Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sensory Overload Video

Sensory Overload (Interacting with Autism Project) from Miguel Jiron on Vimeo.

Here is an interesting video on sensory overload from the Interacting with Autism project.

I don't have this issue so I'm not an expert, but some people have commented that this is pretty accurate.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Stage Show

I just got a notice of a stage show on parenting an autistic child presented next week at the Dean Lesher Center in Walnut Creek. I haven't seen the show, but it has good online reviews. The show, A Real Man is October 26, 2012, at 8:15 pm.

Get more info at

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Loving Someone With Asperger’s: Book Review

Both Loving Someone With Asperger’s , by Cindy N. Ariel, Ph.D and The Journal of Best Practices, by David Finch, reviewed in my last post, are about the topic of marriage between  a neurotypical and an individual on the autism spectrum, but other than that similarity, the books could not be more different. While The Journal of Best Practices is a lighthearted, and distinctly readable memoir, Loving Someone With Asperger’s is really a handbook for understanding each other, communicating, and ultimately changing.

The author, Cindy Ariel, is a psychologist with years of experience working with individuals on the spectrum, and that experience is reflected in the material she writes about. The book covers every conceivable topic, from communication, to anger, to emotional connection. Appropriately, it begins with a focus on the strengths of autism and what autism can bring to the relationship. This is important, because struggling couples so often focus on the differences between them, it can be healing to remember why the marriage began in the first place.

Although I admire the book, I hesitate to recommend it. Any couple with the insight to examine their marriage to the depth and detail this book suggests is probably in a pretty solid relationship already. For those couples who are struggling, the introspection and self awareness the book requires is probably too much to expect a couple to reach independently.

I do think this book would be an excellent adjunct to therapy. Along with the guidance and impartiality provided by a strong professional, many couples could use the workbook exercises to deepen and further their understanding and expectations for each other.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Local Event:Transition Panel Discussion

There’s been a lot of discussion in the media lately about the long term employment prospects for special needs adults, after a study was published earlier this month in Pediatrics, so it’s very timely that the Berkeley College Internship Program is offering a free panel discussion.

The event, Thinking Positive About the Future: Insights into College, Independence and Employment For Young Adults with Asperger’s, ADHD and Other Learning Differences, will be held on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, from 5 to 7:30 pm.

From the flier: “Parents and Professionals are invited to join us for an informative evening event at CIP Berkeley's newly expanded location in downtown Berkeley, CA. The event will include presentations by several guest speakers who work with the ASD and LD community; offering advice on the key stages of transition to adulthood including: letting go, adjusting to college, finding success in the workplace, and achieving independence.”

The event is free, but space is limited, so reserve in advance.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book Review: The Journal of Best Practices

The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband The Journal of Best Practices, A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband, by David Finch, is an entertaining and enlightening book. The author, upon realizing that his five year old marriage is in serious trouble, and learning that he has Asperger’s Syndrome, decides to methodically improve his marriage and be a better father as well.

Finch starts out his quest by attempting to fix his autism, then realizes that the issue is in improving the marriage itself. Finch takes on this task in a detailed and methodical way, attempting to figure out the rules of the big picture by painstakingly noting the patterns around all the details. He comes up with a list of changes he can make, not really changes in himself, because it is clear that his wife already loves him, but more changes in how he treats his family.

I enjoyed the humor in the book, as well as Fitch’s unswerving honesty in looking at himself. He repeatedly moves from cluelessness, where he isn't meaning any harm, although he might be causing a great deal of it, to understanding. I think this is a key insight for neurotypical partners to come to, and a good reason for them to read this book. With a disorder that makes it difficult to impossible to understand one’s partner’s feelings, the inevitable misunderstandings are not deliberate. It can be a lot easier for a spouse to forgive an unintended harm.

Because Finch really struggles to understand his wife's point of view, she remains quite a mystery to the reader as well. I found myself searching online after I finished the book to try to get a feel for her voice. At the same time, my experience of not knowing her is a useful sample in helping us neurotypicals understand for a moment what Finch experiences with his wife.

Tthis book can also be useful for individuals on the spectrum. The idea of being a caring partner can be quite an abstract goal. In my practice, I always try to move from the abstract to the concrete, and examples are a great way to do so. The examples in this book take the abstract ideas about being a good husband and father and bring them to life in a more concrete and useful fashion.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review: Is It You, Me, or Adult ADD?

Marriage always involves compromise and adjusting for differences, and that’s even more true when one partner has a diagnosis, like autism, Asperger’s, or ADHD. In my therapy practice I work with many of these mixed couples, where it’s not just two different personalities, but also two different ways of experiencing and dealing with the world. These differences can bring a refreshing sense of novelty, perspective, and balance to a relationship, but they can also result in conflict, disappointment, and disconnect. Fortunately, understanding those differences between partners can be the first step in bringing a troubled relationship into one that’s supportive and satisfying for both.

Gina’s Pera’s  Is It You, Me, or Adult ADD?  was written as a support group in book form, focused on the partners of adults with ADD or ADHD, and Pera uses the voices and examples of support group members throughout. But, don’t be fooled by the support group theme. This book is an extensive and well researched resource, covering not just anecdotal examples but also thoroughly detailing treatment options, historical background and professional discussions of ADHD. I always appreciate writing that’s easy to read while still being informative and professionally referenced. This book will serve as a useful long term reference as well as a book to read through.

I read some reviews criticizing Is It You, Me, or Adult ADD? for siding with the non-ADHD partner and blaming all the marital problems on ADHD and the ADHD partner. Although I think this can be a fair criticism in general, the book really isn’t directed at those couples where ADHD is bringing creativity and spontaneity to the marriage. People attend support groups because they need support with problems and they pick up a book like this because there’s something wrong in their relationship. It’s reasonable to address the problems the diagnosis brings in these cases.

Is It You, Me, or Adult ADD? is an excellent resource for couples dealing with ADHD and I recommend it highly.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Free Monthly Webinar on Autism

Champions of Autism and ADHD is a non-profit based in Iowa. I wasn’t familiar with them until I got a flier about their free monthly webinars, on various applicable topics. It’s expensive to deal with autism, so I’m happy to recommend free information. It looks like tomorrow’s talk on IEP, mediation and IDEA is the second in the series, with the webinars being archived for future viewing.

 From the flier:

 Working Together — Promoting Effective Communication and Dispute Resolution under the IDEA

  • Date:  Thursday, March 15, 2012
  • Time:  12:00 – 1:00 p.m. CST
  • Presenter:  Miriam Van Heukelem, Attorney, Ahlers & Cooney, P.C.

This webinar will help parents and educators better understand the procedure of educational programming for students will disabilities. We will discuss strategies for effective communication between parents and schools through the IEP process. We will hear perspectives from Iowa educators about the IEP team process, and will consider what reasonable expectations schools and parents can have for each other. We will take a close look at the mediation process, and will discuss how mediation can be a productive tool for resolving disputes and building stronger parent-school relationships. 

For more information, go to the Champions of Autism website.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Transition Options Program

Finding support for adults on the autism spectrum can be especially difficult. Once students leave high school, many of the formal and informal support options are no longer available. Without the structure of school, and with difficulty in finding appropriate post high school education or employment, many individuals struggle to remain connected and productive.

One valuable resource is the Transition Options Program, (TOPS) from Mount Diablo Adult Education. I’ll draw directly from their flier:

The Transition Options Program (TOPS) addresses the unique needs of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome, High Functioning Autism and related disorders transitioning to higher education, independent living and/or employment. The goal of the program is to provide education and support to enable students to be successful in work, home and the community. 

The program is uniquely designed to address the individual needs of participants as they select their class schedule based on the following four core areas of instruction: Social Skills/Cognitive Development; Employability/College Readiness; Independent Living Skills; Community Access & Resources.

TOPS provides a supportive environment for students to develop social skills, increase independence, develop interests, explore resources, participate in the community, and create a social network of support while preparing for work, independent living and/or higher education.

For more information on the program, contact Karen Lingenfelter-Carman, Adults with Disabilities Program Coordinator at (925) 685-7340 ext. #2742 or e-mail

Monday, February 13, 2012

Transition Opportunities: Orion and JFK ASD Transition Seminar

The transition to adulthood is probably the most uncertain stage in the life of a special needs individual. There are support services and a fairly well defined path available for children and teens, but after high school many young adults flounder. In this post, and my next, I’ll be discussing several good programs to assist in transition planning.

Orion Academy, along with JFK University, is offering their 6th annual ASD Transitions Seminar. The seminar will be held at JFK University, in Pleasant Hill, CA, on Saturday, March 10, 2012, from 10 am to 4 pm. There will be a number of speakers, on various topics of interest to parents of transitioning or soon to transitioning teens, as well as vendors and exhibitors. You can register or get more information at the JFK website. Space is limited!