Monthly Archives: February 2014

Asperger’s and Autism: Disorder? Disability? Or Difference?

While some folks out there see autism and Asperger’s as disabilities or disorders, while they are busy searching for cures, others like Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University and Dr. Jim Tanaka of the University of Victoria, BC see these syndromes as conditions.  Conditions that do not necessarily call for cures.

While some disabilities are created by the syndrome, certain talents often also result.  One examples of this theory is Temple Grandin, a brilliant animal behaviourist with autism.

Baron-Cohen gives the further example of Einstein who said, “I do not socialize because it would distract me from my work.”

He also points out that people on the spectrum are far more interested in how systems work than in social cognition.

Jim Tanaka has done work on facial recognition, and developed new games as a result of his research that help ASD children with social interaction.

He encourages everyone to look at ASD not as a disability but as a difference integral to one’s personality.

I agree!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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What Is Normal? Non-verbal Autistic Child: Siblings in Autism

Click on the video!  This is a fascinating insight into family life when one child is autistic.

The non-autistic sibling gives her point of view of the family dynamic and her relationship with her brother, which gives the video a unique focus.

The father is Mike Lake, an MP from Edmonton.


Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.


About Autism Syndrome Disorder: Did You Know….

Bev & I blogMy adult daughter, who is diagnosed with Asperger’s, came home one day and told me how surprised she was to find that most people when they enter a room?  Look at the people.

“I always look at the layout of the room,” she explained, “how the seats are laid out, where the doors are, where the teacher is working from, what equipment is in the room, where the windows are.  I never thought to look at the people.”

This is an example of what Dr. Jim Tanaka of UVic says about difference in perception between those with and those without ASD.  It also illustrates Simon Baron-Cohen’s point that kids on the spectrum find systems more fascinating than people.

Other problems of perception happen because of focus.  At SFU, I was an English Lit major.  It took me ten years to get my degree as a mature student.  I can’t believe in all that time, I never realized that SFU has an Autism and Developmental Disorders Lab.  I was totally focused on English classes, which were in different wings than the sciences.

I now know that lab is headed by Dr. Grace Iarocci, and its current focus is the way in which visual perception is affected both negatively and positively by processes of attention.

This year, they’re co-hosting three community events about ASD kids, their families and the quality of life.  The idea is to open a discussion about quality of life issues for ASD  individuals, care givers, professionals and families.  It’s free, open to the public.  Watch their website for scheduling:

Dr. Iarocci apparently has influence with the government and bodies determining ASD funding, so please do attend and voice your opinion loud and clear.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Do ASD Kids Love Trains?

Dr. Grace Iarocci, director of SFU’s Autism and other Developmental Disorders Lab is currently managing a research project about children ages 6 to 19 years who are fascinated with trains.

This reminds me of a study done in the UK in 2001.  The UK study took 81 parents of autistic children and found that 57% of the  parents surveyed said that their autistic child related to Thomas the Tank Engine before relating to any children.

To quote the SFU notice:

“The goal of this study is to understand how special interests develop, how they affect learning about trains and how this learning is related to learning about social things.

For example, do we recognize trains as easily as we recognize faces? Ultimately, we want to understand how we might make use of the high internal motivation to learn about objects and apply that to aspects of children’s learning that they might be less interested in.

Participants will engage in game-like computer activities, paper and pencil tasks, and other actives at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby campus. Scheduling is flexible and there is a small monetary thank you for participating (movie pass, Chapters gift card, or cash).

All of our researchers have undergone research training, criminal records checks, and have experience working with children on the autism spectrum.

For more information and to sign up, please email Sarah at or call our research lab at 778-782-6746. There are limited appointments available so sign up

Remember, your participation in these research projects insures that your voice will be heard, so please give them a call!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Asperger’s Syndrome: What It Is and How It Translates To Behaviour In the Workplace.


My Daughter, Bev, shared some of her work experiences.

My Daughter, Bev, shared some of her work experiences.

Recently I was asked to speak to the Ladner Rotary Club about Asperger’s Syndrome.  I gratefully agreed.  Any opportunity to spread knowledge about Asperger’s is to be seized and capitalized upon!

The first person I turned to was my daughter, Bev, who is a Special Education Assistant in a large highschool.  She also has Asperger’s herself, as does her older son.  Between him and me, she sometimes found herself with her hands full!

Ever practical, Bev immediately sized up the situation and decided we should talk about Asperger’s in the workplace.

Here is a brief bit of Bev’s part of the talk:

Bev talked about how anxiety over minor problems can seem overwhelming to someone with Asperger’s.  About the difficulty people on the spectrum can have with the inability to remember and recognize co-workers, even after working with them for a considerable time, something Dr. Jim Tanaka of UVic refers to as “face blindness”.

She also talked about how rules and structure are the spectrum person’s comfort zone, how her son said of his job, “They have routine, Mom.  Rules,  Yes!” And how it was his love of structure and routine that earned him a full time job almost immediately after he started in a temporary position with the company.

People in the spectrum need training and guidance.  “Tell us what to do and how to do it,” Bev said, “and we will gladly get the job done.”

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