Tag Archives: advice

Marty Nemko’s Article for People With Asperger’s Syndrome Written with Prejudice

I have recently read an appaling article entitled ‘Helping People with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Find Work’ in Psychology Today written by Marty Nemko (click HERE to read the full article). Nemko holds a PhD in Educational Psychology and apparently is named the ‘Best Life Coach’ in San Francisco Bay Area. One may expect that a person with his credentials will be aware of the literature around a topic that he would wish to write about- he holds a doctorate, for crying out loud! In addition, one may also expect that writing about a sensitive issue requires awareness of people’s sensitivity and emotional responses about the topic.

But Marty has proven me wrong. His article was badly written and his insights and ideas were not based on research. For instance, why would he insist that most people with Asperger’s Syndrome prefer to be called ‘Aspies’? Where did he get that from? Even though a lot of people with AS prefer to be called Aspies, I still would not make the claim that Marty has made. He recently wrote an ‘update’ on his original article and claimed that he spoke to many experts, read articles on autism speaks.org and wikipedia. As an academic myself, I cannot help but scratch my head, laugh sarcastically and let out a loud sigh. Most people know about the unreliability nature of Wikipedia, right? It is also worth noting that although Autism Speaks is a big organisation with intentions of helping people in the Autism community, it has also been in the middle of controversies over the past few years.

Marty Nemko’s article has been written in an attempt to give advice to people with Autism and AS who are looking for work. However, his attempts failed miserably. All he did in his article was to highlight their inefficiencies and inadequecies:

“…some lack the wherewithal to get a bus pass, let alone adequately read social cues or the judgment to make timely decisions”

“…often off-putting, for example, long, fast-spoken, disjointed monologues without eye contact and unable to take the perspective of others other than their own, thus may too often offend them. Many are clumsy, with poor eye-hand coordination.They may have such mannerisms as odd posture, arm flapping, and body twisting. They can be socially naïve and unable to recognize humor. Some have unusual habits, for example, even scavenging through garbage cans to bring home used food scraps”

Perhaps even more discouraging, it appears that even when employers are told that most of an Aspie’s salary would be paid by the taxpayer, many would rather pay full-freight for someone who doesn’t have Asperger’s.”

Instead of focusing on what people with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism cannot do, he should have focused on what they could do. Articles such as Marty’s should never be written as it paints an extremely negative picture and hence could increase the stigma that surrounds Autsim. I urge everyone who are thinking of writing about any topic at all to be extra cautious. Research the topic and be sensitive.

I work very closely with people who are on the spectrum- in classrooms and in other settings. I have seen the range of abilities, interests and expertise that they have. Based on my experience, it is impossible to put them in one single category and hence offer a generic advice on how to help them. Just like people who are not on the spectrum, they need individualised support. Advice should be tailor-made to each individual’s situation. Oh, and one more thing: If nobody is asking for your advice, don’t give it especially if you’re going to put them down!

 

Sometimes Teachers Just Need To Shut Up

Teachers are not only there for the academic side of things. They also serve as counselors, peace-maker and sometimes, therapists. You know what I mean. Students at some point will have concerns and worries about their friends and families. These worries are often carried into the classroom and would sometimes translate to bad behaviour or social withdrawal.

When students misbehave, most teachers resort to shouting and/ or punishment. Often, this results in escalation of the situation and a vicious cycle of bad behaviour – teachers shouting – suspension. It does not help. Granted that bad behaviour is never acceptable and should not be tolerated, aggressive responses may not help in the long run.

On the other hand, the usual response by a teacher to a student who is upset or has opened up about their problems is to shower them with advice. While this is good in some cases, giving advice may not work for others.

For both situations, what I suggest is for the teacher to ask the students what their problems are or what’s bothering them. Even though bad behaviour is a regular occurrence for some pupils, try to remember that these behaviours could be the result of something deeper- a family problem or a problem with their friends, for instance. Try to keep an open mind.

Be quiet and listen to what they have to say. Keep in mind that some of them may not have people around them who would listen to them whole-heartedly. Some of them may just need to off-load.

Try not to pass judgement too quickly. Assess the situation and offer advice only when needed. Seek help from authorities and other agencies in appropriate situations.

How to Make People Happy Today

Here’s an advice on how to make the people around you happy:

From today, start treating other people (even strangers) with the exact same warmth that you would your best friend. Compliment them on their looks, their clothes. Let them know how they are adding to your general positive outlook and well-being.

Smile at people. Say ‘thank you’ a bit louder and with a smile. Smile and greet almost everyone from your postman to your family. Make them feel appreciated.

Remember that making other people happy has been found to halve stress levels!!

Autism Hangout: Employment and Autism

On the ninth episode of the Autism Hangout, we discussed Autism and Employment. SOME people with special educational needs and/ or disablities often struggle with finding and maintaining work, particularly those with Autism. Due to their rigidity of thoughts, preferences for routines and familiar places and the different ways in which they communicate and socialize may not be understood by employers. This could then lead to a conflict between the employers and employees.

There are however, several steps that could be taken in order to avoid such conflicts from arising. Here are some of them:

  1. Train and educate employers and recruiters about Autism and its effects on individuals. Negativity towards people with Autism usually comes from people’s ignorance of Autism. Stereotypes are not always true- particulary the negative ones. By training employers and recruiters about Autism, understanding and acceptance could be increased.
  2. Train and educate people with Autism about job application process, particularly interviews both at home and in schools. Filling out application forms and writing CVs are hard enough even for people without any learning difficulties. Be  even more patient and teach those with Autism and other learning difficulties. Provide mock interviews way before young adults leave school to allow them to practise body language, appropriate responses and dress codes.
  3. Companies should allow candidates to visit the job sites prior to applying for any post. In this way, any prospective applicant could  observe and experience the work environment, talk to current employees, have a real sense of the job’s requirements (physical, mental and emotional). Also, carers and/ or family members should be allowed to accompany those who require assistance.
  4. Prospective job applicants should be aware of the Equality Act 2010 which should be adhered to by all companies.

Companies should also take the following advice into consideration:

  1. When placing an advertisement for any jobs, companies should explicitly emphasise specific needs for social and communication skills. This will help individuals with Autism tease-out the jobs that they could do. In addition, it avoids an unwelcomed surprise on an individual’s first day.
  2. When it comes to the interview stage, interviewers should be made aware of individuals’ diagnoses and the interviewer should also be someone who has experience with communicating with people with Autism.
  3. Interviewers should ask ‘closed’ questions (those that can be answered with a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’), and should avoid asking hypothetical questions as this may be difficult for people with Autism (particularly who are on the severe end of the spectrum) to answer. It should be noted that one of the characteristics of people with Autism is their limited (or atypical) imagination. Some find it difficult to imagine a hypothetical situation, and prefer only to think of concrete examples that have actually happened to them.
  4. Interviewers should also be aware that some people wth Autism may exhibit body language that may seem unusual. Interviewers are encouraged to look past these body language and focus on what the individual’s skills as a potential employee.
  5. It is also important to give the potential employee a lot of support before and during their employment. Give them time to think about your question (during an interview), give them specific and clear instructions, avoid metaphors, give them direct but sensitive feedback and give them a timetable.
  6. Most importantly, give them a chance to prove that they can actually do the job in question. Look past the Autism and I promise you, you will be amazed!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDLU1VkRj9w&feature=share

 

For more information and support regarding Autism and employment, visit the National Autistic Society’s website: www.autism.org.uk

Leave students’ creativity alone!

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Never be like the woman on the picture.

Students’ creative thinking and imgination should never be stifled. Allow them to think for themselves. Let them form their own conclusions about the world based on their experiences. Remember to give them the freedom to express their opinions, however wild they may be.

Give them the chance to get things wrong. Let them disagree with what you believe and make them defend their claims. Guide them to discovering their own idea of truth.

Parents of individuals with Autism, I salute you!

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If there is one group of people that I respect more than any other, it’s the parents of individuals with Autism. Having worked with young people with ASD for almost a decade, I have witnessed their struggles and triumphs first hand. I have listened to their stories- both the good and the bad. I have seen them deal with the tantrums and stims in and out of the classroom, while others stare ignorantly and at times, angrily and them.

Almost all of the parents I have spoken to were angry, frustrated and relieved all at the same time upon knowing their children’s diagnosis for the first time. ‘Nobody deserves to have a child with Autism’, some would say. But they figure out a way to raise their children. They are the first ones to acknowledge that it is not their children’s fault that they have Autism. Instead of giving up, these parents have had to change their ways of parenting in order to accomodate their children’s needs. Heck, they have had to change their lives to accomodate their children. Routines, ways of speaking, the food in their houses, the places they go to, have to be planned in advance. These parents are the ones who have to explain to their other children, who does not have Autism, why their brother/sister needs more attention and patience.

As mentioned above, they, along with their children, have to deal with those ignorant people who give them angry, disgusted stares and unsolicited but wrong parenting advice when they are in public places. They have to deal with the persistantly tough but misinformed teachers, who insist that their children are naughty, unattentive and academically slow. These parents are the ones who would fight tooth-and-nail to get their kids to the right school, with the right support and appropriate equipments.

These parents are the ones who are worried about their children when they reach school-leaving age.

It comes to no surprise that every single young person that I have worked with have their parents at the top of their prioroty list. Regardless of their mental and social skills, all of the young people that I have worked with would run back to a burning building just to save their parents.

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So whenever you speak to the parents of a child with Autism, always remember what they go through, day in, day out. When it comes to their kids, they are the experts. Listen to them. When planning and implementing interventions in schools, take their suggestions into consideration.

 

Follow these lovely parents on Twitter:

@autistagirl

@OurAutismLife

@lifewithAutism1

@DeekG43

@dixiegras

@ShitMyAspieSays

@gazsuper

@Sharissa77

@everhopeful1000

@feistyoatcake

@Donna_M_Forrest

@AutismJournal

 

Quick question for parents of children with Autism

Hi all. I just want to ask you guys a question:

What (if any) would you like to change in your children’s schools? It can be anything from staff’s knowledge/attitude, staff/student ratio, size of classes, physical characteristics of the school, timetables, etc.

I would greatly appreciate your answers. Since I am working w/ kids w/ ASD, I or my school could be doing something we shouldn’t, and I’d like to change whatever we’re doing wrong.

Thanks!

Getting off to a good start: Useful advice for teachers meeting students with ASD for the first time

nervous_teacherAutism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a developmental condition that affects people’s Social and Communication development. In addition people with ASD exhibit Restricted and Repetitive Interests and Behaviours. Since ASD affects 1 in 88 of individuals, there is a big chance that every teacher would have at least one student affected by the condition in his/ her career.

Although people’s awareness of ASD have increased over the years, and teach training nowadays provide an overview of what Autism is, and how it affects individuals, meeting a student with ASD for the first time can be a cause of anxiety to teachers (and the students, of course!).

(See also: Practical Tips To Make Your Classroom Autism-Friendly)

Here are a few strategies that I have learned over the course of my working years with ASD students:

Preparing the student before the first day:

There is a huge chance that you will know in advance that there will be a student (or students) with ASD who will be joining your class. Here’s what you could do:

  • Gather as much background information as possible! Information about students should be available from medical professionals, previous schools and parents. Find out what triggers anxiety and problem behaviours.
  • Questions you should ask: What does he like to talk about? What is he afraid of? Does he respond better to a man or a woman? How is his speech? Is there a colour, sound, smell he does not like?
  • Take pictures of the school, dining hall, your classroom, yourself and if possible, the other students. Give these photos to his parents or his current teachers and ask them to let the child know that this is the environment that they will be in very soon. This helps prepare the child mentally and will reduce, if not eliminate, anxiety.
  • Invite the parents and the child to the school ahead of transfer. If the children are moving up a year/ grade in the same school, invite them to your classroom. Have a one-to-one meeting with the child to allow them to familiarise with you and the classroom.
  • Let the children know EXPLICITLY what is expected of them. Give a paper copy of your classroom rules to the children and display a copy of it on your classroom.
  • If at all possible, provide the parents with the school year’s curriculum plan. This way, the parents would be able to tell their children what topic areas will be discussed at what week/ month.
  • Create a picture schedule/ timetable to help establish a daily routine. Students with ASD prefer a predictable day-to-day routine. A change in any subject or teacher or activity must be relayed to the child.
  • Prepare your classroom. Give the student his own desk and give him the freedom to decorate it to make him feel that he is in control of at least some aspect of his environment.

During the first meeting:

  • Avoid drinking coffee and wearing perfume. It may sound ridiculous to some but there are students with ASD who are extremely sensitive to certain smells. Drinking coffee and wearing perfume are some of the things that you can control which may potentially lessen the child’s anxiety.
  • If the child is capable of talking but is not responding to you initially, try to be in the same physical level. In other words, if he is sitting down, sit on a smaller chair, so that his eyes are parallel to yours. If he is playing on the floor, sit on the floor. Make him feel as comfortable as possible.
  • Let him talk about Spiderman or Star Wars at the beginning, if he wants to. People with ASD who are verbal have the tendency to talk a lot about their interests passionately. You must let them do this, again to make them feel comfortable.
  • 10 Second Rule- some people with ASD need more time to process information, especially during conversations. Wait for at least 10 seconds before repeating an unanswered question.

There you have it! Good luck!

More articles on Autism:

AUTISTIC PEOPLE SHOULD…

Being Proud of Having Autism

What Would You Do If You Witness An Autistic Person Being Insulted?

Never EVER say these things to people iwth Autism!

He flaps his hands and screams a lot but he doesn’t mean to annoy you

Optimum Outcomes for people with Autism

DSM 5 and its implications to ASD diagnosis

Diagnosing Autism: What you need to know

Vote for Miss Montana 2012, Alexis Wineman

What does Autism mean?

What is PDD-NOS?

Communication difficulties in Autism

Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper: Asperger’s Syndrome’s Poster Boy?

Still unsure if Sheldon has Asperger’s?

DSM-V and Autism

The Autistic Me: BBC Documentary

Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds

Autism in the classroom:

Guide to parents of students with ASD on coping with the first day back to school

Common signs of Autism in the classroom

First day back to school: Top tips for parents of children with Autism

Practical tips to make your classroom Autism-Friendly

Inspiring People with Autism:

Dr. Temple Grandin

Jessica-Jane Applegate (British Paralympian)

Satoshi Tajiri (Pokemon creator)

Carly Fleischmann

More on Savants:

Simon Baron-Cohen on Daniel Tammet

The Psychology of Savants: Memory Masters

Artists with Autism

The Einstein Effect: Is there a link between having Autism and being a genius?

Practical Tips to Make your Classroom Autism-Friendly

classroom

A few weeks ago, I wrote a list of  typical characteristics exhibited by students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). In this post, I will provide a list of interventions and strategies to help teachers make their classroom Autism-friendly. As with all of my other articles, I must remind my dear readers that students with Autism are very different from each other, hence some of these strategies may not apply to all of them. My advice is to ‘personalize’ each of these strategies based on your students’ personalities, skill-set, social and academic abilities. It is also helpful to keep a written record of the interventions you have put in place and their effectiveness (or lack thereof). This will help you plan future interventions, and will also serve as evidence for annual reviews and/ or school inspections.

RULES AND REWARDS

  • Define classroom rules as early as possible. Boundaries should be clear and concise. Make sure that all rules are fair to everyone in the classroom and that are any ‘special’ arrangements made for students with ASD are explained to mainstream students. Click here for a useful explanation of fairness.
  • Reinforce rules with pictures and words that are clearly visible to the students.
  • Establish a reward system. Rewards could be visible for everyone, or only to individual students.

 

(See also: Useful tips for teachers meeting students with ASD for the first time)

 

PLACE IN THE CLASSROOM

Students with Autism need to sit away from distractions as most of them find it difficult to ‘tune-out’ sensory stimulations.
school circletime

  • Keep them away from the classroom doors as they may be distracted by people coming in and out of the class (more than your average student).
  • Keep them away from windows – passers-by are distracting enough for others.
  • If you are in a mainstream school, especially primary school, your classroom may be full of colourful posters and displays which could be very distracting to students with ASD. Make sure you place students with ASD in a seat where they are not in front of any colourful displays.
  • Make sure that they sit next to a good role model. Being seated next to a student who is hyperactive, talkative or just generally unpredictable can be very unsettling to students with ASD.
  • Establish a permanent space or spot for your students with ASD would sit everytime your class have Circle time and Carpet time. This aids predictability.

VISUAL REPRESENTATIONS

  • Most people with Autism prefer visual representations, especially of timetables. It is useful to have individual Visual timetables for students with ASD. It helps them organize their day and it helps them predict what will happen next. Physically putting pictures on visual timetables at the start of every school day helps students prepare themselves for the day ahead. Below are a few examples of how visual timetables could look like (taken from  asdteacher):

edited-schedules

  • Make sure that any change in the students’ or the class’ routine is represented in their timetables. Make sure that such changes are explained, too.
  • Non-verbal students may be helped by introducing PECS, or Picture Exchange Communication System. In simple terms, PECS is communication through pictures, i.e. students show their teachers a picture of what they want (e.g. the toilet) and the teacher honours that request.

COMMUNICATION

  • Make sure that you have their attention before communicating with them. Make sure you call on their names everytime you 6a00d8357f3f2969e2017d3bc742e7970c-400wiwant to speak to them.
  • Do not demand eye contact. People with Autism struggle to give eye-contact for various different reasons. It has been suggested that quite a lot of them are not able to process Auditory and Visual stimuli simultaneously. Others found that eye-contact is avoided when people with ASD are thinking and/ or concentrating.
  • Use concrete language. Keep it simple and straight to the point.
  • Be careful with metaphors, sarcasm and irony. People with ASD have a very literal understanding of language (a good example of this is Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Coopervideos). Most of them may not get phrases like ‘Pull your socks up’, or ‘Toast the Bride’. I remember this one student of mine a few years back who was extremely puzzled when I told him to ‘Hold that Thought’.
  • Explain everything that has a double meaning.
  • Allow extra processing time. The National Autistic Society recommends practitioners to wait at least six seconds before repeating an instruction (Six-second rule).

TEAM APPROACH

  • Teachers, parents and students should all be involved in planning interventions. A healthy relationship between schools and parents are an excellent platform for success.
  • Keep a home-school diary to increase communication with parents and to ensure that interventions are followed-through.

More on Autism:

Vote for Miss Montana, Alexis Wineman

What does Autism mean?

What is PDD-NOS?

Communication difficulties in Autism

Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper: Asperger’s Syndrome’s Poster Boy?

Still unsure if Sheldon has Asperger’s?

The Autistic Me: BBC Documentary

Autism in the classroom:

Guide to parents of students with ASD on coping with the first day back to school

Common signs of Autism in the classroom

First day back to school: Top tips for parents of children with Autism

Inspiring People with Autism:

Dr. Temple Grandin

Jessica-Jane Applegate (British Paralympian)

Satoshi Tajiri (Pokemon creator)

Carly Fleischmann

More on Savants:

The Psychology of Savants: Memory Masters

Artists with Autism

The Einstein Effect: Is there a link between having Autism and being a genius?