About Autism

Louden on Autism Q & A: Improving Your Skills

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 fine motor skills and apps that can help people with autism at school and with their writing skills.

 

QUESTION

 

We have a 13-year-old son with autism. In addition to trying to get compliance for his IEP from his Magnet school (health sciences and engineering) and dealing with his daily behavioral slips and suspensions (we’re on thin ice) he struggles with writing. It’s not just the fine motor skills, but the transference of ideas into organized thought/essays/stories, poor spelling and grammar and not understanding space allocation on a page. He also lacks confidence, even though his verbal vocabulary is off the hook. Note-taking is a challenge and he gets dinged for it. Every app I’ve found out there is either concept only or too “babyish” as he puts it. Do you know of anything to help with the motor skills and composition both? He has a voice-to-text device, but that’s not ideal, and unfortunately, they don’t teach keyboarding anymore. Any guidance you could offer would be great. I think this would go far in his self-esteem and help his stress level and grades as well.

 

ANSWER

 

One idea that might be interesting is to look into learning programming. There are both typing programming languages and more “visual” ones that allow you to construct your programs out of “blocks” that perform functions.

 

The reason I suggest this is because programming can become very engaging for people on the spectrum, it’s fairly common for us to end up with an affinity for technology and related things.

 

But programming also depends on a certain type of “logic.” You are, in essence, “explaining” to the computer what to do. The skills developed from this of thinking things through, understanding the parts, and putting them in an order that makes sense, typically starts very simple and grows in complexity as you learn to program. The same internal mental processes can be transferred to the process of organizing thoughts and ideas into clearer essays and stories. It may be something to look into.

 

It’s not specifically a treatment for autism, but there are many skills out in the world that can help anyone and there’s no reason not to repurpose them.

 

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

Louden on Autism Q & A: The Safe Person

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 why a grandmother’s grandson was insulting her often, when he is very nice and polite to many other people.

 

QUESTION

 

My 22 year-old grandson, who is on the spectrum, has beaten many odds like graduating high school and working for two years. He was the employee of the month for May! He loves work, but when home he shuts himself into his room & plays games online with people. I’ve always been his advocate & cheering squad but he’s very rude, insulting & mean to just me! His psychiatrist says I’m his “safe” person! What does this mean?

 

ANSWER

 

That’s difficult. Typically when an autistic person is “rude” to someone it’s usually a case of them not intending to be rude, but being interpreted as rude despite that. That can happen fairly easily if it’s around someone they feel “safe” with because they finally get the chance to relax from the high effort of trying to maintain their “appearance” throughout the day.

 

If he plays a lot of online games, he may have recognized that gamers often insult and “trash talk” each other as a means of bonding (though it’s not always this, and can just as easily be intended as offensive). It may be that he’s trying to form connections with you in a way he’s recognized elsewhere and it may take some time and effort for him to learn that such things aren’t appropriate except in very specific circumstances, or possibly even that what he’s doing isn’t the same as what’s happening elsewhere. Subtleties and nuance can be very hard for someone on the spectrum to pick up, so the difference between “playful and good-natured” ribbing and actual insults can be lost.

 

Because of the other disorders, it could also extend beyond that. It’s important to remember that not everything is autism, and it may be that something about his living situation or place in life is causing him physical or mental discomfort, and this is a way he releases that pressure.

 

My strongest suggestion is to talk with his psychiatrist more about the behavior. As they’re the person with the most direct knowledge of what may be going on, they may be able to guide you toward more positive behavior.

 

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

Louden on Autism Q & A: Autism Advocacy

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 Temple Grandin and why so few people with autism are successfully advocating, like I am working to do.

 

QUESTION

 

Why are there so few people with autism who are advocating for others on the spectrum? You and just a few others are doing this. Why?

 

ANSWER

 

It’s very difficult. At the base level, most people can’t afford to do it. I wouldn’t be able to make a living from it and am only able to continue because of financial support from my parents because they feel the message is important. Temple Grandin was fortunate enough to be able to graduate college and have a career. After that, advocacy is a difficult process. In some ways it’s confrontational – you’re challenging beliefs people had, and trying to change them. I meet people who argue with me that I don’t seem autistic. Many of us have spent our lives being worn down, and if we manage to get to a level where we can get by, we don’t want to go out and make it worse for ourselves by having to confront people.

 

Assuming you have the financial means and personality for advocacy, you also have to have the communication skills. Even neurotypical people rarely have the communication skills to explain complex topics about their own thought processes and experiences. That’s why organizations like Toastmasters exist, to help people learn the techniques and skills to communicate effectively. Many of us with autism wouldn’t really think about going into a situation like that, that feels largely social, to try to develop those skills. It only occurred to me after years of advocacy as a means of improving my skills, and I haven’t done anything like it yet. While, speaking diagnostically, autism is specifically an impediment to social communication, this can result in communication delays in general or uncertainty in general communication, so you have to be one of the autistic individuals who either overcome that or doesn’t struggle with that delay.

 

Very few people who have disabilities go out and advocate for them. Most just seek to find a way to live their lives, and advocacy can add a whole new set of challenges. Autism, unfortunately, presents some unique additional challenges that made advocacy more difficult. You always have to put your own personal mental health first, and so for many people advocacy simply isn’t the right choice because adding the additional challenges on top of how difficult daily life can be may just be too much. I’ve had to take a step back from my activities in the past, the radio show, and other things because I just couldn’t manage it. Sometimes retreating for months at a time.

 

It’s just hard, and it’s not right for everyone in the first place, so the right combination of events has to lead to it. There are a lot of people with autism out there advocating on their own, locally, in their own spaces, but on top of everything else you also have to land in a situation where there are people who can help you spread your message on a larger scale.

 

It takes a lot of luck, really. That’s the short of it. Some of us got lucky, many of us are still working just as hard, or harder, to help people understand, but haven’t had the same opportunities.

 

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

Louden on Autism Q & A: Feeling Different

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 how people with autism sometimes feel different and inadequate. Here are my thoughts.

 

QUESTION

 

My son has so many feelings of being different and inadequate, and I was wondering if you knew what I can say or do to help him?

 

ANSWER

 

It’s difficult. Most autistic individuals who are at least interacting with the world around them are likely to recognize at least some of their differences.

 

My biggest recommendation is to try to give him the opportunity to be “in the lead.” Often if you’re doing a lot of therapy or education or other things, you’re following other peoples’ instructions and rules. Between that and the struggles of autism, you rarely have a chance to feel “in control” or even “right” sometimes.

 

If he has an interest, let him teach you more about it. Or look for activities like games, video games, or even just sharing a favorite book, movie, or TV show, where he can have control of when and how you do things, and be the one to “teach” you about it. This can help build a degree of confidence that, over time, can start to show elsewhere as well. Confidence and control are very, very important.

 

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

Louden on Autism Q & A: Finding A Job

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 older people with autism and how diagnoses can be different for those people who aren’t children or in their youth. This is a very common topic, so I wanted to address it in this week’s post.

 

QUESTION

 

Every time we discuss with my son about getting a job he shuts down. His story is that he worked for IBM after college for two years. He was then let go because of sleep problem.  He has $60,000 in student loans and we need to find him work, any suggestions?

 

ANSWER

 

This is a difficult situation many on the spectrum find themselves in. Failures lead to a loss in confidence, but you also often learn not to trust your own feelings of confidence. You’ve been confident before, and failed, so you learn you can’t really judge whether you’re ready to try again or not.

 

On top of that, you often have people telling you “I believe you can do it,” but you’ve seen them be wrong about you before. It’s also difficult because as long as you’re feeling pressured to get a job, it adds to the anxiety and uncertainty, making being successful at the job more difficult.


The most important thing, really, is to work to reduce pressure. That means focusing on other things, helping him find a place in life where he feels competent at just having reliable days. Address the anxiety, depression, and other symptoms.


Also, it may be valuable to look into SSI disability income. For some it’s important as a long-term tool to help stabilize things, but it can also just be a stepping stone. With the income from SSI offsetting the time-pressure that can come from being unemployed, it can make searching for a job feel less panic and anxiety inducing, and more something about finding “the right job, where I can succeed” rather than “any job, so that I’m no longer unemployed” which often can lead to more failure, and further loss of confidence.

 

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

Louden on Autism Q & A: Bullying People With 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 question about bullying on the Internet in relation to Autism. Here are my thoughts.

 

QUESTION

 

I am on the Autism spectrum as well. People on the Internet like to say that people who do or say something stupid are . . . Autistic. Personally, I do feel insulted by that. How would you perceive these comments?

 

ANSWER

 

This is particularly frustrating because we’re often struggling against our challenges, trying to be better. Trying to make missteps less often. When it’s used as an insult, it suggests we aren’t good people, when the truth is, we usually are and our missteps hurt us when we recognize them just as they may hurt people we’ve inadvertently offended.

 

So using the term “autistic” as a general insult for anyone who lacks social graces or otherwise does things like that is just completely unacceptable in my book. I take offense to it and it really does bother me quite a bit.

There are a lot of words, historically, that have been used as insults for a while until people learned to adjust their behavior around them. Although it’s not nearly to the same severity for “autistic,” things like the n-word and “retarded” have gone through various periods with the former being reclaimed, and the latter more or less being retired.

 

My perspective is that we should be trying to lay claim to “autistic” and establishing it as an identity. A word that has a specific meaning *we* control, rather than letting people who might abuse it toss it around as an insult, and that ties into part of how I speak about it these days. But in the end, harsh words come from all types of people, with and without disabilities, so we have to focus on what we can control and move forward being the bigger person.

 

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

Louden on Autism Q & A: Diagnosing Older People

560 315 Paul Louden

Welcome to the Louden on Autism Q & A. Today, 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 older people with autism and how diagnoses can be different for those people who aren’t children or in their youth. This is a very common topic, so I wanted to address it in this week’s post.

 

QUESTION

 

I would like to know your take on my 36 year-old-son. I suspect that he is on the spectrum, but when he was growing up, autism wasn’t sure on the radar so much. My question to you is where/how can I find support for someone diagnosed as an adult? Everything I read is geared toward children.

 

ANSWER

 

Support for adults is really fairly weak still. It’s just a situation where the more “obvious” problems that result in someone being diagnosed in earlier childhood tend to get a lot of the focus because they seem more extreme, but someone who’s able to cope just well enough to manage a little bit, and slip by until later in life, doesn’t seem as important for many institutions to focus on. Unfortunately, this just isn’t really true. While the degree of the challenges may be different, both individuals are human beings who deserve the best chance at a good life they can have.



My general advice is to look for a therapist who’s familiar enough with autism that they can address any other challenges they have (depression or anxiety, sensory issues, etc.) with an awareness of how autism could be affecting their experience of them. As well, look for local groups that may allow you to share resources or other information – there are often support groups, and they may know employers, entertainment venues, and other things that are aware enough of autism to create a better experience for those that interact with them.



I’ve found a large part of improving my situation isn’t just learning to address my symptoms, but looking for, and finding, spaces in the world where I’m more comfortable being autistic.

 

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

Hurricanes, Disasters and Autism

700 450 Paul Louden

In 2015, I wrote an article about Hurricanes, natural disasters and planning for these disasters with people with autism in mind. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey devastating my hometown of Houston, I wanted to re-share some of those thoughts, so that people preparing for future unexpected natural disasters and those working to survive through Harvey can best understand how to communicate with people with autism in these situations.

 

Most importantly, it’s key to remember that people on the autism spectrum are hypersensitive to changes in routine. Not knowing what comes next can be panic-inducing.

 

Here are a few ways the we can prepare for disasters and the impending road trips they may cause:

 

Read a Book About It

 

Create a visualization of what the trip will be like and what your family’s plan will be if rough weather is encountered. A picture book can serve this purpose, or make a chart with picture icons of the steps you will take if a weather emergency arises. Your child can keep the book or chart in a backpack along with an itinerary of the trip and other personal preparedness items. That way the information can be reviewed whenever your child would like.

 

Include Your Child in the Emergency Prep

 

Your child can help put together the basic items for an emergency kit that can be kept in a weather proof travel container inside the car. Knowing that the family has the items needed to handle common injuries, illnesses and safety situations is a vital reassurance for children with autism.

 

Do a Practice Drill

 

Before the trip, practice what your family will do if there is a severe weather emergency while you are driving. Act out the steps you will take if there is an accident or if you are forced to seek shelter. Listen to a recording of the sounds of thunder, tornado sirens and high winds so that these are less of a shock to your child if they occur. Show your child photos or video of what first responders look like, and how to contact them or react to them if the situation arises.

 

Pack Smart

 

Remember to pack all medications as well as a list of your child’s prescriptions. If your child is non-verbal, a medical bracelet or I.D. tag is important. Pack plenty of your child’s favorite non-perishable comfort foods, as well as favorite toys and familiar clothing so that your child will feel more secure in an unfamiliar environment.

 

Know Your Child’s Sensitivities and Triggers

 

Anticipate your child’s anxieties and what you can do to head them off. Technology provides structure and comfort for many autistic children. Bring along noise-canceling headphones that can be connected to a portable device loaded with favorite music, apps, movies and games. I also suggest investing in a portable battery charter and, if your child uses the Internet regularly, a mobile wi-fi hotspot. These items take on even more importance if you’re forced to take an evacuation route, because you could be in the car for many hours.

Louden on Autism Q & A: Life After High School

560 315 Paul Louden

Welcome to the Louden on Autism Q & A: Volume 6. Today, 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 children with autism who are nonverbal. This is a very common topic, so I wanted to address it in this week’s post.

 

QUESTION

 

My daughter has autism (high functioning) and has been excited about the debut of Julia on Sesame Street and other TV stars with autism. She is 20 years old, and she loves theatre and film. I want to find programs for her to join after high school. I would love to hear your advice and understand more about the challenges you have faced post high school/pre college years. She is incredibly confident on stage!

 

ANSWER

 

There are some programs that I’m aware of. I largely focus on trying to understand and communicate my experiences, so I’m not as knowledgeable as I’d like to be in terms of services available.

 

Particularly, as you’ve noticed, services for adults are fairly limited, though there’s a definite increase in interest. I do know of the Burkhart Center at Texas Tech in Lubbock that focuses on either developing job skills or a collegiate plan. They seem to have a fairly broad approach to things, but I believe have a considerable waiting list. There’s also the nonPareil Institute in Plano and Houston (you may have noticed my knowledge is fairly Texas based right now).

 

They’re also focused on developing employability, mainly with a focus on programming, computer art, and game design skills. They’ve expressed a desire to expand, and among those are film and other media. So, there are things like that out there. An online search might be a great place to start!

 

As for the challenges I personally faced, it was mostly in self-management. I failed to pay my bills in a timely manner, failed to attend classes, or turn in assignments. I had no problem keeping up, but while I wanted to get things done, I wasn’t able to self-manage myself and overcome anxiety and other barriers that prevented me from acting. One thing I strongly feel about autism is that while many people see a goal as “helping them have a typical life” the more important goal is “help them have a happy life.”

 

Sometimes this means foregoing a college degree and finding your niche elsewhere. Sometimes it means pushing through and figuring out how to make it work. If she’s confident on stage, it might be worth looking into alternative approaches to developing acting skills outside of college. Maybe a local theatre group or improv classes.

 

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

Louden on Autism Q & A: Volume #5

560 315 Paul Louden

Welcome to the Louden on Autism Q & A: Volume 5. Over the course of the next few months, I’m going to be using questions submitted by my website visitors, readers, autism advocates, parents and others 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 children with autism who are nonverbal. This is a very common topic, so I wanted to address it in this week’s post.

 

QUESTION

 

My son is nonverbal and autistic, and I’ve tried so much to help him. There will be many days where he says absolutely nothing that’s very understandable. However, the other day he said a whole sentence. I was very surprised. Any suggestions on how to keep this progress going?

 

ANSWER

 

A full sentence is great! Often there are a lot of factors when someone is nonverbal, and what it means when they verbalize something. As humans, we attempt a lot of nonverbal communication before we ever become verbal, and nonverbal communication still makes up a large part of how we communicate.

 

With autism, we tend to experience a lot of failures communicating. We often “reach out” in one way or another and have it ignored or misunderstood. And a key part of improving communication is developing the two-way flow.

 

Communication is never one sided, and your reactions to it, and how you respond, can be just as important. That may mean sometimes communicating as much as you can in the way they do. So if they prefer sounds or gestures, then sometimes trying to use some of their own communication tactics back, as a way of establishing a “shared” communication.

 

While the eventual goal is to move them toward more typical verbal, it can help to move back to them, and then move forward as a guide, rather than standing at the endpoint and asking them to come to you. Look a lot at the situation where a whole sentence was used — had it been a good day? Did he feel particularly safe? Was there something unique that might have removed barriers on the situation? Understanding the why is hugely important.

 

Thanks for reading. Check back next week for another Q&A.