Thursday, November 30, 2006

Program for Middle Schoolers with Aspergers

An intermediate school in Staten Island, NY offers a program for 16 students with Aperger's. They attend classes with the general population, and have a room (nicknamed the "Tap Room")they can visit during the lunch hour if the cafeteria is too intense. The room also serves as a tutorial center and test taking site.
"The students with Asperger's share a paraprofessional between them, who is there largely to keep them focused and on track with the rest of the class. Their two District 75 teachers provide tutoring, homework modification, and other individualized needs in the Tap room, but the goal is to keep the students with their general education peers for as long as possible throughout the day. "

"Kathleen Boyer credits her 12-year-old son Declan's increased happiness and maturity on the fact that he's modeling himself after well-performing students while getting the behavioral support from teachers who are attuned to his needs.
[The teachers] understand that there are going to be things about school that are going to be rough for our kids, she said.
While the parents are thrilled with the program, they were, until recently, anxious about whether it would be expanded into high school, where there is currently no service that caters specifically to Asperger's syndrome.
The only other public school program on the Island serves eight children in kindergarten at PS 4 in Arden Heights with nestled classes, which integrates them with their general education peers.
Department of Education officials have given assurances that there will be a program for ninth graders beginning in September 2007, but they have yet to name a school to house it. "

One We Can Relate To

This brief article by columnist Julie Berry of the Metrowest Daily News (Massachusetts) gave me a chuckle, and may helped to remind me that my son really is trying hard to do his best.
" I keep believing that if we could just get him to focus more, to pay better attention, then he'd understand more. The capacity is in there somewhere. If only he'd apply himself ...
I've had to let go of thinking that if only he'd apply himself he'd catch up to his peers. It does him great injustice, because he does apply himself. He works himself raw trying to figure out how to get through a day. He marches through middle school doors each morning even though he can't navigate the social waters swirling around him. "

Friday, November 24, 2006

Newsweek Cover Story

The November 27th issue of Newsweek has a cover story entitled "What Happens When They Grow Up" with related articles as well.
Link to cover story here.
Related article on research into the causes of autism here.
Graphic: Unlocking the Secrets of Autism here.

Help for Picky Eaters

This article highlights the discomfort many children and adults go through this time of year when faced with situations involving foods outside of their very limited array of acceptable choices. It mentions two web sites that might be of some help:

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Simon Baron-Cohen article in Seed Magazine

"...the idea that a child with autism is the result of the unique mixing of genes from parents who share a common feature sits uncomfortably with those who want to believe the cause of autism is purely environmental. But I believe the preliminary evidence in support of the theory warrants further research. We stand to gain valuable insight into the cause of autism; and given the links between autism and the capacity to systemize, a trait that has helped humans to dominate the planet, we stand to gain a better understanding of human nature."
Full article here.

Freakonomics Thread

I found it interesting that Steven D. Levitt, who co-wrote Freakonomics, decides not to weigh in on a question he gets asked often: "Why has autism gone up so much? Has autism gone up so much?"

You can see his post and an interesting Comments thread here.

Getting a Job When You Have AS

Program in England helps people with AS get jobs.

"Most of Judith Kerem's clients are excellent timekeepers. She says that they rarely take time off sick, are very dedicated to their jobs and are highly professional. Richard Bremmer agrees: "There are certainly advantages to having someone with Asperger's in the workplace. They are reliable, punctual, they are meticulous in their work and leave no stone unturned, they are very loyal, and all these things come as part of the package.
"There are so many young people with Asperger's, but many are ignored and not given a chance to succeed. But they can flourish and grow."

Full article here.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Kids with AS Join Lego Challenge

A group of kids with AS join a competition to create programmable Lego robots. They also learn how to work together. Sounds challenging but worth it!
" 'Legos generally are reliable,' said Karen DeCarlo, “They always go together.” She said both her her sons, Zachary, who has AS, and Nick, who has sensory-integration disorder, which leaves him easily distracted, love Legos.“There’s a huge amount of creativity with these kids, so I think Legos satisfy the need to create,” she said, but they also meet Zachary and Nick’s “need to conform to rules.”

“When they first started they were all little independent bodies,” DeCarlo said. Months later, there are still independent bodies running around the room in Arlington’s Langston Recreation Center, where the team has been meeting, but they also cluster into pairs and trios to work on different elements of the project, such as adjusting the robot’s programming on an Apple computer, tweaking the pusher arms of the robot itself, or calibrating a crane to receive its cargo of a dump truck and hoist it into the air. There are still clashes - with another personality, a recalcitrant Lego device, or simply with a difficult-to-negotiate world - but there is little notice paid to the outbursts. For the most part, the children allow one another to be themselves. “They seem rude,” DeCarlo said. “But they don’t offend each other.”She sees all of the children are learning valuable skills besides Lego construction. “They need to have social experiences: how to work together, how to solve problems, how to continue when someone has an anxiety attack.”Karen Gorman said she is learning too. “It’s been a really hard thing for the parents to pull back and let them do their own thing, let them make their own mistakes, let them fix their mistakes.”She said she’d tried to put her 11-year-old son Patrick on a soccer team, but it hadn’t worked out. Both she and Patrick had struggled to fit in with people who didn’t understand how Patrick’s behavior was altered by his perception of the world. “The level of anxiety is so much lower when we’re working in a group that’s so similar to each other,” Gorman said. “If one of our kids has a meltdown, it’s okay, we know how to handle it.”

Article here.

Asperger's on the Pop Culture Radar

New Nicholas Sparks novel features a character with Asperger's.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

BU Launches Program for Students with Asperger's

Boston University has launched a pilot program to examine options for students with Asperger's Syndrome, an Autism spectrum disorder commonly overlooked on college campuses...The program, developed by BU Disability Services Clinical Director Lorraine Wolf in collaboration with the University of Minnesota and the University of Connecticut School of Law, will evaluate ways students with Aspergers can treat its symptoms.
Article here. [You may have to register with their site.]

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Know It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint"

This article is a nice, inspiring profile of two mothers who wrote a book about parenting children with autism. "Parenting Across the Autism Spectrum: Unexpected Lessons We Have Learned" by Ann Palmer and Maureen Morrell, shares the perspectives of one parent with a high functioning child and one parent with a child with severe autism.
" 'There's a tendency, especially nowadays, to branch off," Palmer says. "Parents of kids who are high-functioning feel like they don't need to be around those who are more challenged.
"That's a mistake.' "

Monday, November 06, 2006

Asperger Article in NY Times

The New York Times publishes an article on Asperger's [registration required - available for only a limited time for free]. The article appears in the Education section and covers efforts by various colleges to accomodate the needs of students with Asperger's. It's fascinating reading.
Here are some notable excerpts:

"Unable to navigate social intricacies, many such students once decided to forego college; or, isolated and depressed, they left before graduating. They bring a host of tricky issues to classrooms, dorms and the dating scene. “I can’t emphasize how difficult college is for these kids,” says Dania Jekel , executive director of the Asperger’s Association of New England. “Many are going to college and they really aren’t ready. We’ve had cases where a parent hasn’t known for an entire semester that the kid hasn’t attended class and is flunking every class.”

"Colleges are devising programs that try to integrate students on the spectrum into the academic and social fabric of the campus. The Essex campus of the Community College of Baltimore County, in a joint program with a state agency and a local school, has hired a special-education teacher to help students organize their time and assignments and improve the skills that are second nature to most, like how much space goes between two people in a conversation or how to make gentle eye contact.
At Keene State College, in New Hampshire, fellow students act as “social navigators.” Their assignment: change their charges’ “outsider” status by introducing them to their friends. The mentors get $10 an hour (and sometimes course credit in psychology) by helping students on the spectrum make small talk, date and get consent at every level of romantic advancement."

At Marshall University, the West Virginia Autism Training Center operates a program in which graduate students work daily with students with Asperger’s, reviewing assignments, helping with time management and teaching classroom etiquette. They take the students on field trips to Wal-Mart, to restaurants and to the movie theater to let them practice social skills. Bottom line for parents: $6,200 a year."

[Lisa] King [a disability specialist at the University of Minnesota] sees these interventions as “the minimum that we can do” for academically qualified students. Musing, she takes it a step further: “We would provide an interpreter to a hard-of-hearing person. Why don’t we provide an interpreter for somebody with Asperger’s?” And that’s not far from what some parents are seeking. One mother wanted her son to have 24/7 access to all staff and faculty, says Barbara Roberts, manager of M.I.T.’s disability services; the request was denied. Families of more capable students hire coaches — psychologists, speech therapists, specialed teachers and graduate students — for fees ranging from $30 to $100 an hour."

"“The Asperger’s population is much bigger than we think it is,” according to Larry Powell, manager of disability services at Carnegie Mellon. “But students aren’t disclosing that. It’s kind of like, if you build it they will come. If we could put together systems that would adequately support these students, word would get around and more students would disclose it and would come. One of my issues is that I am an office of one with 264 students.”"

Another Documentary

This one hour film is about a 28 year old New Yorker, and is made by his sister.