Sunday, July 27, 2008

Aspies and Names

Names never seem to come easy to aspies. We're often introduced to someone and lose their name in less than five mintues.

Often we don't feel comfortable using names and sometimes even hearing our own name in conversation makes us cringe.

On the flip side, I'm sure that our friends, relatives and spouses are tired of being referenced using nicknames or being addressed simply as "hey you".

Short Term Memory
I think that part of the problem is the awful short term memory capabilities of the aspie. If we need a name to stick, we either have to repeat it a lot in the first few seconds or find a good association (eg: same name as my sister).

Unfortunately, such associations are rare and most social situations don't allow for name repetition. The aspie is left in a position where forgetting is inevitable.

Confusion over Names
Aspies quickly get used to other people joking about names but often, although we know that something is funny, we don't always know why.

At my school, we had a large breasted librarian, Mrs Perriot (pronounced pere-o-tay). My best friend at the time used to call her "pair-o-tits" but I always "heard" it as "perritit" and figured it was the proper pronounciation of the French? name Perriot. I was very fond of this librarian, so luckily I was pulled up for the name by a teacher before I used it in front of her. Even then, I remember the teacher getting angry when I said, "but that's her name isn't it?".

Another funny names thing happened in my school years as a library monitor. There was a boy mucking up and I duly asked for his name and wrote it down. He was still abusive after being given a warning so I reported Mr Condom's activities to the librarian. I still didn't see the problem when she flew into an outrage and hurried down to talk to him. It was the sight of my best friend laughing hysterically that clued me in.

From that point onwards, I stopped trusting all names given by third parties.

Good Mornings
There's something about a name that makes it just a little too personal for my liking and I find it very uncomfortable to do.

Most of the time I just burst into conversations with no preliminaries or use the word "hey" to attract attention. I'm sure it's probably bad manners but it doesn't make me feel bad. At work, I reply to "good morning, Gavin" with simply "good morning" or, more often "hi". Nobody seems to mind. Recently I've set myself a target of using one name per day but it still grates on me when I do.

Nicknames
The only way I can feel comfortable about names is to use nicknames. I found a great compromise with my wife by calling her Joey (her name is Joanne) but I've never thought of the name Joey as a short name. In Australia, it means a small type of Kangaroo.

My close friends all use nicknames too and both of my children do too. Luckily, I usually try to choose nicknames which are close enough to the originals to not offend.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Video: Trailer for an Film About Aspergers Autism

I've had this trailer pointed out to me.

The film looks interesting but even the trailer itself makes a lot of good points and gives good examples of aspergers.

Are All Aspies Geniuses?

There seems to be a bit of a misconception that all aspies are, by definition, geniuses and that all autistic children are "rain-man" style mathematical prodigies.

While there's no doubt that a lot of people with aspergers/autism display remarkable talents unfortunately, you can't necessarily generalize that to the entire of the aspergers population.

Why do people think that Autistic People are automatically geniuses?
There are two main sources of this misconception;

The first is the popular media, such as TV, movies, newspapers and magazines which often confine themselves to the most spectacular cases of the condition citing famous historical figures like Einstein and Michelangelo while investigating only the most severe cases of modern autism.

The second cause is the "serious" media, such as medical books and how-to's about aspergers children which persist in using the "little professor" description. Sure, some little aspies do sound like professors, but this is by no means in the majority.

The Reality
It's important to remember that aspergers often carries with it comorbid conditions, such as ADD/ADHD, Bi-polar, Schizophrenia, Learning Difficulties & OCD. Many of these conditions interfere with the aspie's ability to learn, particularly in the same conditions as neurotypical children.

It's not just the comorbids which interfere, it's also the child's environment, (for example; a child growing up with little access to books may not start reading at an early age). Of course, there's also the fact that all children are individuals and may become interested in learning things at different ages.

How do Aspie Geniuses Come About?
In my humble opinion only, aspie genius is a misunderstanding by the neurotypical community of how effective the human mind can be when applied to a problem. Aspies simply have a few advantages in this regard over neurotypical people;

  • The Special Interest: Aspies live, breathe and eat their special interests. If an aspie is into electronics, then it's logical to expect that they will be thinking about electronics most of the time, that they will dream about electronics and that whenever an opportunity arises for them to play with electronics, they'll jump right in. Aspies "genius" occurs primarily because the aspie has a special interest which causes them to focus on a subject.

  • Clear Focus: Unlike most people, aspies can focus on their special interest or on a task of great interest to the exclusion of all else. For example; they can start studying something and not eat for hours despite the fact that a sandwich has been placed at arms length. They can become so absorbed in a given subject that all else is forgotten.

  • A Different Point of View: It's often said that the aspergers brain is "wired differently". This often means that we perceive problems differently. It also means that our solutions often approach from a different angle. Often, this places us behind NTs in lessons, particularly school lessons. In some cases however, particularly research and art, this means that the aspie ignores the tried and proven solutions in favour of something more unique.

Detecting Genius
One last thing to be aware of. Geniuses aren't necessarily indicated by scores at school - take Einstein for instance who was not particularly good at school.

IQ tests are also not great indicators. Remember, those tests were designed by NTs and for NTs - even if pointing the test at other NTs was a subliminal thing. Like most tests, aspies need more time to achieve the same result as a similarly gifted NT. After all, the aspie has to interpret/translate each question as they go.

The only proper way to detect aspie genius is to observe their work on their special interest projects - even if they don't seem academic. Most times, the aspie themselves won't consider that they've done anything particularly special.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Another Aspie Quiz

I'm always pushing the RDOS aspie quiz because I think that it's the most accurate one out there but I've just been referred to another one - which has similar questions and which uses the Baron-Cohen criteria.

So here's the URL (http://aq.server8.org/).
There's 50 questions and you should answer them fairly quickly so that first impressions count.

My score was 40.

To put this in perspective;

0-10 low
11-22 average (women=15, men=17)
23-31 above Average
32-50 very high (average Aspergers & HFA score is 35)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

An Aspie Poster

This take on those motivational posters is too good not to post. It's obviously not my work though so go to the Flikr page if you want to print out a good quality version.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Great Example IEP

Recently I've been blogging quite a bit about the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and I've gone over some of the better approaches. I had been thinking that it was high time I provided a decent example;

Then I noticed that Smelena's Aspergers Site (http://www.smelena.com/) has a copy of Daniel's IEP on it. This is a particularly good IEP and is probably better than any examples I could provide because it's being used today.

In fact, Smelena's whole site is brilliant, so make sure that you check it out.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Link to Article: What Aspergers Syndrome has done for us

I've just had my attention drawn to an article on famous people with Aspergers. It's old, but I hadn't read it before.

In case you missed it, it's a BBC News Article from 2nd June 2004 entitled "What Asperger's Syndrome has done for us"

It's well worth a read, especially if you're feeling down about the whole aspergers thing.

In particular, the article points to the following people;
  • Michelangelo
  • Albert Einstein
  • Socrates
  • Jane Austen
  • Charles Darwin
  • Isaac Newton
  • Marie Curie
  • Eamon de Valera
  • WB Yeats
  • Andy Warhol
The article talks about workaholics and attention to detail and is generally quite fair although it dips into stereotypes in a few places. Not all aspies are intellectuals, for example.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Setting up the IEP to Draw on Your Child's Strengths to Assist his Weaknesses

This is the third post in my series on the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and if you've been following, we now have a list of strengths and weaknesses for our child.

The list of strengths may fall into broad categories such as;
  • favourite/best subjects
  • specific special abilities
  • aspergers abilities
  • working learning patterns
  • specific interests

While the weaknesses will probably fall into the following categories;
  • subject areas
  • social skills
  • issues with children taking things literally
  • emotive concerns
  • muscular issues
  • memory and concentration issues
  • comorbid conditions
  • medication
  • routine fixations
  • meltdowns
The next task is to walk through the list of weaknesses and allocate each one;
  • a specific (and achievable goal
  • a strategy to attain that goal
  • one or more owners
  • an evaluation or monitoring strategy to ascertain progress

The Goal
The fact that the goal needs to be achievable can't be stressed enough. More is accomplished in little steps which succeed than giant strides which fail. If your child is having difficulty getting friends at school, you may want him to have a circle of friends but realistically, it is better to aim for a goal of "my son is playing with another child at lunchtime".

The Strategy
The strategy should be a means of achieving the stated goal. It will tie in closely with the owner and with the measurement. When drawing up strategy, you need to keep the limitations of teaching staff in mind. In particular, remember that teachers still have a class to teach and that their class may contain other children with special needs and their own IEP. As much as possible, the strategy needs to be simple to implement, follow existing school guidelines and not interfere with the teacher's job - teaching the class.

From the child's point of view, an overly directed or complicated strategy could place too much of a burden on them. Whenever possible, strategy should be invisible to the student. It should be their world that seems to support them, rather than them being given a list of rules to follow in order to fit in.

In our stated example of encouraging friendships, a good strategy would be for the teacher to keep a couple of suitable children (similar interests or backgrounds) in mind whenever;

  1. Whenever there are small group activities, try to pair the aspie child with the same group of "friends".

  2. Try to encourage friendship by sending the aspie child with a "friend" for various class duties - eg: collecting lunch orders or taking something to the school office.
This strategy is "friendship by association" and takes into account the fact that the aspie child will often be unable to distinguish genuine friendship from friendly acts. It means that the aspie child will treat the other children as if they were friends. Hopefully this will lead to associations in the playground.

The Owners
The process owners are responsible for implementing strategy and also monitoring the results. Process owners need to keep a close eye on results as sometimes, particularly during social modifications, unexpected conditions occur. In most cases, the process owners will be teachers, but often parents and special education teachers also need to become involved.

In our example of improving socialisation; the teacher is the process owner for all group activities and the parents may also take a role by simply talking to their child about their play activities and friends.


Evaluation
Evaluation simply refers to the determination, by the process owners, of whether or not the strategy is leading towards the goal. It is generally not enough to do a single evaluation at the end of the year. The situation, particularly when social and behavioural modification is being attempted, needs to be monitored regularly.

In our example; the aspie might approach a "friend" in the playground and be rejected. Such a rejection could put the goal in jeopardy. The process owner needs to act immediately on this sort of problem.

On the other hand, if the goal is being achieved, then the process owner should note this, so that the parents and school receive positive feedback (always nice to have), the process can be reinforced and, at the next IEP meeting, new goals can be set.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Article: Avoiding Unsolicited Parenting Advice from Family

I found this article today. It's on ADHD but is equally applicable to Aspergers. In fact, personally, I think it suits Aspergers better than ADHD.

The article gives tips on travelling to family gatherings and helps you to avoid a common problem... Relatives trying to pin the condition on your parenting flaws.

If you've ever been told; “You really let her get away with a lot” or “If I had him for a week, he’d learn to obey.”, then this one is for you.

"You Just Need to be Firmer with Him" by Carol Brady Ph.D.

The article comes from additudemag.com. If you find it interesting, you can subscribe (it's free) and receive daily/weekly emailed articles from them.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Link to Article: Coping with Anxiety in the Workplace.

Sorry to interrupt the whole IEP discussion thing but I just wanted to post this link to a great article I was sent today.

It's a case study on
AspergerManagement on how Aspies can cope with Anxiety in the Workplace.
The URL to the particular article is as follows;
http://www.aspergermanagement.com/anxiety-coping-workplace