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January 2017

Children taking a test

The Educational Experience – Q&A

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Q: What was college like for you?


I tried to go to college a couple times. Eventually, I stopped going to classes most of the time. The second college I went to had an office for students with disabilities. They treated me pretty poorly. I went in the first time and had an interview. Then, I went in the second time and got yelled at for how I treated the person.


I think they confused me with someone else, because the first time I was there with my mom. Neither she nor I thought that I’d done anything unusual. That gave me a sour taste from the start.


Q: What were some big issues you had with college and your experience?


The big problem was that the only concession that they could offer me because of my autism was longer time for tests. That is not the kind of help that I need in any sense.


Typically, I go very quickly on tests. An hour test might be completed in fifteen minutes. I rush through things and get it done. Often, what I needed was sort of more flexibility on when homework could be turned in. I needed knowledge of what the homework was, in advance, so that I could work on it early to get it done on time.


Overall, they didn’t really have any sort of understanding of autism. I was unable to handle college, in large part because of their lack of understanding. I think that for a lot of people on the spectrum, college is an option if they start off with the right experiences.


Q: What made school easiest for you? Do you remember an example?


The easiest and most enjoyable time I had learning was when I was in Indonesia and we had 1 math teacher for 4 grades.


The classes were all at the same time. The teacher would say, “You’re on chapter 7. You have to complete chapter 7-1 through 7-7 in the next 10 days. I’m going to give you a test at 10 days and by that point you have to have turned in all of these assignments.” It was very black and white.


I could turn the assignments in earlier if I wanted to, and take the test earlier, and go on to the next chapter. I could work at whatever pace I wanted. It was entirely self-taught. I would read the lessons; I would learn the things. If I had questions, I would go directly to the teacher.


If I didn’t have questions, I could just go onto the test. I was allowed to work absolutely at my own pace. It worked fantastic for me.


Thank you all for reading! If you have any additional questions, feel free to head on over to the “Ask Paul” section and shoot me a question.

Parent talking to child

My Advice for Parents of Autistic Children

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Parenting is hard. I, personally, do not have experience parenting. But I know how much effort it takes and the work that goes in to raising a child. It’s a ton. The USDA, according to a new study, projects that in 2016 a middle class, married couple will spend about $250,000 to raise a child from birth to age 17. These figures don’t include college-related costs. But still … wow.


On top of the financials involved, raising a child through the ups and downs of just being a kid seems extremely, extremely challenging. And that got me thinking … “what advice would I give my parents, if I knew they’d be raising another autistic child?”


Explain the Why


Spend as much time as you can listening and learning. One thing that often helps people on the autism spectrum is being able to answer the question “why?”


Any time you do something, be ready for an autistic child to say, “why did you do that?” And if you want them to develop the same habits as you, or the same values as you, be ready to actually talk about why you do things. The understanding of ‘why’, is so important to autistic children. I can’t stress that enough. Why do you clean when you do? Why do you have the schedule that you have? Why do you watch TV when you do?


Watch and Observe


Watching and taking notes on actions can be a huge help. Try to pay attention to why your child does things in certain environments. Try to also pay attention to which environments bother your child, and in which environments he or she flourishes.


Watch what they do for fun, find out what their interests are, and try to, if you can, (if they’re verbal) engage in dialogue about why they like and dislike certain things.


Understanding through Communication


You may listen, observe, take notes and still feel disconnected as a parent to an autistic child. But keep in mind, the biggest tool you have for getting along with your child is your understanding and empathy. It takes more than just knowing what they like and observing them in certain social environments. You must strive to communicate, which will help you truly understand the deep-rooted causes for actions.


Overall, parenting is hard. I couldn’t imagine the difficulties that came with being my parent. But if you truly try to explain the reasoning for your own actions, while trying to observe, listen and communicate with your autistic child, then I know things will start to get easier.


Understanding is the key.


Thanks again for reading. Please feel free to post any questions in the comments section below.

Autism written on a puzzle

How Common Is Autism?

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How Common?


Today, the rate of autism is roughly around one in 89, with it being much higher among males; almost one in 50. The numbers change pretty much yearly, and they’ve been rising frequently throughout the last decade.


Part of the cause for this increase in the number of people with autism is that each and every year, we become better at identifying autism. A huge reason for this is awareness campaigns. And we’re living in the information age. Everyone has access to so much more information than ever before and this has been great for those trying to better understand autism. We all have access to Google and to other search tools that can lead us to autism advocacy groups where we can find all sorts of great information.


The Information Age


We now have access via search engines to groups like Autism Speaks, the Autism Cares Foundation and Autism Empowerment. These organizations have started campaigns like “Light It Up Blue,” which spreads awareness and understanding of autism, celebrates and honors the unique talents and skills of people with autism, and brings attention to the needs of all people with autism. These campaigns are a benefit to both people with and without autism.


Along with everyone having more information at their disposal, a large part of why the diagnosis rate may be so high right now is that we’re trying so hard to diagnose people early.


Of course, we know that autism likely has multiple causes. Some of them may be genetic. Some of them may be environmental. And there are surely causes that we do not even know of today. At the very least, the increased rate of diagnosis is at least due, in part, to our ability to identify autism so much better now than we could even ten years ago.


Overall it’s clear that people are, without a doubt, trying to understand autism. Along with that, it’s more common for people to try to understand what it’s like to have autism, and how they can better communicate with people they know who are on the spectrum.


If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment below.


As always, thanks for reading!

Family holding hands

Parents: Understand Your Child With Autism

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Often, I’m asked if I have any advice for parents of children with autism. Although there is not a “one size fits all” answer to this question, I typically start with something very simple. Parents should work to spend as much time as they can listening to their children and learning about them.


One thing that often helps people on the autism spectrum, is being able to answer the question, “why?”


Any time you do something, be ready for someone with autism to say, “Why did you do that?” And if you want them to develop the same habits as you, or the same values as you, be ready to talk about why you do the things you do. Clear explanation is key!


For example, why do you clean when you do, why you do anything when you do it, why do you keep the schedule you do. But I urge parents to also pay attention to why their child does what they do. This comes with learning and listening, as mentioned above.


Watch what they do, when they do it, and watch what their interests are. And try, if you can, if they’re verbal, to engage in dialogue about why. And if they’re not verbal, try to think of as many reasons as possible as to why this might be. Think beyond just why you would do it, and think about reasons why someone with autism might behave the way they do an do things a certain way. Put yourself in their shoes and show some empathy, because the biggest tool you have for getting along is understanding, not just knowing.


A true, in-depth understanding of why a person on the spectrum and a person not on the spectrum each do different things is a major key in fostering quality relationships — specifically for parents who have difficulties understanding their children who have autism.


If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments section of the post.


I hope you all enjoy!