Sandy Hook Elementary Shootings.

beliefs, aspie

The reason for these negative beliefs is that the general population makes up their own stories and opinions that are spread via the media or by word of mouth. Unfortunately, the mass media is too often the only place where the majority of society receives any information regarding Asperger’s Syndrome and those who live with it. As a result, people make snap judgments, rather than take time to put forth the real effort to educate themselves.

Thus, ignorance in the form of false rumors, stories, and beliefs is toxic and contagious to anybody inside and outside the Asperger’s Community. However, ignorance is not a simple excuse. Everybody has the responsibility of truth and knowledge, regardless of the divides between different communities. If this issue did not exist, Aspergers101 would have one less critical reason to exist.

Here are some of the more overrated beliefs that surround the Asperger’s Community and how to dispel them:

Teaching Conversation Skills

Starfish Social Club

During the month of February we, at Starfish Social Club, are working on conversation skills. Engaging in a successful conversation is a pretty complex process with lots of moving pieces. 

Students with social learning challenges may struggle with conversational skills for multiple reasons.

  • Students who struggle with interpreting social cues may have a difficult time knowing when to change the topic or when they’ve talked too long.
  • Those who struggle with considering the wants/needs of others may be challenged with choosing appropriate topics for the audience.
  • Slower processing speed may make keeping up with the pace of conversations difficult.
  • Lack of cognitive flexibility may cause topic changes and different opinions to be a challenge.

These skills require explicit instruction due to the social awareness factors that are a core part of each. I am listing the skills here in the order in which I feel they are easiest and most logical to teach. This is the first half of a two-part post.

Listen to the the podcast episode of this blog!

11 Things Not to Say to an ASD Parent

It wasn’t until the day that one of my children was diagnosed with both Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder that I realized quite how upsetting the topic was to many people. I still do not know why labels that are used for medical purposes, that open doors for children in need, can be such an issue for so many. After all, the word “Autism” to me is just a word. My child is still my child, and the world we live in may be unique at times, but it is also extraordinary.

I’m not sure if people just don’t know what to say, or if they are simply uninformed and inexperienced. As a parent of two children who face specific challenges, I can assure you that there are a list of things that I have had said to me that are anything but helpful.

Here are just a few suggestions for sensitivity towards parents with ASD children:

1. Don’t worry, he is just a being a boy or she is just being a girl, because boys are like this and girls are like that.

Yes boys and girls are different often times, but there are many signs and characteristics of autism spectrum disorder that if missed or ignored could be hurtful to your child if they do not get certain resources to help them overcome the adversity in their lives early on and build upon the many amazing qualities they already have.

2. At least they look pretty normal. If you just looked at them you would never know.

First: “normal” is a joke. Second: I never said that my kids were not “normal.” Third: what they look like at first glance does not directly correlate with the obstacles they face in their lives or that we face in our household. Fourth: I would love my child no matter what they looked like.

3. Doctors and therapists are just taking advantage of you and don’t always know what they are talking about.  They are just getting you all worked up over nothing.

I am just going to insert some ????? here because this statement is insulting to many people on many levels. There is no comment even worth the time to respond to a comment that is clearly more about a person’s denial and own feelings than the life and best interests of a child.

4. There are plenty of kids who don’t talk. All kids develop at their own pace.