Monthly Archives :

December 2017

Autism Q&A

Autism and The Adolescent Years

560 315 Paul Louden

Welcome to the Louden on Autism Q & A. This week, I’m back to answer a question submitted by a website visitors to shed light on some of the most important questions about autism. I receive questions every day, and I want to make sure that the answers to these important questions are being shared with all of you.

 

Please know that these are my opinions and my answers come from my research and my own personal experiences. Of course, each situation is different. All of us as people are different. And no two people with or without autism should be treated the same exact way.

 

This week, I received a question about autism and the younger years. These can be very difficult for many parents, so let me know if you ever have any questions. Here it is…

 

QUESTION

 

My son is 10 and was finally diagnosed at age 6 with ASD. We have overcome many obstacles and have many left. My son is fortunately high functioning and quite intelligent. It has been quite the learning experience. For the last 5 years, I’ve had to fight the biggest battle that I never realized I would have: Education. The community of school is so unknowledgeable of how to reach ASD children as well as manage behaviors that it can be detrimental. I have learned so much that I have become a strong advocate and am happy to say have finally forced the school district (took me 5 years) to make some small changes that will help not only my son but others.

You are on the spectrum so what difficulties can be expected during his adolescent years? How can I help my son accept his diagnosis, be proud of who he is and reach his fullest potential? How can I advocate more and help him do the same?

 

ANSWER

 

One of the biggest challenges I faced during adolescent years was a desire to have more friendships and date, without really understanding what that was or why I wanted it. A lot of popular culture shows high school as being a certain way – close friends, dating, etc. One thing to work on is making sure there’s an open communication channel. Help him discover what he really wants, and reason through why he wants it, and what he hopes to gain from it. I felt there was a way I was “supposed” to be, and it led to me trying to hard for things I didn’t really want.

 

After that, it was also the increased independence in later high school and early college. I wasn’t really prepared for the significant shift from “clear daily schedule” to “manage my own time” and it led to some poor outcomes. My best advice is just to do your best to forge whatever bond you can so that he feels he has someone to share his emotional state with – what he wants, why he wants it, and what he’s struggling with.

 

As for being a better advocate? I don’t really know. To be honest, I’m completely flying by the seat of my pants here. I think in some ways it may be harder to be a parent advocate. I’ve found that revealing some of my worst moments have been very helpful in framing for people the idea that although I speak well, I’ve had some significant struggles still, and help them understand where I’m coming from when I talk about my experiences.

 

Unfortunately, as a parent, it’s not really ideal to be hanging your son’s metaphorical dirty laundry out for others to see. It’s a balance of preserving his trust in sharing things with you, to help him get the help he needs. Honestly, I’m really hoping to make more materials available that may help in an educational context that might be useful for parents to share with educators, but that’s just one of those “I hope to do” plans right now.

 

I would say be clear and don’t take “no” for an answer if you know it’s something he really needs. The ADA requires reasonable accommodations, and it also lets the people asking for the accommodations define what they need, *not* the person giving them. The person giving them only argues whether or not they can offer that accommodation at reasonable expense and inconvenience for those involved. Your son has a right to the same educational opportunities as everyone else, don’t let the schools forget that.

 

Thanks for reading. Check back soon for another Q&A.

Autism Q&A

Autism Diagnoses: The Next 20 Years

560 315 Paul Louden

Welcome to the Louden on Autism Q & A. This week, I’m back to answer a question submitted by a website visitors to shed light on some of the most important questions about autism. I receive questions every day, and I want to make sure that the answers to these important questions are being shared with all of you.

 

Please know that these are my opinions and my answers come from my research and my own personal experiences. Of course, each situation is different. All of us as people are different. And no two people with or without autism should be treated the same exact way.

 

This week, I received a question about autism and the future of diagnoses. Here it is…

 

QUESTION

 

If 1 in 68 children (1 in 50 males) are being diagnosed with autism what will the world’s population look like in 20 years? I am a 78-year-old and have has been in special education advocacy field for 35 years. I also adopted and raised my 17-year-old great grandson who has autism. What a learning curve it has been. Even though I thought I was well versed in disability understanding and advocacy, autism was a whole new set of rules and language. I daily watch the struggles my grandson undergoes to try and understand my world. What will life be like for all of us in 20 years?

 

ANSWER

 

For the most part, I believe the higher diagnosis rate is more anchored in our improving ability to recognize autism early, and in higher functioning forms. I wouldn’t be surprised if we found that better diagnosis and treatment meant that we have fewer people struggling, unemployed, or in jobs that make their mental health worse and their life experience worse.

 

In many cases I’ve observed older individuals, people from before we really started pushing to diagnose autism, that I’m fairly certain are exhibiting signs of being an individual with high functioning autism. There’s even one past supreme court justice, in reading both his opinions for the court and his personal thoughts on his life and experiences made me suspect he may be an undiagnosed individual with autism.

 

In some ways the high numbers are a crisis, but I feel it’s a crisis of “now we know how serious it is” rather than “it’s becoming worse and worse” and that it largely means that individuals who would slip through the cracks will now have the chance to address some of their challenges better, and live healthier, happier lives.

 

Thanks for reading. Check back soon for another Q&A.

Autism Q&A

Autism & School: A Major Issue

560 315 Paul Louden

Welcome to the Louden on Autism Q & A. This week, I’m back to answer a question submitted by a website visitors to shed light on some of the most important questions about autism. I receive questions every day, and I want to make sure that the answers to these important questions are being shared with all of you.

 

Please know that these are my opinions and my answers come from my research and my own personal experiences. Of course, each situation is different. All of us as people are different. And no two people with or without autism should be treated the same exact way.

 

This week, I received a question about autism and school and why some struggle so terribly with each and every day. Please let me know if you have any questions.

 

QUESTION

 

My question is regarding school and discipline with my 17-year-old grandson. He doesn’t do well in high school. He gets mostly failing grades in the classes that don’t interest him and he doesn’t seem to mind. He can make them up in an online credit recovery class, which he has been successful with. He usually misses or is late to about 5-8 classes a week due to various reasons such as having a headache or wanting to get a drink or being hungry or having problems with his phone or because he is afraid someone is going to beat him up, etc. Homeschool is not an option. He is motivated by the promise of money and video games, but this seems unhealthy and unsustainable, and he won’t get rewarded like that in real life. He has a life coach but it seems the autism piece is a big obstacle to moving forward. Any suggestions would be very appreciated!

 

ANSWER

 

One thing people often miss when trying to help an autistic person overcome motivational and discipline issues is the other side of the equation. Often for us class, attendance, being around other students, etc, present unique and overwhelming strains on us.

 

Meanwhile, things like our cellphone, personal time, video games, etc, are coping mechanisms for anxiety. So when you use them as a punishment it’s like being in a situation where someone says “It’s cold out here, but I’m not going in there because it’s even colder!” and you react by taking away their blanket, so then their thought is “well, this is bad, but that makes going in there even worse.”

 

While discipline is very important, the school, coach, therapist, and others should be looking not for ways to push harder from behind, but rather the smooth the ground in front. Spend more time trying to identify why he’s willing to face the penalties and sees them as “not as bad” as what’s in front of them. It could be issues like pacing, struggles with sensory issues, anxiety or depression that needs other treatments, or a variety of other things.

 

It sounds a lot like he’s still in the mode where his primary concern is his own mental safety. Until he feels on solid enough ground, it’s very hard for him to go into areas where he’s been hurt before, and take the risks necessary to attend education or develop toward an adult life.

 

Thanks for reading. Check back soon for another Q&A.

Autism Q&A

A Defiant Attitude or Autism?

560 315 Paul Louden

Welcome to the Louden on Autism Q & A. This week, I’m back to answer a question submitted by a website visitors to shed light on some of the most important questions about autism. I receive questions every day, and I want to make sure that the answers to these important questions are being shared with all of you.

 

Please know that these are my opinions and my answers come from my research and my own personal experiences. Of course, each situation is different. All of us as people are different. And no two people with or without autism should be treated the same exact way.

 

This week, I received a a question about a defiant attitude form a person with Autism. Here’s the question and answer:

 

QUESTION

 

How do you know when certain behavior is the autism or just being defiant? My 14 year old becomes aggressive and loses temper easily when things don’t go his way especially with his much younger siblings.

 

ANSWER

 

There’s no real “tell” that I’m aware of, unfortunately. We’re people, so asking that can be like looking at a purple wall and asking “how do I know which parts are red and which parts are blue?” For example, it’s possible that he becomes frustrated with the situation because of the autism, but the actions he chooses to demonstrate it are a result of personality that needs guidance.

 

Aggressiveness isn’t typically a core aspect of autism. On the other hand, the situation itself could be a clash of personalities, while the aggressive response is because autism has so far deprived him of life experiences and skills that help him resolve it in other ways. While aggressiveness is less likely in autism, it’s not impossible, especially if it’s developed over time in response to the world around him.

 

The best starting point is just to see if you can get him to open up about it. Try to make sure he doesn’t feel “interrogated” or necessarily “in the wrong.” Just that you’re interested in why he did what he did. See if he can, probably slowly and across multiple incidents, be coaxed into opening up about what leads to these situations.

 

Whether it’s autism or personality, you still want to understand the behavior and you want to change it. The major difference is really in how you go about trying for change, and that can only come from a deeper understanding of what’s actually happening inside his mind when things go wrong.

 

Thanks for reading. Check back soon for another Q&A.