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Showing posts from March, 2011

Autism and Life after High School

I would like to thank St. Cloud Area School District 742 for a wonderful audience of high school students, teachers, and support staff. I spoke at Apollo High School Wednesday morning and it was a great audience. The topic of my presentation was "Life after High School," something that every junior and senior can't wait to experience. When we started talking about employment, I suggested it is in your best interest for legal reasons to disclose any disability to the human resource specialists at your organization. I also encourage students to contact the Disability Services at any colleges or universities they attend. There are some good reasons to be proactive. "Nothing about my disability affects my job," the student replied (paraphrasing). I hear variations of this from students, especially young adults with "hidden" disabilities. I've had students with seizure disorders, ASDs, migraines, auditory processing impairments, and learning disabilitie

Dealing with Travel

Friday I had to make a round-trip to Pittsburgh, via commuter jet. I hate flying. I hate the supposed "security" measures that cause long lines for minimal actual security. I hate the cramped jets, too. Flying simply isn't fun -- it is hours of stress. I didn't have much choice, either. I don't belong to any "Sky Miles" program, so I have to deal with the longer lines. I don't like to fly enough to want to have frequent flier miles. Ideally, I wouldn't fly more than once every two or three years. I didn't have to go through any new scanners, didn't have to be carefully inspected, etc. No, I just had to stand in a security line for an hour and ten minutes. That's insane. Of course people get angry with the system: it is stupid. The smell of airline Biscoff cookies ( ) still lingers in my mind. I don't mind the cookies, but the mix of peanut and cookie smell on the plane was overwhelming. Actually, I love the

Free eBook on Autism and Relationships

This blog post is a bit unusual. I am testing to see if visitors can download a free eBook from this blog. I have linked to the file, which sits on our Web server. We have successfully tested the ePub edition of A Spectrum of Relationships . Only the abridged ePub edition is available for free at this time, not an Amazon Kindle edition, due to Amazon's policy requesting only full, commercial editions from small publishers. Until the text is revised and edited, I'm not comfortable publishing it formally. The commercial version will be released for the Amazon Kindle as well as other devices. In fact, it might be released first for the Kindle, if things go as planned. Downloading an ePub can be a challenge: some browsers try to open the file directly. To download the ePub, you might have to "right-click" and download the linked file. If you have the ePub extension installed, the FireFox browser will open the ePub correctly. A Spectrum of Relationships (ePub file) [

Writing and Autism: Introduction

My wife is now formatting the free ePub edition of A Spectrum of Relationships. Even abridged, it is nearly 80-pages long and should be helpful for parents and teachers working with younger children and teens with autism spectrum disorders. You should be able to download a copy by the end of this week! I have many writing projects on my to-do list, from the April Script Frenzy to my regular tech column for a California magazine. Recently, a special education teacher sent me an e-mail asking about how I write and how she might use that information to help her students with written assignments. Exploring writing and autism is going to require more than a short blog post. I also don't want to compose an academic paper that would not help parents and students. Please let me know if this series of postings is lacking in some way. Various books on education and autism cite writing as one of the more frustrating subjects for autistic students (see references below). When I speak to

Friends and Autism

The last book excerpt I'll be posting from A Spectrum of Relationships . The free edition will be online soon. Friendships In many ways, our friends help define us to ourselves and others. By recognizing the people we want to spend time with and upon whom we rely for emotional support, we also recognize traits we like and want to emulate. According to psychologists, these “reflective” relationships are necessary to develop the “self” into maturity. Truly deep and meaningful friendships are rare for everyone, with some surveys suggesting most Americans have only three or four close friends. However, having a few quality friendships is all we need; numbers do not trump quality.  Allow me to recognize a difficult reality faced by parents, caregivers, and educators: many individuals with autism do not form close friendships during their lifetimes. Autism impairs the ability to form one-on-one relationships, necessarily affecting friendships. Some adults with ASDs have told me they h

eBook Status, Busy Week Ahead

The free version of A Spectrum of Relationships is being edited this weekend and should be online no later than mid-week. The free edition will be abridged due to the restrictions of various online bookstores. The free edition will cover interpersonal relationships from strangers to friends; only issues of dating, sexuality, and long-term relationships will be missing from this release. Okay, those are big topics. After reading the free abridged edition you will be able to decide if you want to read more or not. The full-length first edition will be available after two to three months, at worst. During that time, we will be fine-tuning the eBook design and making any necessary updates based on reader feedback. If you have any questions or suggestions relating to autism and relationships, please let me know. I want the full edition of the text to be as useful as possible. This week I am making a quick round-trip to the East Coast. I also have a presentation next week and some othe

What Do You Want to Do?

I am speaking to several high school classes in coming weeks on the issue of employment. I've been told my honesty is why the schools are interested in my presentations, though I have admitted that I'm "under-employed" at the moment and uncertain of my own future. When I speak to students about employment, I tell them there are several types of "vocational discovery" and we often don't know which type we will experience until well into adulthood. Some of us experience more than one type of vocational discovery, too. The types of discovery I mention include: Certainty from youth Accidental inspiration Experimental elimination I was certain from first or second grade that I would be a writer, at least avocationally, and ideally professionally to some extent. But, I also loved science and technology. By the fifth grade, I was fascinated by business and the stock market. To this day I find myself trying to balance my various interests. The only constant is w

Always Offending Someone

Today I had a pleasant e-mail exchange with another autism blogger. It reminded me of a basic truth about autism: express opinions or facts, you are certain to offend someone. You could state that autism begins with the letter "A" and someone will read into this statement something conspiratorial. "Autism" as a topic is as polarized as the current U.S. political environment. Every issue is an "us vs. them" issue. Human existence is nuanced. My ethical system is rather rigid, but I also realize that sometimes we weigh "right" and "wrong" on a metaphorical scale. Our opinions on some matters are reflections of our experiences and cultural norms. I'd like to argue science is science, but even science seems to engender endless debates. Scientists will admit funding and publishing are definitely political and socially complex. Some of the reactions to blog topics are anticipated, while others have surprised me. Allow me to explore so

Kindle Subscriptions to The Autistic Me

I am pleased to announce that if you own an Amazon Kindle or use any Kindle software reader (Mac, Windows, iPad, etc.) you can now subscribe to The Autistic Me and receive the blog in an ad-free format. The Kindle supports "text-to-speech" and several other accessibility options, which is important to me and many of my readers. To subscribe: Setting up the blog as a "subscription" was the first step towards preparing a series of eBooks for release via Amazon. Thank you everyone for supporting this blog and my other projects.

Autism and the Workplace

The following is another except from the book I'm writing, A Spectrum of Relationships . As I have announced before, there will be a free public draft  before the final edition is assigned ISBNs and uploaded to the major online bookstores. Only the abridged draft will be free, but it should help people determine if they want to purchase the final revision of the book. As always, this section is only an excerpt but all comments and suggestions are welcomed. Avoid Being Annoying The key to being respected as a peer and colleague is to avoid being perceived as annoying. Whether you can do the work assigned is less important in terms of relationships than your attitude about the work. Since most of our relationships start at school or work, maintaining the respect of peers and colleagues is important. Some autistic individuals do not judge their peers and colleagues, but many of us do. My discussions with autistic students and workers indicate most of us judge peers and colleagues

Real and Virtual Organizing of Books

Today my wife and I spent a bit too much on books, one weakness we share. The local Borders Books is closing (actually four are closing in our area) and it isn't a popular store. In an urban area, it's not unusual to have a "bad" neighborhood mere blocks from a "good" one. The bookstore is hidden in a dying strip center, behind a gym and across from a Walmart. This is not the neighborhood for a large bookstore. The Walmart is always busy, but I was often one of four or five patrons in the bookstore. Even the well-known used bookstore, which is on one of the busiest corners in the metro area, is seldom busy. After comparing prices to other sources, illustrating another issue for Borders, we bought several books that were (finally) cheaper at the store. Previously, Borders only received our book-buying business when the chain graced us with discount coupons, otherwise we tend to favor used bookstores, online retailers, and Barnes & Noble (one local B&a

Autism As Criminal Defense

Using "autism" as a legal defense for criminal behavior bothers me. I think that's just an attempt to avoid responsibility for crimes, especially in cases in which a brilliant defendant uses Asperger's Syndrome as a defense for murder. I don't like that at all. A story in the Washington Post has raised several questions about autism and violence on several online forums. In Va. assault case, anxious parents recognize 'dark side of autism' By Theresa Vargas Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, March 13, 2011; 12:30 AM When a Stafford County jury this month found an autistic teenager guilty of assaulting a law enforcement officer and recommended that he spend 10.5 years in prison, a woman in the second row sobbed. It wasn't the defendant's mother. She wouldn't cry until she reached her car. It was Teresa Champion. Champion had sat through the trial for days and couldn't help drawing parallels between the defendant, Reginald "

Writing (and Wanting) to Feel Productive

My wife, amazing person that she is, has been trying to figure out how I might relax and resume writing. I was supposed to write four or more screenplays this year, and I vow that I will. I don't believe I'll be able to write more than four, but I know I can compose four. The problem is that my mind took a hiatus for the last month. Instead of maintaining my normal writing pace, I ended up focused instead on two recent job interviews. I had some bit of hope, a little tiny sliver of hope, approximately a 10 to 15 percent hope, that I might land a full-time job. That is probably reduced to a 5% hope by now, if that, and I keep trying to remind myself that logically the career path was out of my hands. I worked hard to earn interviews, but the economy simply is what it is. By not giving up, I did what I could. I was a finalist for three or four jobs this year, but in the end nothing materialized. The stress of the last two months affected my writing, which was supposed to be

Organizations with Misleading Names

Earlier today I was rendered befuddled when someone cited the "federal standards" of the National Autism Center, implying the organization is somehow a government organization. Moments later, I heard a radio commercial for the National Debt Relief Institute. This was followed an hour or so later by a message from the Back Pain Institute. My mind was reeling. I cannot believe it is an accident or in any manner unintentional that both for-profit and non-profit organizations with various agendas adopt names that imply a connection to the federal government or to respected research universities. In the autism community, the rhetorical move of including "National" or "Institute" in organization names is widespread. The following is only one example and is not meant to focus on one particular group. The organization might be wonderful -- but the naming is problematic. National Autism Center. Since today wasn't the first time someone cited this organization t

No autism epidemic, Norwegian study suggests

No autism epidemic, Norwegian study suggests Researchers involved in the "Barn i Bergen" project got widely varying results when they used different methods to investigate the same group of children. The first sub-study concluded that 0.44 per cent of the children had ASD, whereas the result a few years later was 0.87 per cent. "The clinical test revealed several additional cases of the disorder. This suggests that a diagnosis of ASD cannot be ruled out merely on the basis of interviews with the parents," Ms Posserud explains. According to Ms Posserud, it is the children with normal intelligence who most often go unnoticed. These children were not included in the definition of autism a few decades ago when the diagnosis was only applied in the most serious cases. Today ASD covers difficulties with social interaction across a range of intellectual abilities. Since the definition has been expanded, many more people have been diagnosed with autism. Diagnostic criteria

Autism: Peers and Colleagues

I have reworked the introduction to the section in A Spectrum of Relationships dealing with peers and colleagues. I hope this introduction is better. I'm not going to repost the entire chapter at this time, only the introduction. Colleagues and Peers For some people with autism spectrum disorders, colleagues and peers are the closest non-familial relationships in their lives. Autistic individuals with occupational or academic success often find their success because of an ability to hyper-focus on a topic or skill of special interest. This focus is one aspect of “autistic perseveration,” a near-obsessive interest in an object, concept, topic, or activity. The reason I chose to discuss peers and colleagues in the same section is simple: workplaces aren’t that different from school — especially high school. Schools and businesses are social settings and our peers and colleagues cannot help but form opinions of us. Because they come into constant contact with us, our peers and collea