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Showing posts from August, 2013

Your Autistic College Student: Letting Go

One of the questions I was asked this week was how colleges should deal with autistic students who are too tethered to their parents. A college advisor explained to me that she has met too many students on the autism spectrum living on campus who rush home every weekend, and sometimes during the week, instead of making the transition to independent living.

"The parents make matters even worse. They call us, they call residential life, they call professors, and they'll even call deans. They don't trust us and they don't trust their children."

Okay, parents. Stop it! Just STOP IT. LET GO.

As your children head back to school, at all grade levels, you need to accept that your child will stumble a few times throughout the year. He or she will have to deal with stressors that are academic and social. The classroom and the campus are social settings with plenty of difficult lessons for all students.

Your job as a parent is to be a safety net, not a safety harne…

Writing and Autism: A Privileged Voice?

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Pencils (Photo credit: snowblink) Writing well does give one a louder, more effective public voice than other individuals. We know Temple Grandin, Dawn Prince Hughes, Stephen Shore, Lars Perner and others because they are autistics with books. Like most writers, these men and women work with editors, publicists, agents, and others to refine their works and reach out to the public. These are not normal autistic experiences, but they aren't normal experiences for anyone.

It isn't that autistics who write memoirs are rare, there are dozens of autistic memoirs and essays in print and in digital forms. But, these are not the voices of all autistics or even most autistics.

That's really no different from any other group with a few noted writers or public figures. Writers are unusual, period. Feminist writers don't represent all women. Black writers don't represent all African-Americans or other people of color. Gay writers don't represent the entire LGBT communit…

Support Group Suggestions

I have been invited to several support groups for autistic teens and adults over the last six years or so. The people leading these groups do a great job and have a difficult task. Still, many of the participants drift into the dark black hole of self-pity, dwelling on the negatives of life instead of the positives.

Yes, a support group exists to help members deal with negatives. But, dwelling on and reliving the negatives can be a vicious cycle as each participant adds another layer of negativity to what is shared by previous speakers.

Here are some suggestions to help overcome this challenge:

1) What did you accomplish this week that you believed you might not be able to do? How do you feel about that accomplishment?

2) What have you done recently to improve your life and the lives others?

3) What actions have you taken to be a good role model for others?

4) How are you challenging negative stereotypes about [autism or X]?

5) What do you plan to try in coming weeks?

By disc…

Tell Us What's Great about Your Autism! Yeah, right…

"Tell us what's great about your autism! What's your special gift or talent? What's your superpower?"

Really? Clearly the sender (probably using an automated mailing list) isn't familiar with my blog, public statements, or other writings. I don't have superpowers, no special gifts, and no unusual talents that I would attribute only or primarily to my autistic traits. Some talents might be associated with autistic traits, but they might also be tangentially related to genius, effort, parental upbringing, or who knows what else.

I've written repeatedly that I do not consider autism a gift. Not even close. I don't buy into the whole "Being disabled forced me to be better!" sloganeering. If you had to be injured to learn to be nice to other people, or an injury led you to some belief in a Supreme Purpose to life, that's fine. But my autistic traits are generally a pain to live with, literally and figuratively.

Tell you what's g…

Monochrome Autism Advocacy?

When I attend events like the recent Autism Society national conference, it reminds me that we do a lousy job reaching out to parents and providers with a broader set of experiences. Bluntly, the attendees tend to be white, middle-class, and female. That doesn't mean that there are not minority voices, or that there aren't some fathers present, but the gatherings are not reflective of our communities richness.

Conferences are expensive to attend, time-consuming, and not really something I do for social purposes. I admittedly skip the "town hall" gatherings, the fundraising gala, and other events. I walk the vendor exhibits when the hall is least crowded, often right after lunch. So, the events are not for everyone. Yet, they shouldn't seem so exclusive, either.

How can we attract more voices to the conference? I'm not sure, but when you are an insular group, even without meaning to be exclusive, you don't learn as much as you could.

The problem is, a…

Muttley Kitty

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Mutt, aka Muttley Kitty, Muttles, Muttford, and Twitchy, passed away on Thursday, August 8, 2013, at 9:45 a.m., after a long battle with cancer, lifelong heart issues, and age. Born May 1, 1995, Mutt was 18 years, three months old.

July 1995, with Mutt (front), J.C. playing with Alex, and Mimi Kitty keeping on eye on her adopted boys:


Mutt was just amazing. He was our little engineer, able to find his way to high spots and to open cupboard doors.

Before leaving California: Mutt, with J.C. Kitty on Mom's bed:


May, 2013, on our new bed frame, in the new house, looking pretty handsome for a kitty just turned 18:


Mutt wasn't doing well for most of 2013, but he had these few hours each week when he was still alert and the same old Muttley we always loved. We had to help him onto the bed, because even the step we bought for him became difficult to navigate. He really needed rails.

June, 2013: Sleeping next to his buddy, Misty Kitty:


Misty Kitty adored Mutt and would "guide&…

Autism and Child Pornography: A Toxic Combination - The Daily Beast

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English: Temple Grandin at a book signing at Rochester Community and Technical College in Rochester, Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Autism support specialist Heather Conroy (http://www.hconroyconsulting.com) and I are working on several short "pocket guides" for young adults on the autism spectrum. Our first guide, which we hope to have to publishers later this year, deals with sexuality and relationship in a frank (blunt!) way.

While I strongly disagree with some claims in this article, I have dealt with autistics (male and female) with obsessive online habits (usually gaming, but often in other ways, too). Stories like the following are why our book and others are needed by autistics, families, and support providers:
Autism and Child Pornography: A Toxic Combination - The Daily Beast
Aug 5, 2013 4:45 AM EDT It’s a disturbing trend we cannot ignore. Eustacia Cutler, mother of autism advocate Temple Grandin, on why autistic men are viewing child pornography—and being lab…

Autism and Asperger's syndrome may be biologically different, study finds - Los Angeles LA | Examiner.com

My wife and I have long thought "autism" and "Asperger's Syndrome" were distinct, based on observing, meeting, and interviewing people with diagnoses within the various autism spectrum categories. There is research finding high-fucntioning autistics and Asperger's are distinct, as well, which I have cited in my own research of learning patterns and accommodation needs.
Autism and Asperger's syndrome may be biologically different, study finds - Los Angeles LA | Examiner.com: There were some similarities in the brain patterns of the Asperger's and ASD participants, namely low connectivity in the region of the brain associated with language. However, the scientists noted stronger connectivity in regions of the brain than both the ASD and control groups. My diagnosis was high-fucntioning autism (HFA) which is not an official DSM-IV category, but is used by many clinicians and researchers. Often, the distinctions made by clinicians deal with language skil…