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New York Transit Museum Designs Subway Sleuths Program for Kids With Autism

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It’s not uncommon for kids with autism to have a special interest in trains and transportation. To foster this passion, the New York Transit Museum has created a program just for children on the autism spectrum.

The museum’s Subway Sleuths program is an after-school and summer camp program for students grades 2-5. As part of its programming, Subway Sleuths uses participants’ special interest areas to help develop peer-to-peer interactions and social skills. “Because trains are a popular special interest area of individuals with autism, the New York Transit Museum is the perfect setting for this type of developmental work,” Elyse Newman, education manager for the New York Transit Museum, told The Mighty. “A passion for transportation and trains is a requirement for the program, for that shared interest serves as the glue that brings the students together.”

Creating a program for children on the spectrum was an obvious choice for the New York Transit Museum. “Nearly seven years ago the Transit Museum recognized that children with autism and a special interest in trains were coming to the museum frequently,” Newman said. “While the Museum clearly was a place of excitement and comfort for these children, the Museum didn’t have programs to directly engage them in ways that met their learning needs. Given the lack of after school opportunities for children living with autism it seemed obvious that the Museum should develop a program to give participants a positive, fun and supportive environment when they need it most – during out-of-school time.”

According to Newman, each session starts with a visual schedule, allowing participants to manage expectations and group collaboration. After discussing the schedule, each child gets to participate in two activities. Activities focus on partner work and include designing a giant subway map, taking and reviewing pictures and games involve non-verbal communication like using hand signals and facial expressions to assemble toy train tracks.

The Subway Sleuths program is deliberately small, with each semester enrolling a total of 18 students per 10- to 12-week program. Those 18 students are then divided into three groups, each led by a special education teacher, Transit Museum educator and speech language pathologist. Each semester costs $350 to $450, depending on the length of the course. The program also offers scholarships for those who can’t afford the program.

You can learn more about New York Transit Museum’s Subway Sleuths program via its website.

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How I've Found Parenting on the Autism Spectrum to Be a Strength

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When My Hyperlexia Makes Words Unavailable to Me

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In my experience, people tend to think conditions like ADHD, dyslexia and hyperlexia only affect children. People often still think autism only affects children, but then what happens to these kids when they grow up?

We learn to cope with, compensate for and manage our differences, but they are still there.

I’ve always been hyperlexic. My verbal comprehension has improved greatly since I was a child, though I still have auditory processing difficulties. Even though things are much better — I’ll always be hyperlexic.

According to the Center for Speech and Language Disorders:

”Hyperlexia is a syndrome that is characterized by a child’s precocious ability to read (far above what would be expected at their age), significant difficulty in understanding and using verbal language (or a profound nonverbal learning disability) and significant problems during social interactions.”

It’s a good thing I love reading.

It is beyond frustrating to have so much to say and not be able to express things in face-to-face conversations. When I try to talk, it’s as if I know the information, but my brain is holding back the words.

My arguments are often ineffective and unpersuasive, and the words can come out making me sound uneducated and shy. I cannot beg or force the words. Nothing helps when the words are unavailable to me.

I am not the person people see in these moments — I am the voice behind my keyboard.

The thoughts and information are still inside, even when I cannot express them as you stand in front of me.

I am so grateful for my keyboard. I am so happy I learned to type and write in school. This has turned my hyperlexia into something I’m thankful for.

I am so grateful to have found my words.

Image via Thinkstock.

Follow this journey on Anonymously Autistic.

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How Working in Retail Has Helped Me as a Person on the Autism Spectrum

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Working in retail for some can be hectic, stressful and overall an unpleasant experience. Having autism and being in that busy, hectic environment can take a toll on some. But for me, despite the challenges, it has helped do the things I never thought I could do.

I work at a big-name pharmacy I usually do the checkout. I help customers make sure they have everything OK, and I work the register. Now, when I mention the register, that’s a big accomplishment because doctors and teachers thought that was a skill I could never do. But look at me, I’m doing it. Do I make mistakes? Yes, but instead of being hard on myself, I pick myself up and keep going at it.

One thing working at the pharmacy has done is helped me stay strong and not give up. One time I had a nasty customer who threatened to have me fired all because she wasn’t getting what she wanted. Now normally when people yell at me, I get red in the face, the tears start building up and I end up crying. But I wasn’t going to let that happen, and in that situation, I didn’t. I continued to have a good day.

Working in retail has really helped me remain happy but also be strong and not let negativity bring me down. I have a great group of managers who have taken the time to understand me as an employee with autism. Some I see more then others, and the two I see the most have really made a difference. One of my managers is so great. She reminds me every day that I should be proud to be me, and she really reminds me that working hard and having a positive attitude is the way to go. She also always tells me if you run into negativity, don’t put up with it. Instead, get rid of it because life is too short. She is just something special, and she brightens my days. She’s like my everyday hero, and she has helped me become a hardworking person. The next manager and I are total opposites. Sometimes I have trouble being around someone who is dry-humored because I don’t always understand it, but I do work on it, especially when I work with him. He is another who really wants me to be the best at my job, and he never wants me to be stressed out or unhappy. At first when I did start to work with him, I didn’t think he understood me as a person. One day, I asked him if he ever worked with someone who has autism. He told me yes, then he said he did understand me, he just treats me like everyone else. That really meant a lot to me. I realized that maybe having someone opposite of you in your life is a good thing. He’s become my everyday hero, too. Both my managers have taught me so much. I feel honored to work with two such strong individuals who do a great job.

Working retail has brought me so much happiness. By overcoming challenges, I have more confidence. Whether it’s working with different people or dealing with customers, at the end of the day I know I always put 100 percent in. This can be an example for others who have autism to try something outside your comfort zone. Working at the pharmacy has really helped me overcome challenges. I feel great being a retail worker with autism because I’m setting the example that I can do anything I put my mind to. Autism doesn’t define us; it’s a piece of us. We can achieve anything.

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