Friday, March 28, 2008

Helping your Child with their Writing - a useful font

Apologies for this not being the usual discussion post - it's some computer instructions for parents instead. I had to provide these instructions for my cousin so I decided to make them available to everyone.

If your child is having difficulty with their writing, you can provide a lot of cheap custom material to help them by downloading the FREE National First Dotted Font from CoolFonts.

Procedure (for Windows XP - Similar for other versions of Windows)

PART 1: INSTALLING THE FONT

  1. Download the Font from
    http://www.coolfonts.info/font-3338-national_first_font_dotted.php

  2. Copy the font file somewhere onto your PC eg: C:\TEMP

  3. Click START, CONTROL PANEL

  4. Then double-click FONTS
    if you can't see fonts, then Control Panel is probably in Category view - in which case...
    Click SWITCH TO CLASSIC VIEW and then double-click FONTS

  5. From the menu, select File, then Install New Font.

  6. Change the Drive Letter to where you saved the font (eg: C:)

  7. Change the folder if necessary to where you saved the font (eg: C:\TEMP)

  8. The box at the top will fill with the list of fonts found at that location.
    Look for National First Font Dotted (TrueType)

  9. Click on it and then click Ok.
    A bar graph will display while the font is installed.

  10. Close the fonts, control panel etc...




PART 2: USING THE FONT
  1. Open Microsoft Word to a blank document

  2. In the Fonts dropdown, choose National First Font Dotted - it might be hard to read, but it's there, and the fonts are in alphabetical order - which makes it easier to find.

  3. In the Font Size dropdown, choose a big size eg: 72

  4. Start typing, it should come out dotted.
    If you need it to be fainter, try changing the color to light grey.

  5. When you've finished, print out the page for your child to practice on.


What are Comorbid Conditions and how do they fit into Aspergers.

Comorbid conditions are "extra problems" that go hand in hand with Aspergers.

There is still a bit of debate over whether these conditions exist separately or whether they are actually just facets or side-effects of Aspergers. Personally, I tend to favor the latter explanation for the most part although I'd agree that some of the stronger comorbids probably are stand-alone.

Comorbids can include a host of mental, adaptive and emotive disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Schizophrenia, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD and ADD), Depression, Anxiety, aggression, Learning disabilities and several other disorders, phobias and conditions.

Some comorbid conditions don't show themselves until adulthood and every aspie has a different combination of comorbid conditions various strengths. This is a problem which makes Aspergers difficult to diagnose. Often, one or more of the comorbid conditions is more noticeable than the others and will be picked up early. This often leads to a "wrong diagnosis" in that the comorbid is seen as the condition, rather than a symptom of Aspergers.

The delay in the Aspergers diagnosis and the effects of re-diagnosis can have a profound effect on families, social and school life. If you strongly suspect Aspergers but have received a comorbid diagnosis, you might want to seek a second opinion before accepting it.

One good thing about the comorbid conditions is that their effects can often be treated/reduced by conventional medicines in much the same way as their "sister" conditions can be treated. Medicines like Ritalin can help with ADD, while others can help with Schizophrenia, self-harm, depression and anxiety.

There is no medication that can counter the effects of aspergers - but you can certainly keep the comorbid conditions under control.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Results in a Personality Disorder Quiz

I've just completed this quiz and figured I'd share my results. I don't know how scientific it is though, so take it with a pinch of salt.






Personality Disorder Quiz
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Schizotypal.

Many believe that schizotypal personality disorder represents mild schizophrenia. The disorder is characterized by odd forms of thinking and perceiving, and individuals with this disorder often seek isolation from others. They sometimes believe to have extra sensory ability or that unrelated events relate to them in some important way. They generally engage in eccentric behavior and have difficulty concentrating for long periods of time. Their speech is often over elaborate and difficult to follow.


Schizotypal.


100%

Obsessive-Compulsive


95%

Schizoid


70%

Borderline


65%

Antisocial


65%

Dependant


60%

Avoidant


55%

Narcissistic


30%

Histronic


30%

Paranoid


30%

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Why are aspies so "unfriendly"? - Morning Greetings

Aspies are often described as unfriendly, yet we (reportedly) have the unique ability to be friendly with everyone regardless of physical characteristics such as age or color. So why are we perceived as being so unfriendly?

The Early Morning Aspie-Initiated Hello
In the morning as I stroll through my office to get a cup of coffee, there are always a lot of people with their heads down doing work, looking for things or otherwise engaged in activities. Interrupting them to say "Good Morning" makes no sense to me.

In any case, how do I know if it's good? and don't they already know that it's morning? Usually, I'll truncate my "sayings" to Hello, or Morning, and even then, I'll say it very quietly.

I just don't get it you see. Half of the people in my office will ask me a work-related question at some point during the day and I'll often greet them with a "hello" then. The other half usually don't ask for help and can probably go months without saying anything to me - so why would I need to have said "Hello" to them every day? Like I said, I don't get it - and I don't feel that I know what hello means in a modern context anyway.

I have a non-bothersome rule in place for these sorts of encounters. If I walk past someone and they look up at me, I'll say "hello" but if they keep their head down, then I'll just keep walking and let them get on with their work.


The Hello Response
The other thing that happens in mornings at the office is that people walk past and say "Good Morning Gavin!". I'm usually stuck for words - even though it happens every day. I'll often respond with a quiet "Hi" or "hello", sometimes even a "Good Morning" but it's very very rare that I'll say good morning followed by their name.

Why no names? Well, much has been said about the long term aspie memory but there are some serious problems with short-term retrieval. It takes a few seconds to get people's names out and sometimes they won't come out at all. I'm so used to avoiding the issue by not saying the name that I do it automatically.

Of course, there's also that voice in the back of my mind saying - "you can't simply repeat what they're saying with their name on the end". Possibly you can, but to me, that's not individualistic enough.

So, if there's an aspie ignoring your greetings at work, try talking about something without any introductions. You'll probably get a much better response.

Monday, March 17, 2008

How does Aspergers affect Employment Prospects?

A few weeks ago, I had an amazing figure of 85% unemployment for aspies left on my blog in comments. I disagreed and decided to put it to the test.

I did a fairly unstructured and not necessarily reliable survey and came up with the following figures;

Survey Results
Of the 90 respondents, 48% were employed in either full-time or part time positions and a further 26% were studying. The remaining 26% was split into 2% housewives/househusbands, 13% not looking for a job and 11% unemployment.

The 11% figure is probably slightly higher than global unemployment figures but isn't significantly higher.

In the graph below, the red areas indicates unemployment, blue indicates employment and green indicates study/school.


It seems obvious to me that the Aspergers condition alone is not sufficient to prevent an individual from obtaining and keeping a job.


What Types of Jobs can Aspies do?
Probably the best thing that an aspie can do is to find work that is either related to their special interest or work which doesn't conflict with too many of the general aspie characteristics. While there is a tendency for aspies to seek jobs in computing and academic fields, there is no reason why aspies cannot be employed in lots of other areas.

Special interest jobs are very good for aspies as they can often be quite innovative and can easily take on leader, designer and developer roles. Unlike their co-workers, aspies often live and breathe their special interests and therefore have a genuine interest in pursing them - rather than simply focusing on the job at hand.

Low Profile jobs are good for aspies with difficult comorbid (associated) conditions or low degrees of social tolerance. Not all aspies need this but some will thrive in closed environments. Programmer and factory roles are often suitable here.

There's also a great answer on Yahoo which talks about Aspergers Employment Strengths and Weaknesses. It's well worth a read.

I've also found some free PDFs on helping aspies gain employment on the Berkshire Autistic Society Web Site.

Some useful books on the Subject
Hawkins, Gail; "How to Find work that works for people with Asperger Syndrome"

Grandin, Temple; Duffy, Kate; Attwood, Tony; "Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism"

Meyer, Robert N; Attwood, Tony; "Asperger Syndrome Employment Workbook: An Employment Workbook for Adults With Asperger Syndrome"

If you look at the related books in Amazon, you'll find several other good titles.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Helping Aspie Children Make Friends

Parents of aspie children are often very concerned that their child has "no friends" or very few friends. This post is about how aspies make friends and how they play and general.

How Aspie Friendships Form
Aspies tend to have only a few friends but all these are likely to be very, very close. They also seem to attract other aspies or other children with other social difficulties. A good example of this would be children with "english as a second language". The fact that these ethnic children have a great deal of trouble communicating with other children, puts them in the same boat as aspies and they make very good friends.

The size of the school also has a fair amount of impact on friendship. Putting your child into a larger school will increase the chance of having more than one aspie per year/class than a smaller school will.

Another thing to note about the way aspie friendships form is that aspies very rarely ever approach other children with the aim of friendship. Usually friendships are formed when another child approaches the aspie. If they aren't approached directly, aspie children will quite happily play alongside a group of other kids for years without becoming actual "friends".

When an aspie meets a particularly sociable child, they will often adopt their friends. This can have both good and bad effects, depending upon the qualities of the other children involved.


Parenting Aspies with "friend" issues
As a parent, you need to recognize that your child will not be surrounded by friends. Don't worry too much about this, aspies don't need heaps of friends like most NTs do. That's not to say that aspies do not get lonely but rather that they will be satisfied with less.

If you are arranging an event, like a sleepover, it is wise to keep the numbers down to only a few friends and preferably one-on-one play.

Team sports are not good for aspie friend-making but things where the child can operate semi-independently and with out competition, scouts and karate for example, are.

Finally, parents need to teach their children about good behavior to use in a meltdown so that they don't lose friends. For example, making an excuse to go to the toilet can reduce the impact of a public meltdown on friendships. It is also important to discuss interactions with friends as often as possible as this will give you a clue about cues that the aspie child is missing.

If your child seems confused about some playground behavior, have them describe the event in as much detail as possible and ask about non-verbal things too. Role-play can often help the aspie to understand what really happened and why other children react in unexpected ways.