Category Archives: Asperger teens

Aspies: Ten Ways Volunteering Can Help Us Learn to Adapt.

When someone else changes plans which also affect us, as Aspies we may become temporarily stuck in a “this is unacceptable!” zone.  How can we become more adaptable?

What activities or new experiences may best help us handle change so that we might adapt to other’s needs and acquire a healthier focus; one which does not lead us to a feeling of dread when we must deal with a changed agenda?

Save The Children’s Marc and Craig Kielburger give a possible solution in a recent newspaper article*:

“Youth who volunteer through our service programs…are more comfortable adapting to change…”

Renowned for creating the Save The Children Foundation as a young teen in high school, Craig Kielburger still operates the organization that was originally entirely run by and for children.

In their article, the Kielburger brothers note the following ten ways in whiuch volunteering helps teenagers adjust to school and other stresses, including aversion to change:

  1. When you do something for others, your stress levels are reduced.  This is proven by research**.

  2. Volunteering may give you an alternative social scene, in which you can find a sense of community and belonging.

  3. Volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about will connect you with mentors who have similar interests.

  4. Helping others puts your focus outside of yourself, encouaging you to see your own situation in a different and possibly more positive light.

  5. Volunteering broadens your outlook.  Your own problems may seem far less significant when you come face to face with the plight of others.

  6. Seeing other’s problems, Kielburger says, can help you build both perspective and empathy.  Kielburger also notes that doctors state that empathy is a powerful antidote to stress.

  7. As a Volunteer you enjoy increased self-esteen.  According to research done within the Foundation, volunteers for Save The Children are 1.3 times more likely to “have a strong sense of self”.

  8. The kind of stress found in volunteering — that is, helping others with their problems — can be an opportunity to overcome challenges, to build resiliency and to develop self-esteem.

  9. Volunteering can build leadership skills.

  10. Volunteering helps develop a  life – long habit of giving back.

Find a cause you are passionate about, Aspies and get involved!

Maybe sorting clothes at the local hospice society thrift shop won’t do it for you, but perhaps volunteering in a Wildlife Preservation Society or starting up a chapter of Save the Children will.

Whatever you choose, if you give it your all you will find yourself thinking about situations, people and places beyond your own inner world.  Go for it. And, most importantly, enjoy!

*According to an independent study by research firm Mission Measurement.

**See:  https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/the-science-of-kindness

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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High School Years: An Aspie Looks at the Bright Side.

I am going to a concert tomorrow that is a bit like a high school reunion. It’s an unexpected pleasure to be invited.

Any of you who have read Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger’s Teen will know that my high school years were not exactly a piece of cake.  But take heart: how your life turns out? Depends on you, not the people who disparage you.

Take Hilary, (not an Aspie) who is conducting her own 70th birthday symphony in a Victoria concert hall.  We went to the same school, to a lot of the same classes.

Hilary played in the band. Generally regarded as a tomboy, she was good in sports, a bright student and a great kidder.

What we didn’t know?  Hilary was already playing in a symphony.  Our music teacher who claimed to be very into classical music and even took our class to the Victoria symphony, was dismissive of her talent.  He never let us know we had a virtuoso in our class.

No matter: Hilary pursued her music anyway, making music her life’s work, teaching music in high school, singing with choirs and smaller groups, playing in symphonies around the world as well as conducting.

And the end result?  This week Hilary will have a 70th birthday concert with an orchestra and chorus comprised of more than 200 friends and fellow musicians who have worked with her over the years.

So if you really love something, as Aspies often do, and yet you feel a lack of enthusiasm in the rest of the world, as Aspies so often do, don’t give up.

If you work hard at it, enjoy it and pursue it with determination, humour and joy, there will be great rewards at the end of that rainbow.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Aspies, Anxiety and Acts of Kindness

Do you believe that being kind could relieve anxiety?  Researchers Jennifer Trew and Lynn Alden of the University of British Columbia might have suspected this was a possibility.

Recently the two did an experiment involving 115 socially anxious university students. The students were divided into three groups.  Each group had a different directive.

The first group of students were required to perform 3 acts of kindness two days a week for four weeks.

The acts of kindness included activities like washing a room mate’s dishes, mowing a neighbour’s lawn and donating to charity.

The second group was required to insert themselves into a social situation (after taking several deep breaths to calm them down).  These insertions could include actions like asking a stranger for the time, or asking someone to lunch.

The third group?  Was asked to journal about personal events.

At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that people in the first group had less instances of avoiding social interaction due to fear of rejection.

This makes sense to me, since asking someone to lunch, someone you don’t know very well seems somewhat risky in terms of the possibility of being rejected, whereas asking your room mate if she’d like you to do her dishes?  Is hardly a thing anyone would say ‘no’ to.  And the room mate is likely to look more favorably on you after you’ve cleaned up her scullery debris, whereas the person you asked to lunch?  Might be avoiding you so they don’t have to let you down again.

So, Aspies, to improve your sense of social connectedness and ease your way into social situations, try an act of kindness.  Why not?

Then you can work your way up to asking the recipients of your kindness out to lunch.

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Teen Aspie Activities That (Mostly) Don’t Involve Computers.

Is your child a science buff?  If so you likely don’t have a problem prying them away from computer games. Eighteen year old UBC student Ann Stasia Makosnski (not an Aspie to my knowledge) invented a flashlight that works off body heat and a coffee cup that uses the heat of the drink to charge our cell phone. If your child has ‘invention ideas’ encourage them.

Even if the first 500 ideas are flops, they are bound to succeed sooner or later.  Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times (I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways the light bulb will not work) and still became one of the most famous inventors of the 20th century.

Aspies like different ideas.  Here’s one: carry socks wherever you go.  Winter is very hard on homeless people. They often find themselves in below zero temperatures without socks, sometimes even without shoes.  Recently a spokesman for the Union Gospel Mission reccomended giving a nice warm pair of socks to a homeless person.  This suggests that you see them as a person, and empathize with their predicament.

Carrying new warm sox to give to homeless people could be a great way to change a trip to the grocery store or mall into a giving experience for your child.

Does your child frequently post on You Tube?  Alex Plank, an Aspie, developed a website, “Wrong Planet”  for teens with Asperger’s when he was just a teen.

This led Plank to pursue a career in film. He graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Film and Video Studies.  One of his current projects is Autism Talk TV which can be found at:http://wrongplanet.net/autism-talk-tv/.  Plank is currently a consultant for the TV series, The Bridge.

Does your child enjoy talking with older people?

Looking through our local community newspaper, I see that BC Care Providers Association is encouraging anyone who knows someone in a care facility to visit them.  This seems a reasonable activity for Asperger Teens, as they often communicate and get along better with adults than their peers.

Does your child have a special interest?

Let’s say his special interest lies in trains; it might be a good idea to introduce them to an association of people with similar interests, such as a railway model association.

Introduce the child to the association’s activities at a show or exhibition.  Research and explain how meetings are held, and attend with the child at first to help ease him into introductions and conversations.  If it’s a good fit, the child will then have social interaction with people who enjoy his special interest topic.

There are lots of ideas on creative ways to engage your child.  Not all of them involve the computer.

If you have ideas, I’d like to hear them.  Just email me at margaretjean64@gmail.com.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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First Year College and Asperger Kids: Emotional Preparation

Dr. Eell’s talk on resiliance seems to speak to how to deal with the negativity Asperger kids’ experience in everyday situations.

In this blog, I want to address the emotional transition from high school and college, an area which can fuel negativity in many students, not just those with Asperger’s.

In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of An Asperger Teen, I mention in passing that my parents wanted me to go to college, but I couldn’t face it.  I felt so unprepared, I thought it would be a total waste of their money, and in our family, money was scarce.  However, in 1999, forty-five years after I left high school, I started that journey.  I was finally emotionally prepared.  And that’s what this survey studies: the emotional preparedness of first year college students.

An online survey of 1,502 U.S. first-year college students by Harris Poll between March 25 and April 17, 2015 found that new college students faced crucial challenges beyond academics.

Being emotionally prepared for college was found to be key to social and academic success.

Emotional readiness includes being able to care for oneself, the ability to adapt to the new environment, being able to handle negative emotions and/or behaviour, the ability to engage in relationships that are positive.  Students who were not prepared in these ways were generally found to have lower GPA’s.

Generally speaking, students felt that emotional preparation for college was needed in high school curriculums.

Researchers noted some indicators of students who feel emotionally unprepared.  Generally, students who indulged in regular consumption of alcohol and/or drugs, students who wanted to transfer out, and those who took a leave of absence after the first term were among those who felt emotionally unprepared.

These students felt extremely challenged by several situations.  These ranged from managing college expenses to keeping in touch with distant family and friends, making new friends and establishing independence.

Almost half of all the students thought that their fellows had figured out all these issues and were handling them well, which made the struggle feel worse.

Researchers found many students, including a high percentage of African Americans, are silent about these issues. Those who do reach out will often turn to friends or family members.

Students who regularly use drugs or alcohol are more likely to suffer anxiety, stress and feeling overwhelmed.  They tended also to say getting emotional support was difficult.

The researchers point out that the transitional phase between high school and college is a high stress point for kids, and therefore the danger of initial or increased drug abuse is a concern.

 Parents need to be especially “attentive and communicative” during this period.

Half of the surveyed students said they felt they needed more independent living skills. Parents and other influential adults can be significant in helping students develop confidence and independence.

An important resource for parents and students, and school administrators is now available at http://www.SettoGo.org.

About the Survey. Survey respondents were students 17-20 years old, graduated from high school, are in the second term of their first year at college, and attending at least some classes in-person at a 2- year or 4-year college. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, visit http://www.SettoGo.org or email info@jedfoundation.org.

For more info please see: http://jedfoundation.org/press-room/press-releases/first-year-college-experience-release.

Hope this helps!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Autism/Asperger’s Quiz Answers! Yay!!

  1. c) Autism was described by Dr. Hans Asperger in 1944.  Some sources say that a Russian doctor reported similar symptomology in 1926, but Asperger’s work is often recognized as the first definitive work on the subject.  Because he was Austrian and published only in the German language around the time of WWII his work was not immediately recognized.  In 1984 a Brit, Dr. Lorna Wing introduced the term “Asperger’s Syndrome” in a research paper.
  2. d) The syndrome was added to the DSM-IV in 1994.
  3. b) Dr. Hans Asperger.  His birthday, February 18th, has been designated Asperger’s Day in some areas.
  4. b) Today, experts tend to see Asperger’s children as outside the autism spectrum, since the DSM-V states that children with autism exhibit delayed speech and more severe symptoms.  Speech delay is sometimes seen is crucial for achieving access to funding for treatment under the autism spectrum umbrella.
  5. d) All of the above.
  6. True: Children with Asperger’s often have a fairly large vocabulary and talk a lot on one topic that interest them.  In fact, according to Wikipedia’s account of Dr. Asperger’s childhood, it seems he was one of us.  Apparently he loved the work of a particular poet and would often quote reams of poetry to uninterested companions.
  7. c) Flat aspect.  Frozen masks come from Disney Studios.
  8. c) Neurotypical:  This term is said to denote ‘normal’.  I’m okay with that.
  9. d) All of the above.
  10. For me, here in the lower mainland, these are the societies:  BC Autism Society; SOS BC Parent Driven Autism Services;  BC Families with Autism.  The links to these organizations are as follows:
    1. http://www.bcfamilieswithautism.ca/links_resources.html
    2. http://www.sosbc.org/our-programs/autism-services?gclid=CL36gNyS_8gCFchgfgod0BYJ8A
    3. https://www.autismbc.ca/

Hope you enjoyed the Quiz!

Yours truly

Margaret Jean.

 

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Praise for Aspies–How Does That Work?

Being praised for being smart can unwittingly lead bright kids to a downward learning spiral.

So says Mary Loftus in an April 2013 Psychology Today article; Smooth Encounters.

Loftus suggests kids who are told they are bright may not put in as much effort, thinking things should come naturally to them.

This can lead to poor results which can make them doubt their ability.

Praise effort, Loftus suggests.  Praising the work leading up to the brilliant report or impressive project is often more helpful for the child seeking reassurance.  Praise persistence.  Praise performance.  Remind the child of obstacles overcome.

This kind of praise leads to intellectual and social success.

Try it!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Aspies: Craig Kielberger’s Keys To Building Your Own Organization.

Free the Children is a great read.  I couldn’t put it down.  It is the true story of one young boy’s determination to change the world.

Thinking about Free The Children by Craig Kielburger, I realized if you want to start an  organization of your own, an analysis of Kielburger’s success is a good place to start.

  • Vision: Kielburger’s goal?  To continue the work of a freed child-labourer who had been assassinated.

  • Mandate:  Children working together to right injustices perpetrated against impoverished children.  Kielberger envisioned children (up to and through their teens) and not adults being in charge.  In pursuit of that vision, he enlisted the help of his schoolmates.  They encouraged each other in the belief that this was possible.

  • Education:  Kielburger and his team educated themselves on the topic, learning all they could.  And when confronted by people who saw the situation from a more sophisticated perspective they researched & studied until they were able to return and respond appropriately.  This later served Kielburger well in dealing with governmental agencies and other administrative bodies.

  • Action:  He first worked locally, and then through his network of friends, travelled the world.  He wanted to see the situation firsthand so that he could report accurately from his own knowledge.  In his travels he interviewed many of child labourers.  He found he was often surprised by their perspectives.

  • Respect:  He showed respect, even for his opponents, as well as for the impoverished children, government officials and charitable organization administrators.  He observed and analyzed positions of the various authorities under whom child labour existed.  HIs cool and knowledgeable demeanour won him the respect of all.

The Free the Children organization is responsible for building more than 650 schools providing daily education 55,000 children.

What is your vision?

How can you build it?

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean

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