Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Neurodiversity or disorder?

I get asked about my views on Neurodiversity every so often. Yes, I do believe it's wonderful that there can be different kinds of human brain wiring. The world would be a pretty boring (and unproductive) place if we didn't have different kinds of minds. However, I don't agree that we should just label Autism a "wonderful difference" and end the conversation.

We live in a world where sometimes Neurodiversity gets in the way. A child who has no way of communicating needs help. We can still value his/her differences while teaching him/her ways to communicate with others. Perhaps through speech therapy or ABA. If it isn't hurting the kid, I don't oppose treatment for those things that prevent somebody from having a good quality of life. Yes, the kid may be happy at the moment, but 20 years down the road, it would be terrible if the kid was now an adult in an institution because somebody decided "hey, he's neurodiverse, let's not change a thing". A kid who is self-injurious or hurts others presents a problem and NEEDS help for their sake and their family's sake. It's just not reasonable to "let the kid be" in a case like this.

There's a fine line between helping somebody and trying to make them somebody else, so it takes a bit of thinking on what to treat and what is just "quirky".

And surprise, there are people with Asperger's who WANT treatment. I don't want a treatment, I feel happy where I am. But it's not my place (or anybody else's) to deny a person the right to seek treatment for what they feel impairs their quality of life.

I do however want to point out, I greatly dislike snake oil salesmen and people suggesting dangerous/unproven "cures" for Autism. No, it's not okay to put anybody's life at risk to treat Autism. Please do plenty of research from valid sources before trying anything.

On that note, make sure you read this if you are trying OSR#1, it is NOT safe:,0,747838.story

Some resources to check out treatments before using them:
Alternative Medicine (MayoClinic)

Autism's Alternative Therapies

25 signs of a Quack

Collection of resources for sensory issues

This post is a collection of resources for sensory issues; since many people with Autism have sensory issues.

General resources:
The Gift: A blog for caregivers of Sensational Children

Sensory Issues and Autism

Sensory Processing Disorder

Homemade Sensory Diet for the Summer

99 Sensory Activities for Any Child

Sensory Intergration Activities for Children with Autism

College and Asperger's/Autism

I just finished registering for classes at the local college and thought it would be a great time to write about college and Asperger's Syndrome/Autism.

For people uncomfortable with regular classes, many colleges now offer online courses; it is even possible to complete an entire degree online. Personally, I am taking college classes in person because I find not getting distracted while on the computer a bit tough! However, if the social anxiety is bad, it may be a good idea for a student with Asperger's/Autism.

Interesting enough, a nickname for Asperger's is "little professor syndrome" and CBS even had an article about college professors with Asperger's/Autism! So the idea of people on the spectrum at college is not at all strange, students can succeed with the right support.

One very helpful thing is for ASD students to get a chance to explore the campus before classes and have copies of a map. It helps with anxiety to already know where you're going without crowds and the pressure of getting to class on time. I'm already familar with the campus so that's one worry I don't have.

A good idea before picking a college would be to scope out whether they have disability services for students with Asperger's/Autism. Even if the student ends up not having many needs, it is important to have somebody to go to if needs arise.

Organization can be a huge problem for students on the spectrum. So, a wise investment is a planner for assignments and scheduling study time. College classes don't have a resource teacher asking "are you working on your project due X?" so it is important to write several reminders and break it down into steps. Perhaps even scheduling alerts in a phone would help.

Although it's too late to apply this year, there is a scholarship specifically for those with Asperger's/Autism:

Other useful links:
Asperger's at College
Sending Your Child with Autism to College
College and the Autistic Student

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sensory friendly clothing

Okay, first off, let me say I am not paid by, nor have actually owned these products. I am just trying to provide links to sites that look decent for sensory friendly clothing: Soft Clothing has clothes ranging from the casual to more dressy, all intended for kids with sensory issues. Prices seem to range $15-$30.

You can also find them on Facebook

And they have a social network:

Another site is here: Fun and Function Special Needs clothing
According to the site, their clothing provides all day sensory pressure. Sounds interesting and designs are cute:

Okay, yes, both of the above sites are child only, and of course their are adults looking for sensory friendly clothing too.

Forgive me, the only actual sensory clothing site for adults with SPD/ASD I could find was:

Sorry! If anybody has any suggestions, please feel free to comment or e-mail.

Teachers: Don't miss this!

I found this great post through Autisable called Setting Up an Autism Classroom on a Budget that has pretty good and well explained tips on how to set up an Autism friendly classroom on a budget. I think it actually makes perfect sense to publish it now, as you need to have an eye out for yard sales and store sales over the summer.

Other useful articles on setting up a classroom for ASD children:
Autism Classroom Organization
12 Tips for setting up an autism friendly classroom

Just a few random thoughts of my own:
*For goodness sake, keep the globes out of reach when wanting ASD children/teens to focus! I mean, maybe it's just me, but when I'm around a globe, I don't give a darn about what a teacher is saying. Seriously, in preschool you probably found me playing with the globe. And what happened in high school when the teacher handed out globes? Yep, spinning! You see in the movies when people go "Ooo, shiny"? It's kinda like that, except "Ooo, spin!"

*What on Earth is with giving people the wrong size chairs/desks? If a person can't *sit* without discomfort, how do you expect them to get anything done? I've gone in classrooms where I've been offered a chair not close to the right size. I actually notice in both myself and the kids in Sunday School that beanbags are easier, but that's not always possible.

*I love when the teacher has a schedule. Even when I took dual enrollment English (basically, college English in high school) I loved having a syllabus to know what was happening, when. I wasn't great at creating my own schedules, but they were appreciated. (Even when I insisted I hated them, I needed them)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Autism and traveling

I was REALLY impressed at the kindness and thought put into this hotel suite to make it "autism-friendly":

The only thing I would add it to it was a light dimmer, but I love his attitude! I wish more business owners would be more active in the autism community.

Anyways, there are other things you can do to make traveling easier with an autistic loved one (or even if you're autistic yourself) :

*Don't cram a lot into one day! Often a Neurotypical person wants to jam pack a vacation full of activities but somebody on the Autism spectrum is easily overwhelmed by too much activities, especially since they are out of their routine.

*Create a plan and try to stick to it. Of course you can't help minor changes, but having it predictable can go a long ways towards making it easier to cope with.

*Explain the plan and consider having a copy, whether you use social stories or visual schedules. After all, it gives a sense of security to know what happenes next.

*Look up ahead of time resturants that will have food that meet dietary needs. Whether it's a GFCF diet or a picky eater, it helps to know ahead of time a good place to eat. Why cause stress over food when you're on vacation for FUN?

*Don't forget the first aid kit. medications, and medical info! Anybody can get scrapes or worse accidents but it seems like us on the Spectrum are a little accident prone. (I am!) So just be prepared, better not to be 100 miles away and realize you need a daily medication or forgot medical info.

*Try to schedule things that are part of the normal routine if you can. Maybe you know that the hotel has Nicklodeon and plays THE favorite show or everyday coloring is a favorite activity.

*Bring along a "car/plane/train treat bag". Okay, it doesn't take much to go to the dollar store and stuff a bag with stuff that amuses a kid. Wouldn't you rather shell out $10 to make a kid happy during a ride than deal with a screaming one for hours? If your kid loves something like DS games though, maybe check out the used ones, which can sell for under $10 and provide entertainment.

*Consider bringing an MP3 player or earplugs to block out loud/annoying sounds.

Of course, there are some people who, well, jusr don't like traveling. (I'm one of them, my idea of adventure is a new store in the city) But these tips make it easier.

Inspiration and further ideas here:
TravelMuse Tips
CNN travel tips: Autism
Walt Disney World and Autism Six Tips for Traveling with Autism

Curious whaf ABA looks like?

I had never actually seen what an Applied Behavioral Analysis session looks like so I looked it up. Anyways, this is a pretty short video of an ABA session. (By the way, I'd love to hear any thoughts on if this looks similar to what you've seen if you're familiar with ABA)

I have to say, as a little kid I would have done pretty decently with a session like that, other than I didn't like M&Ms much.

Cool and Eclectic store

I found an awesome store at Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach, VA but they also have a website:

They have very unusual and interesting stuff at reasonable prices AND the person I talked to there is friendly (and patient). Generally no matter how much I like the items in a store I won't go back if it isn't friendly.

Anyways, whether you're looking for a piece of furniture or an accent to hang on your wall, it's a good place to check. I mean, I'd prefer a chair with a surprised crazy looking face than a plain one. If you're in the Hampton Roadss area or vacationing it's worth checking out. They do ship everywhere, so even if you're visiting from Oregon you can still get your items shipped to your front door.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Input from a parent on the Autism Spectrum

I'm very grateful to Vicky (outoutout from the Autism Women's Network ) for answering a few questions about being a parent on the Autism spectrum.

1) What is this biggest challenge(s) of being a parent on the Autism spectrum?

For me, the biggest challenge is dealing with my children's need for my attention. Sometimes I just need to take a break from 'everything', all stimulation, and unfortuantely that's not always possible.

2) How do you overcome that challenge(s) ?
By taking frequent, short breaks - usually in the bathroom! I've also involved my children in some of my relaxation/stimming activities, such as listening to music and spinning. They do the same, and we all stim together.

3) What do you wish other people would know about parents on the Autism spectrum?

That we exist. That we are capable of being functional just like everyone else. We may not do things exactly the way the rest of the world does them, but we do them just fine.

4) Is it hard to relate to other parents not on the spectrum?

For me, it is. With parents of children on the autism spectrum, I often find myself sympathising more with the kids than the adults. If I tell the other parents that I'm autistic, too, I'm treated differently, so I feel I've got to hide it. It also doesn't help that many of the other parents are 'yummy mummy' types who like to gossip about men and fashion, two subjects I just cannot feign much interest in.

5) What do you think communities could do to support parents on the Autism spectrum?

Hmmm not really sure, to be honest. Perhaps a bit more understanding is in order. Understanding that we're competent people, too. Reach out to us. Talk to us.

Really? This is a good thing?

Dr. Wakefield had a 'lovely' story at his anti-vaccine rally:
"About 15 years ago a mother from London approached him and said “Do not judge me too harshly Dr. Wakefield, but when I die I am taking my son with me. You see, I’m all he has. I’m the only one who loves him.”

“I didn’t judge,” said Wakefield. “I was moved by the love that a mother must have for her child that she would take his life rather than have him fall upon a society that really didn’t give a damn.”
(My deepest thanks and recommends to the
Autism News Beat for their post on his rally)

So....there you have it, Wakefield thinks it's a loving thing to kill your autistic child when you die. Why, oh why, do some parents have outrage over percieved dangers in vacciness but not their matryr flat out approving of killing autistics? The world is a tough place for autistics so we should improve it, not kill the autistics! Any decent human being, regardless of where they stand on the vaccine issues, should see how wrong it is to say this. Where's the outrage? It's one thing for a frustrated parent to say something at wit's end, it's quite another for a doctor to agree with them.