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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Females and Aspergers Syndrome

As promised I am publishing a blog about females and Asperger's. I thought the best way to explain Aspie girls is to have someone with more knowledge than me in this area. I would like to share with you a video by Willow.  The video is about her personal experience as an Aspie  and her thoughts on girls on the spectrum.

Willow is a young woman with Aspergers Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia. She runs a YouTube page and a forum where she aims to help other people on the spectrum. You can find more about her on her website: http://www.willowhope.com/



Would love to know your thoughts on this subject, especially what you think about the ratio of females to males diagnosed and the general difference in behaviour between males Aspies and female Aspies.

Thanks for reading my blog and stay tuned for more updates!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Guest Post from my Mentor Garry Burge

This week's post is my first guest post which is written by Garry Burge who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome 1998 by Dr Tony Attwood. Garry is heavily involved in Autism Advocacy and has started a group for Adults with Asperger's where he resides in Brisbane. Garry has been my mentor since he first contacted me a few months ago. Since then he has supported and encouraged me with my advocacy work, most notably helping me with creating a social group for Aspie Adults in Orange. His blog with further information about him and the great work that he and others are doing is here http://garrysaspieblog.blogspot.com.au/




Over the past month I have been in touch with other adults on the Autism Spectrum on skype. It is with great news that my contact with Ben Wilshire has been very productive. Ben is an adult on the Autism Spectrum based in Orange, New South Wales in Australia.  Ben like so many adults has a lot of potential and energy but finds the labor market a real struggle.  The many adults I come into contact with are finding employment support difficult. Either employment consultants from Disability Employment Agencies are not turning up, not getting back to clients or just unable to assist adults with Autism to get employment.  These factors have made me wonder whether the group I run and am  involved with should take action!  Is it possible that employers can be contacted with the positives of employing someone on the Autism Spectrum as possible?  The group now has many adults in attendance and it is hoped overtime that important responsibilities and commitments can be delegated. However this needs to be done in a way that brings out the potential of adults. 

Getting back to my earlier post concerning Ben in Orange.  I have worked with Ben to encourage him to take on an advocacy role and it is one that I believe he is doing very well. He now runs a group in Orange and this group is very important for rural New South Wales.  Regional Australia needs a big boost in terms of awareness and services for adults on the Autism Spectrum and Ben is doing a great job at providing a start.  The Brisbane and Orange groups are now working together and the Facebook group is now bringing in the help of others to spread the word of Autism and to work with the adults.  The group is a means of entering the Aspie world and for the outside world to see us positively and not as the often negative betrayal that is seen mostly in the media.  We have been somewhat disappointed that a newspaper article didn't go into the Courier Mail but there are more important things at the moment.  The work of Damian Santomauro is also important within Australia, especially Brisbane and like the many adults we have here, more of a focus on who we are and what we can achieve is essential.

The group in Brisbane has a lot of potential but currently I am trying to work through the many facets of a foundation base before important tasks need implementation.  The most important of these is dealing with the lack of services for adults.  Quite simply if you feel socially isolated and in need of friends, you have no choice but to put up with the 'me society' and to be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist who will recommend medication or referral to some specialist who indicates that we are broken and need fixing.  Instead I would like to think that society needs fixing. A fixing in accepting Autism as a fact of life and to work with Autistic people rather than box or label them.  Of course this involves a lot of work but something that can be achieved with optimism. 

I would like to conclude by saying that I am working very hard with other adults to look at ways of moving this country forward in a positive direction with Autism.  It would be also good one day to entertain the idea of an Autism Act which was introduced into the UK Westminster Parliament and passed and that only needs a Member of Parliament to put forth a Private Member's Bill. Until then let us remain optimistic about the path forward.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Accommodations/considerations for those with Asperger's Syndrome

Society has become accustomed to considering people with a physical impairment and then accommodating those needs by incorporating features into buildings such as ramps, lifts and disabled car-parking spaces). Now is as good a time as any to consider those with Asperger's Syndrome in areas such as Employment, Education. (When I come up with a few more areas I will write another blog post on them). As people vary with their requirements what one Aspie requires isn't quite the same as what another Aspie requires it would make sense to discuss with the individual on whether the accommodations are suitable and whether any other reasonable accommodations can be made to assist with them reaching their full potential.


Employment

Unfortunately an Australian survey has found that only 54% of adult Aspies are in paid employment. With more employers understanding this demographic combined with accommodations such as those listed below it is possible to employ many more Aspies as most want to, and are capable of, working.

Examples of accommodations that can be made to assist Aspies include:


  • Including a section on the application form for the applicant to provide information about any adjustment they may require during the recruitment process and the workplace to help overcome potential barriers or disadvantages.
  • Let interviewees know in advance of the interview who will be on the panel, exactly where the interview will be held and what they can expect to happen during the interview itself. It is also good practice to ask the interviewee if they need you to make any adjustments to the room itself - for example, to the lighting
  • During the interview it is important to adjust the type and wording of questions you ask in order to give Aspies an opportunity to demonstrate their ability. This can be done by asking clear and concise questions as opposed to hypothetical or abstract questions and avoiding idioms and abstract language.
  • Raising staff awareness of the employee with autism’s particular strengths
  • Being clear about your expectations of the employee
  • Not making assumptions
A great resource (of which I got the aforementioned accommodations from) about employing people with Autism/Asperger's Syndrome can be found here: http://www.equalityni.org/archive/pdf/Employingpeoplewithautism.pdf


Education


Most students with Asperger's disorders are eager to learn, however as many have sensory issues and require to be taught in a way they better understand, their specific needs should be taken into consideration.

Examples of changes made to the learning environment/teaching methods include:

  • If they are light sensitive, seat them away from the bright windows.
  • If they are noise sensitive, seat them away from the door or hallway noise.
  • Have a quiet area for the student to use for seat work when needed. This would provide a quiet, non-visually stimulating area to allow better concentration.
  • Make sure to utilize the interest areas of the student to keep him/her involved in the activities. Everyone learns better if lessons are somehow connected to an interest area. If the student likes dinosaurs or the solar system, work that topic into the day, even if it is for a reward.
  • When under stress, ask if the student would like to leave for  a few moments
  • Provide step-by-step written instructions
These are quite useful and contain more information.

I am sure there are other areas that I could cover however am going through writers block at present. If you have any suggestions for what other areas I can cover in a blog in the future please message me or leave a comment. Also if you have any comments on this blog please write them in the comments as I would love to know peoples opinions on this topic. 









Monday, 7 October 2013

A letter to the media about Asperger's Syndrome and the support that is needed to improve the employment rate of Aspies

My name is Ben Wilshire and I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I live in Orange NSW and have recently started a social group in my local community to lessen the isolation that many Adults feel, that are on the Autism Spectrum. The meetings are a great place for other adults on the spectrum to be themselves and talk about what is important to them and having people who can relate to the situations that they are going through. You can read more about

Garry Burge, who I often collaborate with, has suggested that I provide you with statistics on various areas which need to improve in relation to Adults on the autistic spectrum. I would like to cite my source as a study titled “We Belong” ( the full report can be found here: http://www.autismspectrum.org.au/images/Final_We_Belong.pdf) which was conducted by Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), to better understand the experiences, needs and aspirations of people on the autism spectrum who do not have any intellectual impairment. A survey of people with Asperger’s or HFA and their families or carers found that more than 70 per cent of respondents are not receiving enough support to meet their needs in key life areas including social skills development, access to employment and community participation.

In stark contrast to the Australian employment rate of 95%, just 54% of adults in the study (excluding those in full-time education) had a paid job and the most common response to why they don’t have employment is because they need more support to look for work and apply for jobs. This is despite the fact that 80% of the adults have commenced or completed a tertiary qualification and have an average or above average IQ.  Employment Service Providers have emphasised that ongoing support is as equally as important as help to enter the workforce. They have put particular emphasis on developing their social awareness and communication skills, as well as educating co-workers about autism.

With the right support from employment services and employers, and the two co-operating together, the rate of meaningful, paid employment for Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome will increase which will have many benefits including: a valuable contribution to the workplace by people with unique talent, a sense of being a productive member of society for the adults and a greater amount of independence and  increased positive opportunities.

Thank-you for allowing me the opportunity to contribute to your article. I hope to hear from you soon.


Kind Regards,


Benjamin Wilshire