Categories > Soup Du Jour

As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else.  Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions.  I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis.  Here is one from Dan Coulter!

Dad the Hero
(by Dan Coulter)

 

Dads, did you ever imagine yourself as a superhero?  Sure you did. I have a mental picture of you as a little kid, in your underwear, with a towel tied around your neck for a cape. You’re jumping off the bed and running through the house pretending you’re superman. In your mind, you can fly. You save the day.

The circumstances change, but we all hold onto a bit of that hero dream.

We dads have another dream that starts when a child is born. What he’ll be like?  How she’ll grow.  What we’ll do together.

But when a child has Asperger Syndrome, that dream can veer off course.

It can be frustrating when he or she doesn’t follow the script in our heads, when he continues to do things after we tell him not to or when she can’t seem to understand things that seem obvious.

And let’s face it. Most moms are better at the unconditional acceptance thing than most dads.

Even if we love a child with Asperger Syndrome, we’re more likely to hang onto our expectations and occasionally be impatient as he grows older – sometimes more than occasionally.

That’s where the hero part comes back in.

On the real-world hero scale, being patient with a child is not the same as running into a burning building to save a life, but it’s still a challenge.  It’s everyday heroism.

Everyday heroism strives to understand how a child with Asperger Syndrome feels when he tries his hardest and still gets teased or rejected by kids and criticized by adults. To accept that he can be doing the best he can –and still misunderstands what you want. To not just correct her when she’s wrong, but to help her practice doing things right, and praise her when she succeeds. To let go of old expectations, and help him live up to his capabilities.

The earlier we start the better, but it’s never too late to make a difference. To be the father he knows he can turn to. The father she knows she can trust.

Some dads are natural everyday heroes. The rest of us have to work at it.  But natural or self-made, everyday hero dads often find their children succeeding in surprising ways. Sometimes in ways they never imagined possible.

If you’re not there yet, your family story is casting for a hero. And the part has your name written all over it. You can save the day.

Save the child.

Your child.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the producer of the DVD, “Asperger Syndrome for Dad: Becoming an Even Better Father to Your Child with Asperger Syndrome.” You can find more articles on his website at www.coultervideo.com.

Copyright 2010 Dan Coulter     All Rights Reserved.    Used by Permission.

As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else.  Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions.  I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis.  Here is one from Jennifer Pedde!

Parenthood Brings Autism into the Open
(by Jennifer Pedde)

One of the main story lines in Parenthood, NBC’s popular television series about a large extended family, focuses on the issues facing parents Adam and Kristina Braverman. In addition to the usual problems experienced by parents of a teenage daughter, Adam and Kristina have had to adjust to their 8-year-old son Max being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. 

Jason Katims, executive producer of the show, is the father of a teenage son with Asperger’s. Thanks to the involvement of Katim, as well as series consultants Sheila Wagner and Roy Q. Sanders, who are experts in autism spectrum disorder and Asperger’s syndrome, Parenthood is helping to educate viewers about what life is like for families who are affected by Asperger’s. Child actor Max Burkholder, who does not have Asperger’s, should also be credited for his sensitive portrayal of Max Braverman. 

In early episodes of Parenthood, Max is depicted as being gifted in many areas but with limited social skills, few friends and a tendency to become obsessed with subjects that interest him. A teacher recommends that he be tested for autism following a classroom disruption, and he is subsequently diagnosed with Asperger’s. Adam and Kristina then begin a quest to find the best solutions for both Max and their family.

Kristina in particular, becomes frustrated when there are no easy answers for the problems Max encounters in school and at home. Emotionally, she feels the need to protect her son; intellectually, she knows that she must help him learn to be independent and survive on his own. Adam, on the other hand, must cope with feelings of loss that Max will never be the exact son he imagined.

Following Max’s diagnosis, the approaches tried by the Bravermans reflect approaches tried by many real families in the same situation: They move Max to a private school, receive funding to help with his care, set up an in-home therapy program, find and lose a caring in-home therapist, and then send Max back to a mainstream school so that he will be academically challenged. This is television, so Kristina and Adam are probably able to try new approaches much more fluidly than they would in the real world, but their journey effectively serves to illustrate the various strategies that can be employed to manage Asperger’s.

Now in its second season, Parenthood has expanded on the situations related to Max’s behavior and involved more members of the extended Braverman family. In one episode, 11-year-old Max gets into a fight at school with his younger cousin Jabbar and is told he must write a letter of apology. Max feels his actions were justified since Jabbar hit him first and refuses to comply. Kristina, who is learning to let go, asks Max’s older cousin Amber to help out. We see how Amber gets Max to write the letter and then coaches him on how to behave when he delivers it to Jabbar. Knowing that he needs to look someone in the eye when apologizing is not instinctive to Max, but he is beginning to learn how to behave in ways that are socially acceptable to everyone else.

For more insight into the issues faced by the Braverman family related to Max’s condition, you can read an analysis of each Parenthood episode by Sheila Wagner and Roy Sander in “The Experts Speak” section of the official Parenthood website.

Jenn Pedde is the community manager for the Online Masters Degree in Social Work program at the University of Southern California in the Virtual Academic Center, which offers a variety of classes in their mental health social work concentration. She’s also an avid traveler, and enjoys photography.


As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else.  Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions.  I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis.  Here is one from Charisa Spatig!

Basketball Players Changed Tanner!
(by Cherisa Spating)

My son Tanner was diagnosed with PDD/NOS at age 8. He is now 11 and a total sports junkie. Our story starts last year at this time. I had received a paper from his school that the High School Boys Basketball Team was sponsoring a 3 day camp for the kids in our community. Tanner so wanted to go. He had watched all these boys play football and loved every minute of that. I was a little leery to send him. So being the over protective parent I called the mom who was in charge. Her name is Melissa and she has become a great friend since this. I told her a little bit about Tanner, and that I would be more than happy to come to the camp and knew he would love it. She suggested assigning him a “partner”. I thought that was a great idea. Little did I know how much that would change my son’s life?

The day of the camp came, and Tanner was thrilled he got to go. We got to the school and there is this 6 foot 2 redheaded kid, a junior in high school waiting for Tanner to get there. His name is Tyler, and that kid has been my angel sent straight from heaven. He took Tanner and said see you at 8. They not only taught him basketball skills they have taught him much more. I love this entire High School Team. Not only have they kept him involved in all they have done over the last year. He has been invited to high school graduation dinners, got to sit with the team at all their home games. Tanner can tell you which kind of Gatorade drink each of those boys will have during the game.  Every member on the Football and Basketball Team know him, and it doesn’t matter where we are they always talk to him.

So now with the 2011-2012 season starting Tanner is again at basketball camp, but this time he doesn’t need to have a one-on-one. Although Tyler is not far away, he is enjoying the game just like everyone else his age is. All the senior boys Tyler, Matt, Rocco, Will, and their Coach Bubba will never know how much they mean to Tanner and our family. Because of this team and their support to Tanner he has joined a Baseball Team, Special Olympics, and is now known as t Evanston, Wyoming High School Red Devil’s # 1 Fan.

 

As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else.  Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions.  I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis.  Here is one from Nicole Ongman!

 Dear Mom!
(by Micole Ongman)


I have a son Ethan, who is now 14.   He has autism and was put on the border between autism and aspergers on the spectrum by the doctor.  He is working at about a grade 1 or 2 level in school.   He is verbal and quite amusing to be around.

My mom lives in Florida and I have been sending her updates since Ethan was born so she could be a part of our day to day lives.   A few years back,  I titled them “Dear Mom” (as the emails to her said) and gave them to her as a gift one year for her birthday.

Read and enjoy!

December 12, 2002 (Ethan was 6)

We went to Walmart to buy Ethan some new winter gloves.   After we got the gloves we went to St. Cinnamon and had a hot cinnamon bun.

Since we were in the mall for a while I figured that he would have to go to the bathroom (we still have toileting issues at 14 years).   I asked Ethan and he said yes.  We went back into Walmart and found that the woman’s bathroom was out of order.

The men’s was right there and there was no one in it (I opened  the door and called in) so I sent Ethan in to pee.   A man came  to go in, he was a staff person, and he was looking at me funny because I was hovering outside the door to the men’s washroom.  I said that I was just waiting for my son.

He came right back out and said that Ethan was just standing there.  I told the man to do what he had to do and I would go in after. He said no go ahead and I went in.  As soon as I saw Ethan standing in the cubicle doorway I knew that he had either just made or was in the process of making a  poop.

I told him to get into the bathroom stall (there were about 3 urinals in there as well) and I sat him on the toilet.  He had gone a bit in his pants so I took them off while he was on the toilet.

Next thing I knew the outside door opened and in came someone to use the urinal.  There were these big boots we could see on the other side of the stall and I just put my finger to my my lips and told Ethan to “shhhh”.  He giggled, knowing that mom wasn’t supposed to be here.  I didn’t panic because I figured the man would be done before us and would be gone soon.

I got Ethan’s pants off, took off his underwear and put his clean pants back on.  He was still sitting on the toilet going to pee and in walks another man.  I shusshed Ethan again, he giggles and the man started to pee.  Then Ethan looks down and  as he’s watching himself pee, he blurts out “I have a big penis”!

Well, the peeing outside our door stops for a second and then resumes.  I am trying to contain my laughter and Ethan is giggling. Finally that man left, Ethan was done and we got him ready to go.

When we were about to open the stall door, in walks another man and I thought it wouldn’t be that long so I waited, shushing Ethan and him giggling.  While that man was in, another came in and I was starting to feel trapped in the men’s washroom.  One man left and when the other was done and was washing his hands, I opened the door and Ethan and I walked out making a beeline to the door. The guy at the sink looked but didn’t care.  Just as we got to the door, this little elderly man came in, stopped, looked at the sign on the door and looked back at me.  Before I could say anything, he just shrugged his shoulders and proceeded to go to the urinal to do his business as Ethan and I quickly escaped.

What a riot that was!!

Micole Ongman

All My Readers,

As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else.  Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions.  I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis.  Here is the thirteenth one from Maya!

 

A Message from Maya!

 

Dear Karen

Thank you so, so, so, so much.

I can’t find the right words to thank you because I think this word is nothing compared to what you have done for me.  You have opened my eyes to a new world.  Before communicating with you I was very sad because I felt lonely.  I thought that no one else understood me or how I felt thinking of my child’s future.  How can he manage his life or even live without me – I couldn’t sleep at night thinking of how he will live, study, get married, or have children in the future? 

Maybe you think I exaggerate but I really want to ask you something and I want you to answer me honestly in a personal message please.  “My child is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, do you think that he has a chance to be cured?   I mean to be treated and live a normal life just like any other child?  Please answer me and thank you very much. 

You are an angel .

Maya

All My Readers,

As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else.  Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions.  I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis.  Here is the twelvth one from Holly McBain!

Cookie-Cutter Mentality Needs to Go

(by HollyMcBain)

Just now I was researching potty-training because my 6 year old son, who is diagnosed as High Functioning Autistic, still is not using the toilet. He turned 6 on July 29th and is in the 1st grade. Besides being HFA he also has a speech delay including cognition issues. When he was 3 years old he had a vocabulary of about 12 – 15 words. After trying a variety of private and semi-private therapies, we placed him in the PPCD program with the school district and he blossomed. Needless to say he and his brother (Asperger’s Syndrome) are the light of our lives.

Anyway, back to my point about cookie-cutter mentality needs to go: while researching potty-training for people with ASD I once again ran into the proverbial “brick wall” of just set up a routine and stick with it” approach. I really do not understand why that when dealing with a “spectrum” disorder, intelligent professionals want to place everyone in one category. Both of our boys are on the Autism Spectrum with both being extremely intelligent; but that is where their similarities end. From there, they are as different as night and day, so why would one process or plan work for both? It wouldn’t.

How I work with, discipline and deal with them is very different – not only because one is 6 and the other 8, but also because each one is an individual with their own characteristics, tastes, idiosyncrasies and issues. I realize that no one book is going to encompass the litany of possibilities to choose from when developing strategies for your child, however listing in one paragraph how to develop a potty-training routine using a cooking timer is just a wee bit simplified and seems almost condescending because essentially for me it is “been there, done that”.

I am looking for help to understand my child’s issues with potty-training and help him understand what I am trying to explain to him. Have you ever tried asking someone “are you getting the pee signal” who is autistic? God knows what he thinks I am asking – it could be anywhere from thinking a bell should ring to getting a phone call or some acute pain. I have no clue if he really understands because he cannot enunciate to me what is or is not happening just prior to soiling his diaper. So to offer advice like “oh just use a timer and set up a schedule” is useless information for me.

This is what I mean by cookie-cutter mentality – if every person on the Autism Spectrum is different in their issues, why aren’t there a greater variety of ways to help them? You know we are taught not to “pigeon-hole” neuro-typical children because everyone is their own individual entity. Maybe it is time this was extended in greater detail for ASD kids and adults.

All My Readers,

As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else.  Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions.  I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis.  Here is the eleventh one from Dr. Steven Richfield!

Tips for Coaching Kids with Aspergers Syndrome
(By Dr. Steven Richfield)


A parent writes: Our 11 year old son is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high functioning Autism. He is bright and inquisitive, but has great difficulty picking up on social cues and understanding many aspects of friendship. We struggle to coach him in these areas but our explanations often don’t make sense to him. What are your suggestions?

Aspergers Syndrome presents children with a variety of social and emotional stumbling blocks. Due to difficulties understanding implied meaning, humour, and other inferential reasoning skills, children are often confused by the rapidly changing landscape of social interaction. Their tendency toward quick and literal interpretation of words can produce significant problems with establishing and maintaining friendships. Preoccupations with narrow, solitary interests can impede their capacity to converse on the range of topics that typically interest peers.

Parents of children with Aspergers Syndrome often help them make sense of their social world, but success can be fleeting and isolated to certain circumstances.  Here are some coaching tips that may increase the success rate:

Think of the social world as a variety of “relationship road maps” that your child needs to perceive accurately and use talking tools to be able to follow. On various pieces of paper, draw “roads” of how conversations flow depending upon environmental cues. Cues include who your child is with, where it takes place, what the other child says and the degree of familiarity your child has with a peer. For instance, if your son bumps into an acquaintance at a movie theatre, depict how the initial greeting may lead to a short period of questioning about the movie, and finally to a closing remark about the next time he might see the peer again. Be sure to emphasize that what is said is just as important as perceiving the available cues in order to keep comments on target and within the boundaries of the environment.      

Refer to boundaries as the lines that keep people within the relationship road they are supposed to be on. Boundaries are a critical piece of the social puzzle but are often ignored by children with Aspergers Syndrome since they are subtle and hard to distinguish. Make boundaries visual by depicting the kinds of statements and behaviours that are appropriate to the particular “road” (write them within the road) and examples of responses that are not (write them outside of the road). Explain how behaving within the boundaries protect the feelings of others and tells people that we are aware of what is going on around us. Depict how boundaries are more narrow when first meeting people but gradually widen as they become more familiar. Likewise, display how boundaries are narrow or wide depending upon the people present, situation and other circumstances.

Offer ways of understanding humour or typical childhood banter that uses available environmental cues.  Children with Aspergers Syndrome can easily get caught in the throes of strong emotional reactions to common antagonistic statements made by peers. The intention of such comments may be to entertain bystanders, self-inflate, or trigger over-reactions by the child in question. Yet, no matter the intention, if your child reacts with verbal or physical aggression, they are going to pay severe penalties. This makes it especially critical to coach anticipation skills that normalize typical peer baiting. Draw another relationship road that depicts some of the standard comments that kids say to each other in various circumstances. Add a thinking bubble that contains a self-instruction to help you child keep their cool.

Dr. Steven Richfield is a child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting, PA.  He has developed a child-friendly self-control/social skills building program called Parent Coaching Cards.  His new book, The Parent Coach: A New Approach To Parenting In Today’s Society  is available through Sopris West (sopriswest.com or 1-800-547-6747) He can be contacted at www.parentcoachcards.com or 610-238-4450

All My Readers,

As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else.  Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions.  I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis.  Here is the tenth one from Jeff Stimpson!

The Terrible 13′s
(By Jeff Stimpson)

 My son Alex, who has autism, just turned 13. Hair is sprouting all over his body. He’s started using roll-on.  His voice has deepened.  Parts of him are suddenly stunningly large.  Others don’t seem to be growing at all.  “He must be getting very … wilful,” says his service coordinator, looking at him in our living room.  He’s watching Elmo.  I can see his first moustache from here.  Yes.

It seems a blink ago that he was a premature baby in an isolette in a neonatal intensive care unit. It was 13 years ago.  It was a blink ago – about 15 minutes, actually – that my wife Jill called to say:  “We haven’t had a good outing.  He’s lying down on the line for the registers and I’ve tried taking his ear and it didn’t work.  People are staring.  It’s going to take a special set of people for him, and we’re not them.”

“I didn’t like it when he was five and he drank out of puddles, but nobody laughed at him and nobody made fun of him,” Jill says. True.  But in the past six months Alex has become more embarrassing than at any time in his life. People are starting to look at Alex, then look away, then look back, as if at a train wreck, says Jill.  They never used to.  He pitches forward and back on stiff legs.  His voice is getting loud and embarrassing as he sprawls on the floor of a store and bellows “Banana!”  Jill says that during their recent outing Alex had to use the bathroom.   Jill can’t go in the bathroom with him anymore, of course. She says a boy about 13 came out while Alex was in there.  “You could tell he didn’t want to be in there with Alex,” Jill says.  “People are starting to react to him.”  She also said her legs hurt when she returned with him.

His school – school,  that bastion of sanity in Alex’s life – has reported that he needs a 1:1 para-professional to shadow and monitor him so he doesn’t bolt to the playground or barge into counselling sessions with students or into classrooms.  “With hormones and puberty and everything going on, it’s becoming a little too much for him to focus,” said his head teacher.  Indeed.

An adult recreation program I tried to get him into last month sure reacted to him. They found him in a pre-school room on the fourth floor, with its huge red rubber ball and Elmo books.  We all watched him press the ball to his midsection and flip through Elmo books.  “He’s obviously more comfortable in this environment and we’re not set up to deliver that,” says one staffer, speaking of the big ball and the Elmo books.

He grabs his crotch these days and purrs “Mooooommmmmmmyyyyy …”  We tell him to do that in private, when he’s alone.  He does it on the sidewalk, too, between bouts of running ahead of us, shouting, bobbing and weaving and biting his arm.  “God it’s embarrassing,” says Jill.”   I hate to say it, but it’s true.”  He seems to prefer men as companions — I sure found females confusing at 13, too — and when out with a female sitter recently darted into a health club kids’ room and started pressing a big ball against his midsection.

Can the teachers, can anybody, help him understand that he shouldn’t leave our apartment and bust in on neighbours?  Stop biting his arm when frustrated, stop unravelling and ripping his own T shirts? Can they help him understand the dangers of traffic?  “I can’t have him run across the street when I have five kids back here on this corner,” his teacher says.

Busting in at home:  There was the couple that we think was having sex.  The young woman in the middle of her first brunch for friends in her newly renovated two-bedroom.  There was the couple with the great cats.  The family with all the expensive ship models in glass cases that I could picture Alex missing by a hair as he darted into their apartment.  There was the surgeon. “Do you need any help?” he asked.  He wasn’t smiling; neither was his wife. “He took my hand and tried to go right in,” Mrs. Surgeon said. Alex was sprawled on the carpet outside their door.

I bought three white plastic doorknob covers for babies  (babies, for Christ’s Sake; Alex is shaving.). Aunt Julie suggests a combination lock.  Ideal, but we checked into this back in 2006 when Alex first bolted.  You want a what?, the locksmith asked.  He figured, after some head-scratching, that a combo lock wouldn’t work that way – the bolt goes into the door jamb the wrong way– unless installed upside down.

I’ve sent notes to neighbours, and made Alex apologize in person.  “I’m sorry,” he says;  I stand there wondering if he knows what the syllables mean.  Jill suggests that when he gets home from school, we take him out.  “Take him floor to floor.  Let him get it out of his system.”  This sort of works  for one night.

“Will he get over this?” they asked at a sexuality and autism workshop a year ago. This is the question I asked a prospective babysitter (…babies, for Christ’s Sake…) whom I interviewed this afternoon. You can expect more aggression, said the first.  Sure it’s normal, said the second.  Great, but once again in my son’s life I feel myself groping for what others find normal.

jeffslife.tripod.com/alextheboy
Twitter Name: Jeffslife

“Alex: The Fathering of a Preemie” (on Amazon and at academychicago.com) and “Alex the Boy: Episodes From A Family’s Life With Autism” (available at vervante.com and on Amazon)

All My Readers,

As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else.  Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions.  I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis.  Here is the ninth one from Dr. Steven Richfield!

Preparing The Aspergers Young Adult for the Social Challenges of College
(By Dr. Steven Richfield)

 

As older adolescents with Aspergers Syndrome prepare for college, many challenges await. The familiarity of high school and the routines of daily life have provided a secure structure for them to accomplish tasks and manage interactions with others.  College presents a drastically different set of circumstances requiring skill sets that are unique to this environment. The autonomy and fragmentation of college life places a greater burden upon the student to be able to use interpersonal skills to build a successful academic and social foundation.

Although parents’ roles will change from those held when their child was in high school, thoughtful preparation can ensure that the young adult continues to build an effective interpersonal repertoire. Here are some coaching tips to get the process underway:

Expand the dialogue to include the “interpersonal requirements of college.” Most parents have already addressed the impact of Aspergers upon life, but now is the time to link it to college.  For ease of discussion, explain how college entails more complex interactions that can be roughly divided into input and output. Interpersonal input includes comments made by and observations made of roommates, as well as conversations overheard in class or announcements made by professors.  In contrast, output entails an individual’s behaviours and comments that are received by others, setting the stage for all types of first impressions and final interpretations to be arrived at.  Emphasize that their ability to accurately interpret input and adjust their output to send the messages they want is critical to their happiness and success in college.

Begin to share stories of how both of you received input and offered output to others in your lives.  Such stories provide the Aspergers young adult with a variety of ways to enhance their repertoire.  Parents might explain how, despite their discomfort, they asked for clarification when confused by someone’s reply.  Since Aspergers is marked by social ambiguities and a reluctance to pursue help this can facilitate initiative.  Similarly, if your soon-to-be college student describes social snapshots of their life you can help them consider likely interpretations of input as well as the output that would flow well with those comments or behaviours.  Most importantly, by respectfully exchanging these ideas and stories with one another you build a trusted dialogue where your young adult with Aspergers can continue to gain vital interpersonal skills.

Preempt the typical anxiety and withdrawal that are triggered by new social settings.  Aspergers tends to make people seem stiff and aloof when deep down they really want to feel attached and involved.  A barrier of anxiety stands in the way but there are ways to overcome it.  One way is to ask your incoming freshman to write lists of their interests, views, recent experiences, character strengths, and goals.  Such lists help them relate more spontaneously when there are opportunities to interact around such themes. Point out how news items, music and interesting classes tend to stimulate discussions so it’s a good idea to be ready to meaningfully contribute to the conversations that follow.  Periodically reviewing their lists gives them an “interpersonal head start” when these opportunities are presented.

Offer strategies to build interpersonal fluency and confidence. Since social life appears so amorphous to the Aspergers young adult it is best to keep strategies simple and easy to remember. One approach is to coach them in ways to “drop seeds of interest” during the opening phase of conversations. This entails briefly mentioning topics that tend to have “high interest value” to peers such as concerts, movies, technology, or members of the opposite sex.  Another strategy is to practice “good lead-ins with good timing,” or using past information that has been revealed provided that the timing is right.  Coach them in how information revealed during a one-on-one discussion may be inappropriate to use as a lead-in during a group conversation.  Discuss how as information becomes more personal, timing becomes more critical.

Dr. Steven Richfield is an author and child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting, PA   He has developed a child-friendly, self-control/social skills building program called Parent Coaching Cards now in use in thousands of homes and schools throughout the world.  His book, “The Parent Coach:  A New Approach to Parenting In Today’s Society,” is available through Sopris West (sopriswest.com or 1-800-547-6747) He can be contacted at director@parentcoachcards.com or 610-238-4450. To learn more, visit www.parentcoachcards.com

All My Readers,

As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else.  Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions.  I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis.  Here is the eighth one from Caroline Washington!


Judging a Book by its Cover
(By Caroline Washington)

 

That saying was told to me as a child, but it’s a saying some of us have forgotten. When I go out with my son in public most people automatically assume that I am a bad mother because Uriah has tantrums in public. My son is a normal little boy in so many ways, but I know that my Child has Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Uriah was diagnosed with Autism in June of 2000. As a mother, I felt guilty because I thought it was caused by something I had done. Of course, now I realize that I couldn’t have done anything to control the Autism. Yet, that doesn’t stop the hurt that I feel. With Autism, I find myself struggling to keep my child’s life as normal and stress-free as possible.

 Like many, I had never heard of this disorder before 2000. It took a neurological doctor to explain that it is a developmental disability. Uriah’s mind works like a two and half year olds. He has little or no speech, he tantrums a lot, which has led to a behavioral problem. As a mother, I want him to experience the same things other kids do, but I find it hard to do so. Not because the kids aren’t accepting of his Autism, but because of the adults. I guess they feel that if Uriah plays with their kids in the park, then their kids might become “special” too! Things like that have not stopped me from taking Uriah out, I just explain to them that Uriah’s brain works a little different from everybody else’s.

In December of 2000, I decided to leave my job to care for him full-time. It hasn’t been easy going from a two income household down to one. I guess, in my mind, there was going to be a system set up to help me financially. I quickly discovered there wasn’t. In the beginning, Uriah had qualified for SSI disability, but when my husband received a raise at work he was cut off.

My son is now in a public school program for special needs children and I keep being told he could use extra speech and occupational therapy, something my husband’s insurance does not cover. I find myself working with flash cards and the like at home, hoping this will help until his Autism Waiver is approved. (I have been told this can take up to seven years). I never regret that Uriah is here, because I realize that my son gives me a purpose.

My life’s joy is to help Uriah succeed in whatever he wants to do now and in the future, and to let other people know that when they see a child acting out in the store or whatever, don’t just assume it’s bad parenting. It just maybe a special child acting out…and they cannot help themselves. That’s why it’s not good to Judge a Book by its Cover.

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