Thursday, April 28, 2011

Aspie Interactions with the Police

Over the last few weeks, I've read several blogs where aspies have described their interactions with the law. In every case, the incidents were blown out of proportion by the tactics of the police and the social difficulties experienced by the aspie.

I too have had difficulties with the police (and other aspects of the law).

My first major police incident was as a teen being pulled over for speeding. At the time, I had an old car which took forever to warm up and I really knew very little about cars. The car was misbehaving and I thought that maybe it needed to warm up (in actual fact, it was overheating due to a burst water filter). I tried going fast to warm it up - and that was when the police turned up behind me.

I told the police that there was something wrong with the car and they just laughed and said "yeah, what? the brakes?". Luckily I knew to just keep quiet otherwise I'm sure they'd have tried to take things further.

Following the Wrong Rules
My second infraction was again, speeding but this time I knew I was in the wrong. I was pulled over and instead of waiting for the police, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

A few weeks earlier there had been a documentary on TV by Allan Pease, a famous body language expert. He suggested that it was best to approach police when in trouble and adopt a "lower then them" posture.

I really didn't want to have to pay a fine or to lose points off my licence. I remembered Allan Pease's information but knowing that the police were already stopped behind me, I knew I'd have to be quick to get into position. I jumped out of the car and started running towards the police.

They threw open their doors, took shelter behind them and pointed their guns at me. It didn't help that being deaf, it took a few shouts before I could understand that they were telling me to stop.

It took a lot of convincing (and a full car search) to let them know that I was innocent (except for the speeding). I didn't want to tell them the truth about the Allan Pease show because then I'd spoil my tactic. I think that they knew I was withholding some information and it was quite a while before they let me go.

Other Run-ins
I've had other run-in's with the police and with unsavory characters. Once, when I was about sixteen and on holiday in Perth, a man kept following me everywhere asking me to have a drink with him. I told him that I wasn't thirsty but he persisted. Then I said I wanted to look in a bookshop and he wanted to wait outside. Eventually I told him that I really needed to go home (which was the truth).

It wasn't until later when I was telling my mother about my day - and I mentioned this annoying person that I discovered that the man had been a pedophile.

And the point is....
All of this makes me wonder what the best approach for teaching my aspergers children about the real world is.

Preparing for Encounters with the Police
Certainly I need to ensure that they understand that whenever the police are involved, they need to just quieten down, accept where things are going and say almost nothing. In fact, they should probably request that their parents be contacted and wait until we arrive.

I'm not sure how well this would work with the police. The other options involve either registering my children with the police as having Aspergers syndrome (which translates to an "approach with caution" directive). I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not as it may increase the likelihood of a situation escalating to violence.

I'm increasingly thinking that a happy medium would be to provide them with a card that says they have aspergers and which explains some traits (and has my contact details). They're not old enough to carry a card without losing it yet but perhaps this is the best option.

Building appropriate levels of suspicion
It's very easy to set a trigger for a given type of behavior. For example; if someone, even a "little old lady" asks you to carry their bags through airport security, they're a drug dealer, it's a bad thing and "don't do it". Similarly, an adult who is interested in your genitalia and isn't a doctor is a pedophile.

Unfortunately, triggers aren't always so visible.

The little old lady could fake an accident and tell the aspie to take care of her stuff without raising suspicion. Similarly, in my case, the pedophile wasn't asking anything sexual. They just wanted to know if we could go for a drink.

An aspie will react to a black and white trigger but a "grey one" will slip by completely unnoticed. I don't want to make my kids suspicious of everyone but unless I instill in them a certain level of caution, they'll take anything for granted.

It's a difficult choice and I'm not entirely sure what the best answer is.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

HUGE Giveaway in honor of Autism Awareness Month!

It's autism awareness month and there's a huge giveaway of books, DVDs and b-Calm worth over $1100. The giveaway is hosted by S-O-S Research, so head on over there!

It's part of the Fifth Edition of Best of the Best and it's not strictly limited to autism but covers a wide variety of special needs including; ADHD, Autism & Aspergers, General Disabilities, Sensory Processing and Bipolar disorder.

There are books on parenting, babies, discipline, sensory training, IEPs and social skills. Whatever your need, there's a book for you.

That link again, in case you're reading a printed version of this;

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: "How do I teach this kid to Read?" by Kimberly A. Henry, M.S.

This is a "Best of the Best" post - Giveaway details are at the end of the post.

The full title of this book is;

How do I Teach this Kid to Read?
Grade Levels K-3
Teaching Literacy Skills to Young Children with Autism, from Phonics to Fluency
by Kimberly A. Henry, M.S.

How do I teach this kid to read is a great text book aimed at very young readers on the spectrum. Unlike most books of its kind, this book comes with a companion CD.

The book has amazingly simple organisation with each chapter introducing a new teaching concept and outlining;
  • What it is
  • Why it works
  • Materials Needed
  • Ideas for Use
As well as parents, this book is also a great resource for teachers and would-be teachers in special needs as it explains a lot of great techniques and most of the ideas in this book could be stretched beyond reading and into other areas of a child's education or social life.

Most of the materials needed sections refer to resources which are already on the supplied CD (which contains 48 files, mostly in PDF format) but the book also contains redirects to other suppliers, web sites and references.

The book covers word walls, flipbooks, pictographs, thinking in pictures and more. Along the way, the "why it works" section for each activity frequently explains autistic traits and how the world appears to people on the spectrum.

This is best demonstrated in an example from the why it works of "Question Sticks";
"Because some children with ASD have difficulty processing questions, Question Sticks put the question in a visual format - a format the child may better understand."

This very practical book is a necessary resource for parents and teachers who deal with difficult readers from about Kindergarten to Year 3. I have no hesitation in recommending it.

How do I Teach this Kid to Read? can be purchased online from Future Horizons or from Amazon.

Honesty clause: I was provided with a copy of this book for review at no charge.

Contest ends April 29, 2011 at 5pm

All you have to do to enter this giveaway is leave a comment on this post saying why you think the book will be particularly suitable for you. If you can't think of anything, just leave a comment anyway - I'll be drawing the winners randomly.

PLEASE leave me a way to contact you via email or facebook if you win - If I can't make contact within 48 hours, I'll need to do a redraw.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bullying: The Bully's Side of the Story

This is the final post in the bullying series.

So far in this series, we've concentrated on the victims of bullying and quite rightly too. If you or your child is the victim of bullying, then it's obvious that you'll need to look after your own needs first. It's also very probable that you'll find yourself a bit short on mercy for the person who is making your life (or your child's life) a living hell.

It's (usually) not your job.

Having a Plan for Bullies
The fact is though that bullies don't come from nowhere. They're often children raised in difficult circumstances and are often the victims of bullying themselves, perhaps by an older sibling or a parent.

I've read many posts which suggest jail terms or all manner of other sanctions for bullies but I disagree with these. I don't think that they're addressing the real problems simply by punishing the bully.

If the bully is school aged - and particularly if the bullying is occuring at school, then the school should really "punish" the bully by requiring them to spend a certain amount of time with a counsellor. It's not enough to simply "slap the wrist" of a serial bully and tell them not to do it again. You need to find out what is going on - what is motivating them.

I'm not sure if it's legal but it would probably be best that bully counselling occurs, at least initially, without the bully's parents knowledge - at least until they're eliminated as a factor.

Counsellors need to look for evidence of a cycle of physical or emotional abuse, unmet needs (such as parents who are never home), undiagnosed psychological or sociological conditions or simply evidence of extreme frustration. They also need to look for signs of peer pressure and if need be, break up these harmful social groups.

If the Bully is YOUR Child
But what if the bully is your child? What if you know that there's no pressure at home? How do you find where the problem lies?

The first answer is still counselling. If you child is verbal, then you need to accept that sometimes as a parent, you're going to be the last to know about your child's problems. Consider turning them over to a counsellor and letting them spend time alone with your child. Sometimes it's easier to talk to a stanger about things that you wouldn't otherwise tell your own parents.

Spend some quality one-on-one time with your child. If they're young, take them out to a quiet coffee shop (without a playground) and get them a milkshake. If they're a little older, take them to a proper coffee shop or even a bar (assuming they're a lot older). Spend a little time talking about your own experiences, feelings of inadequacy and growing up issues but make sure that you keep things brief and "human". It's supposed to be about your child, not you.

Spend some time simply listening to your child. Let them direct the conversation - if they want to talk about their special interest, then give them at least five minutes of uninterrupted time to get it out of their system.

If, after a long time, they still haven't given you anything to go on, then you might need to talk more directly about bullying. "I got a phone call from the school yesterday about bullying. Can you talk to me about it?". The point here is to listen rather than judge and to prompt without interrogating or interrupting. You're mainly trying to find out how your child feels about the incident and whether there is more to it than meets the eye.

The other thing that you need to talk to your child about is the victim. This probably should be reserved for a different conversation. You need to find out if your child understands how the victim feels and whether they can put themselves in the "shoes" of the victim. The outcome of this conversation is very important as it could highlight other difficulties that your child may have.

Concluding the Series
Bullying occurs everywhere throughout life but it is not something that can be ignored or tolerated. Bullying must always be stopped but in order to stop it, two things must happen;
  • The victim must be removed from the situation
  • The bully must be "investigated" to see if there is a cause.
While it's the parent's job to safeguard their children, it's not simply enough for an institution to protect an individual victim. They need to stop it at the source.