Tag Archives: Autism

I Was In Her Shoes

And I’m sorry anyone has to be in those worn out old shoes.

See, she’s tired.  Tired of struggling with a special needs child with little help from her husband.  Tired of being the only one to research said child’s problems.  Tired of being the only one to seek out interventions and be told by her partner that it is too difficult or complicated.  Tired of being the only one to meet with school, take child to therapy, etc.  Tired of being the only one responsible for the house work, the cooking, and everything.

Having a special needs child makes the parenting partnership VERY important and she’s not getting it.

If you are the kind of person to pray, pray for all of the mothers who are at their wits end trying to manage on their own even though they have a capable partner.  If you’re not the kind of person who prays, just think good thoughts for people in that situation.

I’m sure there are also fathers out there in this boat too.  But I met a mom in these shoes and I’ve been in these shoes – so my focus is on moms.

Because people who need to do things on their own, even though they have a partner, need our support.

Reason to Believe?

In response to Reason to Believe.

For me it is the belief that there is always room for improvement, a belief that I can learn something new, a belief that I can make changes that will allow me to be happier, a belief that I have some level of control over my future.  I will boil this down to the most simple form:

I believe because the alternative is bleak, like the bare branches of the background of this tree.

I need hope in my life. I need to be able to see the potential in a bleak situation and my belief helps me do that.

I will not give up on my youngest son.  I support him and believe he has a reasonable chance to be happy and productive in his adult life in spite of Autism.

I did not give up on my marriage when we were having difficulties.  It was very difficult at times, but I always believed that we could improve – and we did.  No – we’re not perfect but that wasn’t the goal.

I did not give up on my oldest son when he was depressed and anxious beyond what a 10ish year old should ever be.  I believed that he just needed help coping with the stress of having a special needs brother, help that I wasn’t able to provide myself because I also needed help.

I did not give up on myself when I reached an all time low and was eating frosting for the sugar high.  I believed that there was something better for me and that I just needed help to change my mindset to be more positive.

Had I not believed, I would be a divorced mom of two boys with constant worry that one would end up in jail and the other would engage in self-destructive behaviors to handle his stress.

Here are some thoughts from others:

http://abozdar.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/tree-of-life/
http://abozdar.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/reponse/
http://rickenba.ch/blog/en/2014/01/20/refinement-and-thirst/
http://rickenba.ch/blog/en/2013/07/12/lets-go-on-a-search/
http://rickenba.ch/blog/en/2013/06/14/my-faith/
http://fibijeeves.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/i-believe/
http://mumbaimornings.com/2013/05/07/morning-event-maharashtra-day-ride-of-freedom-and-belonging/
http://kosheradobo.com/2013/11/19/north-star-points-right/
http://tonkadella.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/what-you-believe-you-are/
http://wp-cron.com/2014/05/01/reason-to-believe/
http://jitterygt.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/beware-of-this-propmt/
http://theflavoredword.com/2014/05/01/believe-even-beyond-the-power-of-reason/
http://aimanpeer.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/guess-who/
http://nenskeifacestheworld.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/i-am-still-breathing/
http://ofglassandpaper.com/2014/05/01/dailyprompt-reason-to-believe-and-reflections-on-a-challenge/
http://reaspracticeblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/reason-to-believe/
http://vulnerablechristian.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/why-do-you-believe/
http://tnkerr.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/daily-prompt-reason-to-believe/
http://www.prayersandpromises.org/finding-hope-dead-end-road/
http://allthingscuteandbeautiful.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/daily-prompt-being-a-believer-2/
http://jullianiskool.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/reason-to-believe/
http://wanderingearthlost.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/post-a-day-a-reason-to-believe/
http://cxianliu.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/i-have-a-dream/
http://shameport.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/208/
http://easterellen.com/2014/05/01/out-of-my-cave/
http://thewritingmommy.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/daily-prompt-my-testimony-my-reason-to-believe/
http://tonkadella.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/reason-to-believe-desire/
http://randomblotches.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/why-not/
http://darlingbevaliant.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/monkees-lyric-thursday/

Parent Judgement

I’m very sensitive to this, even when no one is judging me.

So, instead of getting my undies in a bunch about something I just overheard – I’m going to blog about it in an effort to get it off my chest.

GavelI just heard my cubicle neighbor, who is not a parent and never will be, talking on the phone with another person who is the parent of adult kids (you tend to forget problems after the kids leave).  I don’t make a habit of listening to conversations, but how can you not hear them in this type of environment?

I was shocked to hear something like this statement:

That’s a reflection on the parents … poor parenting.

I didn’t even hear the whole conversation, but hackles raised when I overheard those words.

Why?  I’m not entirely sure but I know that it has to do with the ample opportunities for others to judge me based on my highly functioning autistic child’s behavior.  See, people can’t look at him and know that he has a brain that is wired so different that certain things cause problems for him, resulting in bad behavior.

It is just not fair that we parents are always judged so harshly.

Rant over!

Judging Others

We all do it. Some more than others. Some admit it. Some don’t.

I used to be judgemental specifically of parents. Particularly before I had kids. See, it is easy to judge harshly when you have no experience or appreciation for what you are judging. Standards can be ridiculously high. Especially when you are young.

I have learned a lot since having my own kids. Number one being that I don’t have all the facts, only those I observe, and those can be misinterpreted.

I have had so many parenting moments where I could be judged negatively. Some would be deserved but many others would not. Some examples:

– I once had a toddler immediately run like a madman the moment we entered a department store.  I was livid, mainly as a reaction to the fear I felt.
– I have been seen spanking and yelling at my kids in public. Yes, deserved judgement. But thankfully there was no interference from people around me. I am better able to cope with my anger and frustrations now.
– I once had to call 911 for assistance with my 8 year old special needs kid. Unfortunately it was at a busy gas station with a Greyhound bus stop. Those people got a good show of the crazy mom trying to contain her out of control child. And I bet more than a few judged me poorly. NOT deserved. Thankfully we got very understanding police officers to help.
– My kids had recurring ear infections when they were babies. A neighbor lady (who is NOT a mom and never will be) boldly stated that she could have my first cured of ear infections in a week. Ummm, yea. Not deserved. I never told her that we ultimately took both for tubes at the tender age of 13-14 months.

I find that I am so much more understanding of others now, especially other parents.

Family Relationship Health

Circumplex Model
Circumplex Model

How healthy is your family relationship?

How cohesive is your family relationship?  Are you disengaged, enmeshed, or somewhere in between?

How flexible is your family relationship?  Is it chaotic, rigid, or somewhere in between?

If you have a guess to these answers, how can you know if that means your family relationship is healthy or needs some level of rework?

Why should you care?

  • Understanding your family’s location on this model can help you target specific areas for improvement.
  • When you are having troubles with teens, evaluate the level of cohesiveness and flexibility.  Are you disengaged but have strict rules and family roles? Perhaps growing your relationship with your teen would make those rules seem more acceptable.
  • Are you and other family members slowly growing apart from each other?
  • Is one or more family members feeling squashed and in need of more “Me” and less “We?”
  • Is someone in the family desperately lonely?
  • Are the kids confused about who is in charge?

My Family 3 Years Ago

We were not in a happy place.  Our youngest had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism – basically).  I was obsessed first with finding a cure (although I didn’t realize it at the time) and then with finding ways to help him.  Communication between hubby and I was like communication between roommates – not like two people in love who share parenting.  We were firmly planted in the Structurally Disengaged section, which is not the healthiest but also not the worst.  That spot works well for some families and not so well for others.  It was not working for us.

Room for Improvement

So, what was NOT working for us?  Were we too structured or too disengaged?  Where did we want to move on this chart?  We never sat down and specifically talked about that, but your family may like that approach.  Based on LOTS of conversation over the past 8 months or so, we determined that we were too disconnected.  We were two independent people with little loyalty and little closeness.  This left the door open for major family and marital problems to happen.  We needed to move into the Structurally Connected or the Flexibly Connected section.

Where are we now?

I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that we are no longer Disengaged.  It started with hubby and me moving more and more into the connected realm.  I would put the 2 of us in the Structurally Connected region.  We spend a lot of time together now, whereas 3 years ago it was me & the kids and hubby took off for various hobbies on his own.  We have a much higher degree of loyalty to each other because now we talk about things instead of pretending nothing is wrong.  We make a LOT more decisions together now, especially regarding family.

Where We Are Moving

We may never move out of the Structurally Connected region, but we still have work to do on where we are as a family.  We are slowly working on our individual relationship with our kids and working on whole family relationship.  We have a significant amount of time where we are unplugged in the late afternoon and a large chunk of the weekend.  This helps us do more things together, thereby increasing our connection.  Here’s pictures from a recent rocket launch we had as a family.

The Boys!
The Boys!
Rocket Prep
Rocket Prep
Post Landing Recovery!
Post Landing Recovery!

Updated Article: Asperger’s in the Workplace

Many have heard or have used the words Autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, Bi-polar, OCD, and so on.  Individuals with these labels have a wide variety of abilities and behaviors.  Often when you hear Asperger you think of a child, but children become adults and enter the workforce.  Do you work with someone labeled this way?  Do your coworkers have children or grandchildren who face this reality daily?  Recently in the news, companies such as SAP and Freddie Mac are heavily recruiting autistic individuals hoping to harness ! their unique talents and to give them a chance to flourish in a job and spark innovation.  For Ari Ne’eman, president of the Washington DC-based Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and a member of the U.S. National Council on Disability, the moves are welcome and well overdue.  “We need to see neurological diversity in much the same way as we’ve seen workplace diversity efforts in the past on the basis of race, gender and sexual orientation.” 

Eilene Edwards from the Supplier Management Learning Solutions team has personal interest in seeing this neurological diversity come to fruition.  She and husband Aaron are the parents of two boys.  Their oldest Ryan is seated next to dad.  Their youngest Luke, seated next to Eilene, has Asperger’s and struggles with the battle between these strengths and difficulties daily.  Understanding the strengths and difficulties associated with Asperger’s has helped her to avoid many problems and handle problems that do arise in a more effective way.

Family enjoying pizza.
Family enjoying pizza.

Asperger’s Defined

Asperger Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a milder variant of Autistic Disorder.  The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM5.org ASD Fact Sheet defines ASD:  “People with ASD tend to have communication deficits, such as responding inappropriately in conversations, misreading nonverbal interactions, or having difficulty building friendships appropriate to their age. In addition, people with ASD may be overly dependent on routines, highly sensitive to changes in their environment, or intensely focused on inappropriate items. Again, the symptoms of people with ASD will fall on a continuum, with some individuals showing mild symptoms and others having much more severe symptoms.”

ASD Strengths in the Workplace

  • Exceptional memory including understanding concepts presented in material and images.
  • Detailed understanding of concrete concepts, rules and sequences.
  • Intensely focused.
  • Very precise and detail oriented, which can be combined with high levels of focus on tasks that others may not want to do.
  • Schedule driven.

ASD and Difficulties in the Workplace

Two difficult aspects of work for the ASD individual include social interactions and transitions.

  • Social interaction difficulties may include not understanding nonverbal cues, strict adherence to rules and the expectation that others also adhere to said rules, blunt language (which is “truth” to them), and sometimes repetitive behaviors.
  • Transitions happen quite a bit more often than non ASD individuals realize, and each transition has the potential to cause distress in the ASD individual.

Social Interactions

How do you know when you are boring someone you are talking with?  It is likely so automatic to you that you don’t even think about it.  ASD individuals often have favorite topics to discuss and most people are willing to listen for a period of time.  But when a non ASD person has had enough, he or she may start checking the time and giving nonverbal hints that they want the conversation to come to a close.  ASD individuals typically do not catch these hints.  The best option is to use clear language that closes the conversation politely.  For example say something like, “Thank you for an interesting conversation.    Now I am going to a meeting.  Bye!”

Transitions

Recall that a common characteristic of ASD individuals is their ability to focus.  Transitions are a break in that focus.  Some transitions that a non ASD individual may not think about include: switching from one project to another, especially when the first one is not finished; breaking for lunch; adapting to a new information system; gaining a new responsibility.  Transitions can cause feelings similar to those that many avid readers have after finishing a good book.  There is a letdown period where you may wonder “oh no – what now?”  Imagine having that feeling several times a day.  When the ASD individual controls the transition, things go much more smoothly.  Whenever possible, involve the ASD individual in the transition planning, especially for significant transitions.  Allow the ASD individual to control their own minor transitions, such as when to take a break.  When presenting an unexpected transition to the ASD individual, be sympathetic and allow time for the individual to process through stressful emotions caused by the unplanned transition.

Closing

Eilene tells us that not everyone with Autism Spectrum Disorder has a formal diagnosis.  There are many adults who fit the description, but they were never diagnosed as ASD.  They may have been labeled “that odd kid who likes to play alone and won’t look you in the eye” or “that kid who is always causing problems or being rude.”  Next time you encounter an employee who has some of the difficulties described here, be more open to finding good ways of interacting with him or her.  You may be surprised at the innovative ideas they can come up with, if just given the understanding and chance they need.

Autism Abilities in the Workplace

This is an article I wrote for a Diversity newsletter at work.  I mainly wrote this article because I have a 9 yr old boy with Asperger’s and he will eventually be in the workforce.  Being employed by a large corporation with many “engineering types” – it is likely that there are some with these difficulties.  My company strives to have an inclusive and diverse workforce and I am glad to help!

***************************

Autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, Bi-polar, OCD, etc., etc., etc.  Each of these labels are applied to people with a wide variety of abilities and behaviors.  Many individuals with these labels are in the workforce.  In fact, companies such as SAP and Freddie Mac are heavily recruiting autistic individuals, even current college students.   This article will define Autism / Asperger’s (ASD), identify strengths applicable to the workplace, and provide information about their difficulties associated with being in the work force.

ASD Defined:

From DSM5.org ASD Fact Sheet:  “People with ASD tend to have communication deficits, such as responding inappropriately in conversations, misreading nonverbal interactions, or having difficulty building friendships appropriate to their age. In addition, people with ASD may be overly dependent on routines, highly sensitive to changes in their environment, or intensely focused on inappropriate items. Again, the symptoms of people with ASD will fall on a continuum, with some individuals showing mild symptoms and others having much more severe symptoms.”

Strengths

  • Exceptional memory.  This includes understanding concepts presented in material and images.
  • Detailed understanding of concrete concepts, rules and sequences.
  • Intensely focused.
  • Very precise and detail oriented, which can be combined with high levels of focus on tasks that others may not want to do.
  • Schedule driven.

Two difficult aspects of work for the ASD individual include social interactions and transitions.  Social interaction difficulties may include not understanding non verbal cues, strict adherence to rules and the expectation that others also adhere to said rules, blunt language (which is “truth” to them), and sometimes repetitive behaviors.  Transitions happen quite a bit more often than non ASD individuals realize, and each transition has the potential to cause distress in the ASD individual.

How do you know when you are boring someone you are talking with?  It is likely so automatic to you that you don’t even think about it.  ASD individuals often have favorite topics to discuss and most people are willing to listen for a period of time.  But when a non ASD person has had enough, he or she may start checking the time and giving non verbal hints that they want the conversation to come to a close.  ASD individuals typically do not catch these hints.  The best option is to use clear language that closes the conversation politely.  For example say something like, “Thank you for an interesting conversation.    Now I am going to a meeting.  Bye!”

Recall that a common characteristic of ASD individuals is their ability to focus.  Transitions are a break in that focus.  Some transitions that a non ASD individual may not think about include: switching from one project to another, especially when the first one is not finished; breaking for lunch; adapting to a new information system; gaining a new responsibility.  Transitions can cause feelings similar to those that many avid readers have after finishing a good book.  There is a let down period where you may wonder “oh no – what now?”  Imagine having that feeling several times a day.  When the ASD individual controls the transition, things go much more smoothly.  Whenever possible, involve the ASD individual in the transition planning, especially for significant transitions.  Allow the ASD individual to control their own minor transitions, such as when to take a break.  When presenting an unexpected transition to the ASD individual, be sympathetic and allow time for the individual to process through stressful emotions caused by the unplanned transition.