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Showing posts from 2013

Playing it Safe, Taking Risks, Nagging and Change

One of the things that my wife and I do is watch "expired" TV shows. We're not really fans of the "hanging on week-to-week" problem that accompanies regular TV. Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Doctor Who and Big Bang Theory are exceptions but even then we sometimes don't watch anything until after the season has ended.  Our series at the moment is a Canadian TV show called Being Erica which ran from 2009 to 2011.  It's sort of like Bridget Jones with  a therapist and time travel (and sadly, a bit less humour). The lead character is sometimes likeable and sometimes unlikeable and she tends to make choices which more often than not, land her in one predicament or another.  In the episode we watched last night, (hopefully not a bad spoiler) she decided, after being fired from her job, to start a new company on her own.  Her boyfriend who is a rather more cautious fellow tried to talk her out of it because he felt it was too risky. She agreed, then chang

Article: Taking things Literally; An Issue that Matters

So, you've been looking through the lists of aspie traits and you've found one called "taking things literally". You read about it and it says,  'The person may not understand jokes, sarcasm or figures of speech, such as, "It's raining cats and dogs."' They might look outside for falling animals.... Awwww.... How cute. So, you ignore it and move on to the  next symptom. My latest post over at Special-ism looks at an example of what taking things literally really means and why it's important to take this issue seriously; Hop over and read it; Taking Things Literally; An Issue that Matters by Gavin Bollard

Aspergers and Inappropriate Gifts and Comments

Well, it's December again and there's bound to be a lot of gifts and socialising, so it seems appropriate to talk about Aspergers and inappropriate gifts and comments... A lot of people think that those with Asperger's syndrome are insensitive when it comes to gifts. In truth, I think we're actually trying too hard. One of the things that is drummed into our heads from the time we first start giving and receiving gifts is that "it's the thought that counts".  Consequently, I try very hard when writing cards or choosing gifts, to put a whole lot of thought and personalisation into them. I consider giving soap or other "non-specific" items to be a failure on my part. It means that I haven't put adequate thought into the gift. Sadly, I think that while lots of people appreciate this level of thought, I end up offending many more people than I would if I just handed over a novelty soap. Have a look at this clip from the Big Bang Theo

Friendship isn't so obvious when you're on the spectrum

It’s taken me most of my adult life to really understand friendship. Even then, I don’t feel like I really understand more than the most basic of concepts. I'm sure it’s easy for other people but for me, the lines between friend, acquaintance, user and colleague are all very blurred and I often can’t tell one from the other.  In my early years, long before I understood what Asperger’s syndrome was, I used to think that my problems making friends were all down to my hearing loss. After all, I reasoned, If I couldn't hear people well enough to converse easily, then obviously my friend-making and friend-keeping skills would suffer.  This would have been a great theory if I hadn't lived next door to a very popular boy with a much worse hearing issue than I had. For the first ten years of my life, that boy next door was my only friend - except of course, for my dog. When he was on holidays, and that was quite often, I would simply play by myself.  I used to be a little jealous o

Understanding Adult Bullying

You could be forgiven for thinking that bullying is “something that happens to kids”. After all, that’s how the media portrays it.  The theory is that if bullying happens to adults, it’s rare, it’s obvious and it’s generally the work of “rednecks” or similar people who lack the education and/or social exposure to be more accepting of others.  In reality, bullying is as common, as pervasive and as destructive amongst adults as it is among kids. The difference is that the vast majority of adult bullying goes undetected - or at least unchallenged by most adult bystanders. We expect our children to report bullying and yet we fail to do it ourselves. In order to really understand bullying, you have to know what it means. Google defines bullying as to; “use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something”. Bullying is Intentional I think this is a very good definition. It makes it clear that there is an intended result to bullying

Book Review: No More Victims: Protecting those with Autism from Cyber Bullying, Internet Predators and Scams by Dr Jed Baker

No More Victims Protecting those with Autism from Cyber Bullying, Internet Predators and Scams  by Dr Jed Baker Coming less than a week after a terribly mishandled bullying case which destroyed my five year career in scouting, I guess I had unrealistically high expectations for this book. While it didn't measure up to my expectations, it was nevertheless a useful and practical booklet covering the subject of Internet predators and scams.  There's a mention of autism but really, it's something that can be summed up in one or two sentences. People with autism spend a lot of time online, they are naive and are easily baited. I really wasn't happy with the bullying section of this book. The section didn't start with a definition of bullying but described cyber-bullying thus; " Cyber Bullying is a term typically used to describe emotional victimisation and abuse among school and college aged individuals ".  This is a terrible description which makes i

Should your child on the Autism Spectrum attend IEP Meetings?

I was reading an article about a boy with autism who was silenced at a school board meeting because the subject was approaching dangerous legal ground.  Big thanks to Caitlin for pointing this one out.  I don't have any problems with the silencing because I fully understand the reasons and I don't think it was discriminatory. What got my attention though was the boy's response to being silenced; Christian concluded his talk by telling the audience that his self-advocacy work had taught him, "Nothing for me, without me," and left the microphone. That's something for his parents to be really proud of. I started thinking about this in more detail, thinking about how my wife and I have been going to IEP meetings without our sons and how the things we've been doing for them have been "without them".  I think there's a big flaw in our plans. The Initial IEP Meetings There's no doubt that the initial IEP meetings need to be conducted

Airline Travel and Kids with Special Needs

I've travelled a bit with my kids recently and each time it seems to be the same things which create the biggest problems. The flight itself is usually quite good, especially nowadays as there are so many electronic distractions. My kids took their iPads with them last time and they kept busy for the entire 10 hour flight.  No, it's the other aspects of flying which present a challenge.    Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay Waiting Airports are full of waiting areas. Flights always seem to do the unexpected, like get cancelled or delayed and then the waiting begins. Even before you get to the airport, there's a lot of waiting around in anticipation. It's not something that special needs kids are very good at, especially when their iPads are packed away preserving their batteries for the flight. In my kids case, waiting means a whole lot of pushing and shoving and fighting. We have to keep them separated with at least one parent sitting in between them. It's especi

Article: Reducing Computer Overuse Problems in Kids with Special Needs

My latest article on Special-ism is now available;  It's called Reducing Computer Overuse Problems in Kids with Special Needs  and no, it's not all about telling your kids to get off their computers and go outside. In fact, it's about dealing with a problem which isn't going to go away. If your kids spend a lot of time on computers, phones, iPads, androids or any other type of device requiring a lot of fine motor skill in their hands, then you ought to read this. After you've read the article, you're going to want to know about exercises that you can do to reduce your issues. Here's some great youtube resources; Easy Strengthening Exercises for Carpal Tunnel How to check your computer setup to see if it's egonomic Stretches that you can do at your work desk Also, if you're interested in Dragon, which is a product I've used successfully for years, here's their site . The dictate edition lets you record into a voice recorder an

Article: Navigating the Nightmare of Special Needs School Lunches

My latest post on Special-ism is now available.  It's all about how we changed our kids school lunches to be more "squish and forget" friendly. If your child's school bag is always coming home with dozens of squashed and stinky mouldy sandwiches in it, then these changes could work for you too. Click over to Special-ism to read the post .

Child Support Essentials - Advocates

Child support essentials is a new series which looks at the essential roles in a special needs child's life, how they help the child and the ways they can hinder when applied improperly. Advocates play a very important role in a special needs child's life. They help the child get access to support and services, they stand up for the child's rights and they promote the child's needs without damaging their self esteem. In my opinion, the best advocates have a similar condition to the child they are supporting and they have a unique understanding of the child. I also think that the best advocates are free. I like to think of myself as an advocate. I spend a lot of time trying to raise awareness of Asperger's syndrome and "bust the myths about it". I'm always fighting negativity and highlighting the positive aspects of Asperger's syndrome. My efforts are directed towards helping others to understand and to better accept the differences in those on

Interviewed on One Quarter Mama

There's an interview with me up on the One Quarter Mama blog , Click here to read it. While you're there, have a good look around the site because the One Quarter Mama blog is really very good. It's written by a mother with autism who has a child on the spectrum and is written in an honest and engaging way with a dash of humour for good measure.

When Playtime Turns Bad (Saving the Toys)

A couple of weeks ago I packed up my kids toys. It's not the end of toy playing for them but the toys are going on an extended hiatus. It's not even the fact that in all the years they have had them, they've never cleaned them up, despite promises of rewards or threats of punishment. After all, we solved the "Lego underfoot" problems by giving the kids their own toy room which we can easily close the door on instead of cleaning. Nope, it's because both boys have entered a destructive phase which I remember from my own childhood. For me, it all came to a head when I visited a friend's place and we watched TV together. There was This advertisement for "battle damaged derby cars" which sounded incredibly cool. Of course, my parents had financial issues; dad was out of work and my mother hadn't worked since I was born. There was no chance of getting the cars and even if there were, I'd be waiting about 10 months until Christmas. The

Book Review: We Said, They Said: 50 Things Parents and Teachers of Students with Autism Want Each Other to Know by Cassie Zupke.

We've been through the IEP process many times for our kids. The IEP meetings we have now are fairly productive but both of my kids suffered for the first couple of years because we didn't have an effective working relationship with their teachers.  As parents we had certain expectations and as teachers, they had their own agenda. My wife and I would often talk about how much easier things would be if teachers just told us their plans.  Of course, at the same time, we didn't realize just how much we were leaving unsaid. "We Said, They Said" is a book in two parts. The first part contains 25 things that parents really wish they could say to teachers while the second is 25 things that teachers wish they could say to parents.  Reading through these, I saw myself and my wife in many of these - and I reached a much better understanding of the motivations and pressures of the teachers. The book starts with an introduction which is essentially a seven page discla

Responding to Hooey about Autism

I've been reading the (so far excellent) book; "We said, they said: 50 things parents and teachers of students with autism want each other to know" by Cassie Zupke.  A review is coming soon.  In the meantime, Chapter 5, entitled Hooey talks about the the confusing amount of contradictory and money-grabbing autism theory out there.   I thought it was probably worth my while stating my motivation and my point of view. Hooey is not a word we use in Australia.  I'm presuming it's an American word for bullsh1t.  That's how we say it in Australia. We tell it like it is. Motivation My motivation on this blog has always been to raise public awareness of Asperger's syndrome and to provide a more balanced and positive place for parents and people with Asperger's syndrome to learn about themselves and their children.  I don't claim to know everything but I do claim to have lived daily with Asperger's syndrome (if not the knowledge that I had it) fo

Article: Kids with Isms can benefit from using Lists by Gavin Bollard

My  Latest Post over at Special-ism is now up; It's called; " Kids with Isms can benefit from using Lists " Please have a look at it. It's all about how lists are one of the best tools for children (and adults) with Asperger's Syndrome and Autism and other similar conditions can really benefit from using lists as management tools.  If you're the parent of a very young child on the spectrum, this is still worth a read because I describe some pre-verbal lists which you may find your child is already using.

School Supports: Taking a Realistic view of the School System and the Support it Needs

We all want to send our kids to school and have them return as bright and educated young adults. Unfortunately the "playing field" is far from level and many of our kids simply struggle too much with everyday tasks to become academic superstars. Sometimes we just have to revise our goals and accept that we, our children and the school have done the best that we can do. Too often I find that parents are confused by school. They believe that the purpose of school is nothing more than to return our kids to society with an academic education.  They consider that what their kids  are learning at school isn't useful if it isn't focussed on the their child's primary issues. The reality it somewhat different.  In this post, I want to touch on some of the supports in and around school systems and see how they combine to help children with special needs. Hopefully by the end of this post, you'll understand that school is only a small part of your child's educa

Embellishing Stories

When I was little, I was always fighting for a little attention. My parents used to tell me to "shut up" constantly but I never understood why.  I didn't understand then why my obsessive discussions about Star Wars and Doctor Who were so annoying to them.  They didn't want to know about the propulsion systems or torpedo systems used in Luke's x-wing fighter or about how the TARDIS's dimensional transcendentalism was achieved. Nope, they just wanted to hear the boring "real-life" stories. I on the other hand didn't want to discuss my "real-life" stories, especially since I used to spend all day dreaming my way out of them.  I didn't want to talk about how I played with nobody or how I took a ball to school and the other kids played with it but excluded me. My fantasy worlds were what kept me going. I soon learned that the best way to be listened to was to talk about real things but make them exciting.  To talk about the endin
My latest post is now available on Special-ism.  It's all about labels and why we need to advocate against them. Please hop over and have a read. Why we need to Advocate Against our Children's Labels by Gavin Bollard at Special-ism.

Guest Post: Autism Spectrum Siblings Need Love and Guidance Too! by Trish Thorpe

The following is a guest post from Trish Thorpe , Author of "Fisheye: A Memoir" and "Asperger's Sibling Support: 15 Practical Tips for Parents/Caregivers".  Please take a moment to check out Trish's books. Autism Spectrum Siblings Need Love and Guidance Too! I'm 53 and the younger sister of an older brother (by two years) who had undiagnosed Asperger's while we were growing up (1960s and 1970s). My brother and I grew up with very unaware, self-involved parents. Short story...I spent years in therapy sorting through our family dynamics and learned so much about the kind of parental support needed to raise special needs kids and neurotypical siblings in a balanced home.  Here are some pictures of my brother and me when we were young: I'd like to share what I learned. I collaborated with my therapist and wrote a series of tips that will hopefully help parents and caregivers understand and support ASD siblings. My goal is to raise awa

Jobs for Aspies: Acting

People with Aspergers Syndrome often spend their whole lives trying to fit into society.  They copy mannerisms, accents, expressions and dialogue.  They also often enjoy making noises such hums, clicks, whirs and other sounds.  It's a stimming thing. In short, people with Asperger's syndrome often spend their lives practising acting and they can become very good at it. There are many people in Hollywood with Asperger's Syndrome or suspected Asperger's Syndrome. The lists includes; Daryl Hannah, Dan Aykroyd, Tim Burton, Woody Allen, Michael Palin, Alfred Hitchcock, Jim Henson and Michael Jackson. I doubt that we'll ever know the truth about these actors for sure but one thing is clear, children with Asperger's syndrome often make good actors and they can benefit significantly from acting classes; There's a video on YouTube where a boy with Asperger's Syndrome; Zach Henry and his family discuss the impact that acting has had on his life. It's

Book Review: Plan B: Empowering the Single Parent by Karra Barber-Wada

Plan B: Empowering the Single Parent!  ... To benefit their Child with Autism   by Karra Barber-Wada. Published by Future Horizons ISBN 978-1-935274-79-7 Plan B is a book with a well defined and very specific target; single parents with children who have autism. It's written in a very positive way and contains a lot of very good advice, all of which falls neatly under a very clever strategy; called "plan B". The book is very well laid out and is easy to read with lots of clear sub-chapters. There are regular tips sections and some great real life story asides which show the techniques in action and put a human face to the book. Some chapters have minor exercises designed to get you to focus on your priorities, budget or wants and needs. The book seems to be geared more towards the "higher functioning" types of autism, such as Asperger's syndrome but I have no doubt that the techniques within it are more or less universally applicable. It also

In order to Receive Empathy, we must first Teach it - Part 2

Following on from my previous post on teaching empathy, my wife had taught me to help, without being asked when a person with a pram obviously needed help. I was able to generalise this to helping people who clearly need help in all kinds of situations.   It took me years but I consider myself mostly reformed in that area now and I'll help people who stumble, who get wheelchairs stuck or who can't reach items on the top shelf of the supermarket. All without being asked.  I've even reached the point where I can anticipate a problem and will watch an unsteady person, or a toddler near a road in case they suddenly need intervention.  My wife did a very good job of reforming me in that regard. Unfortunately, even though I widened the scope of the "help" intervention considerably, it doesn't automatically put me into a good empathetic state. There are still so many situations to learn about and each time I manage to choose the wrong option. It's simply

Replying to a Parent's concern about the Traits of Autism

Normally, I don't post correspondence here as I like to keep those things private and individual but I recently got an email from a parent who was concerned about a number of traits her son was showing.  I've replied to her questions in prose and as I was reading it back I thought it might be a useful thing to post, so... all identifying information removed and lots of extra links added, here it is. Eye Contact Inconsistent eye contact is generally a sign of "gaze avoidance" - ie: lack of eye contact. Darting ones eyes around the room during a conversation is a great avoidance tactic as it gives a person a break from being totally focused on the speaker - something which is quite painful at times. Some children with autism give good eye contact but most do not.  You might want to encourage your son to look at mouths instead as this keeps his head pointing in the right direction and reduces eye-darting without making uncomfortable eye contact. If he does have pro