Tag Archives: Asperger’s

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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Autism Spectrum:  The Benefits of a Rich Internal Life

People who are different somehow are often subjected to unpleasant treatment.  Sometimes very harsh treatment.  Social isolation.  Bullying.  Discrimination.  Unfortunately,  people on the autism spectrum can often find themselves in these unpleasant situations.

Many now-famous people have found themselves in very dire situations, suffering treatment or circumstances which might easily have left them forever emotionally scarred if not dead.

One such man, Viktor Frankl, imprisoned in Auschwitz for several years during WWII, was fascinated by his own and others’ ability to survive conditions which should have killed them.

“Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life…” Frankl concluded, would often survive, even if they seemed more fragile emotionally and physically than other men.

In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Frankl credits their survival to an interior sphere of intellectual stimulus to which they could retreat.

This brings to mind the biography and now, movie Unbroken.  Cast adrift on a raft for weeks with no food or water, Louis Zamperini and his pilot survived.  Both credited their survival with intellectual discussions and debates which took their minds off their plight.  They were also able to devise ways to catch fish (rarely) and capture drinking water from the occasional rainfall.

Also, the story of Nelson Mandela, (movies, Invictus and Long Walk To Freedom) a man who endured unthinkable punishment in prison under the Apartheid system of South Africa.  He had a dream to live for; to see his people live freely in their own country.

While most Aspies or high-functioning autism spectrum individuals will never live under conditions as dire as these, it is encouraging to know that interior intellectual lives have meaning and value.

It is important to learn to cope socially, to hone our social skills to the point where we can move freely in our societies with confidence.  However, nurturing that rich interior life can help move us through periods of suffering.

Frankl says also that people who had an unfinished work that only they could complete, people who had a dream to fulfil, and people who had someone else (a loved one) to live for, also found reason to endure.

Frankl notes that unavoidable suffering gives a person a unique opportunity to express his finer self in how he/she manages or bears his suffering.

Please note that Frankl is speaking of unavoidable suffering.  To suffer when it is avoidable, Frankl maintains, is mere masochism.

Hope this helps!

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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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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To Touch or Not To Touch? An Aspie Dilemma.

Touch can strengthen relationships, show closeness, and increase co-operation.  This applies to touching in “safe zones”.

So says Laura Guerrero in an April 2013 Psychology Today magazine article.  Touch, Guerrero maintains, is important in developing social relationships.

As Aspies, we often don’t like to be touched.  And we almost never feel comfortable touching others.

So, perhaps more than non-Aspies, we can understand the need to observe the other person’s reaction, of how they respond to your intention to touch.

Do they tense up?  Pull away?  Don’t touch.

Do they relax, seem open to touch?  Keep to the safe zones.

Because touch is the first sense humans acquire, Guerrero maintains it is a key element in building relationships.

Staying within the safety zones, observing a person’s response to your intention to touch, these are key to successful touching.

Do not touch complete strangers, or people you hardly know.  That is an unwelcome touch.

Safe zones are hands, shoulders and arms.

Examples of safe-zone touches?  High fives.  Hand shakes.  Back slaps.  Shoulder taps.

In the office?  Let your manager, supervisor or boss initiate contact, Guerrero warns.

Keep your handshake firm.  Not limp, not bone-crushing.

And when in doubt?  Don’t touch.

Guerrero researches non-verbal communication at Arizona State University and is the author of the book, Close Encounters, Communication in Relationships.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Aspies and Small Talk: Think Communication Bytes.

What is the main characteristic of small talk?

It’s SMALL.  Bytes of conversation as opposed to megabytes or gigabytes.

Keeping it short and impersonal can be challenging when you’re longing to express thoughts and ideas you have harboured inside yourself for so long that they are bursting to come out.  But you must manage your conversations, especially when you are first meeting someone.

Remember:  Bytes.  Little.  Little bits of conversation.

When you are first introduced to someone?  This is not the time to tell them about your fascination with engineering systems, national infrastructure or energetic reactions.  Save those conversations for networking meetings or gatherings of people with similar interests.

Socially?  Small talk is for when you first meet someone.  It’s a time to establish a safe conversational zone for both you and the person who is the object of your conversation.

Topics?  The weather.  Recent outings or vacations.  Current events.  Popular movies.

If the other person takes you deeper into their personal life, political or religious persuasion, fine, let them go on.

But rein yourself in.  Keep your conversation pleasant, interested and attentive.  Excuse yourself politely if you feel you must escape them.

Please remember, Aspies–it’s called SMALL talk.

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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Aspies: Two Generations Can Help Each Other

I introduced author John Elder Robison and his son, Jack, both Aspies, to you in the last post.

In the same Pyschology Today  April 13th  article, I found John’s observations of his son’s difficulties with office etiquette very typical of Aspies in the work place.

In the article, Robison explains that he became aware that his son seemed oblivious to his co-workers.  He’d get so immersed in his work that his co-workers felt he was ignoring and avoiding them.

He did not engage in office chit-chat or small talk, and he was unable to recognize when this behaviour was having a negative effect on others.

We’ve all been there!  We go to work to work, right??  Not socialize!  Ah, but then there’s the rest of the world.

People like to be acknowledged.  We sometimes get so focused, we fail to see that.  And even then, we may feel we are much too busy to do anything about it.

Give in, Aspies!  Acknowledging others through a brief comment or compliment is just a necessary feature of being part of the human race.

And getting back to our previous topic of small talk? Office lunch rooms are the perfect setting for exercising your small talk entries.

Note that you should not participate in any disparaging talk about other workers or your superiors.

But safe zone topics?  Like recent outings, current events, the weather, the traffic–they’ll keep you in the loop.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

 

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