The Illusion of coping…. Exploring the Impacts of Sensory issues for those with High Functioning Autism within the Workforce.

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A key component expressed by adults with HFA (and their parents) when taking into account educational and workplace experience, is  the negation or lack of understanding given to their sensory and social needs.

A pivotal aspect of this is that, regardless of how highly advanced the skill sets of adults with HFA may be, or how pertinent their qualifications are to their positions within the workforce, their sensory issues and social difficulties are still being viewed negatively.

Often these sensory difficulties are interpreted as a failure to meet the needs of the workforce environment by both employers and workforce agencies alike.

“Despite my son’s TAFE qualifications, it is almost impossible for my son to compete for a position in the open workforce. The main reasons are probably his communication problem and not being able to work under pressure.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

One adult with High Functioning Autism described his experience in this way:

“I have found the current emplacement services to be poor. I tire of dealing with a world that places more emphasis on sociability and likeability than on actual skill. I tire of seeing idiots that are less capable than me get positions, just because they can play the social/political games”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

This negation of personal skills due to sociability issues can lead to a harmful sense of alienation for individuals with HFA due to the internalisation of the many negative and damaging comments which erode their levels of self-esteem, within the context of the workforce.

“I’m 45, worked full-time for 29 years, but have not worked at all this year. Two positions I’ve had I held for 10 years each, but in every job I’ve been a complete social failure. I’m reluctant to get another job, and experience another social failing.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Such statements support the urgent need for understandings regarding the importance of finding the right form of employment, both in terms of qualifications, skills, interests and individual sensory and social supports, to be taken into account.

Levels of support currently experienced within the workplace.

Further evidence of the need for appropriate sensory considerations and support can be found in the expressions of those adults with HFA currently within the workforce.

Of the 34 adults who responded to the question:

What types of support are being received at work?

Only 5 indicated receiving support from specialised workplace agencies.

The majority of respondents indicated that their employers were aware of their conditions yet less than half reported receiving specific considerations from their employers.

Of those who did report receiving special considerations those considerations were expressed in this way;

“My employers are flexible with what I can handle, e.g. they don’t put me on customer service or phone work”.

“My boss provides specific instructions for me for my tasks, as well as informing others”.

“I receive instructions in both written and diagram form”.

The levels of support that employers provide in these instances can be seen as minimal.

Only one participant indicated receiving consideration of sensory issues other than social contact through “special lighting for sensory issues”.

When responding to the question as to what types of support would be desired at work, the majority of respondents stated the need for greater understanding, recognition, respect and awareness of their HFA needs within the work place from others. 

A further subset within this group consistently noted the need for greater social skills and communication support as well as the desire to access workplace counselling.

The Illusion of Coping

This survey further found that there were a subset of adults with HFA who express showing an awareness that they appear to be coping with the social aspects of educational or workforce environments but that they are indeed still experiencing difficulties with sensory issues.

These participants describe that, even though they mask their difficulties because of their awareness of the behaviours that are expected of them, they are still experiencing significant social and sensory stress.

“For me, learning how to be social doesn’t make it easier or less stressful because it’s still against my natural grain. If I behave in a socially normal way, then that’s how people perceive me, and I have to keep up that standard which is impossible. I know how to act normal, but I don’t want to have to.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

In this expression the demand placed on those with HFA within work place environments which are not sensitive or responsive to their needs, creates a sense of personal onus on the individual with HFA, to behave in ways that are socially acceptable yet uncomfortable for them.

This is reflected in the following statement in which the illusion or “façade” of successful participation in the workplace is described not as success but as forming the basis for the hope to be able to leave the workforce all together.

“I hope to be able to keep up the facade till the house is paid off so I can revert to total privacy and start to catalogue and read the thousands of books I have.”

Within this study there are several clear expressions by adults with HFA which indicates both their high levels of self-awareness and an acknowledgement of the need to reduce social and sensory interactions by having more control over their work environments in order to create a healthy and sustainable work situation.

“My goal is to have the qualifications that will allow me to have much more choice over type and situation of employment so that I can work in my field but in an environment and under conditions that are conducive to a more balanced lifestyle, mental and physical health and the chance to have my skills acknowledged.  At the moment I work in a retail setting…and it’s having a heavy toll.”

Adults with HFA are beginning to acknowledge, define and give voice to the multiple sensory and personal difficulties they encounter within the workforce.

Their voices are expressing that although the perceived ideals of success for adults with HFA in the work force have predominantly been based on the ideal of full-time employment, or the level of income achieved, there are also other determining factors which contribute to workforce success for adults with HFA, which are far more complex and require greater recognition.

Central to these issues are the needs for those with HFA to be able to:

Successfully engage in areas of personal interest both within education and employment.

To have their skills and qualifications appropriately utilized and recognised.

And to have their sensory and social requirements understood by employers and taken more clearly into account within daily workforce practice.

 Conclusion

Overall the experiences of adults within this survey suggests that there is a significant disconnect occurring between the policies designed to create educational and employment equality for adults with HFA and the lived experiences of those with HFA.

This disconnect between policy and practice that can be viewed as operating within 3 key areas of experience.

Lack of appropriate educational opportunities and support.

Lack of support within employment agencies and lack of opportunities within the field of employment.

The need to recognize that the current negation of the skills of adults with HFA are being further compounded by a lack of understanding and accommodation of their sensory needs within the workforce.

These 3 areas of distinction lead both parents of young adults with HFA and adults themselves, to question and contest the validity and success of policies that preference under resourced, unsupported, misunderstood and unfulfilling workforce participation for adults with HFA, above honouring and acknowledging their needs for self-esteem, recognition of qualifications and sensory and social supports.

A key way of addressing these issues would be for government initiatives to follow the suggestions of adults and parents who consistently argue for the need to create both education and employment programs that build on and harness the individual skill sets of those with HFA whilst acknowledging their sensory and social needs instead of continuing on with generic or blanket approaches which create frustration and a sense of harm for adults with HFA.

The benefits of taking an individually tailored approach toward education and employment may create the potential to both activate and validate the diverse skill sets adults with HFA currently demonstrate through their participation within voluntary organisations.

In this way workforce policies may be able to offer a new way of perceiving and understanding the interests, skills and potential of those with HFA in a manner that increases self-esteem through recognising both the qualifications and needs of adults with HFA.

Such measures would enable adults with HFA to successfully and safely translate their skills into equally sustainable and fulfilling workforce participation.

Research analysis compiled, conducted and written by Seventhvoice.

 

Research Findings Reveal the Lack of Support Currently Being Given to Young Adults with High Functioning Autism within higher education and the workforce.

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Given that educational achievements have traditionally set the benchmarks for employability, the lack of assistance and support given to young adults with high functioning autism, particularly within the later stages of schooling, forms an area of growing concern.

Research findings indicate that previously established support systems either disappear or are significantly absent during those key periods when young adults with HFA are transitioning from high school to College, TAFE or out into the broader work force

Parents state that toward the final years of their young adult’s education they experience having to seek out other resources and support systems on their teenager’s behalf due to the lack of services made available to them within higher educational environments.

“When my son reached Year 11 Level, the college which my son attended said they no longer had a curriculum (modified) available to him”.

“When my son was in Year 11, we were told by the principal and other teachers that they could do no more for him and that he was actually a distraction to the other children in his class and were holding them back from reaching their full potential. We were told that he would not gain anything by coming back to school the following year! “

Statements such as these indicate the existence of the fundamental gap in equality experienced  by young adults with high functioning autism within the current educational system.

Given that a key premise upon which governmental policy is currently based, relies on the ideal that equal educational opportunities for those with disabilities, equates to the prospect of equal employment opportunities (Oliver, 1983, 1996) evidence of this gap is worrying.

The existence of this gap in equality is further reflected in the lived experiences  of adults with HFA, who indicate that the ideals of  equal educational outcomes, do not match the realities of trying to attain equal opportunities both pre and post education.

At the end of their young adults education, parents expressed that their loved ones were being ‘shut out; of  further educational opportunities and instead being exposed to a lack of resources within the broader community.

“As soon as he turned ’16’ – they just wanted him to leave. There was no guidance or support to transition him to TAFE. I had to do all the research on my own. When he finished at TAFE there was no support what so ever for career planning + engaging work. It was a very frustrating process. “

 

Parental expressions of frustration at the lack of appropriately formed educational spaces for young adults with HFA were further exacerbated by the lack of interest shown by workforce agencies in seeking to engage young adults with HFA within their specific areas of interest or talent.

“After leaving school he has, as a last resort, placed in a facility for severely mentally challenged people, where he had no direction and usually washed staff cars or windows, My son is a talented artist and musician but the talents were never explored by any professionals. “    

Parents whose young adults were not employed reported  that the systemic negation of their sons/daughters particular interests, needs and traits both perpetuates and reinforces the wider problems that young adults with HFA face within the workforce.

“There are just NO OPTIONS for individuals with complex needs/ASD.   It is extremely frustrating that even in this environment with the profile of autism that the only comment in a supported employment IEP was “you need to improve your eye contact”.    School was tough but since leaving school trying to cope and source options is mission impossible.  I would urge, no make that plead Aspect ,to work with providers to source options for these young people.”

“No proper understanding of his disability by government, the employment support agencies and potential employers. He can’t do interviews. “                                                            

“Lack of true understanding from agencies of her ‘quirks’ make finding /keeping a job impossible”                                                                                                      

 

Parents describe this sense of negation as further manifesting in the severe  lack of understanding and support given to attaining employment opportunities which reflect the interests, qualifications, talents and needs of young adults with HFA as a whole.

“My son has to do jobs that are boring to him. He gets fired regularly because of his lack of understanding or that of his employer. He would rather be doing something graphical. “

Parental responses also indicate that there may be a considerable amount of disparity  occurring between the definitions of success applied by workforce agencies and those applied by young adults and parents.

“He has a Diploma in library and Information Services which he only partly uses in his job at UWS. The employment provider found him the job at Woolies 5 years ago and has made no moves to change him to anything more challenging and has now ‘left’ him as he is so ‘successful’  “

This sense of disparity is further expressed by parents whose young adults are currently engaged with the work force in diverse areas of employment ranging from full, part-time and casual positions in sheltered work shops, supermarkets, office work, computing, IT and electrical work through to those running their own businesses.

Within this section parents note two key themes. 

Firstly, that although their son/daughter may be working, often that work is acquired through a long process which neither necessarily addresses nor validates the qualifications they hold in their already established fields of interest, talent or expertise.

“It took 20 months for my son to find a job. He spent 6 years at university and has been working for 18 months in Woolies/Bunnings stacking shelves” .

“My son is not working in the area in which he gained his University qualifications but is using some of his writing and computing skills.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Secondly, that whilst adults with HFA may hold and maintain higher degrees, skills or qualifications than those required to perform their current jobs, they are still experiencing an overall lack of responsiveness or understanding from both those working within employment agencies and employers, who refuse to appropriately acknowledge their qualifications within workforce positions.

“His qualifications are in Library and Information Science but librarians were un-supportive generally of his special though not particularly difficult to accommodate special needs.” 

Parental expressions further indicate that the area of  volunteer work  currently offers one of the few areas in which adults with HFA are being given a way to show case, build on and explore their skills. 

“He has only once been given an opportunity to use his computer skills in voluntary work that ended after eighteen months.”

The desire to activate their skills and participate in areas of interest within voluntary work is reflected in the experiences of adults with HFA within this survey who report taking part in a diverse range of positions including volunteer fire fighter, zoo keeper, computing and IT work and assisting those with disabilities.

For many, volunteer work provides a way to both  access and increase their already existing skill sets, whilst demonstrating their capacity to effectively work within their fields of interest.

This significantly indicates that adults with HFA are willing and able to step into those roles which meet their skills, qualifications and interest levels.

 Yet despite being able to demonstrate holding the appropriate skill sets and capacity to work this survey has indicated that  adults with HFA are still facing significant hurdles when seeking paid employment.

Those hurdles centre around the lack of understanding in regards to the needs or “quirks” of individuals with HFA and  are reflective of the overall lack of awareness  described as existing by parents and young adults themselves, within supported workforce programs, employment agencies, employer attitudes and the broader community.

All research  analysis  conducted and written by seventhvoice as derived from  2011 nation wide survey.

 

The Importance of Identifying Asperger’s Syndrome / High Functioning Autism in Adults

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“Growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome can be traumatic for many individuals.”

Many adults with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome are usually keenly aware that they do not ‘fit in’, yet are unable to either express or understand exactly what it is that makes them feel differently to others.

For this reason many undiagnosed adults develop negative perceptions of themselves as “weird”, “crazy,” or “broken.”

Despite these negative self-images, many undiagnosed adults are able to hide their difficulties by developing coping mechanisms, such as mirroring or mimicking those around them in social settings.

They are therefore seen as being able to engage in the everyday routines of life such as working, having relationships, getting married and having children.

Yet though they have the ability to apply such coping mechanisms, many individuals with undiagnosed AS, are never able to shake off the underlying awareness of themselves as inherently ‘different’ to those around them.

Ironically, the very skill sets that adults with undiagnosed moderate to mild Asperger’s apply, in order to try and ‘fit in,’ have meant that they have flown “under the diagnostic radar”.

Other individuals with undiagnosed AS, who have not learnt such skill sets, may show greater signs of having social communication difficulties.

This can make them more susceptible to situations such as chronic unemployment and social isolation due to the fact that they may be mistakenly perceived as people who are deliberately anti-social, argumentative, objectionable or aloof loners who crave only their own company.

In reality, these people may be individuals who are displaying the lack of social skills required to communicate and act appropriately, that make up the characteristics or traits commonly described in Asperger’s Syndrome.

It is now well established that individual with AS may display varying degrees of some or all of the following characteristics:

A lack of social skills which manifest in inappropriate social approaches, responses or social awkwardness.

Difficulty recognizing the facial expressions or emotions of others.

Difficulties in considering or understanding others’ viewpoints.

Limited interest in friendships


Difficulties with being able to communicate their ideas, thoughts and emotions.

Difficulties in comprehending and following social reasoning and adhering to the status quo.

Difficulty with transitions and changes.

Hold a strong need for routines.

Narrow range of interests or idiosyncratic special interests.

Be overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells and sights.

Have motor coordination difficulties.

Experience difficulty managing their own negative feelings, especially anxiety, anger and depression

Adults with undiagnosed AS are susceptible to experiencing high degrees of stress, frustration, confusion and anxiety due to their awareness that they do not ]fit in’.

These additional difficulties have often been misinterpreted, misdiagnosed, misunderstood and mistreated, especially when their underlying AS is undiagnosed or not adequately understood.

Some of the most common additional difficulties include:

Angry outbursts (physical or verbal aggression, verbally threatening behavior)

Agitation and restlessness

Increase in obsessive or repetitive activities, thoughts, or speech

Low mood or depression

Apathy and inactivity

Unfortunately many professionals who are unfamiliar with AS often only focus on the surface symptoms and behaviors that an individual with undiagnosed AS may display.

This leaves individuals with undiagnosed AS at risk of being incorrectly diagnosed with conditions such as:

Personality Disorders

Psychosis

Bipolar Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Mood disorder

It is therefore essential, that in order to prevent individuals with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome from being incorrectly diagnosed with conditions, treatment plans and medications that will not help them, that a thorough Autism assessment must be applied to adults who fall within this criteria.

A proper diagnosis of AS can better help adults put their difficulties into perspective and enable them to understand the underlying reasons for their lifelong struggles.

Correct diagnosis and effective treatment can help improve self-esteem, work performance and skills, educational attainment and social competencies.

More importantly a correct diagnosis can trigger both a journey of self-discovery and a healing process for the individuals concerned. 

 

Falling Into the Words of Others……. The Benefits of Reading Blogs

Black pearl and its shell

Sometime people ask me why I bother with blogging. After all they reason, “Isn’t caring for your son a full-time job in and of itself?  What with all the battles you go through just trying to get your son’s rights to have his abilities recognized and taken seriously by others, why on earth do you want to write about Autism? How do you even have the energy  to  write about anything?”

I must admit that some days, when the fights been particularly long and hard, and the shawl of defeat hangs itself across my shoulders like some desperately unwanted shroud that marks me out as a person who feels as shatteringly misunderstood and out-of-place in this world as the missing puzzle piece that has ironically become the universal symbol for Autism, I wonder why I bother blogging too.

But then I read the words of others and they enrich me in ways that help me pull myself back together and enable me to once again  begin to view life from a broader perspective.

A perspective that helps me replace my temporary and insular micro filter  of defeat  and instead enables me to attach a wider lens that lets me know that I am indeed part of a greater whole.

A lens that is in fact so wide that it incorporates all of the issues that are facing so many different people from more walks of life than there are colors in the rainbow.

Reading the words of others reminds me that life is like a pearl.

An organic composition that builds upon itself,

Layer by layer,

Feeding on past irritations,

Forming silently within the enclosed darkness,

That cements it into place.

And that it is only when the shell is opened up and those layers of irritation are revealed, that the pearl itself becomes transformed by the eyes of others, into a thing of beauty.

Blogging I think works in the same way. So regardless of whether or not the opening up of our shells brings either tears or joy, the mere act of making the effort to reveal ourselves, our lives and our stories, to the world, is an  achievement all in itself.

For some I know the process of blogging, of paring oneself back to bare bones to see who and what they are, of bring their true selves to the surface, is a painful one. For others it can be cathartic, light-hearted or even whimsical, but always, always without fail, regardless of what the topic may be or how it is presented, there are always pearls of wisdom to be found within the words of others.

Sometimes, I admit, I don’t find the pares straight away.

Sometimes it takes an event occurring within my own life to shake me and wake up to the memory of reading another’s words about a similar situation before I can understand the points I’d missed.

It is in these moments of missed recognition that I will go back and search through Word Press until I find the post I’m looking for. Often along the way I will find many, many more posts dealing with the same issues that I had previously and erroneously thought were not mine to deal with.

The more posts I read, the more pearls of wisdom I gather and the greater my own levels of awareness, understanding and compassion grows.

Some of your posts make me cry. Some make me smile. Others make my head nod up and down while reading along with the unspoken acknowledgment of a shared truth. Still others make me shake my head in exasperation.

Yet I have learned that regardless of whether or not I agree or disagree with a post, or whether it makes me laugh or cry, there is always some element of experience or knowledge that takes me out of myself, out of my life with Autism and expands my world view.

You make me aware that although all of our personal truths may indeed be different, they are all indeed truths and should be respected as such.

So I bear in mind, as I am reading your posts, that some of you may be speaking of truths that I have yet to learn and some of you may be speaking of personal truths that may never be my own. Just as my personal truths may never be yours to experience in real-time.

Yet regardless I appreciate the privilege of seeing so many different people, each living different lives, in so many different cities, with as many different faces,  telling their silent truths with words all across the globe.

Indeed this world that we all inhabit, our globe, is shaped like a pearl.

This is what makes me think now that wisdom can be found not only by looking deeply into the parts of us that hurt us the most, but  in the very act of opening up our shells and letting ourselves be exposed to the light cast by the minds of others.

For sometimes, it is only when being viewed through the words of others, that our own personal truths, our own pearls of wisdom, become finally apparent, even to ourselves.

This is why I love reading and falling into the words of others.

So thank you to each and every blogger whose words have allowed me to gain a new perspective and glimpse those pearls earned from your own hard-won wisdom.

 

High Functioning Autism in Females – Addressing the level of misdiagnosis reported by parents of daughters with Asperger’s Syndrome – High Functioning Autism

Splashes approximating big

Figures derived from a national survey on the experiences of parents with young adults on the Autism Spectrum conducted in Australia last year indicate that out of the 203 parents who responded to the survey only 44 reported having daughters diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum.

30 of who were diagnosed specifically with having Asperger’s Disorder / Asperger’s Syndrome.

This stands in stark contrast to the 152 parents who reported having sons diagnosed on the Spectrum.

For this reason the information provided by parents with daughters on the Autism Spectrum is considered to offer a previously unexamined snap shot of the previously unrecognized  parental experiences that are  unique to parents of daughters on the Autism Spectrum.

Mothers of daughters within this survey reported that they had to struggle with professionals who were either unaware, ill-equipped or in some instances entirely unprepared to diagnose girls with High Functioning Autism/ Asperger’s Syndrome, Asperger’s Disorder.

As a result many mothers, such as a mother whose daughter wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder until the age of 44, reported having their children regularly misdiagnosed over the course of several years due to inappropriate professional biases towards them as mother’s and a clear lack of understanding as how Autism presents within girls.

The rates of diagnosis and age at diagnosis for girls with Asperger’s Disorder/ Asperger’s Syndrome or High Functioning Autism are further reflected in the statistical data.

Parent Gender

Year of Birth Diagnosis Age at Diagnosis
Mother 1989 Asperger’s Disorder 12
Father 1981 Asperger’s Disorder 26
Father 1986 Asperger’s Disorder 12
Mother 1991 Asperger’s Disorder 19
Mother 1986 Asperger’s Disorder 14
Mother 1988 Asperger’s Disorder 12
Mother 1984 Asperger’s Disorder 13
Mother 1975 Asperger’s Disorder 20
Mother 1995 Asperger’s Disorder 7
Mother 1991 Asperger’s Disorder 13
Mother 1992 Asperger’s Disorder 15
Mother 1988 Asperger’s Disorder 20
Mother 1964 Asperger’s Disorder 44
Mother 1992 Asperger’s Disorder 16
Mother No Record Asperger’s Disorder 26
Mother 1978 Asperger’s Disorder 20

Mother

No Record Asperger’s Disorder 7
Mother 1985 Asperger’s Disorder 10
Mother 1975 Asperger’s Disorder 26
Mother 1998 Asperger’s Disorder 12
Mother 1983 Asperger’s Disorder 18
Mother 1972 Asperger’s Disorder 26
Mother 1989 Asperger’s Disorder 12
Mother 1992 Asperger’s Disorder 18
Mother 1989 Asperger’s Disorder 13
Mother 1986 Asperger’s Disorder 9
Mother 1992 Asperger’s Disorder 14
Mother 1984 Asperger’s Disorder 9
Mother No Record Asperger’s Disorder 7
Mother 1987 Asperger’s Disorder 15

The youngest age at which girls identified as having an Asperger’s Disorder were reported being diagnosed within this survey was that of 7 years, at which only 3 girls, were identified.

2 girls were reported as receiving their diagnosis between the age of 9 and 10 years.

8 girls with Asperger’s Disorder were reported as receiving their diagnosis between the ages of 12 and 13 years.

11 girls were reported as receiving their diagnosis between the ages of 14 and 20 years.

7 females were recorded as receiving their diagnosis after the age of 21.

This indicates that the most likely age range for girls with an Asperger’s Disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome to be diagnosed is between that of 14 and 20 years.

The oldest reported age of diagnosis for a female with Asperger’s Disorder by a mother within this survey is recorded as being at 44 years.

Her mother reports that her daughter’s diagnosis process was “slow” and “frustrating” and states that:

“We eventually found a practitioner who knew about autism but it took decades to find someone.”  In the meantime this mother reports being filled with:  “FRUSTRATION and crying out for real help.”

This expressed sense of frustration is echoed time and time again by mothers with daughters on the spectrum and further indicates that there may well be several issues of gender at play within the realms of diagnosis.

Comments from mother’s within this survey indicate that not only does the gender of the child/young adult being assessed for  an Autism Spectrum Disorder play a major role in the levels of diagnosis occurring but also the gender of the parent engaging within that diagnostic process.

This is further highlighted by the fact that although mothers of children within this study reported having an initial understanding that their children (both male and female) had different ways of responding to the world, often their attempts to understand those differences resulted in negative and personally harmful parental experiences with doctors.

Several mothers described having their concerns “invalidated” through having their parenting and psychological capacities questioned.

These are the words used by mother’s themselves to describe their experiences with the diagnostic process;

“I was actively invalidated in my concerns”.

No one would listen and called me neurotic”.

“No help at any stage – considerable negativity + Put downs (of me)”.

Mother of daughter with Asperger’s not diagnosed until late teens.

“As a mother, I still carry all the emotional scars of the assault on my parenting.”

“Pediatrician refused to diagnose her as he felt she was not on the spectrum.”  

“I knew she had something all along but I couldn’t get a doctor to help.”

Mother of a daughter with Asperger’s not diagnosed until 12.

“Professionals did not have training to recognise ASD in intelligent person”.

Mother of daughter with Asperger’s Disorder.

 “Diagnosis from 7 years old was ADD inattentive, anxiety, transient tic, depression.”

Mother of daughter with Asperger’s not diagnosed until the age of 18.

“Took from age 2 to 11 years to receive diagnosis.”  

“No one was prepared to help from when K was young (neurotic mother) “.

“5 years of medical mis-advise misdiagnosis, misunderstanding, full of angst.”

“Many incorrect diagnosis/parental blame/lack of support”.

“We had idea about ASD, diagnosed with ADD at 4 years.”

Mother of young adult not diagnosed until 22 yrs.

“Long process, complicated (by system/practitioners)”.

However, only one father within this study reported having any such experiences.

Mothers therefore describe having to engage with a lack of understanding and support that often began with their initial attempts to have their child’s needs recognised through a medical diagnosis.

Such parental experiences indicate that the tendency of medical professionals to ignore or misplace parental concerns, particularly the concerns of mothers, as reported by Phillip and Duckworth (1980) and explored in the works of Green (2005) and Ryan and Runswick-Cole (2007) are still occurring.

As Green (2005) and Ryan and Runswick-Cole (2007) argue, the medical mis-recognition of maternal concerns emphasises their precarious and powerless position which arises as a consequence of the unequal balance of power that is created through the elevation of medical opinion above the legitimate recognition of parental expertise.

Parents indicate that as a consequence of not having their concerns legitimately recognized or understood, their children’s needs were also negated. This is further reflected within the trends found within data derived from females on the autism spectrum.

Significance of female data

The significance of a lack of diagnosis occurring for girls with Asperger’s Disorder before the age of 7  and with the majority of diagnosis taking place between the ages of 14 -20 years for females, signals the possibility that medical professional may still yet remain either unwilling or unable to sufficiently detect the signs of Asperger’s Disorders / Asperger’s Syndrome in girls.

Maternal experiences of misdiagnosis, invalidation and their overall lack of recognition within the diagnostic process within this study suggests the need for medical practitioners to incorporate greater acceptance of parental insights. Regardless of gender.

As such the statistical findings relating to the lack of diagnosis for girls with Asperger’s Disorder prior to the age of 7 and the predominance of diagnosis between the ages of 14 – 20 years, supports the assertions voiced  by both many adult women with AS (Simone, Lawson,) and parents within this survey, that there is a strong need for those within the medical profession to redress their gender bias  within all areas of diagnosis in order to increase their diagnostic capabilities so that they can more accurately diagnose and assess the needs of females on the Autism Spectrum as a matter of urgency.

 

Autism – the ‘Lost Generations’

Artwork by Maria Zeldis

Artwork by Maria Zeldis

Our  societies system of assessing and coordinating services and supports to families and young adults with disabilities has been developed on the basis of a significantly misinformed analysis of what certain types of disabilities actually are and how they occur.

In short this system is fundamentally flawed at its very core. This in turn has caused the denial of services to those with  misunderstood conditions such as Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, particularly for women and girls.  But it’s not all rosy for boys either, many of whom still miss out on receiving vital medical, educational, financial and workplace supports due to the fundamental errors this system makes in defining and deciding the level of  functional severity required to qualify for support.

As a society we like to think that greater levels of recognition will create greater levels of support and understanding but  in the meantime… we are now facing the largest en mass wave of young adults with Autism and Asperger’s ever to enter into our communities and those young adults need support services now.

It’s not good enough to say that we either don’t qualify for, or have to wait years for support. We need support services now otherwise we as a society will have to own up to knowingly  creating  “Autism’s Abandoned Generations”….

Those whose differences are noted  by professionals yet not considered severe enough, by more professionals,  to warrant  the support that many parents and young adults  with Autism themselves declare that they need.  As parents many of us of have been shouting from every corner of the globe trying to raise awareness of  the ways in which our children and young adults have been made to suffer the ignorance’s  and intolerance’s of a system gone so completely wrong.

We encourage our young adults to speak for themselves and many of them now are, and have been, for quite some time….

The problem is… they are not being listened too any more than we  as parents were listened too when we first spoke up and out for our children.  Politicians and medical professionals continue to ignore the immense and continuously growing body of literature on Autism and Asperger’s written by adults and parents.  It seems that the experiences and understandings of adults with Autism and the parents who deal with the needs of autistic children on a daily basis and who are more often than not well-informed and well-educated, are still not being heard.

The only time professionals seem capable of changing their opinions is after the personal experience of having a family member diagnosed with Autism and even then, for now at least, those brave enough to admit to it, remain either in the minority or are ostracized.  So what will it take to amend this problem and why is there such a horrendous  level of resistance toward acknowledging the diagnostic mistakes of the past (Refrigerator Mothers & other Autism Myths)? Do any of us really believe that  reframing the method or manner of diagnosis within the new DSMV will do anything to address this?  I for one think that it’s time that our young adults and their parents heard the words “Sorry… We got it wrong……What can we do to help”…..  Wouldn’t that be nice?

(P.S.  Yes I know… globes don’t technically have corners!)

 

Asperger’s Syndrome in Women – Different not less

Art by Igor Mudrov

Art by Igor Mudrov

I have noticed that whenever women with Asperger’s Syndrome try to speak up and share the fact that they often experience greater levels of discrimination,

medically, in terms of receiving an accurate diagnosis at an early age and socially, in terms of having their diagnosis recognized and understood by others,

they are also often accused of suggesting that men with Asperger’s Syndrome must therefore, somehow,  have an easier life.

This is simply not the case and it irks me so that women with AS,

who seek simply to share their truths,

are so consistently having the validity of the expression of their own personal experiences

twisted and therefore,

disregarded in such a way.

Women with Asperger’s Syndrome  – Different not Less.

 

Why I will never be an Autistic “Warrior Mom”

Originally posted on Sonnolenta... A Neurodivergent Journey:

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Image description: Rainbow diagonal stripes with white text that reads: “Remember: The way you treat Autistic adults now is how you are telling the world to treat your own Autistic children.” Red colored heart at center bottom of image. SOURCE

My Son just turned twelve, and is currently going through the diagnostic process for Autism/ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. We’ve just started this journey. Having a light shining onto his differences has made me appreciate how unique he is even more. I’m not a “warrior mom”. I don’t want to “kick autism’s ass”. Autism is not a disease. It’s not something that I can remove from my Son like some sort of hackneyed exorcism. I am tired of the pathologization of Autism.

I don’t want to change him, fix him, or force him to be “normal”, and I refuse to teach him that he has to do this in order to be…

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Autism – Absurdities and Atrocities

Artwork by JudasArt

Artwork by JudasArt

Voltaire once wrote: “ Those who can induce you to believe in absurdities, can induce you to commit atrocities.”

Nowhere is this statement more relevant than when looking at the many perceptions of the causes of Autism.

For example, consider the following two statements regarding Autism.

  • People with Autism experience the world differently due to the impacts of a disease process. This disease process can be cured. Therefore Autism is a condition that we, as a society, have a duty to either eradicate or overcome.

  • People with Autism experience the world differently due to neurological variances that are hard-wired within them at birth. Autism is not the result of a disease process which can be cured. Therefore Autism is an aspect of life that we, as a society, have a duty to seek to understand, respect and accommodate.

Which of the above statements do you believe to be the least absurd?

If you agree that the first statement is the least absurd and therefore, (in your eyes, most likely to be true), then chances are that you will do and try almost anything to either cure or rid yourself or your child of Autism.

The past 50 years have shown that attempts to cure “the autism” out of a child or an adult have had disastrous results.

Yet attempts to cure “the autism” out of a child or adult continue. Some involve relatively harmless and repetitive therapies that do appear to help assimilation.

However, some attempts involve subjecting children and adults with Autism to debilitating, humiliating and ultimately mentally and physically harmful forms of abuse.

Such as forcing persons with Autism to drink bleach, delivering painful punishments, such as kicking, punching, whipping or starvation, to persons with Autism for displaying undesirable behaviors or subjecting them to intense isolation and deprivation of liberty by locking them in rooms or cages.

All of which should be considered crimes against humanity and therefore seen as atrocities.

If you agree that the second statement  is the least absurd and therefore, ( in your eyes), the most likely to be true, then chances are that you will do and try everything you can to be better understand and accommodate for either your own or your child’s Autism.

Over the last 50 years the voices of those with Autism have continuously cried out for understanding and acceptance.

A key aspect of accepting the potential that children and adults with Autism process the world differently involves making the attempt to understand what those differences are, how they impact the individual with Autism and then accommodating for them respectfully.

Accepting and making accommodations for adults and children with Autism , whether that be providing them with safe, quiet places , pressure blankets, clothing without tags, or specialized educational programs, is both respectful and beneficial.

The practice of providing acceptance, respect and accommodation breaks no laws, perpetrates no crimes against humanity and therefore does not induce anyone to commit atrocities.

I prefer statement 2.

How about you?

P.S  I am aware that some may argue the possibility of a third statement in which Autism could be considered a curable disease whose sufferers should be treated with both consideration and respect whilst they are experiencing its disease effects. However, the propensity of those who support statement 1 toward the overall aim of ‘curing autism’ places many adults with Autism, who not only accept their differences but are increasingly proud of them, at odds with such beliefs.

Aspergirls and Emotions – why she is always misunderstood as being cold and aloof

Originally posted on Naming The Stars:

It is a common misconception that Aspergirls do not feel any emotions. I dispute that myth completely and utterly. Aspergirls are actually the most sensitive, loving and caring creatures ever to walk this planet. So how is it that we constantly get so badly misconstrued as being cold, aloof, stand-offish and heartless?

Firstly, we struggle to express ourselves, particularly verbally. We may have a raging torrent of sadness inside us when we see someone hurting. We may have hearts filled with joy when we see someone overwhelmed with happiness. We may feel irrational anger when someone we care about is wronged. But can we put any of that into words? Can we boot. As a result, we are seen as heartless, emotionless and as though we feel we are above everything else, when really we are shouting our feelings deep inside our heart – it is just that other people…

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As I see it – Society treats males with Aspergers Syndrome differently to females with Aspergers Syndrome

Art work by Elena Vizeskya

Art work by Elena Vizeskya

I know there are many male Aspies who feel that there are no differences between their experiences of Asperger’s Syndrome and women’s experiences of Asperger’s Syndrome.

On one level I understand this realm of thought because essentially, if you’re only talking about the way in which we experience being socially overwhelmed, yet at the same time feel socially isolated, or being constantly misunderstood, or socially awkward and confused, then, yes these feelings/experiences are the same.

However, where they differ, is the way in which these experiences are being both understood and accommodated for by others and the consequences of that.

In simple terms, women can never truly know what it feel like to experience all of the social expectations that being a male of the species involves just as males can never truly know what it feels like to experience all of the social expectations that being a female involves.

In most areas of life this male/female binary differentiation is understood, accepted and endlessly theorized over as to how it came about.

Yet somehow, when it comes to the experience of living a life with Asperger’s Syndrome within a society in which it is already well recognised that this gender division impacts on such things as financial outcomes, employment opportunities, and still in many areas of the world, civil rights, let alone personal subjective experiences, some still seem to insist that women with Asperger’s Syndrome must experience their Asperger’s Syndrome in the same ways that males do.

From my experience this is simply not true.

My brother, for example, has always been excused from attending family occasions, a friend’s party or any form of public gathering, without a word of criticism.

More often than not, other family members can be heard willingly offering up excuses for him. ‘Oh you know Al, that’s just the way he is. He’s never liked being around crowds (including being in a room with more than 4 family members at one time).

Yet, if I feel that I do not wish to or am unable to attend a family occasion, a friend’s party or any other form of public gathering to which I’ve been invited, I am bombarded by words of criticism.

‘Oh, she’s snubbing us’. ‘How rude of her not to bother to attend.’ ‘I suppose she thinks she’s too good to bother with us,’ or the good old ‘She’s always so disorganized’.

In this instance, both my brother and I may have the same reasons for not wanting to attend whatever it is we’ve been invited too, i.e., there will be too many people, too much noise or we’re feeling too personally overwhelmed to deal with a group of people we don’t know, or we’re afraid of being socially awkward – again, of we’re simply already worn out from having had to deal with other social occasions.

Yet despite the fact that we may choose not to attend these social gatherings for the same reasons, the judgements and criticisms of others towards us as individuals can be and are very different.

My brother doesn’t have to put up with being treated as if he has done something terribly wrong or highly offensive by others if h chooses not participate because of his Asperger’s.

Whereas I, on the other hand, due to my Asperger’s, am continuously being placed in a position in which my integrity as person and my loyalties as both a family member and a friend are constantly being questioned.

I believe that the only explanation for the disparity between the ways in which it’s seen as acceptable for my brother to avoid social gatherings, whilst I experience being berated for the same behavioral need to avoid social gatherings, is gender.

He’s a guy, therefore its okay for him to not always want to be social.

I am a gal, I’m supposed to live for social occasions, to enjoy them, to want nothing more than to celebrate a reason to get all glammed up and engage in chit-chat.

Wrong.

I don’t enjoy social occasions, I don’t want to have to get glammed up just to stand around and have to try too hard to make small talk with people I may or may not know.

I am as socially awkward as my brother,( who incidentally is also never expected to get whatever the male version of ‘glammed up’ is), yet these facts are constantly being ignored and I think they’re being ignored simply because I’m a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome and apparently women with AS are supposed to be able to cope.

We’re supposed to be able to successfully mimic the social niceties of others so well that we can “pass ourselves off as being normal”.

And more than that, we’re also supposed to want to “pass as normal”.

It’s what we live for.

It’s what we take pride in.

Apparently there is no greater compliment for a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome than – “oh, I never would have thought there was anything ‘wrong/different’ about you. You don’t look/act like some with Asperger’s Syndrome.”

Wrong.

When it comes to Asperger’s Syndrome and gender, let me tell you that I hold as little interest in having to play the social game of ‘passing as normal’, as my brother has.

The key difference between us on this score is that only one of us is being accepted for the social differences/difficulties that our Asperger’s causes us, and it’s not me.

If you feel that you can offer up an explanation for this binary phenomenon between acceptance of the AS experience in a male, yet not in a female in the same family, other than gender of course, then I’d love to hear it.

Is Autism a Disability or a Difference ? BY Judy Endow

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“So many ideas in the larger autism community often become a debate. As an autistic this black-or-white, choose-your-side sort of thinking is very neurologically friendly to me. I like clear choices. But I also believe we are often unwittingly duped into believing we need to choose a side only because the idea is presented as a dichotomous choice.

“Is autism a disability or a difference?”is one of these questions posed as a dichotomous choice in the autism community. The way the question is posed gives the impression that there is one correct answer.

When Autism is a “Difference”

Many autistic adults would like if autism were recognized as a difference rather than a disability. Many in this group are the walking, talking autistics. We can go out in public by ourselves. Some of us are parents. We are your friends, neighbors and co-workers. We might seem to be a bit odd, but we can fit in enough to at least be allowed a place in the world at large.

Even so, being out and about in the community poses significant challenges. The sensory overload and neurological processing differences dictated by our brain along with ever present challenges with communication and conventional social understanding are such significant differences, even though we can accommodate for them, we are usually exhausted from doing so by the end of the day.

It seems to me that when we are able to be out and about in our communities unassisted by a hired person we are often expected to look and act like typical people regardless of the challenges imposed by the neurological difference of our autism. Because we appear to be like others, our difficulties and needs are thought to be our own personal problems. Even though we have an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis that by definition means we have significant difficulties in many areas of life, others often look at us and ascribe negative intentionality and character flaws to us.

When Autism is a “Disability”

For some of us, the way our autism plays out in our body means we are faced with numerous obstacles to overcome every day of our lives. We may need communication devices, occupational therapy equipment and to employ personal care workers. For those of us whose autism presents challenges with these kinds of needs – we understand the disability aspect of our autism.

We often need a hired person to accompany us when we go out into the community or to support us so that we can communicate. In fact, we may require 24/7 support staff. And for some, our autism plays out in our body in such a way that people can see it as we approach! For us, people can see we need help. Rarely do others look at us and attribute our difficulties to laziness, lack of motivation, self-centeredness or any other negative character trait.

But because our autism is so visibly noticed along with the significant support we often need, people make other sorts of assumptions about us. Our needs are so obvious that people do not always consider that we also have strengths and abilities along with likes and dislikes. Often we are placed in menial jobs as adults (if we are even deemed capable of working) and our support staff is switched around as if people are interchangeable and relationships do not matter to us. We are not often seen as people who have preferences, desires, abilities, skills and talents as the time and energy of others are focused on the meeting deficits and needs imposed by our disability.

Negative Outcome of Choosing Disability OR Difference

As an autistic person when I am asked to choose one – either “disability” or “difference” – I feel like I am being asked, in essence, which part of me I would like to ignore. When I choose “disability” it means my talents, strengths, abilities and preferences are ignored. When I choose “difference” my very real difficulties and needs are not only ignored, but I am often blamed for what others consider my stubbornness in hanging on to negative “character flaws.”

Might We Incorporate Both Disability AND Difference?

What if we all chose both disability and difference? Would we then be totally ignored or totally supported? There it is again – another dichotomous choice posed as if it were a real choice!

In the meantime, please know when you ponder whether autism is a disability or difference this is a false choice sort of deal. It serves nobody well and has poor outcomes. And yet we somehow feel that we need to choose between disability or difference.

Why is that?”

Written by Judy Endow.

See more at: http://ollibean.com/2014/06/20/autism-disability-difference/#sthash.NMT4ZQZ4.dpuf

Related posts: http://seventhvoice.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/autism-different-not-less-the-importance-of-belief-3/

http://seventhvoice.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/adapting-peggy-mcintoshs-paper-on-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack-of-privilege-to-accommodate-and-reveal-how-neuro-typicality-constructs-its-own-unspoken-system-of-privileg/

http://seventhvoice.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/women-and-autism-how-one-womans-letter-to-a-psychologist-finally-helped-her-receive-an-asd-diagnosis-after-years-of-personal-invalidation/

http://seventhvoice.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/autism-form-an-adults-perspective-its-a-horrible-feeling-of-vulnerability-and-helplessness-to-know-that-the-non-autistic-world-sees-you-as-seriously-impaired/

http://seventhvoice.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/rising-to-meet-the-challenges-of-understanding-ourselves-as-autistics-in-a-non-autistic-world/