Tag Archives: social skills

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 Traits: The Real Life Effects.

The traits I want to illustrate today are twofold: the way we give what people say a more literal interpretation than what others do, and two?  The fact that we do not naturally learn correct social behaviour from observing others.

My parents knew they had a problem child in me.  Their solutions for me were rote.  Whenever I’d set on a course they deemed foolish, like when I wanted to shave my legs or tint my hair, because the other girls were doing it, my parents had a standard response:

I suppose if all the other girls jumped off a cliff, you would, too?

Of course I wouldn’t, I’d reply, stung by the stupidity of the suggestion.

I took this saying quite literally to mean that I was not supposed to copy the behaviour of my peers.

I took it to mean that individuality was an  important factor in people’s assessment of each other.

Which made sense when you thought about because it also ensured the preservation of the species.   I mean, who knows what would happen to the population if herds of stupid teenage girls were always plunging off cliffs.

Not that I thought they were, but sadly I never paused to reflect that actually herds of teenagers, male or female, running lemming-like toward the ultimate plunge was an idiomatic warning meant to be directed at particularly dangerous behaviours.  I think partly what confused me was that what I wanted to do was more normal than dangerous.

I didn’t realize back then, as I do now, that the only real danger in tinting my hair or shaving my legs was the fact that it would cost the parents money which they couldn’t afford.

Not to mention the fear that no-one knew what colour Margaret Jean’s hair would end up.  In an era when strawberry blonde was a shocker, this was a real concern.

It wasn’t until I was very much older that I learned to watch how others responded to each other and the community at large.  And copy their behaviours.  Not their words, necessarily, but their timing and attentiveness.  And so far?  I haven’t found myself heading toward any cliffs.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

 

 

 

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Aspies Ask “Why Volunteer?”

In his teens, my grandson asked me why I wanted him to find a volunteer position.  He thought it a very odd request.  

I couldn’t really explain my thinking at the time, but now, twenty-two years old,  he told me he wishes he had taken my advice.  You see, he is desperately trying to come up with five professional references who are familiar with his work habits.  Like most Aspies, his work history is a little sketchy.  And being largely anti-social, he didn’t join many clubs or participate in any sports.  So there is a dearth of references.

Volunteering could have provided him with references from people who could vouch for his work habits, his reliability and his ability to get along with a team of co-workers.  And at the same time, he would be contributing to his community in a meaningful way.

My grandson suffered one solid year of rejection.  Every single day he would dress up, take several copies of his resume and go out to various malls and shops and apply for work. For one solid year, no one hired him.  It was very depressing.

But, stop and think about it–volunteer workers are always in demand.  The likelihood of being rejected is far less than if you were applying for a paying  job.

And you can choose the kind of work you will do, the type of organization you would like to work in, and you are far more likely to be able to set your hours than you would be in a paying job.

If you like animals, you can volunteer at SPCA, or a wildlife refuge, or even the zoo or aquarium.  If you like libraries and books and videos, you can volunteer at your local library.  If you think you might like teaching, you can volunteer in a literacy program.  If you like art, try your public art gallery.  There are volunteers in some airports,  in thrift shops, in hospitals, in parks, in soup kitchens, and in your local church.

There are many different ways and places you can volunteer.  The important thing is to find the situation that best suits you, both with regard to location, scheduling and type of work required.

For Aspies, this type of situation is perfect.  You will do your best,and may make new social connections, learn new skills, and collect good references for when you go job hunting, or need to fill out your passport application.

At the same time, if the circumstances don’t suit, or someone makes your shift unbearable?  You can try a few different coping strategies before bowing out gracefully with no ill effects.

Help your community!  Build relationships!  Learn workplace skills!  Accumulate references!  All good reasons for Aspies to take Volunteering very seriously.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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What Do Aspies Need From Their Parents? Stephen Shore’s Success Story

 

 

In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, I often express the feeling of being disconnected from the rest of my family and my peers.

In the 1960’s, there was no diagnosis for Asperger’s.  My parents couldn’t figure out what was “wrong” with me.  In their eyes, much of my behaviour was inappropriate.  I resoponded differently to social situations and learning environments than my siblings.  This sense of being “wrong” while all too common for people with Asperger’s, does not have to be.

 In the introductory interview, Stephen Shore describes “the most important thing about my parents”, which is that they accepted him for who he was, and yet at the same time realized that he would face a number of challenges in his journey toward a normal life.

Many of us do not have parents who have this understanding.  Some of us have parents who are not educated enough or financially positioned to offer us the kind of interventions and therapies that Stephen Shore enjoyed.  Some parents are just too drained, emotionally and physically to offer us the support we need.

So we must learn to love and accept ourselves.  Understand this–we can make friends, be comfortable with some people, sincerely listen, pleasantly respond.

And parents please understand, whatever else you do, accepting your child for who they are is the first step on the road to your child’s integration into society.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

 

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For Adults with Asperger’s: Overcoming Obstacles to Getting That Job…

Famous people with Asperger’s give us hope….

80% of grown-ups with Aspergers do not have full-time jobs.

This alarming statistic comes from the webpage, “My Asperger’s Child”.  In a recent article, the authors maintain the reason behind this statistic is not the lack of education or intelligence, but the lack of social skills which would allow employees with Asperger’s to perform their tasks in a “socially acceptable” manner.

“Countless studies show individuals would rather have pleasant and personable co-workers than a co-worker who is always right,” the authors point out.

They conclude that people with Aspergers must compensate for their lack of social competence by “making themselves so good in a specialized field that individuals will be willing to “buy” their skill even though social skills are poor”.

They go on to state that Aspies “need to learn a few social survival skills,” but situating themselves in work groups that are highly specialized is what these authors see as the real solution.  In their minds, Aspies would have more access to social relationships involving work colleagues because of very specific work-related interests.

While I do consider this good advice, I also maintain that working hard at learning social skills is equally important.  There are so many books, videos and online lectures on the subject…Let us do our best in both arenas.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

Read more at: http://www.myaspergerschild.com/2010/10/best-and-worst-jobs-for-aspergers.html
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Office Etiquette: Humour Has It’s Place…

In my book, “Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen”, I talk about finding myself in an unfamiliar environment on at least two occasions.  If I had known the appropriate etiquette, I could have been spared much embarrassment.  So to save you, my friends, from suffering the same awkward moments at work, I’m offering you these Office Behavior Etiquette Tips:

Choose humor over swearing.

When conversing, give co-workers a respectable distance of 15 inches.

Smile often and acknowledge them as a sign of respect. 

Cell Phones:

Screen your calls using caller ID.  Set your phone to vibrate and let voice mail pick up.

Anticipate potential callers and call them first — before work.

Never answer your phone when you’re in a meeting.  If it’s life and death urgent, leave the meeting.  Go out of the room, and speak quietly if you really must take the call.

Don’t make your phone visible on a desk or a lunch table.

When you do eat with others, chew wisely and while they are talking instead of when you are talking.

These rules of office etiquette come from:   http://ca.askmen.com/money/professional_150/161_professional_life.html

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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About Autism Syndrome Disorder: Did You Know….

Bev & I blogMy adult daughter, who is diagnosed with Asperger’s, came home one day and told me how surprised she was to find that most people when they enter a room?  Look at the people.

“I always look at the layout of the room,” she explained, “how the seats are laid out, where the doors are, where the teacher is working from, what equipment is in the room, where the windows are.  I never thought to look at the people.”

This is an example of what Dr. Jim Tanaka of UVic says about difference in perception between those with and those without ASD.  It also illustrates Simon Baron-Cohen’s point that kids on the spectrum find systems more fascinating than people.

Other problems of perception happen because of focus.  At SFU, I was an English Lit major.  It took me ten years to get my degree as a mature student.  I can’t believe in all that time, I never realized that SFU has an Autism and Developmental Disorders Lab.  I was totally focused on English classes, which were in different wings than the sciences.

I now know that lab is headed by Dr. Grace Iarocci, and its current focus is the way in which visual perception is affected both negatively and positively by processes of attention.

This year, they’re co-hosting three community events about ASD kids, their families and the quality of life.  The idea is to open a discussion about quality of life issues for ASD  individuals, care givers, professionals and families.  It’s free, open to the public.  Watch their website for scheduling:  http://autismlab.psyc.sfu.ca/events

Dr. Iarocci apparently has influence with the government and bodies determining ASD funding, so please do attend and voice your opinion loud and clear.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Asperger’s Syndrome: What is it, exactly?

What is Asperger’s syndrome?

This article is taken from webmd.com

Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that makes it very hard to interact with other people. Your child may find it hard to make friends because he or she is socially awkward.

People with Asperger’s syndrome have some traits of autism. For example, they may have poor social skills, prefer routine, and not like change. But unlike those who have autism, children with Asperger’s syndrome usually start to talk before 2 years of age, when speech normally starts to develop.

Asperger?s syndrome is a lifelong condition, but symptoms tend to improve over time. Adults with this condition can learn to understand their own strengths and weaknesses. And they can improve their social skills.

Both Asperger’s syndrome and autism belong to the group of disorders called pervasive developmental disorders (pdd).

What causes Asperger’s syndrome?

The exact cause of Asperger’s syndrome is not known. And there is no known way to prevent it. It tends to run in families. So researchers are doing studies to look for a genetic cause.

What are the symptoms?

Asperger’s syndrome is usually noticed at age 3 or later. Symptoms vary, so no two children are the same. Children with Asperger?s:

  • Have a very hard time relating to others. It doesn’t mean that they avoid social contact. But they lack instincts and skills to help them express their thoughts and feelings and notice others’ feelings.
  • Like fixed routines. Change is hard for them.
  • May not recognize verbal and nonverbal cues or understand social norms. For example, they may stare at others, not make eye contact, or not know what personal space means.
  • May have speech that?s flat and hard to understand because it lacks tone, pitch, and accent. Or they may have a formal style of speaking that?s advanced for their age.
  • May lack coordination; have unusual facial expressions, body postures, and gestures; or be somewhat clumsy.
  • May have poor handwriting or have trouble with other motor skills, such as riding a bike.
  • May have only one or a few interests, or they may focus intensely on a few things. For instance, they may show an unusual interest in snakes or star names or may draw very detailed pictures.
  • May be bothered by loud noises, lights, or strong tastes or textures.

How is Asperger?s syndrome diagnosed?

If you are concerned about your child?s behavior or communication style, talk to your child?s doctor. He or she will ask you about your child?s development and ask if other people have noticed your child?s social problems.

The doctor may refer you to a specialist to confirm or rule out Asperger?s syndrome. The specialist may test your child?s learning style, speech and language, IQ, social and motor skills, and more.

http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/tc/aspergers-syndrome-topic-overview

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The Social Story: Carol Gray’s Teaching Tool for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Unlike when I was a child, social skills training for children with Autism now abound.  New techniques are being developed and old ones revamped.  Techniques cover every approach from straight forward therapy to drama therapy and sports therapy.

In my research, I’ve noted that some highly experienced therapists and educators develop and hone their own training strategies over the course of their career.  Carol Gray is one such educator.

Based in Chicago, Gray has 22 years of experience working with children with ASD.  She found that what she refers to as ‘social stories’ are great tools for teaching children.  Stories tend to hold the child’s interest, especially if the child can easily relate to them.

According to Gray, each social story is crafted to suit one individual situation.  To develop an appropriate and effective social story requires research into the social situation creating issues for the child.

You can find some examples of social stories and the situations they were created to deal with at this website: http://www.thegraycenter.org/social-stories/what-are-social-stories and read testimonials at http://www.thegraycenter.org/social-stories

And in my research, I have found that not all videos on You Tube describing themselves as social stories come even close to fitting the guide designed by Carol Gray.  I think it would be best to view the videos yourself first, and then decide if they would be truly helpful for your child or not!

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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