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Posts Tagged ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’

Catching Up with Zev and Justin from Amazing Race

February 20, 2011 11 comments

The Amazing Race:Unfinished Business,’ returns to a cast of familiar faces looking to make good on their mistakes. Tune in for the premier, Sunday February 20, 8/7  EST.

Zev and Justin’s friendship started six years ago when they were working as camp counselors and the two have been very close ever since.  Zev has Asperger’s Syndrome, but they don’t let it affect their relationship.  They share friends and interests, and the friendship is as mutually beneficial as any could be.

For more on Zev and Justin, check out their ‘Amazing Race’ Biography.



Are you excited about the upcoming season of Amazing Race?
Justin Kanew: We are really excited!

How are you guys connected?
J: We both went to Greylock Camp in Massachusetts as kids and was a little older…
Zev Glassenberg: You are still older than me…
J: (Laughs) I came back as a counselor and we ran a world-class flag football program together.

Why did you choose to come back?
Z: Well, we wanted to come back for redemption and also for an amazing adventure.
J: I was literally praying for the opportunity to return since Camp Zobio when we lost the passport.

What makes you guys such a good pair?
J: Zev says he’s the amazing and I’m the race!

What is the game plan for this season?
Z: Well we just want to win and to have a good time and compete the best we can. We just will rely on each other and not on other people.
J: We also want to keep up a good attitude and just to be good to each other. We do not trust anybody! Just wanted to make sure we were standing on our own feet

Zev, how does having Asperger’s Syndrome affect you as a player in Amazing Race.
Z: The first time I was going into this brand new world and didn’t know what to expect. I had to change my routine and that was bothersome and worrisome. This time I knew more of what to expect, but it was still worried.

What is it like being back on The Amazing Race?
Z: Amazing. I lived my dream twice! I had a blast! I want to do it again and again and again. They should just have us on every season!
J: Ha, Ha, Ha!

So what are your day jobs?
Z: I’m an aspiring actor.
J: I work for National Lampoon making movies. It is a fun place to be.

What are your hobbies and interests?
Z: Reading books.
J: And rooting for the lakers
Z: I’d say that’s an interest.
J: Explain your art
Z: I do stuff with whole punches. I use a special paper and punch holes then glue whole punches into a design.

We have to ask, did you hang onto your passports this time around?
J: Heyyoooo!
Z: We were checking every 5 minutes.
J: I thought we’d get through one interview without that question! Zev had permission to ask me every 5 seconds. We were constantly checking!
Z: It was like a newborn baby. We wanted to make sure it was there and alive!

Catch up with the guys on Twitter at  @zevglassenberg and @justin_kanew

Make sure to tune into the Amazing Race, Sunday, February 20th on CBS! Check your local listings.

The Experts Speak – Episode 215: Just Go Home

February 9, 2011 6 comments

For the “Just Go Home,” episode recap, visit here.

Asperger’s syndrome and keeping secrets – isn’t this an oxymoron? In this episode, Max quite naturally (and without malice) reveals a secret that his sister, Haddie, would rather he didn’t. She’s still seeing Alex against her parents’ wishes and has been hiding it, but as Haddie is reminded in this episode, if there’s an individual with Asperger’s syndrome in the family, secrets are non-existent.

This can cause great difficulty, uncomfortable situations and family disputes. When Max lets her secret slip, Haddie is put into a painful situation as Adam and Kristina become surprised and upset with her. Adam and Kristina had already grounded her in a previous episode for keeping secrets, and now Max has let her cat out of the bag. This doesn’t endear Max to Haddie, a problem that siblings of Asperger’s kids struggle with on a daily basis.

Having the ability to hold secrets for any length of time requires trust between individuals and an understanding of others’ needs. This is very difficult for someone on the spectrum. A core feature of autism spectrum disorder is impairment in understanding the social needs of other people, since ASD entails a lack of underlying social understanding and perspective taking.

In order to keep a secret, one needs to know who can be told the information in question and who cannot. This type of problem solving requires abstract reasoning and sorting through a myriad of information bytes at lightning speed, and finally coming to a reasonable solution that works out for all. Those with autism spectrum are concrete thinkers and exceptionally honest – if asked a question, they will respond with the truth, without taking the time to analyze and reflect what should be said and not said. Thus, secrets are hard for them to keep for any length of time.

ASD or not, some secrets should be kept – such as answers to test questions and personal family information. But other secrets are best told, such as those involving criminal activity or anything entailing the exploitation or manipulation of the person with ASD. But how is a person with autism spectrum to know the difference? Some secrets are tiny and have no real consequences; some are major and can endanger life. As siblings grow up, they tell each other many secrets (parents, this should not be a surprise) and as a result, they learn by doing: when to keep secrets, when to reveal them, and what should never be told. But when you add a child with autism spectrum disorder to the mix, typically developing siblings may end up feeling that they can’t trust their own flesh and blood, and the sibling with the disorder is placed in social situations he can’t figured out and that continually get him or her in trouble.

When faced with the type of situation Max finds himself in in this episode, those with ASD will usually tell it like it is – revealing to parents, siblings, their friends, acquaintances and perfect strangers things that shouldn’t be told. This can be either a positive or a negative; how others handle the completely honest statements made by the child with ASD will determine how much trouble will follow. If a very young child, most adults will laugh over the blunder; if an older adolescent or adult, grave consequences can result.

For the child with autism spectrum, this whole business of keeping secrets can be very confusing. Appropriate instruction on secret keeping is both difficult and delicate and should be tackled carefully by parents and teachers. Even after intensive instruction however, making this type of judgment requires split-second analysis of multiple factors, both concrete and humanistic. So don’t be surprised when the kid spills the beans.

Written by Sheila Wagner, M.Ed.

To read this full article visit, “The Experts Speaks,” on the Parenthood website.

Parenthood – “A House Divided”

February 2, 2011 28 comments

On this week’s episode, “A House Divided,” of Parenthood, Zeek takes Max on a camping trip; it’s a Braverman family tradition.While Adam and Kristina are nervous that Max being outside of his normal environment will lead to an unsuccessful trip. They provide a manual for Zeek, but he is extremely offended; he can camp with his own grandson.

Out in the wild, Zeek and Max arrive at the campsite. Zeek asks for Max’s help setting up the tent, but can’t get his attention or help. Zeek tells Max stories about his camping trips with the other Braverman men. When Max asks if they have done everything they were suppose to do, why can’t they go home? When Max doesn’t like Zeek’s answer, he has a full meltdown and Zeek doesn’t know what to do.

While at Julia’s, Zeek calls Adam for help with Max. Adam asks to talk to Max immediately. Zeek confesses to not reading the instruction manual that Kristina provided. Adam lays it on Max and gives him a choice. He can come home, but if he does he’ll miss out on something really special. Ultimately the decision is Max’s to make. When Max tells Zeek they can stay, Zeek is amazed. Adam and Kristina wait at Zeek and Camille’s for their arrival the following morning to welcome them home with open arms. Zeek has a touching moment with Adam tells him what a wonderful boy Max is.

How do you cope when your family doesn’t understand you or your child’s struggles?


Watch the full episode of Parenthood here

In Their Own Words – My Prayer

January 6, 2011 35 comments

This “In Their Own Words” is by Karen Weaver. Karen is the mother of three sons, two of which have Asperger Syndrome. To read more visit her blog, “Confessions of an Asperger’s Mom.”

I am throwing my hands up to this thing called Aspergers today.  I don’t know what else to do but pray for my children, especially my 15 year-old son Red.

Today I am praying for his mind to be opened to new possibilities.

I am praying for love, acceptance and understanding from his peers.

I am praying for the day when he will find a special friends or group of friends who will be there for him and accept him just as he is. I know they’re out there.

I am praying that he will listen and hear when others are trying to help him -that he won’t be so locked into his own thought process that he can’t let new insights seep through and actually help him to change his life for the better. I realize that I can not do this for him, as much as I want to.  He has to do this for himself.

I am praying for guidance to advocate for him, to put the right supports in place for him, to parent him in the most loving and honorable way.

I pray for PATIENCE.  I need a large dose of that.

I pray that those who are employed to support him will do their jobs to the best of their ability, that they will not let him fall through the cracks. That they will see the possibilities in him. That they will assist me in teaching him self-responsibility and that they will do so in a loving way.

I pray that he will not give in to depression and self-loathing.

I pray that he will make it through this day, this week, this year having grown, learned and matured.  That he will head into his future being everything that he can be.

I pray that he will grow up to be a positive contribution to society -that he will be confident and able to take care of himself and be a responsible adult.

I hope you will pray with me.  If you don’t believe in prayer -that you will meditate and send positive thoughts our way.

I have a tall order here -and we need all the help we can get.

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

Millard Public School, iSEE Project

October 11, 2010 1 comment
This post is written by Susan McAdam of Millard Public Schools. Millard Public Schools received a grant from Autism Speaks to fund a new and innovative program for students with autism. The iSEE(Interactive Social Education Experiences), program has participants from all three Millard High School. The training and activities for students are planned, implemented, and supervised by staff members with specialized training in working with students with an autism spectrum disorder.

Once a month, the iSEE group, which included students with ASD and their neurotypical peers, went on an outing so the students could experience social activities and generalize their newly learned communication skills. One of the outings was to Fun-Plex, an amusement park with games and rides. After playing miniature golf and other games, they went on some of the rides. After riding the roller coaster, Ryan approached one of the staff members and excitedly exclaimed, “I’ve been having a great time with my friend, Calvin!” That was the first time Ryan had ever called anyone a friend, but it was not the last. During the remainder of the project, Ryan again referred to Calvin and a couple other students as friends. To the staff and Ryan’s parents, this was a major success. Ryan’s mother is ecstatic over the progress her son has made and has told school staff several times that he has grown as a result of the project and that she believes he will make further progress during the second year of the project.

At first, one of the students was resentful about being included in the project and participated only grudgingly. He felt his social communication skills were fine and needed no improvement. After having attended several workshops and a couple community outings, he voluntarily told a staff member that he had been wrong and that the project had in fact helped him. Before the project ended, he was more than willing to talk to other students.

In classes, several students have had more success both inside and outside the classroom. Before the project, one student had been reluctant to speak during class. By mid-way through second semester, his comments and questions had tripped. Another student began to smile, make eye contact, and interact more with peers and he seemed happier and more content. A third began to greet people first when walking between classes rather than ignoring them when they greeted him as he previously had been accustomed to doing. Another started taking more personal responsibility for his actions. Consequently, he had fewer and less intense outbursts and altercations. Most of the rest have increased their social interaction during the school day, sometimes seeking out others to sit and talk with.

Quotes by Parents of Students with ASD:

  • “He (my son) has, on occasion, asked me how my day went, which he never used to do. He has made outreach to a couple potential friends.”
  • “I have noticed him (my son) initiating social interactions. Instead of waiting for someone to greet him, he will come up and greet the person first. He is talking more…he has been more willing to share his thoughts.”

As the iSEE staff had anticipated, neurotypical peers participating in the project became more empathetic and gained an increased understanding of how to interact with peers with ASD. They also became much more aware of the difficulties students with ASD face and supported their new friends in social situations. For example, when a group of students not involved in the project were laughing at a student with ASD, one of the peers verbally defended him and told the students to stop.

_______________________________________________

After hearing about a social skills program for students with asperger’s syndrome and high functioning autism being done by the Munroe-Meyer Institute of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the Millard Public Schools’ Autism Specialist thought it was something that could be adapted to benefit the school district’s high school students. The program was adapted and Millard applied unsuccessfully for a grant. However, the Autism Specialist was undeterred, revised the program based on the reviewer comments and reapplied. Voila, a much appreciated grant came through.

Millard’s goal was to help students in the district with AS and HFA improve their social communication skills as a way to improve the quality of their lives immediately and in the long term. Special Education teachers held weekly after school workshops where one neurotypical peer was paired with two students with ASD in Friendship Groups. The groups also went on monthly outings to places like a blowing alley, a snow tubing location, and an indoor water resort.  Sometimes progress seemed slow, especially when one or two students decided they didn’t want to participate because they believed they had good communication skills and when approximately 80% the students refused to phone or e-mail their peers because “we don’t have any reason to!” and because “nobody calls anybody anymore, they text or do Facebook.”

Even though the going seemed slow from time to time, there were obvious successes. One of the participants joined an after school club. A few students got together outside of group time to socialize. During the tubing outing when one of the students was injured, the other participants expressed empathy that they would not have earlier. Parents let the teachers know their children had shared information and had practiced reciprocal interaction with them. The Autism Specialist and other teachers continued through the project to hear positive comments from regular classroom teachers and parents about improvements the students had made.

Teachers felt the project warranted continuation following the close of the grant period because of the successes they had observed and learned about from others. Students were offered a free movie ticket so they could arrange an outing with a friend. Most were happy to receive the gift but one student refused it because he would be doing so under false pretenses. A week or so later, however, he approached one of the teachers to say he had decided who he’d like to see a movie with, named the movie and asked if it was too late to accept the movie ticket!

Since the close of the funding period, one of the students was involved in community service activities to the extent that he was nominated for a major United Way of the Midlands volunteer award in April…and he won one of the most coveted awards. This same student obtained his first job as a bagger at a local grocery store where he has been quite successful. Another student, the one who joined an after school club during the funding period, has continued his involvement. These and other success stories have resulted in the Special Education Department’s decision to not only continue the program, but to expand it to include more students.

Word of the project’s success has spread in the district and beyond. With assistance from the Autism Specialist, one of the middle schools modeled a successful program after iSEE. Soon after, a second middle school initiated a program and other middle schools are expected to follow suit. Representatives from many of the other 11 Omaha area school districts have inquired about the program and the Nebraska Autism Spectrum Disorder Network has invited Millard’s Autism Specialist to speak at next year’s annual conference.

Autism Awareness Month Kickoff at Brandeis University

April 16, 2010 1 comment

This is a guest post by Jake Crosby. Jake is a college student with Asperger Syndrome at Brandeis University who is double majoring in History and Health: Science, Society and Social Policy.

On March 19, a Friday night, SPECTRUM – the autism awareness organization at Brandeis University, threw its first-ever related event in conjunction with Brandeis’s B-deis Records. The time was from 9 p.m. to midnight, and the place was Chalmondley’s – the coffee house on campus, popularly known as “Chums.” An array of bands from every genre of music from techno, to folk, to fusion, to alternative rock, came to perform at an event hosted by Brandeis records. For that night, all these diverse groups had but one thing in common: they were raising money and awareness for autism.

Throughout the event I was overjoyed to see the enthusiasm of all my fellow students present. It was a gathering unlike one I had ever seen before. These students, most of whom I previously had nothing to do with, presumably because of the virtual wall built up between us by my condition, were now here to show their support for those affected by the disability that has separated them and I until then.

After a flurry of announcements towards the beginning, I had my minute or two of fame when the microphone was turned over to me, where I was introduced as “Jake Crosby from the autism spectrum.” I then spoke about our club, the event, and I encouraged people to donate money to the families of Massachusetts affected by autism (Brandeis is located in Waltham, Mass., nine miles west of Boston).

Then the performance continued with the talented groups going up and playing, while throughout telling the audience emphatically to donate money for autism. The night was kicked off with Jess Saade and Fizz, who were followed by Tess Razer, a techno duo who were performing their first performance ever. They sure got off to a great start. They were followed by Zoey Hart and Paul Gale, who played an authentic folk duet. Doug Moore then went up who taught everyone what a great performance you can give with just an acoustic guitar, followed by the IceKimonians – an all-Asian alternative rock group who managed to fool everyone, or at least myself, into thinking they were Japanese – they weren’t. All these groups, in spite of their shockingly different musical tastes, all had one great thing in common: they were relentless in telling everyone to donate for autism, and in spreading awareness for the disorder at the end of each song.

One performer, Lisa Fitzgerald, and in my view one of the best musicians, even correctly stated the current prevalence of the disorder – 1%! After her, came the last act, when an enormous fusion group of about seven or so people called “Code Rad” got up to give the ending finale – a dazzling performance of guitars, basses, drums, saxes and horns. It was by far the largest group to have performed all night, a night to remember.

We did fairly well for donations. I did not count the precise amount, but from my brief glance at the collections box, I could tell we had a considerably generous audience, thanks largely in part to the persistence of the musicians in telling everyone to give to this good cause. I am very thankful to all them for their work and also thankful to B-Deis Records for putting on this event for us, especially Charley Wolinsky for being such a great announcer, not to mention Chums for hosting the event. I would also like to thank Fizz, who really helped make this even turn out to be as successful as it was. Last but not least, one person who particularly deserves credit for making this all happen is my fellow co-founder, Lauren Grewal, for setting it up in the first place.

In Their Own Words – Letter to My Younger Self

April 15, 2010 58 comments

I once received an e-mail from a woman, a reader of my blog, wanting to know what sort of advice I could give to her nine-year-old daughter recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. She gave me a very thoughtful suggestion, which was to write a blog entry in the form of a letter to my younger self, which could then also serve as advice for current parents of children with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

I was not diagnosed until age 10, but I remember very clearly the loneliness, confusion, and frustration that came to define my life at that time. I remember how I had no one to turn to back then, no one who could tell me that everything was going to be okay. A simple truth of pre-teenhood and adolescence is that we never believe adults or anyone who tells us that everything is going to be all right. This is not due of a lack of trust or innate cynicism – after all, it takes at least a few years to build up to that – but because when we are going through all of this, it’s just impossible to think that anyone could understand.

Now, as a young woman in my 20s, I am someone who does understand. I know that I can’t save that girl, the younger me of long ago, but there are many things I would want to say to myself if I had the chance. By doing that, perhaps I can help a girl not unlike my younger self; a girl who, right now, feels she has no one to turn to and feels very alone in the world. It is for this reason – for that girl, her parents, peers, educators and clinicians who can all use a better understanding of what it’s really like inside, that I have written a Letter to My Younger Self.

Dear Amy,

I know you’re feeling pretty bad right now. The other kids make fun of you a lot, and you don’t know why. You’re trying really hard to be friends with them – doing all of the things you think they want you to do, and it’s just not working. But there is one thing you should know: It’s not your fault. Other people might say that, and you won’t be able to listen to them; but I am hoping that you will if it’s coming from me. It’s not your fault. Say it over and over in your head when you feel the worst, because that’s when you’ll need it most.

It’s not your fault. How can it not be your fault? you’ll say to yourself as the next few years go by. Everyone else can do this, can make friends, and be normal. Why can’t you? That’s just one of the many questions I know you have, questions you don’t know how or are afraid to ask. They make you feel overwhelmed, like sitting in Mrs. St. Pierre’s classroom every day, fidgeting nervously in your seat. You always get up during class to sharpen your pencil, and I know it’s because you enjoy the smell when they’re freshly-sharpened – it calms you down. So don’t feel bad if the other kids snicker or laugh when you smell your pencil. They just don’t understand.

You care a lot about what the other kids think of you. I know you hate going to Pool every week because you have to change in the locker room, and the girls make fun of your feet. This will cause you not to feel comfortable wearing flip-flops for many years, and you won’t be okay with wearing them again until you’re much older. It’ll be like that with a lot of things people say to you in school – their exact words will fade from memory, but the effects they have on you will last a long time. But don’t worry – one day you’re going to make friends with someone who really loves your feet and will call your little toe, the one that didn’t grow in right, your “Lucky Toe.”

That’s something you feel like you could use a lot of right now – luck. You keep hoping things will get better, but they never do. I have some good news, though; you won’t lose that hope. No matter what happens, you’ll still be optimistic – foolishly, maybe, but when you’re older, people will tell you how wonderful it is that you are that way.

But I have to be honest with you: things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. You’ll be in junior high school soon, and you don’t know it, but seventh and eighth grades will be two of the worst years of your life. Once again: it’s not your fault.

You like to look at things outside the window – the trees and blue sky make you feel calm. One day you will be in study hall, and you’ll go right up to the window and stick your head out of it. That’s when someone will tell you to jump. Other voices will join in, and even after the teacher finally tells everyone to be quiet and calms things down, you’ll hear them in your head for a long time to come. Every day, someone will make you feel less. Not human. Unwanted. And you’ll keep your head down and take it, because no one’s going to tell you anything different.

But I will. You’re not less, Amy. You’re more. More because you have to work twice as hard as everyone else to make your voice heard. You don’t know how to fight right now, except for when you lash out after not being able to handle the pain anymore, and then it’s you who gets into trouble, rather than your tormentors. They know how not to be seen, to avoid detection. You don’t. Even as an adult, you won’t quite fully master the art of subtlety, but right now, you’re bared to the world. Completely vulnerable. And your classmates are taking full advantage of that fact. They know how to hurt you in the worst ways, so they can get their jollies from your reactions. You can’t understand what they’re doing, and you just play straight into their hands, every time. Once more: It’s not your fault.

These days, your classmates call you names – ugly, freak, psycho, loser. Retard. They call you these things because they don’t know you, don’t care to and/or don’t want to. You’re trying so hard to force yourself into their world, with little to no success. But you will have friends one day, Amy. Better still, you won’t have to fight for their friendship – they will come to you. I know how unbelievable that seems, especially since you feel like no one wants to be around you at all, not even your parents. But you are loved, even if you don’t realize it. You just have to learn how to love yourself.

There are some things that you are good at, Amy. Like writing. You just started writing some poems, and were happy when you saw them published in the local paper (your mom and dad sent them in for you, just in case you were wondering how that happened). I have three words of advice for you: Keep doing it. Right now, you write because it’s an escape from the world around you, and you don’t care about being “good” at it. You’ll get a bit of a competitive streak in eighth grade – when you’ll come in second place in the Charles Dickens poetry contest, and will be angry at yourself for not winning – but writing will become an important part of your life after that. In fact, one day you won’t just be writing for yourself – you’ll be writing to help other people. And your writing will help people, even when you don’t realize it. So you’ve got to keep at it.

It’s hard to think that you’re good at anything when people are constantly telling you that everything you do and are is wrong. In middle and high school, your fellow classmates will tell you to your face to kill yourself, and that no one wants you around, or would care if you were gone. Don’t listen to them. I know it’s difficult, and their words will go right into you, but they aren’t worth it. You are a good person, a person worth having around, and you’d make so many people sad if you were gone.

The world is going to need you when you grow up, Amy, so you have to get there. You have to make it through these dark days, because you’re going to make a difference in the future. Someday, people will want to hear what you have to say, and you won’t believe it, at first. But it will be meaningful, and wonderful. You’re going to have to take a lot of crap and go through a lot of pain to get there, but I promise you, it will be worth it.

My time with you is now growing short, young Amy. I hope that some of the things I’ve said have brought you comfort, or at least given you assurance that there is, indeed, light at the end of this tunnel. In short: things will get better. A lot of people will say that to you, and you’ll think that they’re crazy or just trying to make you feel better, but it’s really, honestly, true. You’re an incredibly special, talented girl, and right now you’re toiling in obscurity (as so many great artists do), but someday the world is going to see how amazing you are, and all you’ll think is, “Where were you people when I was younger?”

The future seems far away, almost impossible to think about, but don’t be afraid to think about it. You’re not even sure if you’re going to have one, but you will. You will. And I will say to you now three words that you don’t hear very often (even when your mother says them to you). Three words that you’ll be desperate to hear when you get older, especially from an aesthetically gifted member of the opposite sex, but that seem very off in the distance right now: I love you. I love you, my younger, high-strung, spastic, uniquely wonderful self. And I’ll be here waiting for you. See you in fifteen years!

Love and Many, Many Hugs,

Your 26-year-old Self

This “In Their Own Words” essay is written by Amy Gravino of Montclair, N.J. Amy is a certified college coach for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, and is also diagnosed as having ASD. She is a member of the Self-Advocate Advisory Board for the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation. Amy is currently working to complete her Masters degree in Applied Behavior Analysis at Caldwell College, where she is doing her thesis study on teaching adults with Asperger’s Syndrome to ask someone out on a date. Amy has been speaking at autism conferences across the country since age 14, as well as at professional development workshops, support group meetings, and school assemblies. She is presently authoring, “The Naughty Autie,” a dating and sexuality book for young adults and adults on the autism spectrum.  Articles Amy has written have appeared in numerous publications, including Autism Spectrum Quarterly, the Autism Asperger Publishing Company newsletter, the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation annual newsletter, and more. She was also an interview subject in the documentaries “Normal People Scare Me” and “ARTS,” and will be featured in the upcoming documentary, “Desire.” Amy is currently offering private services as an Asperger’s Syndrome college coach and hopes to work on a college or university campus helping students with AS to thrive and succeed both academically and socially in a higher education setting. In addition to her advocacy work, writing, and public speaking, Amy is an avid cooking enthusiast and self-proclaimed gourmand.

If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

George from ARTHUR Makes a New Friend (and he has Asperger’s!)

April 4, 2010 15 comments

This guest post is by George from PBS’ ARTHUR. George lives in Elwood City.  He loves to tell jokes with his ventriloquist puppet Wally.  George also loves to build things with his Dad and play guitar.

Hi, I’m George!  You may have seen me before with Arthur and all my other friends — and my ventriloquist puppet, Wally! — in Elwood City.  They’re the best!  I also have a new friend named Carl.  He knows lots of cool stuff about trains.  I never knew there were so many different kinds!  Carl told me all about them, and showed me all the great pictures of trains that he drew from memory.

When I first met Carl, I wasn’t sure if he liked me or not.  He didn’t laugh at my jokes and he didn’t look at me that much while I was talking to him.  But then I found out it’s because he has something called Asperger’s Syndrome. I didn’t know what that was until Brain explained it to me.  He said that people with Asperger’s see things differently than other people do.

Sometimes Carl can get really quiet, or not answer when I say something.  He’s not being rude, he just acts a little differently.  Now that I understand that, I know it’s ok.  I’m learning from Carl that there are lots of different ways to be friends.  I’m glad he’s my friend.  I like him for who he is, and I think he feels the same about me!

Parents & Kids,
To see for yourself how Carl met George, tune in to ARTHUR on Monday, April 5 (check your local listings).  And, check out George’s fun coloring page, trading card and game at http://pbskids.org/arthur/friends/george/index.html.

You can watch the entire episode online here.

Speaking with Jason Katims of “Parenthood”

March 24, 2010 27 comments

Talking with Bestselling Author Jodi Picoult About “House Rules”

This guest post is by Jodi Picoult, author of “House Rules,” which is currently the top bestseller on The New York Times hardcover fiction list. “House Rules,” her 17th novel, is about a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. Picoult has a cousin who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Read more about her and “House Rules” at www.jodipicoult.com.

One of the great pleasures I’ve had on tour is meeting kids with Asperger’s Syndrome who are coming to my readings; or getting letters from people with Asperger’s who’ve already finished the book. It’s great to hear them say that they can identify with Jacob; that his voice sounds exactly like their own. One young boy stood up at an event to say that Jacob thought and spoke like he did and that he too has a special passion – not for forensics, like Jacob, but for vacuums! He got a standing ovation from the crowd, which was great for him. Last night I had an impassioned boy on the spectrum ask me how it felt when the ending of “My Sister’s Keeper” was changed in the movies – and believe me, he had the whole crowd behind him when he talked about how upset he got at the change. Then there are the letters I’ve received from parents of kids with Asperger’s who have wound up walking in Emma’s shoes, when their children are misinterpreted by the legal system. One dad wrote to share with me the story of his son’s two year trial – and how the comments made by the DA in ”House Rules” were almost verbatim what were said in the courtroom to his son.  Another parent wrote to tell me about his son with Asperger’s Syndrome, who – after being bullied at school – brought one of his antique swords (his passion – collecting them) to show the school resource officer how he felt he had to protect himself.  The officer, though, only saw a boy with a weapon – and shot and killed him.  He said, “Our son was sweet and gentle, respectful of others.  He had no history of violence.  He was never even in detention.  He was thrilled to be admired by younger Aspies for learning social skills to make friends with some kids at school.  He delighted the entire family when he danced like Michael Jackson at his sister’s wedding, moves that he had practiced in his room. …I hope a book like yours might help other kids like Trevor and prevent a tragedy such as we’ve had to go through.” 

It’s a funny thing when you write fiction – you don’t expect to change people’s lives, or to touch them so deeply.  But every now and then you strike a nerve and get a letter like the one from Trevor’s dad.  With 1 out of 110 kids being diagnosed on the spectrum, I expected parents who have children with Asperger’s to read ”House Rules” and be able to relate to it; to see their experiences validated.  But if I had one hope for “House Rules,” it was that people who do not live with autism in their daily lives might take away the thought that “different from” doesn’t mean “lesser than”. I know that Autism Speaks is doing a lot of work to help raise awareness around the globe, and maybe reading about Jacob – and why he does what he does – will mean that the next time a reader runs across a kid who might not look her in the eye, or speaks differently than she does, or who makes a stimming motion with his hand – well, maybe that reader will think twice before dismissing the kid, or pretending not to see him at all.

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