Tag Archives: autism

Grandin: Understanding Individual Brain Differences Can Help Control Behaviours

You really get Temple Grandin’s enthusiasm when she talks about brain differences.  Just knowing how your brain is unusual can help people with autism better understand and control their behaviours and emotions, Grandin says in her latest book, The Autistic Brain.

She gives the example of her own brain.  For instance, the amygdala is the part of the brain that processes emotions like fear.  Just so happens, Grandin’s amygdala is enlarged.  Since this is the part of the brain that signals the fear emotion, Grandin credits this brain anomaly with her hyper anxiety.

Because she now knows that her brain construction is probably responsible for her high levels of anxiety, she finds that anxiety easier to deal with.

Grandin gives the example of students talking  under her bedroom window at night.  This creates anxiety for her regardless of whether they are talking softly or loudly.

Knowing that this state of anxiety is not caused by any real threat, she can reassure herself that the problem is not outside;  the problem lies within her brain.

She can then deal with the fact that threat is not real.  What is real?  How she feels about it.  And that she can deal with.


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Which is more limiting? The Autism Label? Or Our Parenting?

Temple Grandin, whom I greatly admire,  refers to parenting as a “major source of therapeutic momentum”.  But she adds, when children are diagnosed on the autism spectrum, parents may not have enough expectations for their children.


They bring the child through school to graduation, but in the meantime, they have not given the child the kind of experience that teaches them life skills, leaving the graduate either unemployed or under-employed.

Autistic children need to learn how to work, Grandin asserts.  They need to learn basic coping skills, like how to shop, how to order food in a restaurant.  Showing up on time, being responsible for a task outcome, these are skills that are needed in order to learn how to be on the job.


That’s why I personally feel that involving kids on the autism spectrum in some kind of volunteer activity, where they must show up regularly, and perform expected tasks, is invaluable to today’s kids, autistic or not.


As a volunteer, they must learn to be courteous (a missing factor in today’s world, Grandin laments) and to be reliable, to learn certain work routines and to cope with organizational structures.

As a volunteer, they will also meet retired people who have similar interests and who can mentor them.

The best part?  The child can choose the type of organization he/she wishes to volunteer with and select from a schedule of available days and times those which would be most suitable for them.

These kinds of situations force spectrum kids to interact with others, and Grandin says to insist on social interaction for your child is not only desirable, but necessary if you want him to succeed.


“The skills that people with autism bring to the table should be nurtured, for their benefit and for society’s.”  That’s why Grandin believes parents must help their children get out into the work world, learn coping skills and the basics of social etiquette.

As parents, we either help, or hinder.  While we cannot help how children are viewed by others, our most important work is in how we encourage our children to see themselves.


Quotes from: http://www.templegrandin.com/

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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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27 Tuesday Aug 2013:  A Guest Blog

Posted by  at http://annkilter.com/

When we began going to autism workshops and conferences, we found ourselves the subject of many sales pitches for the newest therapies that would produce miracles.

We also were sometimes pressured by parents in the local Autism Society to make a commitment to purchase a certain therapist’s services in order to “bring her to our community.” Enough parents had to participate in order to pay for her services to make it worth her while to come. Auditory integration training would cost $2,000 for a set number of therapy sessions. Music therapy was $100 an hour.

There were two problems with this.

First, we could not afford it. We were just scraping by as it was. Several options were presented – beg the money from our relatives, put it on a credit card, get a bank loan or a second mortgage on the house.

Second, which one of our children would we choose? Choosing them all was out of the question.Should we choose our gifted, disruptive autistic son or our quiet, multiply learning disabled autistic oldest daughter? Or our youngest, questionably autistic daughter? An impossible choice.

Therefore, we said no. As result, we were ostracized for not “participating for the good of all the children in the area.”

Instead, we chose to invent our own therapies out of ordinary life.

We listened to classical music in the house for our music therapy.

We were blessed by a piano teacher who was willing to try to teach my son. He enjoyed music, singing in tune with gusto. After a year, she noted that he had an aptitude for music. She taught him for 12 years. After that year, we ask her to teach our oldest daughter in order to improve her finger strength and coordination. I thought it might help her learn to hold a pencil. My youngest daughter wanted to do what her brother and sister did. This cost $10 a week per child – a pay as you go therapy.

We chose to take advantage of community subsidized speech and occupational therapy offered by Easter Seals and the Rehabilitation Hospital. These required small payments times three.

In spite of extended and persevering effort, learning to ride a bike did not happen. Instead, we found equestrian therapy – offered at a discount due to the generous donations of the community – also paying as we went. Our children were unable to ride a bike due to balance issues, but they were able to eventually learn to ride a horse independently.

These choices stretched us financially, sometimes heavily, but we made the sacrifices on a weekly, monthly basis.

Choices of “miracle therapies” with little proof of efficacy would have bankrupted us.

From Ann Kilter: Conundrum–Therapies That Worked For Us.

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Need Help In BC? ACT: A Resource for Aspies, Parents & Friends.

Where do parents turn when they realize their child needs a diagnosis?  How do they know who offers this type of service?

What programs and supports does the BC school system offer children on the Autism spectrum?  How are these programs accessed?

How do you make sure your child is getting all the support the government says he/she is entitled to?

Is there a registry of autism service providers?  Is there an information database listing online resources?

In British Columbia, Canada, the answer to all of the above can be found in ACT: the Autism Community Training website at http://www.actcommunity.net/.

I only discovered the website this week, but find that it a huge resource for people struggling to find resources for children in the Autism spectrum.

News, blogs, videos and educational material relating to the autism spectrum are all included. While the website is geared to assisting parents with children in the spectrum, there are informative segments relating to adults as well.

A wide range of service providers are listed; really, the list is staggering in its comprehension.

If you live in BC and you are looking for an autism related resource, I strongly suggest you try this website.  Let me know what you think of the resources listed there, and if the phone and email responses live up to your expectations.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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The How-To Behind Friendship (Not Just For Aspies!)

Making friends and keeping friends: Research confirms these are two areas that seem to seriously challenge children with Asperger’s.

 So says Anna Matchneva, a lecturer and one-on-one counsellor who works closely with children on the autism spectrum and their parents.

Rejected:  This is a category of children Anna often sees.  She is not referring to parental neglect, but to the playground or social setting.

The rejected child is one who tries to join a group but is denied access.

Mostly we will never know why some people choose not to be friends with us.  But totally there are things we can do differently.

For instance, we might approach a group and start talking about whatever is on our mind when really?  We need to listen.  Try to pick up on what the others are saying.  Take a little time to formulate a brief remark in line with their conversation.  Don’t try to work in your current interest.  Stick to their conversation.

But hey, that’s easy to learn, right?  Just take a little time before speaking.  Listen.  Try to understand what they’re talking about.  Not just what they’re saying, but what they mean.

 We Aspies get a little starved for attention sometimes and that can make us talk too much, too loud, too soon.  But it’s easy enough to get over those habits.

I know myself, I have to be careful not to dive hell bent for leather into a topic, completely overwhelming and boring the people who were kind enough to invite me into the group.

And anyway, not every group wants another member.  They may be having a private conversation.  They may believe they have nothing in common with you, and therefore, not see any point in trying to make friends.  Maybe they are happy just as they are.  Then you need to find someone else to talk with.

Remember, your focus can be a very good thing, even if others don’t want to share in it.  It’s similar to the single-mindedness that made Taylor Swift a star and Bill Gates a computer mogul.

Try to listen first.  Take a minute or two to find out what the group and the conversation is about.  And when you do speak, smile, keep a neutral tone, and above all, be brief!

And please note–Aspies aren’t the only people in the world who have trouble making and keeping friends.  Lots of people do!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean

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Asperger Traits? Really?

I love this video about Asperger’s traits: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7lQa3q_OAk&feature=related .  It seems to me to be thoughtfully put together.  But I am tired of hearing that Aspie’s have no empathy, and imaginary worlds are beyond us. 

In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of An Asperger Teen, soon to be out on Amazon, I talk about the part imagination played in helping me through my childhood.

And why, if imagination is not our strong suit, are so many inventors, film makers, and landmark thinkers such as Isaac Newton, included (often posthumously) in the syndrome?  These are obviously people with foresight and the ability to envision possibilities that are beyond others’ comprehension.  

Difficulty with writing imaginatively?  Thinking?  I highly doubt it.  It is precisely the ability to see beyond their current limitations that made these people famous!

So what? you may say.  These people were not diagnosed, they are just presumed by some people to have Aspergers’ or Autistic tendencies.  

Well then let me give you the example of my grandson, who was diagnosed at an early age as being in the autism spectrum, and who, before he had graduated highschool, had written an entire book length story based in a science fiction fantasy world that he created.

As for empathy–It isn’t that we don’t experience empathy–it’s that our voices, faces and body language don’t show it.  We have what is called “flat affect”.  This makes us seem to have no response to events.  We also have little or no tonal expression (unless we’re in panic mode and often, even then!). 

Thus, it’s very difficult for people to grasp when we’re feeling anything.  Sometimes we might be totally panicking inside, or absolutely happy about a suggestion someone has made, but we don’t express this well.

I remember watching a woman exclaim expressively and happily about a suggestion her husband had made.  Asperger me, I thought her very melodramatic.   Seriously, I thought that sort of facial and tonal response belonged only on the stage!  

Undoubtedly some people who do not feel empathy and/or have trouble with imaginative thinking are in the Autism Spectrum.  Just as others who lack empathy and imagination, are not in the spectrum. 

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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