Tag Archives: Aspies

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 addl@sfu.ca 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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An Aspie Moment of Recognition

No one knew about Asperger’s when I was growing up, so for sure no-one could have ever diagnosed my Grandmother.  I reminisce about both of us in “Unforgiving: Memoir of an Asperger Teen”.

I have my Grandmother’s diaries.  They play a crucial part in my memoir.  Grandma’s diaries helped me with the timeline, because she used the 5 year kind.

Recently my daughter who is also an Aspie, was working on a project for her photography class.  She asked for certain old photos and any old diary content that I thought might be relevant.

I gave her photocopies of some entries, and also some diaries.

When she returned them to me she pulled out a little notebook and said, “Whose writing is this?”

I told her it was my grandmother’s, my father’s mother, her great-grandmother, Maude Esme Adam.

“It’s like seeing my brain spread on the page,” she told me.  “I have always thought just like this, always been fascinated by certain scientific articles and trivia.  When I started reading this, I felt like I knew this person.  I knew how their mind worked.”

Amazing the way we discover connections with our past!

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Steps To Socializing Your Aspie Teen.

As you can see from my last post, the issue of socializing is huge for Aspies.  This is especially true in the late pre-teen and early teen years.

Arranging a social event with a friend isn’t always the answer if the child with Asperger’s has trouble communicating in a meaningful way.  Just getting them together with  a “neurotypical” teen in a social setting isn’t going to help.  In fact, it can be disastrous.

Anna Matchneva from Burnaby BC works one on one with Asperger’s children, and this is what she suggested in a talk to parents last year.

First, limit the time for interaction to ‘safe’ time, that is time when the conversation will most likely be of mutual interest.

How do you do that?

Anna finds getting your teen Aspie to invite a friend for pizza and a movie is ideal.

First on the agenda is going to the movie.  When they are driving to the movie, they can talk about what movie they want to see and all the things they have heard about the movie.

Other topics may come up, but the drive to the theatre should not be too long, and the parent driving them can always intervene a little if necessary.

Next, at the movie, the parent drops them off.  The talk will be about arrangements to be picked up, how to buy the tickets and what snacks they want.  This is very safe also.

Once in the theater, everything should be good.  Although in my experience?  The Aspie child may have to be warned to be quiet and not comment during the movie, but save all their comments for afterward.

The time from the end of the movie to pick up should be minimal, to ensure that the conversational requirements don’t tax the Aspie child.

Then to the pizza parlour.  Again, conversation will center around the children’s preferences, and the movie action and how the children rate the movie.

After pizza, time for the guest to be dropped off at his/her home.

This kind of managed social time gives Aspie’s a sense of confidence which should ease both the child’s and the parent’s anxieties over social situations.

Let me know how it works if you try it, please!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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For Aspies: Friendship and The Science Behind It.

This week I will pass on a blurb from the BC Autism Society about Anna’s upcoming talk this Monday, Nov 26.

This Coming Monday: Richmond ASBC Parents Group Meeting:
“The Art of Friendship and the Science Behind It”

by Anna Matchneva, M.Ed., BCBA, PEERS-Certified instructor

Anna has extensive experience in providing hands-on therapy for children
with ASD, conducting functional assessment and developing behavior support
plans, training and supervising intervention team staff, conducting skill
assessment and developing programs that address each child’s unique needs,
developing and facilitating play and social groups, and conducting parent
and professional workshops.

Anna is a PEERS-Certified instructor, under Dr Elizabeth Laugeson from UCLA.

“The Art of Friendship and the Science Behind It”

Is your child having trouble making and keeping friends? Friendships are
important in helping children develop emotionally and socially. In
interacting with friends, children learn important social skills, such as
how to communicate, cooperate, and solve problems. Some children, however,
have difficulty forming friendships. The solution: teach your children
specific social skills they need to connect with their peers. As parent, you
are the best person to help your child solve friendship problems by
expanding their peer network and working together to promote successful

PEERS (Program for the Evaluation and Enrichment of Relational Skills) is a
parent-assisted intervention focusing on teens in middle school and high
school who are having difficulty making or keeping friends. It is the
developmental extension of an evidence-based program known as Children’s
Friendship Training (Frankel & Myatt, 2003). PEERS has been field tested
most extensively on teens with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), to a
limited extent on teens with developmental disabilities and fetal alcohol
spectrum disorders (FASDs), and has recently undergone testing with teens
with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Date: Monday, Nov 26, 2012
Time: 7-9pm
Location: Tyee room at Steveston Community Centre – 4111 Moncton Street,

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Be Sociable–Pass The Baton!

The house was buzzing with conversation, so I knew everyone was chatting sociably. Being an Aspie I noticed when the buzz died down to just two voices.

Two people, fine, loving and caring people, were forcefully discussing a subject.  Even though they were mostly in agreement, they completely obliterated the table talk.   As an Aspie, I am always trying to learn from social situations, so I asked myself, how did they bring the pleasant social buzz to a dead halt?   Here is what I noticed.

  • They talked louder than necessary.

This prevented others from starting up conversations with anyone else.  It also made it easy for the eager talkers to “talk over” anyone attempting to join the conversation in normal tones.

  • They lectured, instead of conversing.

The difference is this:  when conversing, a person makes a statement and adds something to it, but then they raise a question or ask an opinion of someone else–and then listen to attentively to the response.  Two or three sentences with a question or just a plain stop, allows someone else to take up the conversation.

And what I realized?   Conversation’s like a relay–it’s not my job to carry the torch all the way to the finish line.  It’s my job to be the first to pass it on.

  • They used the social event to show how much they knew.

Whether or not that was their intent?  It was the impression I got.  You see, I heard another person tentatively offer a statement, and while he paused a moment to consider how to continue, the other two jumped in and snatched the conversation back.  He never did get another chance to contribute.

And what this means to me?  Is that the conversation wasn’t sociable. It was a platform.  The two individuals were using the conversation to show how clever they were about a subject.

Both these people are great friends and good human beings.  And I realized that both were unaware of what was happening around them.

Socializing is an interaction with other people, their ideas, interests and events. But–if you’re the only one talking, you’re like a runner in a relay race, going round and round without passing the baton.

The race is over. Your team is disappointed in your performance.  They expected to be included, to participate in a meaningful way.  Now, they are going to walk away, dismayed and determined not to have you on their team again.

 Like the runner who never passed the baton, the conversationalist who doesn’t give others a chance to talk long enough to contribute in a meaningful way to the conversation, is not likely to be welcome again.

Being sociable is as easy as passing the conversational baton–two or three sentences, acknowledge others who wish to speak, and listen attentively when they do.

Looking back, I can’t help but wonder how often I’ve been guilty of the same faux pas.  I’m sure I’m guilty of doing this on countless occasions.  The trick is, now that I know better?  I can stop myself, and draw others into the conversation..or change the topic altogether.

We keep learning, right?  That’s what we’re here for.

Love you.

Margaret Jean.

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