June. For those in the USA Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. School's either out for the year or will be out soon. The weather is warm and the beaches are open.
Here at GRASP we had a great benefit last month; pictures are on the web site and on our Facebook page. Now we have a new crop of articles for you to ponder.
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The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership, Inc.
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By Jennifer Cook O’Toole, author of the book, AsperKids: An Insider’s Guide to Loving, Understanding and Teaching.... Visit Jennifer’s website at: asperkids.com
You’ve probably heard the saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” That always seemed a bit flippant to me. Like someone at Hallmark needed a cute little “chin up” message, and this is what they came up with. But when real life gets really messy, no one appreciates patronizing sentiment. Optimism, yes. But realistic optimism. Maybe life hands you melons instead, and it turns out you’re dyslexic. Or maybe, you really ought to squeeze that lemon into some Corona, laugh in spite of it all, and take a siesta.
This week, I got seriously (and unexpectedly) squirted with lemons.
A few months ago, I learned that I was to receive the coveted Distinguished Spectrumite Medal (DSM) from the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP), the world’s largest Asperger’s support and educational organization. In the company of giants in the worlds of psychology, advocacy, policy-making and social networking, I was to be recognized not (only) for my writing or speaking or consulting — but (tear-jerker) for being a shining example of extraordinary parenting. Of how being a diagnosed Aspie has — far from inhibiting emotional or social growth — enriched a marriage, lifted self-awareness and informed the power and perspective with which I raise my own three Asperkids. It was a very public declaration by Michael John Carley and the entire GRASP Board that the diagnosis is far beyond valid — it is valued.
AND it got better from there. The event was to be held at a gala in New York City (read: trip and getting gussied up — two things that NEVER happen to me anymore!) on the very SAME NIGHT that my first book, Asperkids: An Insider’s Guide to Loving, Understanding and Teaching... would be released! AND the cosmic fabulosity got even more fabulous! The world-famous JKP author, Dr. Liane Holliday Willey (who wrote the forward to my book and has recently offered to be my mentor in this journey – riddling me with insanely amazing compliments and faith), was going to be receiving the SAME AWARD!
Time for a perspective break, I thought, to keep centered and focused in the middle of such hope and energy. So, last week, I took a few moments amidst the chaos of preparing and packing for three Asperkids, an Asperhubbie and my Asperself and escaped to my garden. A little bit of pruning, a little bit of digging and sunshine, and the earth seemed to be literally grounding me in its firm grasp. Only it did a little too good a job. Somehow, I managed to get a bit of poison ivy – which quickly developed into a lot of poison ivy, and then into an additional allergic reaction to the adhesive bandages I’d used. My peace and calm was fast dissipating into two Emergency Room visits for steroid shots and lotions and a whole lot of itchy discomfort.
But the day to leave arrived anyway, and off we flew – yours truly trying to keep things in check with antihistamines and creams…by the day before the event, my sensitive redhead’s skin had apparently decided it was time to officially FREAK OUT. The reaction went systemic, riddling me with 400 patches of raw poison ivy rash plus a chemical burn all over my torso from the lotions I’d been told to use. Only one hour before “time to get gussied,” I was in another ER being told there was nothing more they could do – it was just a matter of time until the steroids finally kicked in.
And here was the “life would like to present you with said crate of lemons” moment. For about 10 minutes, I cried. Hard. And I don’t cry. I was mad and sad and just plum ticked off at the unfairness. One chance to get dressed up. To meet Liane. To meet everyone at GRASP. And instead of enjoying the accolade, I was an itchy, burning mess. Couldn’t anything just go easily, ever? This wasn’t fair.
While I wallowed, my Aspergirl suddenly came up to me and placed her small hand on my (un-mussed) foot. “Mommy,” she said. “May I come with you tonight?” She’d been uninterested before, and I don’t know what changed for her exactly, but that changed it all for me. Thea-tah. Costumes. Make-up. I was back in the days of my life when the show must go on, and it must be the authentic and in-the-moment and matter.
So on went the eyeliner and heels. I styled her hair and straightened my husband’s tie. And, although the 45 minute trip to the event took over two hours and I missed an interview while sitting in the Lincoln Tunnel under miles of river water…we made it. And never in one room have I ever felt the “yes” of why we all were doing the work we do.
There were young Aspies asking about their own book ideas, adults apologizing profusely if they “accidentally touched you inappropriately” (a wrist tap!) or interrupted your thought. They were using scripts a bit awkwardly, but they used them – and were lovely people. There were world-renowned psychiatrists whose work will determine the evolution of the term “Aspergers,” and a dad-runner who’d trekked the entire Chilean desert to raise money for GRASP and kids like his own. There was the beautiful, brilliant Liane Holliday Willey (in the flesh!) with her gorgeous daughter (my little girl was totally in love with her nail polish)…and in the middle of it all, there was me.
And so when it was my turn to receive my medal, I brought my little Asperkid up to the podium with me. I hadn’t known I was going to be asked to speak, but the words came easily (as they are wont to do). Life does hand us lemons. Certainly, for those of who are and who love Aspies, we get more than our fair share of pucker power. And we should be allowed, for a few minutes now and again, to cry or pout or say, “No fair!” But then the show MUST go on. Life must go on. Some days, it’s more performance than others – but always, always, we can choose to laugh. And I did. I told my itchy story of misery, of stomping my foot in my own little temper tantrum a few hours earlier, and of choosing, instead, to do what Aspies do everyday. To be uncomfortable, to laugh at the “are you kidding me?” moments, and to never, ever miss the chance to look around us and be totally inspired by the lives we get to share.
“Don’t ever forget,” I implored them, rubbing my little girl’s head, and seeing the amazing honorees around me, “that the different perspective we bring to the world is a gift – just like these Asperkids themselves.” And I looked down into my daughter’s big eyes. This medal was for me, yes (and the ribbon was scratching my poison ivy like crazy!), but seeing the pride and inclusion and inspiration in her little eyes, I couldn’t help but imagine her future. And I couldn’t help but laugh.
Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.
A teenager suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome has overcome his agoraphobia thanks to his dog, who even dresses up in his school uniform to encourage him to attend.
Nick Gilling, 14, has seen his life revolutionised since the arrival of Sally, a Crufts-winning Corgi, 18 months ago.
Sally, whose grandfather was a stud to the Queen’s corgis, is even clever enough to play cards with Nick to help him interact.
The four-and-a-half year old hound lives with Nick, his sister Jenny, 17, mother Tessa, 45 and father Time, 49, in Leeds, West Yorkshire.
Tessa said: "Nick had been very badly bullied at school. The other pupils saw him as different. They would kick him in the stomach, leaving him with bruises, and taunt him.
gilling sally dog
Sally the Corgi was trained via Parents Autism Workshops and Support (PAWS) - a branch of Dogs for the Disabled
"One day he just took his uniform off and told me: 'That's the last time I'll ever wear a school uniform. You'll never get me back in that'.
"I believed him. I just thought, there is no way he will ever wear a uniform again. He just associated it with horrible memories."
Nick, whose fear of leaving the house and especially attending school meant he was taught by the home/hospital education service for around two years, only went back to school, a special unit at Allerton High School, last April - but wouldn't wear his uniform.
SEE ALSO: Schnauzer Dog Doctor Ralf Is Patients' Best Friend At Royal Children's Hospital In Melbourne
Tessa had been advised by the Dogs for the Disabled charity that Nick may respond with the help of a canine.
She said: "I thought 'there's nothing to lose', so one morning, I got Sally dressed up in Nick's uniform.
"He thought it was hilarious. He burst out laughing at her. But it was literally an instant reaction - he agreed to wear his school uniform that day to school. It was an amazing breakthrough.
"The only thing was - that first day we managed to get him in his uniform, when we got to school it turned out it was non-school uniform day so I had to rush out to get him something else to wear.
gilling sally dog
Nick agreed to wear his uniform again after seeing Sally wear it, marking a breakthrough for the family
"We're also training Sally to play cards with Nick. It's a long process, but dogs generally pick things up quickly, and it's really good in helping Nick interact with people."
Tessa, an Ambassador for the National Autistic Society, said: "Nick was very reluctant to go outside. If I ever tried to get him to go anywhere, it would take hours to get him into the car and he never wanted to go out.
"But once we got Sally, he wanted to go out because it was for Sally. We told him 'Sally needs to go for a walk', or 'Sally needs to go to the toilet', and because he cares about Sally, he does it for her.
"It also helps Nick feel less awkward because when he meets people, the focus isn't on him.
"Sally is also very calm and tolerant. She calms Nick down when he's feeling stressed, and doesn't mind when he wants to give her a bug hug and pull her around - she's perfect."
Tessa first heard about dogs helping autistic children when she read an advert for Parents Autism Workshops and Support (PAWS) - a branch of Dogs for the Disabled. She then went on a PAWS training course where she trained Sally to help Nick.
"It was hard picking a dog," she said. "I read about Corgis, which were used by Vikings as childminders when the parents were out hunting.
"But Corgis are really expensive - about £650 - and we couldn't afford this. I eventually contacted a breeder and said to them: 'Look, eventually you won't be able to use one of your dogs for breeding any more. Can we have one?'
"That's how we ended up with Sally. She was a show dog, she won Crufts in her category as a puppy in 2008. Her grandfather studded for the Queen.
"Because she was a show dog, she's used to being patient with people, which is great for Nick. She's had a really calming effect on the whole family."
The family are now looking to the future following a tough period in Nick's life, which included children's services investigating whether his parents were 'fabricating' Nick's autism.
Tim, who works for a Westminster-based charity campaigning for accountable public services, said: "It was a really difficult time. We were asking health and social care services for help, but instead all we got was condemnation.
"Thankfully, Tessa met a consultant psychologist who agreed to assess Nick, and we finally had our answer - Nick was diagnosed with high functioning autism.
"Looking to the future, what we want is to help Nick into mainstream school, and hopefully Sally can help him achieve this. She often comes in the car to school with him if he needs her. She's a real comfort to him."
Nick said: "Sally makes me feel safe when I'm out and when I talk to the people I meet in the street. We talk about the Royal Wedding and the Queen's Jubilee and all the things Sally did before she was my friend.
"Sometimes Sally comes into school with me and we play cards together. She is great to cuddle when you are nervous.
"She has changed my life and makes me smile every day."
May 14, 2012
CHICAGO (AP) — One in 3 young adults with autism have no paid job experience, college or technical schooling nearly seven years after high school graduation, a study finds. That's a poorer showing than those with other disabilities including those who are mentally disabled, the researchers said.
With roughly half a million autistic kids reaching adulthood in the next decade, experts say it's an issue policymakers urgently need to address.
The study was done well before unemployment peaked from the recession. The situation today is tough even for young adults who don't have such limitations.
Ian Wells of Allentown, N.J., is 21, autistic and won't graduate from high school until next year. He is unlikely to attend college because of his autism. He wants a job but has only found unpaid internships and is currently working part-time and unpaid as a worker at a fastener factory.
He's a hard worker, with good mechanical skills, but has trouble reading and speaking, said his mother, Barbara Wells. She said his difficulties understanding social cues and body language can make other people uncomfortable.
"I'm very afraid" about his prospects for ever finding long-term employment, she said. "It keeps me up at night."
The study, published online Monday in Pediatrics, was based on data from 2007-08. It found that within two years of leaving high school, more than half of those with autism had no job experience, college or technical education.
Things improved as they got older. Yet nearly seven years after high school, 35 percent of autistic young adults still had no paid employment or education beyond high school.
Those figures compare with 26 percent of mentally disabled young adults, 7 percent of young adults with speech and language problems, and 3 percent of those with learning disabilities.
Those with autism may fare worse because many also have each of the other disabilities studied.
The researchers analyzed data from a national study of kids receiving special education services, prepared for the U.S. Department of Education. About 2,000 young adults with one of four types of disabilities were involved, including 500 with autism.
It's the largest study to date on the topic and the results "are quite a cause for concern," said lead author Paul Shattuck, an assistant professor at Washington University's Brown School of Social Work in St. Louis.
"There is this wave of young children who have been diagnosed with autism who are aging toward adulthood. We're kind of setting ourselves up for a scary situation if we don't think about that and how we're going to help these folks and their families," Shattuck said.
Government data suggest that 1 in 88 U.S. kids have autism and there's evidence that the rate is rising.
Within the next 10 years, more than 500,000 kids with autism will reach adulthood, said Peter Bell, vice president for programs and services at Autism Speaks, an advocacy group that helped pay for the study.
"It's a huge, huge issue," Bell said. "Unfortunately there are many families that really struggle to understand what that transition ultimately entails. ...They face the reality of having a child who may potentially not be able to have enough services to keep them busy during the day."
"It's only going to get worse ..." Bell said.
His own 19-year-old son has autism and is being home-schooled and Bell has hired therapists to prepare him for jobs and other life skills.
Carol Schall, a special education policy specialist, said the results confirm smaller studies showing difficulties facing kids with autism as they transition into adulthood, and also highlight a need for better job training services offered in public schools for special education students.
She is involved in research at Virginia Commonwealth University investigating whether on-the-job training and teaching social cues to high school students with autism makes them more employable.
Kids are taught a range of practical skills and appropriate behavior. "It takes a much higher degree of intensity for them to learn skills" than for other kids, she said.
Preliminary results show this training has helped kids with autism find and keep jobs, she said.
AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/LindseyTanner
Beth Arky,Writer, Child Mind Institute
After working part-time her first two years of college, Debbie D. ramped up to full time along with her coursework the last two. But this admirable juggling feat left her so frazzled she would forget to eat, brush her hair or fill up her car's tank—"I ran out of gas on the highway more than a few times." So she couldn't wait to graduate in 2007, thinking that once she was able to focus on her career, life would get easier. She was wrong.
At 22, "I was in the midst of moving into my first apartment," recalls Debbie, "learning how to pay my own bills, becoming familiar with a new routine outside of the structure of school, and learning what being a professional meant." Her transition into adult life continued to challenge her executive function skills—things like planning, time management and multitasking. Meanwhile, her promotion to shift supervisor at the same human services company that had employed her throughout college exacerbated the social and sensory difficulties associated with her autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Four years after receiving her diploma, she says, "I'm still trying to learn the ropes."
Despite her struggles, Debbie is beating some very dismal odds among the young ASD population on all points of the spectrum. Caregivers and self-advocates have long had grave concerns about what the future holds for the "great wave" of children and teens diagnosed with ASD, half a million and counting, who will be aging out of the educational and support system provided by the federal Individuals With Disabilities Act (IDEA) over the next decade. They and their parents face the great uncertainty of adult services, post-secondary education and employment opportunities.
Their fears have been confirmed by a just-released study, the largest and most definitive to date, examining how autistics do after they transition out of high school. The study shows that two years after graduation, half of ASD young adults have no paid job experience, technical education or college. Nearly seven years out, the numbers improve but remain bleak, with one out of three having had no paid work or post-secondary education. That's a higher percentage shut out of the work world than for other disabilities, including the mentally disabled, with heightened risk of poorer outcomes for those from lower-income families and those with greater functional impairment.
The study finally documents "what we have suspected for some time—that the young adult autism population faces significant, additional challenges to employment beyond those faced by many other disability populations," says Dr. Scott Standifer, a clinical instructor in the Disability Policy & Studies office at the University of Missouri. While the new numbers aren't as bleak as the 80 percent unemployment rate often cited—without solid statistics to back it up—the study only represents those identified as on the spectrum in school special-education programs in 2000 and doesn't reflect older adults who aged out before 2000. Had this group been included, the picture would certainly be bleaker.
"Previous generations of children with autism did not usually have the kind of intensive, early interventions and supports that our current generation has experienced," Standifer says. Unless they got these types of interventions from "inspired, contrarian parents"—as was the case with autism advocate Temple Grandin—they were likely misdiagnosed and institutionalized or dismissed as odd or "crazy" and allowed to slip through the cracks.
Ari Ne'eman, president and cofounder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), says the new numbers show a "serious need to re-shift the focus of the autism conversation onto the real needs of autistic people—services, supports and meaningful community inclusion." Right now, he notes, "less than 1 percent of the autism research agenda goes to research on the needs of adults and only 3 percent of that agenda goes to research on improving services and supports.
"This data also reinforces the need for a true national policy on transition for students with disabilities," he adds, citing the TEAM acts, a trio of bills before Congress aimed at refocusing and strengthening federally funded programs to more successfully move youth with significant disabilities toward further education, integrated employment and community living.
It's important to note that the study's subjects span the spectrum, including those with an Asperger's diagnosis. Just because an autistic person is highly verbal and less visibly disabled doesn't mean he will "age out" of his impaired understanding of the unwritten rules of social engagement that allow for things like having conversations, being comfortable in a group, and reading social cues such as intonation and body language, all of which play such a large role in the work world.
Temple Grandin was so concerned about unemployment among those less affected by their autism that she compiled a collection of essays by ASD individuals succeeding in a variety of fields for her new book, Different ... Not Less, to inspire young people. Grandin, who has likened her social communication challenges to being an anthropologist on Mars, told Salon she was motivated to do the book after "seeing way too many people with high functioning autism and Asperger's not getting jobs and making transitions to adult life. Having worked in a technical field my whole adult life, I think, 'Where are the Aspies?' I think about people I went to college with, the geeky kids, different kids. One of the things hurting people with Asperger's today is they're not being taught social skills from old people on the spectrum who managed to be employed their whole life."
Debbie says that when she became a supervisor, her social deficits presented a huge learning curve. When you have trouble reading between the lines, she says, it's hard to understand that "sometimes people will tell you things they don't mean, or will leave information out that they really do need you to know, and that as the go-to person you will need to fill in the blanks." But the ramifications of her disability are much larger. "To lack the skills to contribute to the conversations that matter stands to negatively impact my career long-term," Debbie says. "When you don't ask the right questions in trainings, offer the knowledge and experience you have during meetings, or advocate your needs and concerns to those who can do something about it, your value starts to go away."
At the same time, Debbie says her unease with casual conversation leads others to misjudge her. They may first think she's just extremely shy, then reserved and timid, and finally "odd, eccentric, reclusive and secretive."
"When you don't look someone in the eye, it's perceived as arrogance or rudeness, not as evidence of the discomfort with doing so due to disability," adds Lynne Soraya, who writes Psychology Today's Asperger's Diary when she isn't working for a Fortune 500 company, "When you don't read someone's subtle body language, it's assumed that you're uncaring or, worse, a bully who doesn't know when to back down." An ASD individual's honesty—some might call it the lack of a filter—is perceived as hostility, leading to exclusion from important meetings and activities like lunches and after-work drinks. This is where having a more invisible disability "creates unique difficulties," Soraya says. "When you don't fit someone's stereotype of what having a disability looks like, a lot of the traits of a condition like Asperger's can be perceived as character or moral deficits—or as just not trying hard enough."
Yet sensory issues so common among those on the spectrum may be the most profound work obstacle for some. "Working in office buildings, amid the endless rows of cubicles, fluorescent lights and commercial copy machines can be deafening," Debbie says. "I do not simply become distracted, I live in a state of distraction. I have become good at presenting myself as an attentive and focused employee, but the reality is, all I am actually doing is concentrating very hard on sitting still in my seat." She adds that her sensory issues can so overwhelm her, her executive function "goes out the window." On the days when her focus is only on certain sensory input, she tries to break her day down in to smaller, more manageable segments. For instance, she may allot 30 minutes to read her emails, then an hour to attend a staff meeting. "But when I am focused on the flickering light on the other side of the floor," she says, "I try to eliminate activities that I know can wait."
The rub: Debbie has come to realize that what she does when she is focusing—running her fingers along her files, perching on the edge of her seat, twirling her hair, standing up and sitting back down repeatedly—looks like inattention or distractibility to coworkers and supervisors. So on her busiest days, she tries to come in early or stay late "so no one can see me." Soraya recalls one time when she was anxiously snapping her fingers, a coworker castigated her for being impatient when, in fact, it was a self-soothing "stim," or stimulation, most often associated with things like rocking among less verbal autistics but seen in different forms on all points of the spectrum.
Even when someone like Debbie is able to take some control over her environment, there's often a lot of unpredictability in the workplace that can put a great amount of stress on executive function, notes Dr. Ron J. Steingard, senior pediatric psychopharmacologist at the Child Mind Institute. "Someone with Asperger's or autism may function very well when they develop a routine at work," he says. "When something happens that wasn't supposed to happen and the routine is changed or disrupted, they may have more limited ability to 'flex' with changing demands than others. This could lead to more frustration, withdrawal, and perhaps result in poorer performance on those occasions."
For Debbie, there is a sense that she's chronically behind the curve.
"I definitely lag behind my peers in terms of being independent and being a young professional," she says. "I am not friends with anyone on the spectrum, and the friends I do have are growing up quicker than me. Most have gone on to very successful careers, have gotten married and are starting families. I'm still working on living on my own (paying bills, going grocery shopping and having a car). I live a few hours away from my parents, and they will be moving several more hours away next year. I try to rely on them as little as possible, knowing that next year that support system will be gone."
Published: May 21, 2012
Postsecondary Education and Employment Among Youth With an Autism Spectrum Disorder
By Nancy Walsh, Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Published: May 14, 2012
Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco. Action Points
Youth with autism spectrum disorders struggle to engage in further education or employment once they finish high school, a nationally representative survey found. Overall, more than one-third (34.9%, 95% CI 27.2 to 43.5) of autistic youth reported never having received postsecondary education or having worked, according to Paul T. Shattuck, PhD, of Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues. And during the first 2 years after leaving high school, more than half (51.9%, 95% CI 34.4 to 68.9) were not participating in any productive activities, the researchers reported online ahead of print in the June Pediatrics.
Small, limited studies have suggested that young adults with autism spectrum disorders have low rates of higher education and employment, particularly those with more severe impairment. To more fully delineate this growing and increasingly important concern, Shattuck and colleagues analyzed data from the fourth wave of the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2, which was a decade-long prospective study of special education students. In addition, to see how autistic youth transitioning into adulthood compared with those having other disabilities, they assessed post-high school outcomes for 500 autistic youth, 470 with speech and language impairment, 460 with a learning disability, and 430 with mental retardation.
Among the autistic group, 34.7% had attended any 2- or 4-year college, while only 9.3% had received vocational or technical training.
Rates were lower for any education or employment for certain autistic population subgroups: Hispanic, 55.2% (95% CI 28.9 to 78.9) African American, 57.1% (95% CI 34.5 to 77.2) Family annual income ≤$25,000, 54.6% (95% CI 33.3 to 74.5)
Those in the lowest quartile of functional skills were much more commonly not participating in any productive activity compared with those in the highest quartile (66.3% versus 6.3%).
Compared with the 55.1% of youth with autism spectrum disorders who reported any paid employment, those with speech or language impairment had significantly higher employment rates (86%), as did those with learning disabilities (93.8%) and mental retardation (68.9%).
The rates of individuals having no participation in school or work during the first 2 years post-high school also were lower for the other three disabilities, at 12.2%, 2.5%, and 38.3%, respectively.
Among the autistic group, rates of no participation in school or work decreased after the first 2 years, declining to 11.1% after year 4. Logistic regression analysis identified the following factors as predictive of a lack of participation in
education or work after high school: Household income, OR 0.8 (95% CI 0.7 to 0.9) Remaining in high school until age 21, OR 17.3 (95% CI 3.1 to 96.8) Less than a year since leaving high school, OR 5.7 (95% CI 1.6 to 20.3) Functional skills, OR 0.9 (95% CI 0.8 to 0.9)
"These findings point to potential gaps in transition planning specifically for youth with autism and barriers to participation that may be specific to this population," the researchers observed. Of particular concern was the finding of lower participation in education and employment among autistic youth from the lowest income group, particularly given current patterns of rising income inequality. "Future research needs to examine how financial resources influence developmental trajectories and what interventions are needed to help poorer youth overcome barriers to accessing services and achieving fuller participation in society," Shattuck and colleagues stated. Limitations of the study included reliance on caregiver report of autism spectrum disorders and the cross-sectional design of the study.
Over the last decade, there's been a general increase in awareness of the need to provide tailored services, support and education to children with autism and other developmental disabilities. But there's been less talk about the needs of those children when they reach adulthood.
In short, what do families do to help their adult children to maximize their quality of life and independence?
It is a question that Richard E. Farley, a partner in the leveraged finance group of the law firm of Paul Hastings LLP in New York, ...
Asperger’s Syndrome Qualifies Ex-Student to Discharge $340,000 in Loan Debt
May 22, 2012
A federal bankruptcy judge in Maryland has ruled that a former law student can discharge nearly $340,000 in education debt because her diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome qualifies her for a federal exemption from having to repay student loans, The National Law Journal reported. The student, Carol Todd, attended law school in the early 1990s but did not finish the program. She later earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from an unaccredited online college, according to the Law Journal. Judge Robert A. Gordon, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore, acknowledged that students must meet a high standard to qualify for an “undue hardship” exemption. But Ms. Todd’s condition prevented her from getting a job and maintaining a basic standard of living, the Law Journal reported, so Judge Gordon found that it would be impossible for her to repay the loans.
via SFARI News by Jessica Wright on 5/23/12
Social rules: Knowing that their behavior is not socially acceptable, but being unable to control it, could make children with autism anxious.
A high intelligence quotient (IQ), a good understanding of social skills, and aggressiveness may all contribute to anxiety in children with autism, according to a study published 14 March in The Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychiatry1.
Although anxiety is not one of the core deficits of the disorder, many individuals with autism are highly anxious, typically in social situations. Studies have shown that children with autism who have higher IQs are more anxious than those with lower scores2, but the reasons for this association are not well understood.
In the new study, researchers investigated the links between IQ, autism diagnosis, awareness of acceptable social behavior, aggressiveness and age. They looked at 231 children between 2 and 9 years of age and assessed their IQ using one of five questionnaires, based on the age and abilities of the child. They also used the Parent Rating Scales of the Behavior Assessment System for Children to measure the children’s anxiety, social skills and aggression.
Children who have a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome have the most anxiety, followed by those who have pervasive developmental disorder–not otherwise specified, and those with autism have the least anxiety, the study found. Controlling for IQ scores made these associations insignificant, suggesting that the higher intelligence is connected to the anxiety, the researchers say.
Toddlers who have autism and high IQ scores are more anxious if they also have a greater understanding of social skills and are aggressive compared with those who are less aggressive and have poor social skills, the study found. This could be because knowing that one’s behaviors are not socially acceptable, but being unable to control this, could be anxiety-provoking, the researchers suggest.
The relationship between these factors is more nuanced for preschool and elementary school children than it is for toddlers, the study also found. In each case, aggressiveness and understanding of social skills are associated with elevated anxiety. However, children who have low IQs and show little aggression show no difference in their anxiety regardless of their social understanding.
1: Niditch L.A. et al. J. Clin. Child Adolesc. Psychol. 41, 127-137 (2012) PubMed
2: Sukhodolsky D.G. et al. J. Abnorm. Child Psychol. 36, 117-128 (2008) PubMed
via Disability Scoop by Shaun Heasley on 5/7/12
It's illegal to deny a person housing based upon their disability, but a new report suggests that such discrimination is common coast to coast.
Some 44 percent of housing discrimination complaints last year were based on disability. That’s more than were filed based on race, familial status, sex or any other protected class, according to a report released late last month by the National Fair Housing Alliance.
“It is a travesty that we still see so much discrimination in our country more than 40 years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act,” said Shanna Smith, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “No one profits when potential homebuyers or renters are turned away, not because of their ability to purchase or pay, but because of their national origin, skin color, sex, religion, familial status or because of a disability.”
More than 27,000 housing discrimination complaints were filed across the country last year, nearly half of them based on disability, according to the report.
One reason that there were so many complaints related to disability may be that such discrimination is often more overt.
“Many apartment owners make direct comments refusing to make reasonable accommodations or modifications for people with disabilities so discrimination is easier to detect,” the report indicates.
What’s more, federal and local outreach efforts to assist those with disabilities may also be responsible for an increased number of complaints coming from people with disabilities as opposed to other protected groups, the report said.
By Shaun Heasley May 30, 2012
Nearly two years after the Obama administration committed to making the federal government a model employer of people with disabilities, a new report suggests they have a long way to go.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order in July 2010 calling for the hiring of 100,000 workers with disabilities over five years. Today, however, a new report from the Government Accountability Office finds that federal agencies are not making enough headway.
“Nearly two years after the executive order was signed, the federal government is not on track to achieve the executive order’s goals,” investigators wrote.
The report found that just 20,000 employees with disabilities were hired in 2010 and 2011.
A major reason for the slow progress may be that many federal agencies have insufficient plans to increase their hiring of people with disabilities, GAO said. Nearly half of agencies did not include an exact goal in their plan for the number of people they expected to hire. And, many agencies failed to identify a senior official responsible for the initiative.
GAO indicated that more training is needed for government workers so that they know how to employ and accommodate those with disabilities.
Additionally, the investigators said that better data may improve federal efforts to increase disability employment. Since the government relies on employees to self-report disabilities, many stakeholders are concerned that current figures may underrepresent the true picture of the federal workforce.
John Eckhart (L) and Alayna Higdon wait in a court room before their arraignment Wednesday, April 27, 2011, in Clark County Superior Court in Vancouver, Wash.
By SYDNEY LUPKIN
May 26, 2012
A Vancouver, Wash., man accused of imprisoning his two autistic sons in a room with a "cage-like" door testified that he'd heard on TV that it was OK to lock a child in a room for safety, and his former live-in girlfriend broke down in tears on the stand.
John Eckhart, 31, and Alayna Higdon, 27, locked up the two boys, ages 5 and 7, "to keep them safe...so they wouldn't get hurt when we weren't' immediately available," Higdon told the jury on Friday, wiping her eyes.
The couple, who were arrested in April 2011, are charged with unlawful imprisonment of the two children between October 2010 and April 2011. If convicted, they could face up to three months in jail.
The room had only one child-sized racecar bed, no toys and no light, according to the prosecutions' opening statement on Monday.
The defense portrayed the couple as "naive," according to ABC Affiliate KATU.
Eckhart testified that he heard on a reality TV series, either "Supernanny" or "Nanny 911," that it is acceptable to lock a child up if that child could otherwise hurt himself, according to The Columbian newspaper of Vancouver.
He also told jurors that he never passed eighth grade and still struggles with reading and writing, KATU reported.
Higdon said the "cage-like" door was installed less than two weeks before their arrest because the boys destroyed the room's original door by pounding it, kicking it, and beating their heads against it, according to The Columbian. They intended to put up a transparent plastic door, but it was too expensive, so they settled for metal-wire shelving.
The boys' 10-year-old brother took the stand Wednesday, telling the courtroom that he would often pass food through the metal slots because the boys were not allowed out for most of the day. Eckhart denied this.
The older autistic boy is in foster care, and the younger boy has been living with his biological mother, according to the Columbian.
Closing arguments are expected on Tuesday.
CLARKSVILLE, TENN. — Autism is one of the most mysterious syndromes in medicine today. As more is learned about autism, the public and professionals are reminded how little is known about it.
Autism is a medical diagnosis where one definition does not fit all. Symptoms vary from person to person. Support services and programs also vary, creating significant challenges and frustrations for parents of autistic children.
Fred and Shelley Taroli are parents of three sons. Cody is 20, Noah is 14, and Luke is 10. Noah has autism. Stationed at Fort Campbell, there are some services available for the Taroli family on post, but not much. However, they now live off-post and access to those services is not always convenient. Family support services in the community just are not at their fingertips.
It was over a year ago that Shelley decided to start a support group for families affected by autism. She did this due to the lack of an active family support group in the Clarksville area, including Stewart County. The group meets the third Tuesday of each month at the Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library from 7-8 p.m.
In particular, she wanted to create a group interested in the principles and techniques of applied behavior analysis. ABA techniques have been shown to be very effective in working with autistic children.
Children with autism function at many different levels. Some have communication problems, some have sensory problems, others lack the ability to concentrate, and many are unable to grasp and understand social situations.
Noah is able to understand most things and can communicate his own needs and goals. According to mom Shelley, “Noah’s skill levels vary from one activity to another. He functions at the level of a 5-year-old in some areas, but shows higher-level skills in other areas.” As an example, Shelley said, “Noah is initially nervous and fearful around horses, but once he gets on the horse and starts riding, we can’t get him off the horse, and he manages a horse very well.”
Fred and Shelley Taroli want Noah to be a productive member of society. They realize, though, he will require assisted living in the future. That concerns the Tarolis.
“There is more emphasis than in the past on providing programs and services for autistic children, and that is great. But, our children become adults and services for adults are lacking,” Shelley Taroli said.
The Tarolis give credit to the state of Tennessee. It is one of the few states that provide transition services for children beginning at age 14. This is significant. Most states don’t offer transition services until the child is 16. The earlier someone with autism can be exposed to, and learn transition skills, the better the adjustment will be to independent or assisted living.
Noah enjoys many things, including music, swimming, traveling, shopping with his parents, and going to movies. He is also good at many things, including operating computers, playing computer games, electronics, and horseback riding.
Efforts of the local support group are supported by the Autism Society of Middle Tennessee based in Nashville. ASTM provides educational materials, offers workshops and seminars, and hosts special events. Two popular events are the Pieces of Hope Benefit and Walk Now for Autism.
Fred and Shelley’s goals are the same as ASTM’s goals. They say people need to take the initiative to learn about autism. This is an issue that should not be swept under the rug. Parents, they say, should realize that autism is an issue that requires patience and a willingness to navigate the programs and services. Of vital importance is for parents to be strong advocates for their children.
Locally, Shelley plans to offer a workshop prior to the opening of the 2012-13 school year that will deal with rights, responsibilities, laws, and policies in Tennessee. She wants to get information into the hands of parents, teachers, and interested parties. She also wants to develop a list of caregivers that parents can contact for assistance.
Published: May 14, 2012 at 5:34 PM
SAN ANTONIO, May 14 (UPI) -- A San Antonio man who can often be seen offering free hugs across from Alamo Plaza said the project is helping him with his difficulty interacting with others.
Christopher Webster, 27, who has spent many of his weekends during the past six years holding his "free hugs" sign on the streets of the city, said the scheme was born from his desire to counteract his Asperger's syndrome, which makes it difficult for him to interact with others, the San Antonio Express News reported Monday.
"It was stepping out of my comfort zone," he said. "Once I started, it became natural. Sometimes its boom, boom, boom; it's mind-boggling."
Mark Stoeltje, executive director of San Antonio Clubhouse, a non-profit prevocational program for adults with severe mental illness, said Webster, who has also been diagnosed as bipolar, was withdrawn before he began his hugging project.
"He brought in a personal DVD player and watched Tim Burton movies," Stoeltje said. "There's a part of him that knew [the landing] is where he needed to be, and he started coming out of his shell, more and more."
Webster said he averages about 22 hugs for each Saturday he stands at his post, but he received a record 81 hugs in 45 minutes on St. Patrick's Day.
"I do it to make the world a better place," Webster said. "One hug at a time."