Category Archives: Aspies and families

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 Spectrum Disorder: A Parent’s Guide

I’ve come across a terrific book for parents of children on the autism spectrum, or kids with Aspergers.  I wish my parents had it when I was growing up!  But as you’ve undoubtedly read in my book Unforgiving, Memoir of An Asperger Teen, in those days no such guide existed.

Today’s parents have a huge advantage in raising children on the spectrum.  There are many resources available now, and one of them is this book whcih combines the expertise of three PhD’s, Ozonoff, Dawson and McPartland, A Parent’s Guide to High Functioning Autism Disorder–How to Meet the Challenge & Help Your Child Thrive is informative to say the very least.

Published in 2013, the book discusses research and developments including significant changes from the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-4)  and the current diagnostic manual–DSM 5. The authors specifically address how these differences may relate to your child’s diagnosis.

The book is divided into two sections:  Understanding High Functioning Autism Syndrome Disorder (A.S.D.)which includes history and diagnostic and research approaches, and Living With High Functioning A.S.D.

Both sections contain significant information on the syndrome itself as well as its various implications on the life of a child and their family.

While the book is obviously directed at the lay person, I would not say it is light reading.  Wisely, the authors use anecdotes from recent case histories to illustrate the application of much of the information.  These anecdotes along with some more personal notes make the book very readable.

The reference section alone, 15 pages of book titles, CDs and Websites is worth the price of the book.

All in all, its a great resource and I heartily recommend it for reference purposes.  Look for it in the bookstore, or in your local library.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

 

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Help For Aspies–Can Be Found Where?

Growing up in the 1960’s when nobody knew about Asperger’s syndrome, when it hadn’t even been officially accepted or even described by the AMA, was confusing and frustrating.

In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, I talk about that frustration.

 And if it was bad for me, I hesitate to think how tough it was for my parents to have an Asperger’s Syndrome child in an era when manners and social conformity meant everything.

Thank goodness now there are several organizations whose sole purpose is to guide parents and adult Aspies through the maze of diagnosis, treatment and general support.

Positive affirmation is the guiding principle.

I am impressed to read in the Autism Speaks website (www.autismspeaks.org) that many adult-diagnosed Aspies “make great strides by coupling their new awareness with counseling”.

The Autism Speaks website is a great resource, with it’s many articles and references.  Especially popular is their Asperger Syndrome Tool Kit.

Included in that tool kit is Ellen Notbohm’s Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew.  I wish my parents could have read it.  Maybe your child feels that way, too.

And if you’re an adult with Asperger’s?  Read it anyway.  It can help you let your friends know how to help you.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Seahawks Support Autism Awareness Month By Seahawks Communications

Copied from: Seahawks Communications

RENTON, Wash. – The Seattle Seahawks announced today the arch lights on the roof of CenturyLink Field will be among many iconic monuments around the world being illuminated blue to support the United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.

In addition, the team will donate 10% of sales to “Ben’s Fund” for every regular priced hat and knit cap sold during the month of April at the team’s four retail stores. The retail stores, known as THE PRO SHOP, are located at CenturyLink Field, 401 Pike Street, The Landing in Renton and Alderwood Mall.

Ben’s Fund, launched in 2012 by Seahawks Executive Vice President/General Manager John Schneider and his wife Traci in partnership with Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT), provides grants to families across Washington State to help cover costs associated with medical bills, therapies and numerous other aspects of supporting a child, or children, on the autism spectrum.

“On average, autism costs a family approximately $60,000 a year,” said Seahawks GM John Schneider.  “We created Ben’s Fund to help ease the financial stress that impacts families with a child on the spectrum.”

 Ben’s Fund was established at FEAT in order to provide grants to families for their children on the spectrum and to drive families to FEAT so they will be connected to a larger community to receive ongoing guidance and assistance as they continue their journey with autism.

One in 68 children and one in 42 boys are affected with autism.

“Through Ben’s Fund, we have raised more than $850,000 and distributed more than $400,000 dollars in grants to over 500 families in the state,” said Traci Schneider.  “These grants help pay for a variety of therapies, services and even tablets to help with communication.”

The primary fundraiser for Ben’s Fund is an annual celebrity waiter’s event with participation from Seahawks players and coaches.  Prime Time will be held on April 23 at El Gaucho and is sold-out for the fourth consecutive year.

For more information and how to apply for a grant visitSeahawks.com/BensFund.

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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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Asperger Me

I was born with Asperger’s so I had markedly different ideas and behaviours from the average girl, and definitely from my mother and father.

In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger’s Teen, I talk a lot about the lack of relationship between myself and my parents.  That sense of disconnection, the feeling that I was some sort of interloper.

At the time, in my teens, I thought Mom’s ideal daughter would have enjoyed sewing, crocheting, baking bread with her, and sharing her enthusiasm for Woman’s Day magazine.  I was into classical music, movies like Lawrence of Arabia, poetry, Shakespeare and boys.

Was I right about Mom?  I’m not so sure.

My mother’s house was always dusty, rather untidy.  She went out to work, you see, when few mothers did, straining in the steaming heat of the Empress Laundry or cleaning low-rent motel rooms.

Once you’ve been out to work, you’ll never want to stay home again, she told me in a rare moment of mother-daughter confidence.

And of course the housework had to be done by someone.  And as the eldest daughter by nearly eight years, naturally that lot fell to me and to my grandmother.  I talk about that in Unforgiving, too.  About how I just took these duties for granted.

What did Mom want?  Just a daughter who didn’t talk so loud? Who didn’t speak out of turn?  Who could get a job and keep it?

The truth is, I will never know. Relationships are complicated.

Deeper into my adulthood, Mom and I came a little closer.  When she got Alzheimer’s?  After Dad died she came to live with us.

Goodnight, Mom, she’d say as I tucked her into bed.

She had forgotten I was her daughter.  All she knew was that I was someone who lovingly tucked her in at night.  

Maybe that’s all we needed to know about each other.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean

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Perfect? Not This Aspie!

In case you think I’m writing this blog from a position of perfection, you should know: it ain’t necessarily so.

Once on a road trip with my daughter?  She was singing along to some CD’s she brought.  I think she has a pretty voice.  She loves to sing.  But like me?  She has a little problem with keeping on tune.

No big deal.  But she sings in a band.  So I said, in a very motherly way, if she would take singing lessons?  I would pay for them.

She wrote a whole blog about that.

If you don’t think I was out of line?  You probably have Asperger’s too.

Another time, I went to visit my other daughter, who at that time was a single mom.  There were a number of issues I wanted to discuss with her, so I made a list.  And pulled it out and started on number one.

She laughed so hard she nearly fell over.  That is so YOU, Mom.  A list of what to talk about!

Just thought you’d like to know—both girls still love me, still include me in their lives, and are only a phone call away when I need anything.

But don’t think the author of this blog has come to perfect her social relationships.  I do research so that we can learn together.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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An Aspie Life: Questions Raised by Temple Grandin’s Example.

When I look at Temple Grandin’s life, I feel ashamed of how little I have accomplished.

Mostly all I’ve done is love someone and raise three children with a whole lot of cooking, washing, ironing and housecleaning in between.  I went to university late, earned a degree.  Wrote some books.  Started a Quilter’s guild.  It seems a minimal contribution at best.  But then I look at my three children and suddenly my life seems to have some significance.

Not that I take any credit for how wonderfully they turned out.  I know I was an inadequate parent.  I didn’t know about Asperger’s least of all that I had it, and so did my daughter and possibly my son.  Maybe we all did.  One daughter and two grandchildren diagnosed.  I am so proud of who they are today.  Fine people.  They have become my friends as well as my children.  We mentored each other along the way.  I was very young when I had them, you see, just eighteen when I had my first and when she was three, the youngest was born.  I was fertile if nothing else.

And because of my autism, my Asperger’s, I was socially very immature.  So we grew up together.  I helped them where I could.  And when they saw me stuck they’d step in and give me a nudge in the right direction.  I wasn’t mature for most of my first two marriages.  But in the third one I think I finally mastered at least some of the art of maturity.  Not that I’m anywhere near finished yet.

My children are independent, organized, kind, and intelligent.  I don’t know what more I could ask of them.

But of myself I have to ask this: what have I done to better the world I live in?

Offhand?  I don’t know the answer.  And that seems a sad thing.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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