Man With Autism Writes What He Wishes He’d Said to Childhood Teachers

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Bryan, a man on the autism spectrum, shares what he wishes he’d said to his childhood teachers in a letter on his Facebook page, Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness: Bryan’s Advocacy.

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The Line From 'NCIS' That Spoke to Me as an Autism Advocate

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There is a single scene at the very end of an episode of “NCIS,” which I have been thinking about a lot lately. The episode is called “Hit and Run.” When I saw the scene, I was in tears because of how much I could relate to the character of Abby, a forensic scientist on the show.

In this scene, Abby is sitting on the floor in the office, feeling pretty upset. Her colleague Gibbs comes over to her and asks what’s going on. She finally admits she’s trying to figure out how to be OK with not being enough good. Gibbs responds that she’s not counting the hit and runs — the good kind. This is when you do something nice for someone now, and you’re not always around to see the impact it has later.

He eventually ends the scene saying, “The things you do mean something to people.”

I feel like Abby so often, especially as an advocate on the autism spectrum. I constantly feel as though I’m not enough good. Like I just can’t keep up and do enough for others. And Gibbs’ response is so true.

This is why it’s so important to let people know when they’ve helped you. Just say, “Hey, remember when you did or said this? It really made a difference!” Maybe someone let you go ahead of them in line at the grocery store. Or perhaps they let you know you dropped something important. It could be a stranger, or it could be someone you know. Whoever it is, and however they helped, it matters.

Those kinds of stories I get from people every once in a while really keep me going. When I’m having a tough time, they let me know I’ve made an impact as an autism advocate. The stories remind me about those “hit and runs,” which can be really easy to forget about, if I’m even aware of them in the first place. They remind me that, like Gibbs said, the things I do mean something to people.

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How My 3 Autistic Daughters Demonstrate the Vastness of the Autism Spectrum

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How many times have I heard the phrase “She doesn’t look autistic to me”? Too many times to count, that’s how many.

But here’s the thing: No two autistic people are the same. So once you’ve met one autistic person, you have met one autistic person. The assumptions and generalizations some people make on a daily basis surrounding autism astound me; they’re not helpful to anyone, and they need to stop.

I’m constantly surprised at how vast the spectrum is. Three of my four daughters are diagnosed autistic. So that’s four autistic people in our family out of six, including my husband. And we see it all.

I have one child who shies away from new people, and another who constantly seeks new social connections.

I have one child who loves to make loud noise, and another who hates it to the point of tears.

I have one picky eater, and another child who eats anything and everything she can get her hands on.

I have one child whose loves imaginative play, and another who is more literal.

I have one child who loves to spin, and another who hates it.

I have one child who is constantly seeking things to touch, and another child who panics if she has things on her hands.

I have one child who loves baths, and another one who hates them.

I have one child who feels the cold acutely, and another child who doesn’t seem to feel it.

I have one child who finds screens relaxing, and another who gets hyperactive from them.

I have one child who gets super chilled-out from physical exertion, and another who gets stimulated from it.

I could go on and on. I’m sure you can appreciate just how delicate the balance is to keep everyone happy and not overloaded. It is constant, and I have to preempt everything, offering alternatives and providing soothing items for the child who is struggling while another may be in her element. Trying to teach a child to self-regulate is no mean feat, especially when everyone seems to have opposite triggers.

Oy.

My point is: Just as is the case with any human being — we are all unique, and it’s really important to keep this in mind when discussing autism. Because sure, there may be a diagnostic criteria — but everyone fits on it in a different place.

Appreciate the individual.

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ABL Denim Creates Sensory-Friendly Jeans for Kids With Autism

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When Stephanie Alves launched ABL Denim in 2011, the goal was to create a pair of inclusive jeans that would be comfortable enough for people with disabilities, specifically those using wheelchairs, to wear. Now, ABL Denim has expanded its line for children with sensory processing disorders.

“Parents kept asking if we made a jean for kids with [sensory processing disorders],” Alves told The Mighty. “They wanted a real jean but one that would be non-irritating, one that kids would not be trying to remove. Since I knew more about physical disabilities, I asked many parents for what the issues were so I could come up with a pant with solutions.”

Once she knew what parents were looking for, Alves – a fashion designer with over 25 years of experience – got to work designing a comfortable pair of jeans that sensory-sensitive children would want to wear. As part of the design process, Alves’ model was a child with sensory sensitivities, allowing her to get the fit right and receive critical feedback.

“Everyone is different and you can’t cover everyone’s needs,” Alves added. “We small business need the community’s support if they like the products in order to make all that they are requesting.”

Several revisions later and ABL Denim had its first, kid-approved, sensory-sensitive design ready for market. The jeans, which feature a soft, sweatshirt-like denim material, are unisex and come in children sizes 6 to 20. What makes the jeans sensory-sensitive, however, are their lack of harsh inside seams and exclusion of zippers and rivets. The jeans also include an elastic waistband, sewn on the outside of the pants for maximum comfort, allowing the jeans to be easily be pulled on and off.

In addition to creating standard kids jeans, ABL Denim also offers shorts, boardshorts and denim leggings, as well as jeans for adults and children who use wheelchairs. Children’s items range from $32 to $39 for a pair of jeans.

Seeing the success and need for clothing lines like ABL Denim, Alves encourages other designers to create more inclusive fashion. “There are so many different garments that people want,” she said. “Designers should pick a category that they [know] how to produce… Otherwise they don’t look like same caliber as mainstream brands.”

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New Program to Help Kids With Autism in the Emergency Room

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A new program will help kids with autism in the emergency room.

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Supporting My Daughter on the Autism Spectrum Through Back-to-School Transitions

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It is two days before school starts back after Christmas break, and my 11-year-old daughter who has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder has already started the “I don’t want to go to school” talk. As her parent, I am now used to the getting back to school routine: the panic that sets in for her and then the days of elevating anxiety; implementing strategies and organizing everything in preparation for her going back to school, for us.

My daughter is a very bright and able child; she learns well and progresses in line with her peers. Her difficulties do not lie in the learning of facts, but rather the processing of everything else within the classroom setting. The language used, the people, the body language and the social rules that are unspoken yet seem to be instinctively known by so many. I feel it is the school itself that sends my daughter into a panic, not the learning. It may be the amount of people, the busyness of sights and smells, the noise and the effort it can take for her to focus. I admire her so much for her progress at school, but it is difficult for me to see her anxiety increase from holiday to term time; no parent likes to see their child distressed.

This being said, as she is growing older, we are getting better at alleviating her worry and coping with the stressors of daily life in general. I say “we” because as her parent I very much travel my daughter’s journey alongside her. The professional help just isn’t readily available for my daughter. Not only are you put on waiting lists for months, but if you don’t
follow up the requests with emails and phone calls, the therapy just doesn’t get offered. So, like many other parents I’m sure, much of my daughter’s support is through learning about strategies myself through books, websites and shared ideas from other parents.

One thing that is really helping my daughter with the transition of getting back to school is the use of tick lists and timetables. A structure to the day and the reassurance that everything has been done seems to greatly comfort her and alleviate some of the stress. Once a task is complete, we tick it off the list and go onto the next task until everything has been done. The visual structure to these lists seems to take away a lot of worry and can make us all a lot more productive. As well as tick lists, we also practice strategies to relieve anxiety, which include listening to audio books, breathing techniques and talking about her worries to make them go away. We seem to have learnt many strategies over the years to alleviate anxiety, but these are what work best for us.

It is always difficult to watch my daughter struggle with the transition of going back to school. I know school can cause her additional stress, but I have come to accept that these types of transitions may always cause her to be uncomfortable and invoke stress for her. I have learned I can’t take these stressful things away for her, no matter how much I would like to, but what I can do is build her confidence to such a place where she can feel the stress and anxiety and reduce it to a comfortable level herself. That being said, like our journey so far, it takes small baby steps that build together to bring us to that place, but I believe my daughter can achieve all that she desires; she may just need additional help and support to get her there.

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