Straight From the Source
Over the years, society has experienced increasing awareness of the autism spectrum through organizations like Milestones Autism Resources, the Autism Society, Autism Speaks, Autism Self-Advocacy Network, OCALI and others. These organizations, along with families and individuals, have worked to create public awareness of the social/relational difficulties for those on the autism spectrum. Promoting social/relational awareness is important and needed. However, there is increased need to provide insight for creating an environment of social/relational acceptance. Instead of mutual acceptance, a passive coexistence/tolerance can be a result, where neurotypicals and individuals on the autism spectrum may avoid relationships with each other. Individuals on the spectrum and neurotypical communities are often left without instruction on how to engage in relationships with each other. Unfortunately, people tend to avoid what they don’t understand, including relationships with individuals who are different from them. While this is not always the case, change is deeply needed.
Many adults living in our society are or could be classified as being on the autism spectrum. Within these parameters are individuals who grew up with an array of burgeoning services available to them as children or transitional adults and those who did not. Depending on individual circumstances, there may be varying degrees of social/relational competence or lack thereof. Regardless, the social and relational difficulties experienced by those on the autism spectrum do not cease after provision of childhood services or upon entering adulthood. In fact, difficulties continue throughout adulthood. Individuals with autism would benefit from a continuity of resources that address social/relational needs across the lifespan.
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Curious how music therapy could benefit your child this summer?
Individuals with ASD frequently respond well to routines and schedules so introducing a new activity in the slower months can help the whole family.
“With the change in summer scheduling (either no school or extended school year), music therapy can help fill structured gaps in schedules,” says Ronna Kaplan, Chair of the Center for Music Therapy at the Music Settlement in Cleveland.
Six to eight weeks (during the summer) is also a shorter time frame, which requires less time and financial commitment to any new hobby or therapy service.
In addition, music therapy can also offer a novel way to address goals and objectives in your Extended School Year plan, while preventing regression in certain key focus areas.
8-year-old Calla Whang* has gained fine motor skills, anxiety and anger control since starting music therapy, and has been able to focus on her attention with music therapist Anne Reed, otherwise known as ‘Ms. Anne’.
When asked what she enjoys the most about music therapy, Calla will tell you “everything, especially singing a song and playing an instrument.”
Calla is currently learning how to play flute and is showing significant progress each week.
“During a private music therapy session, we will sing songs, play instruments such as the recorder, piano, Q-chord and more,” says Reed. Reed is the Clinical Director of the Center for Music Therapy and has been able to watch clients like Calla use music to improve their every-day lives.
“Calla’s parents express gratitude that through her sessions, she has learned how to follow directions, build safe zone control for easing her anger and anxiety, and play the recorder nicely and cooperatively, “says Reed. “Calla’s parents share that prior to music therapy, she wanted to be perfect at everything – now she is able to practice at home with self-discipline.
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I have many wonderful holiday memories like watching Christmas Vacation every year with my parents and brothers, or eating stuffing, mashed potatoes, and turkey covered in gravy on Thanksgiving while watching the Detroit Lions lose to Brett Favre’s Packers. This is a joyful time of year but also stressful – filled with sensory issues, unexpected visitors, and unwanted gifts.
The audio sensation of my brothers’ six children screaming and playing with noisy electronic rodent toys or the olfactory sensation of dirty diapers from the babies – worse yet, the slobbering dog who decides to eat off your plate, licking it clean; the unexpected visit from your uncle who smells of cheap Smoker’s Choice cigars and Mad Dog booze, pouncing on you with a bear hug. Don’t forget the sensory-unfriendly gifts. Your aunt’s handmade, itchy wool sweaters and scarves.
All these things can add stress to your holiday season. I have learned five simple ways to make my holiday more joyful.
Bring fun travel backpack to keep my mind at peace in the midst of sensory chaos: In this backpack, I have books, a notebook, pen, stuffed animal, and earplugs. Reading books helps keep my mind at ease. During the last ten years, I have read over a 1,000 books. I use my notebook and pen to write down ideas that come to mind. Autism causes my mind to over-analyze thoughts with a notebook I can write them down and not be hyper-focused on them. A stuffed animal reminds me of being a child and makes me feel happy, and my earplugs block out unwanted sounds from meddling kids.
Find a place to be alone when I feel overwhelmed by the holiday festivities: At holiday events, I always make sure I have a place I can go when I feel overwhelmed by my environment. When I celebrate Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas at my parents’ house, my refuge from the sensory storms is my old bedroom. In this room, I have over 4,000 books and all my favorite toys like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, GI Joe, and Calico Critters.
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College can be a major part of adult life for some people on the autism spectrum, I know it was for me. At college, you have a lot more freedom to make choices that can directly impact your future. One of the things I enjoyed the most during my college years is that my special interests weren’t something that I had to keep to myself. I was able to explore my interests, write academic papers about them, and engage with others around our shared interest in the topic. It was a place where I felt free to be myself. However, that’s not to say that it wasn’t without its challenges. Here are some important things I learned during my time at college that I hope help other individuals who have either just started their journey or intend to begin school soon.
Join groups – Social relationships can be tricky for people with autism. However, college provides a great opportunity to make friends. In college, you can join special interest groups or even create your own. I have a special interest in Japanese history, holidays, and art forms. As a teenager, it was difficult to find people who wanted to talk about obscure topics like Takarazuka (a type of stage performance where women play all roles) and Tanabata (a star festival). However, in college I was able to connect with like-minded people. Through the relationships I forged, I was even able to travel internationally and participate in some of these activities.
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“Tell me I can’t so that I can show you that I can,” Armani Williams
By Ron Sandison
- What were are greatest challenges having autism?
I feel like my greatest challenges of having autism is the communication and social interaction. All my life I have been dealing with issues growing up but I have managed to steadily improve those tactics, being a little more proactive around other people and that’s going to help me in the long run as I continue to live my life with autism.
- How old were you when you begin to speak?
Good question, I can’t remember when I did. It’s been a long time since I was very little. I would say it was when I was 2 or 3 years old. It sometimes takes time before you can say your very first words.
- Did you have any sensory issues? If so, how did you learn to overcome them?
Yes, I had some sensory issues especially when I was young. And I still do today but I have been able to reduce those issues and overcome them just by looking at my surroundings and knowing what’s going on in today’s world. When I hear or see something that I don’t quite understand, I use the internet and research things on Google to help me understand certain things I don’t know. The more I learn about different things, the easier it is for me to translate the information to my brain and the next time it comes up it’s like, “Oh, I have heard about this before”, or “Hey, I know what this is.”
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