Making sure your child with autism gets a good education at school

A good education is important to helping a child to develop and learn. In the United States we are very fortunate to have The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If your child has an autism spectrum disorder and needs special education, you will need to become familiar with the rights your child has under (IDEA).

Since 1975, IDEA  requires  that  all individuals  have access to a ‘free and appropriate education (FAPE).’ IDEA is a federal act, and  each state may not take away the special education rights provided under IDEA, but may provide more.

Basically, every child  under the age of three and at risk of developing a substantial disability if early interventions are not provided is eligible for early intervention. The names of the different programs my vary by state, but  you can check with  your state’s Department of Health, Department of Developmental Disability, or Department of Education about early intervention. If you need help finding help or information in your area, look at the website of the Federal Interagency Coordinating Council (

In the educational system, if a student is eligible, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed that  sets out the ways the child will be helped with his areas of difficulties, and  goals and objectives are developed. The IEP is developed by an IEP team at IEP’s that take place at least annually.

An IEP team consists of the parents, the child’s teacher, a general education teacher, a special education administrator, any professionals providing services such as occupational therapy,  speech and language therapy, and adapted physical education.

Sometimes, some members of the IEP team and / or the parents may not be in agreement as to how a child’s educational needs should be  met, and what constitutes a ‘free and appropriate education’ for your child. As a parent, it is important to get to know how your child learns. Remember that you are the expert on your child. Also, it is important to keep abreast of the educational methods that are out there that may help your child.

If you are in disagreement with the rest of the IEP team, there are appropriate ways for you to express your disagreement. The first step is to try and have good and open communication with your child’s teacher and other professionals involved in helping your child with his difficulties. The second is to make sure you know your child’s rights under IDEA. As a parent you will need to become an advocate for your child.

As laws and regulations change, parents and educators can  stay informed   by  checking the US Department  of Education ( and your state department of education.

Most, if not all, states have an agency that helps people with disabilities and tells you your rights in plain language, and provides information in different languages.  To find out how your state interprets IDEA, These are usually called Protection and Advocacy offices. Often these agencies have decoded the complicated IDEA and made it available on-line in easy to understand layman terms so that parents can understand the rights their children have in terms of education.

In my next post, I’ll cover some autism parenting tips to ensure your child is getting the education he or she needs. You can also read more in my book, Autism Spectrum Disorders. Tips on how to communicate and negotiate more effectively with your school will be given in the course  Empowerment Strategies for the ASD Parent on Thursdays May 5,12,19,26, from 6:00 – 8:00 PM PST.

Getting a Job with Autism – Preparing for the Real World of Work

by Chantal Sicile-Kira

Editorial Note: This article originally appeared in The Autism File in February 2009 and discusses Chantal’s son, Jeremy Sicile-Kira. Find out more about Jeremy here.

“Jeremy does not like jobs with physical activities but likes to work with ideas and be able to tell others what to do…. As the case manager, I see Jeremy’s strong assets like working data, communicating with people to purchase/buy/manage a business. He is able to do gross motor activities, but often finds fine motor activities difficult and frustrating. Jeremy needs more opportunities exploring jobs and finding out what he would do to have fun and earn money.  These last two ideas are very important to Jeremy.”

— Allan Gustafson, Interview with Jeremy Sicile-Kira
Transition Year 07-08

Like all parents, my husband and I worry  about our son, Jeremy, and what his future will look like. Jeremy is now 20 years old, and with  the economic situation being what it is, we are doubly concerned about the financial aspects of Jeremy’s  life as an adult. But as the saying goes, worry gets you nowhere – fast. Preparing, planning and creative thinking is a better alternative to wringing our hands.

When thinking about employment for your child or student  on the spectrum, there are a few  aspects that need to be focused on:  the life skills he or she needs to learn; a clear understanding of what employers look for in an employee; the interests and strengths of the person on the spectrum; the usefulness of mentors; and the different employment structures currently available.

Necessary Life Skills

In my latest book, Autism Life Skills : From Communication and Safety to Self-Esteem and More – 10 Essential Abilities Every Child Needs and Deserves to Learn, the ten skill areas covered are important for all aspects of life, whether  at school, at home, or in the community. Some of the skills  such as self-regulation, independence, social relationships,  and self-advocacy are  important  for getting and keeping a job. The topic of earning a living is the last chapter in my book, because being able to get and hold a job  is really a culmination of  all the life skills  hopefully learned during the school –age years, whether a person is on or off the spectrum. For example, for someone to be accepted in a workplace, they must be able to control their emotional and sensory meltdowns. A certain amount of independence is needed at most jobs. Understanding that you should speak to your boss differently than you would to  a colleague is important to know in most work situations. Self advocacy skills are  necessary in order to request what you need to get the job done.

Life skills in general  should be broken down and translated into IEP goals and objectives, especially during middle school, high school and  transition years. Obviously, everyone is different and the skill level reached for each of these skills is different depending on the person, but every student needs to learn a minimum in order to live and work in the community.

What Employers Look for When Hiring

Too often,  when  looking for a job placement for  a person on the spectrum, people take the approach of asking for handout, or a favor. We need to  approach this differently. I took a look at the top 10 skills and attributes most employers  look for as identified by the Bureau of Labor (Job Outlook, 2003) and I discovered that many of those attributes are attributes people  on the spectrum have, yet rarely do we sell those attributes to prospective employers. Here’s  the top ten of what  employers look for: honesty and  integrity; a strong work ethic; analytical skills; computer skills; teamwork; time management and organizational skills; communication skills (oral and written); flexibility; interpersonal skills; motivation / initiative.

Now, many of you reading this are probably  focusing on the skills in this list your child or student does not have. Look at it again, and think about what attributes your child does have. For example, most people on the spectrum are honest to a fault – they are usually  the ones in the store saying “yes” when a woman trying on a dress says “Does this make me look fat?”  They are not the employee who will be caught with his hand in the cash till.  That’s a positive point to sell. A strong work ethic applies to most of our guys – the ones who do not like a change in routine and are going to be there rain or shine. They will not be calling in sick because they had one too many martinis the night before, or leave early because they have an event to attend.  Analytical skills are really ‘obsessive attention to detail,’ and many of our children have that. The child who likes to line up blocks and trains probably has good organizational skills. Teamwork and flexibility are difficult areas for many, but we should be teaching flexibility at school (there are ways of doing that), and teamwork can be handled by ensuring the person on the spectrum has one person on the team that he is in contact with for all needed  information. Many of our children with Asperger’s are good communicators, and some have become journalists, speechwriters and professors.

The point is, when people are selling a product and/ or service,  they market the positive attributes,  not the negatives. And that’s precisely what we need to be doing with any prospective employees on the spectrum.

The Child’s Interests and Strengths

It is extremely important to consider what your child or student likes or is passionate (ie obsessed) about and figure out how that can help him earn money. In most cases, people on the spectrum can be difficult to motivate – unless it involves something they are really into. For some, it is quite obvious what they are particularly interested in because they don’t let you forget. The trick is to figure out how to use that interest and turn it into a moneymaker, or to find a career field that can use that particular interest or talent. That’s where mentors come into play (more about that later).

For most on the spectrum, a job will be their one connection to the community, and their main activity. If a neurotypical hates his job, he usually has another aspect of his life that is bringing him pleasure – his family, his church, athletic activities. However, most on the spectrum do not have family or friends or many outside groups they belong to, so it is important to help them find work that will fulfill them in some way.

There are those for whom it is fairly obvious what they are passionate about. For many like my son, Jeremy, it is a much less obvious. There doesn’t seem to be anything he is particularly obsessed about  that could lead to employment.  He used to love to spin tops (physics researcher?), and to follow the patterns in carpets and floor tiles (carpet checker in a rug factory?), now he is mostly focused on communicating about girls with his support people (beauty contest judge?). However, by having different people work with him or observe him in different environments, we have been able to come up with ideas to try out, and jobs  to avoid.

When thinking about Jeremy’s future money- making potential (either in a job, customized employment, or self-employment), we thought about the different strengths and weaknesses Jeremy had.  The questions we asked ourselves  are the same that most people should consider when helping someone on the spectrum who is considering employment. For example, we asked:

  • What is Jeremy usually drawn to?
  • Is there a particular  subject area or skill area that  Jeremy excels in?
  • What, if left to his own devices, does he like to do most?
  • What motivates Jeremy to do what he does?
  • How successful is Jeremy at  self-regulating? Does he need to work in a place with low sensory stimulation?
  • What kind of situations cause Jeremy to feel anxious?
  • What do Jeremy’s organizational or multitasking skills look like?
  • Does Jeremy do better in crowded environments or when there are fewer people around?
  • Does  Jeremy like moving around, or staying in the same place?
  • How many hours a week of work can Jeremy handle? Will he be ok with a 40 hour a week job, or does he need a part time job?
  • Does Jeremy like routine and the stability of  doing the same thing every day, or does he like change?

Jeremy is interested in the concept of self-employment and did well in two self-employment experiences he tried in high school.  He had a lot more control over his environment and what his daily tasks consisted of then he would have had in a regular employment situation. However, if he were to apply for a job, there are  many questions he would need to ask an prospective employer (or someone would have to ask for him)  during the interview process to ensure a good fit between himself and the job as well as the work environment.

The Importance of Mentors

Mentors can help figure out how to turn an interest into a job, or  into a means to earn money. Temple Grandin (Thinking in Pictures; Developing Talents) speaks often about the importance of mentors in helping to turn interests into marketable skills.  That is what helped her become the success she is today.  Temple had mentors  from her science teacher at school to her aunt, from family friends to colleagues who were crucial to her success. If your child appears to have skills or  a real interest in a specific area,  someone  who works in that field   can help  the child  realize the application of his interests.  Parents may realize their child’s talent, but not know all about a certain employment area.

For example,   a child may enjoy spending hours on the computer, but  his parent who is a taxi driver or a school teacher or an attorney, may  not know anything aobut the field of computers and employment possibilities. Someone who works in computers – perhaps a tech guy the family knows-  can give insight to what is  applicable  to someone with  that child’s talents.

Mentors can also help a student feel valued as  that person will be interested in the same topic he is and will enjoy hearing what the child has to say, whereas family members  may be tired of hearing about a topic they have no interest in.

Different Employment Structures

There are different employment structures currently available and by analyzing a person’s strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and by asking some of the questions above,  a clearer idea of what could be a good match with the person on the spectrum is possible. There is full-time work, part-time employment, seasonal work, year round employment and so on.

Other less traditional structures  are becoming more popular, and this is probably in response to the realization that most adults with disabilities are unemployed. In 2002,  unemployment figures for disabled adults hovered at 70% and had done so for the previous 12 years (2002 Report by the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education).   This report showed us that besides needing to do a better job of preparing our students for employment, meant we also had to start looking at other employment structures more conducive to individual employee needs.

One  less traditional structure  is customized employment, which  means that the work is tailored to the individual, not the other way around. It can mean job carving, where one job is carved up into different tasks  and shared by several people, giving each employee the part of the job they enjoy or excel at the most. Another type of customized employment is self-employment, which is sometimes referred to as micro-enterprise and  which basically means having your own business or being self-employed.  This can be a good  option for those who are having a difficult time fitting into  regular paid positions, or when there is no position available. This option is gaining popularity in the US as well as in the UK.  For some examples of self-employment initiatives by people with developmental disabilities,  visit

Self Employment as an Option

Although I would encourage Jeremy to try  an employment opportunity that seems like a good fit, I am not holding my breath waiting for that job to show up on the horizon. I am not convinced that that much has changed since 2002 in the job market in regards to hiring disabled people, and certainly with all the neurotypicals now jobless, I don’t anticipate a huge rush of employers looking to hire my son.

I became interested in the concept of self-employment or micro-enterprise  when Jeremy was not offered any  work experiences during his first few years of high school, about 5 years ago. The workability person at the time felt that Jeremy was not ready for any of  the job options she had in the community.  His teacher, however, felt everyone, including Jeremy, had potential, and was open to creating a self-employment experience under workability. At that time, Jeremy could not communicate as readily as he can now, and so we had to  come up with ideas based on observations that people who knew  Jeremy made about his strengths and weaknesses, his likes and dislikes, and then ask him yes or no questions.

I had heard of people with developmental disabilities having their own business.  When the opportunity came, I  attended a workshop on the process and how it could work, and it made sense to me for someone like Jeremy.  It was clear that if workability was telling me there was not   a work experience opportunity for  Jeremy, I was going to have to create something for him  to learn “on the job” skills.

Jeremy’s teacher came up with the idea of starting a sandwich delivery service for the teachers, based on Jeremy’s strengths and likes, and the fact that by the end of the week, the teachers were sick of the on-site lunch option, and so there was a need for such a service.  Jeremy’s second experience was providing  a needed product (selling flowers to peers at school where no flowers were available on campus). By actually doing these businesses, Jeremy learned valuable business lessons.  These lessons were complimented by general education classes he took those semesters, such as a class on marketing and another one on economics. For his class projects he had to write papers on how he applied those principles to his job. Some of these lessons were:  the cost of doing business; the difference between a profit and a loss;  how marketing, location and  price affected the numbers of customers he was able to attract and keep. Jeremy also learned that if  he could not do all aspects of his job,  he had to pay someone else to do the parts he could not. In reality, it is these kinds of business lessons all neurotypical teens should be learning in the current economy.

That being said, self-employment is not for everyone and necessitates a business support team. The business support team can be made up of a teacher or parent, a paraprofessional, a mentor , a friend, someone who has business experience. Each person brings their knowledge to the team.   The business team helps to advise in areas the person needs help with, and also does parts of the business the person cannot, just as in all businesses (ie I pay a tech guy to take care of my website because I can’t). There are free resources, available on-line for those who are not experienced in starting up a business.

Looking at   self employment as an option sometimes leads to an actual job. The process of discovering a person’s strengths and weaknesses, can lead to discovering  areas of traditional employment that  had not been considered for that person previously. Sometimes it leads to a job offer  from a business in the local community that  the person had visited  to  get more  information about his area of interest.


Teaching children and teens on the spectrum needed life skills is a necessary  preparation to  life as a money-earning adult. Analyzing the needs of both the potential employee and employer, as well as looking at the different options in employment structures is necessary to ensuring a good match. Finding a mentor can help with a successful  transition to gainful employment.

This year, Jeremy is benefiting from two workability experiences while he is studying to earn his high school diploma. Twice a week he works at the local library (which he has visited on a regular basis for the last 10 years). Once a week he helps develop the business and marketing plans for the micro-enterprise experience that some of the other students are working on through workability. Jeremy  has come a long way thanks to all the different team members along the way who believed in his potential. It takes a village….

Travel Tips for Families with an Individual on the Autism Spectrum

by Chantal Sicile-Kira

Transitions are usually difficult for many on the spectrum, and traveling is really a series of transitions. Preparing the person – child, teenager or adult – as much as possible will make any trip a more enjoyable experience for all involved. Some advance planning of specific steps of the trip can be made ahead of time. Below are tips for both preparing the person (1), and preparing the environment for a better travel experience (2).

1. Preparing the Person

Leaving the security of home for a new place can be off putting for individuals with autism. How you prepare the person on the spectrum depends on his or her age and ability level. Here are some tips:

  • Think of the individual’s daily routine and the items he or she likes or needs and bring them along to make him feel more at home. Bring whatever foods and drinks will keep him happy on the trip, especially if there are dietary restrictions.
  • Buy some small, inexpensive toys or books that he or she can play with during the journey and that if you lose it will not be the end of the world. If he only plays with one favorite item, try to find a duplicate and see if you can “break it in” before the trip.
  • Do not wash any items (including plush toys) before the trip as the individual may feel comfort in the “home” smell of his cherished item.
  • Put up a monthly calendar with the departure date clearly marked, and have the person check off every day until departure. Bring the calendar with you and mark off number of days in one place or on the trip, always having the return date indicated.
  • Put together a picture and word “travel book” of what means of transport you are going to be using to, who you are going to see, where you will sleep, and what you will do or see at your destination. Go over this with the person, like you would a storybook as often as you like in preparation for the trip. Using a three-ring binder is best, as you can add extra pages or insert the calendar mentioned above for use on the trip.
  • Put together a picture or word schedule of the actual journey to take with you on your trip. Add extra pages to the travel book. Add Velcro and attach pictures or words in order of the travel sequence. For example, a picture to represent the car ride to the airport, going through security, getting on the airplane, etc. For car trips, pictures representing different stops on the trip and number of miles to be driven can be used. Add an empty envelope to add the “done” pictures when you have finished one step of the journey.
  • Taking a short trip before attempting long voyages, if possible, is recommended. This will help the person get used to traveling and give you the opportunity to see plan ahead for possible areas of difficulty. Also, if you use the travel book system, it will help the person make a connection between the travel book and any impending travel in the future.
  • Travel environments such as airports and train stations are areas that involve lots of waiting. Teaching the individual the “waiting” skill before traveling (if he or she does not already have it) will make your life and theirs much easier. Make or find a picture or icon that will represent “waiting” to your child, such as a line drawing of a “stick” person sitting in a chair, with the face of a clock next to it. Write “waiting” clearly on the card. Glue to cardboard, laminate it and place a piece of Velcro somewhere on it. Next, make sure you have picture of whatever items your child usually requests or wants immediately (favorite food, toy, ride in the car) backed with Velcro. The next time he or she requests the item, place the corresponding item on the Velcro strip on the Waiting board and say “We’re Waiting” and set a timer for how long you think the person can wait – for some this will be 10 seconds, for others a few minutes. When the timer goes off, immediately give the requested item, and say, “Thank you for waiting.” Do this, lengthening the amount of time the person needs to wait. Eventually, he or she will get the concept.

2. Preparing the Environment

Some preparations can be made ahead of time for the different environments and means of transport you will be using. Most people and companies in the field of tourism are willing to help to ensure a positive environment for all their customers and guests. Here are some tips:

  • When staying in a hotel, it is a good idea to call ahead and ask for a quiet room. You may wish to explain about the person’s behavior if there is a likelihood of him or her exhibiting them in the public part of the hotel. Same with a friend or relative’s home. It can be a bit disconcerting for everyone concerned if your child or adolescent takes his clothes off and races through your friend’s home stark naked.
  • If you are traveling by plane, call the airlines as far in advance as you can, and tell them you will be traveling with someone who has special needs. Some airlines have “special assistance coordinators.” You may wish to explain about the person’s needs and some of the behaviors that may affect other travelers, such as rocking in their seat. If the person is a rocker, asking for bulkhead seats or the last row of seats on the plane will limit the number of fellow travelers that are impacted by the rocking. If you need assistance getting the person and luggage to the gate or to change planes during the trip, call ahead and reserve ‘wheelchair assistance.’ Even if the person does not need a wheelchair, this guarantees that someone will be waiting for you and available to assist you. (This was suggested to me by a special assistance coordinator when I told her that the help I had requested had not been provided on a recent trip). When requesting the wheelchair, you may need to explain about the person’s autism. For example, I have explained in the past that my son with autism had difficulty moving forward in a purposeful manner and we needed help to get to the gate to catch a connecting flight.
  • Persons with autism should always carry identification. Make sure he or she has an id tag attached to him or him somewhere, with a current phone number written on it. You can order medical bracelets, necklaces and tags to attach to shoe laces. Additionally, if the person can carry it in his or her pocket, make an ID card with a current photo, date and phone numbers. Be sure to put any information that is important to know such as allergies and medications, and any special information (i.e. non-verbal).
  • Adult passengers (18 and over) are required to show a U.S. federal or state-issued photo ID that contains the following: name, date of birth, gender, expiration date and a tamper-resistant feature in order to be allowed to go through the checkpoint and onto their flight. Acceptable identification includes: Drivers Licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent) that meets REAL ID benchmarks (at time of writing, all states are currently in compliance).

Using many of the tips listed above has made traveling much easier for our family. Now, we look forward to any travel opportunity as we all enjoy the experience. A little planning goes a long way!

Autism College to co-sponsor free on-line conference April 9th and April 10th

We are excited here at Autism College to be co-sponsoring  “Get Educated About Autism” with in celebration of the Autism College launch and in honor of Autism Awareness Month. Temple Grandin will be one of the keynote speakers. We will have experts on different aspects of autism including communication, inclusion, the use of medications, adolescence,  relationships and other  areas of interest for parents coping with autism and experts. We’ll be sharing more information over the coming weeks.

Today  I’m delighted to tell you about one of our speakers,  Lauren Henry, the founder of With a Brush of Love.   Lauren’s mission is to transform the lives of children diagnosed with autism or other special needs through their surroundings. Lauren is a color expert and designer, and has honed her skills over several years developing techniques for designing environments that improve both the emotional and physical well being of these children and their families. In addition to helping directly, her methods also increase the effectiveness of other therapies and treatments. The scientific principles of how sensory information, particularly color, affects the   psyche have long been recognized.

Lauren’s passion is applying these principles to help children diagnosed with autism and special needs.  Lauren has been  featured on HGTV’s “kidspace” and ABC’s ”Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”  Her work has also received international attention, she has been invited by the U.S. Military and The Exceptional Family Member Program to Camp Foster in Okinawa to work with their families as well as by the volunteer organization, Hands On Tokyo to oversee the renovation of a Nursery/Orphanage.  Lauren’s  first book, “Unique Kids. Unique Surroundings.” was published in September  2009, and in October of 2010 Lauren was invited to  host the Inaugural International Naturally Autistic People Awards in Vancouver, B.C..

Don’t forget to sign up and invite your friend – this conference is free and you can attend from the comfort of your own home. PJ’s and bunny slippers allowed. For more information, and to sign up, go here:

Free Online Autism Conference 2011 – Sponsored by Autism College and Mom’s Fighting Autism

What IQ Tests Really Tell Us About Children with Autism

How to better administer psychological assessments to children with autism

This blog was first published on on  March 19, 2011

In the past nonverbal children with autism were considered mentally retarded, and those who had difficulties in communication were considered intellectually slow. Now it has become more widely recognized that autism has nothing to do with intelligence.

Studies show that often children who are performing at grade level or above in school, have IQ scores that show them to have below average or even mentally deficient intelligence levels. IQ scores of children on the autism spectrum may not be accurate reflections of their innate intellectual potential.

For a child to perform to their ability on a standard IQ tests such as the WISC-IV and the Stanford-Binet, they must be able to quickly respond to verbal questions and have well developed motor skills. However, these are areas that are difficult for those with autism. In effect, these IQ tests do not tap the true cognitive ability of many children on the autistic spectrum, but rather tell us more about their communication and motor difficulties.

Children and teens with autism spectrum disorders are impacted by sensory processing challenges, and this as well can effect test results. A student may not be able to respond in a room with bright fluorescent lights or in an environment not conducive to someone with sensory processing issues.

Another reason why it is hard to know how much a person on the spectrum understands is that many with Asperger’s Syndrome may do well in answering test questions, but not necessarily realize how the information relates to them personally. For example, a middle school student may be able to tell you what he heard in health class, but he may not not understand or realize how this information (ie sex education) relates to him personally. For this reason, it is important that parents and educators ensure that students really have processed the information on a personal level.

It is important to remember that just because a person cannot talk does not mean that they are not understanding what is going on around them, what they are hearing in class, or reading in books. Conversely, just because a person sits in a class and can repeat to you what was said, does not mean he has internalized and learned it.

Joshua D Feder, MD, Child and Family Psychiatrist has these suggestions to make about administering psychological assessments :

• Think of all the sensory processing difficulties a child may be experiencing. For one-on-one testing, make sure that the room is quiet, has few visual distractions, and is not too brightly lit.

• Consider the difficulties of transitions for those with autism. Sometimes, clear explanations of what you will be doing together, what comes next, and what comes after, makes a big difference. Frequent breaks may be needed.

• Pay attention to regulation and co-regulation issues. Do testing with the child not to the child. Pay attention to joint attention and engagement, and find the balance between having expectations and trying to build rapport.

• Recognize that one-on-one testing may not show a child’s difficulties with same tasks attempted in the classroom. Children with an ASD may have been taught the ‘right’ answers, but ability to utilize the information may is limited. This is especially true with tests of pragmatic language that ask about what to do in social situations. Careful classroom and recess/lunchtime observations are an essential part of the evaluation.

• For younger or nonverbal children, it is important to observe what they chose to play with, and what they initiate in their actions. This initiation is often the key to finding what motivates them and what we can capitalize upon to help a child co-regulate and connect and move forward in social and cognitive growth

• For more verbal children, we often do not do projective testing with these children, however, the rates of depression and other secondary mental health problems are very high, and projectives often give us a way to understand the child’s experience of the world.

• There may be a lot of scatter in the subtests, so that more refined neuropsychiatric testing may be needed

The reality is, It’s hard to know how much a person on the autism spectrum knows because of the communication, motor, and sensory difficulties they may have, as well as the ability some have to repeat information that has not been internalized. All these things need to be considered when doing psychological assessments.

For more general information on Autism, read 41 Things To Know About Autism, and visit Autism College.

New to Autism? How to Cope

Recently, I posted a blog on the Autism College website entitled : “My child has just been diagnosed with autism, how do I cope with this?” Parents new to the world of autism usually have a tough time after getting the diagnosis. Parents learning to cope  may find the following tips helpful:

• First, acknowledge your feelings, and allow yourself to feel the emotions that are there. These emotions, may come back time and again, but you will learn to cope.

• Know that the emotions you feel as a parent of a child with autism, has been compared to the stages of grief that  person goes through when mourning the death of a loved one.

• Recognize what you are feeling and try to use those emotions to your benefit. If you are angry, use that energy to find out all you can and advocate for your child (just be careful not to take out your anger on those that are there to help you). If you are feeling isolated, join a support group. If you are feeling powerless, go on the internet and do some research to learn about what options you have for your child, or which advocacy group exists in your state (every state has one) for the developmentally disabled community.

• Keep in mind you are not mourning the death of your child, you are mourning the loss of your expectations. The child you have may not be the child you were expecting, but he still needs you and loves you.

• Reach out and find an autism support group in your area that can help you feel less isolated and can help you with information.

• Find out all you can that can help your child so you can make the right choices. Empower yourself with the knowledge you need to help your child the best way that you can.

• Take care of your self. Just like in an airplane where the flight attendant instructs you in case of an accident, to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help your child; you come first. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to help your child.

At Autism College, we can help you as we help other parents coping with autism. Our Parent Empowerment Course can assist with some information such as how to know what will help your child, and the affects of autism on siblings and grandparents. Our free Library will  grow and we are adding information you can use. Two of my books might be really helpful to you at this time: Autism Spectrum Disorders (an  ASA Book of the Year) and 41 Things to Know About Autism.


Puberty brings changes that are difficult for a teen on the spectrum

Most children with autism have a terrible time with change. They like things to stay the same, as they are used to the familiarity of routine. If there are no new things, they don’t have to anticipate for any ‘attacks’ to their senses; they can anticipate what is coming next.  Many like things to be the same and will spend time lining up their toys or objects. Some parents have reported that when they have moved the furniture around, the child will move it back to where it used to be.

Now, imagine that you are the type of person who cannot stand change, that you are afraid of it.  And then you notice something really freaky – your body is changing on you and you have no control over it. It is even worse if no one has told you what was going to happen. Boys start noticing the hair on their legs growing in tougher and longer, and hair sprouting in places there wasn’t any before. Then, they notice their Adam’s Apple has grown and become more prominent, and their voice is starting to change and is cracking at times. Not only that, but something weird is happening ‘down there’ – their penis gets hard and sometimes there is a liquid leaking out. How weird is that??!!
For girls, it is much the same – think of  all the ways a girl’s body changes, and imagine how frightful that could be if you don’t like change.  Especially when the girl begins to menstruate, if no one has explained to her in a way she can understand what that is all about, then she will have a difficult time going through this change towards womanhood.

Some tips:

  • It is best to start explaining to the preteen what bodily changes to expect before puberty hits. For girls, puberty usually starts at age 9 or 10, for  boys at 10 or 11.  However, better late than never.
  • Explain what will happen to both the male and female bodies during puberty, so that the child is not surprised when they see their peers changing as well.
  • Show pictures of trusted , loved adults of both sexes – mom, dad, aunt, uncle – as babies, then children, then teens, then  as adults, so that they see how the transformation has happened to everyone, and that it is a positive thing to go through.
  • Explain the bodily function inherent to being a boy (hardening of the penis, ejaculation) and being a girl (menstrual cycle).If you have a girl on the spectrum, it might be a wise idea to have her wear a pad for a while before she begins her menstrual cycles, so that she gets used to the sensory aspect of wearing the sanitary pad.
  • The use of social stories and a picture book you can create with the above information is helpful. You can then go over the picture book and social stories as often as needed.

The point is, body changes are scary for those who do not like change, but by telling them and showing them the changes that will happen can make it much easier for them. For more autism parenting tips when it comes to teens, you may wish to sign up for our course, Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum. Also, you can read Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum, or 41 Things to Know About Autism.

Transition to Employment and Independent Living for Individuals with Autism and Aspergers

by Temple Grandin

Successful transition from the structured world of school or college to successful employment requires a lot of hard work. One of the biggest problems I had with trying something new was fear. Long before a student on the ASD spectrum graduates from either high school or college, they need to get work experience while they are still in school. The transition from school to employment should be gradual and not abrupt. I saw one student who graduated successfully from college and he had zero job skills. This is wrong. Teaching job skills should start before the student graduates. Mother was always pushing me to try new things. If she had not pushed me, I would not have developed. Below I will outline the work experiences I had when I was still in school.

13 years old – During the summer I worked two afternoons a week for a seamstress who did freelance sewing. My job was to hand hem dresses and take garments apart. Mother found this job for me and I was really good at the job. I also loved the money I earned.

15 years old – Mother lined up a summer job for me at my aunt’s ranch. I was afraid to go but mother gave me two choices. They were come home in two weeks or stay all summer. I ended up staying all summer. Planning for the trip, which included flying from New York to Arizona, started three months before I left. It was essential that I was allowed to plan ahead. Surprises cause panic.

14-18 years old – Horse Barn – In my high school, I worked cleaning stalls and feeding eight horses. This was a job I found for myself. Even though I was a goof ball student who did not study, I worked hard taking care of the horses. I was learning valuable work skills.

16 to 18 years old – Carpentry Work – At my boarding school I did lots of carpentry projects such as fixing up our ugly ski tow house. I put tongue-and-groove siding on it with white trim. One important work skill I learned from my many projects was to do an assigned task. Decorating the ski tow house with cattle pictures would not be appropriate. I had to decorate in a manner that other people would appreciate.

18 years old – I was still a bad student who did not study. I did not see any point in studying until my science teacher gave me a reason for studying. He got me interested in science and I became interested in becoming a scientist. My teacher told me that if I wanted to become a scientist I would have to study. Almost overnight I decided to study and I got good grades in college.

College Years – During my college years while getting my B.A., I continued to visit the ranch and I had two other summer internships. One summer I worked in a research lab with mice and the next summer I worked with autistic children. Mother helped line up both of these jobs.

Master’s Degree – After four years of college, I spent five years getting my Masters and I was gradually spending more and more time working. I slowly transitioned from the world of school to the world of full-time work. During this period I had a part-time job as livestock editor for the Arizona Farmer Ranchman and I also worked part-time for a company that built cattle feedlots. After this five year period I was no longer a student. I had my M.S. degree and I was now building up my freelance consulting business, one project at a time. One of the things that made my transition successful was that I slowly transitioned from full-time school to slowly weaning myself away from the structured world of school.

Ph.D. Program – After five years of full-time consulting, I went back to school to get my Ph.D. when there was an economic recession in the 1980’s. I spent nine years getting my Ph.D. on a part-time basis and I still worked. I still designed equipment and did seminars on livestock handling, while I was working on my Ph.D.

Sell Your Work – One of the things I figured out is that I had to sell my work and not my personality. I avoided job interviews and I showed prospective clients a portfolio of my drawings and photos of completed livestock handling facilities. Many people thought I was weird but they respected me when they saw my design drawings. Many people made the mistake of putting too much stuff in their portfolio. It is best to put relatively few examples of the very best work. In my book, Developing Talents, I provide a lot more tips for making portfolios.

It Takes Time to Develop a Skill – I am a visual thinker and I used my visual thinking ability in my work designing cattle facilities. Half the cattle in North America are handled in my designs. While I was working on my Master’s, I spent three years learning all about cattle handling and different facility designs. I went to every feedlot in Arizona and I worked cattle. It was an obsession but it was an obsession I turned into a career. I had to work hard to develop my designs.

Types of Minds – I have observed that there are three basic types of specialized minds on the autism spectrum.

Visual Thinker

This is my type. I think in photo realistic pictures like Google for images. Algebra was impossible for me. Unfortunately I was never allowed to try geometry or trig. This was a big mistake. Some individuals who cannot do algebra can do geometry. Visual thinkers are good at the following occupations:

  • Artist and Graphic Design
  • Industrial Design
  • Architecture
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Drafting
  • Photography
  • Animal Trainer

Pattern Thinkers

These are the individuals who are often good at math and music. Reading may be their area of weakness. Pattern thinking is a more abstract form of visual thinking. They think in patterns instead of pictures. Some good occupations for pattern thinkers are:

  • Scientific Researcher
  • Statistics – data mining
  • Engineering
  • Music
  • Mathematics
  • Computer Programming
  • Chemistry

Word Fact Thinkers

  • Journalist – Blogger
  • Librarian
  • Record Keeping Jobs
  • Special Education Teacher
  • Bookkeeping
  • Speech Therapist

These are the individuals who know all the facts about their favorite things such as movie stars or baseball players. History is often a favorite subject. They are NOT visual thinkers and they are often poor in art. The following careers would be good choices:

Never Too Late to Start – I have had parents, teachers, and individuals on the spectrum ask me, “How can an individual who is 30 and has never worked get started?” It is never too late to start. They need to start one small job at a time. The first task is learning time management and showing up for work on time. The individual will have to make some changes. When I was hired by the construction company, my new boss scolded me on hygiene. I was very upset but I complied because I wanted to keep the job. As a person on the spectrum, I have never stopped learning. Every day I keep learning.

How does visual thinking work in the mind of a person with autism? A personal account

by Temple Grandin


My mind works similar to an Internet search engine, set to locate photos. All my thoughts are in photo-realistic pictures, which flash up on the ‘computer monitor’ in my imagination. Words just narrate the picture. When I design livestock facilities, I can test run the equipment in my imagination similar to a virtual reality computer program. I did not know that this was a special skill until I started interviewing other people about how they think. I was surprised to discover that the other nonautistic equipment designers could not do full motion test runs of equipment in their minds.

My mind is associative and does not think in a linear manner. If you say the word ‘butterfly’, the first picture I see is butterflies in my childhood backyard. The next image is metal decorative butterflies that people decorate the outside of their houses with and the third image is some butterflies I painted on a piece of plywood when I was in graduate school. Then my mind gets off the subject and I see a butterfly cut of chicken that was served at a fancy restaurant approximately 3 days ago. The memories that come up first tend to be either early childhood or something that happened within the last week. A teacher working with a child with autism may not understand the connection when the child suddenly switches from talking about butterflies to talking about chicken. If the teacher thinks about it visually, a butterfly cut of chicken looks like a butterfly.


When I design equipment, I take bits and pieces of other equipment I have seen in the past and combine them to create a new system. All my thinking is bottom-up instead of top-down. I find lots of little details and put them together to form concepts and theories.

During the last 5 years, I successfully used this method to fix some of my health problems. Most people have to have a theory first, and then they try to make the data conform to it. My mind works the opposite way, I put lots of little pieces of data together to form a new theory. I read lots of journal papers and I take little pieces of information and put them together as if completing a jigsaw puzzle. Imagine if you had a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle in a paper bag and you had no idea what the picture on the box is. When you start to put the puzzle together, you will be able to see what the picture is when it is approximately one-third or one-quarter of the way completed, When I solve the problem, it is not top-down and theory driven. Instead, I look at how all the little pieces fit together to form a bigger picture.

When I was in college, I called this finding the basic principle. On everything in life, I was overwhelmed with a mass of details and I realized that I had to group them together and try to figure out unifying principles for masses of data.


I have recently started to lose my hearing. The ear specialist said that there was nothing I could do. I did not accept this; so I spent two weeks at the computer reading journal papers on sudden sensorial hearing loss, Meniere’s disease and other disorders. I had to read hundreds of abstracts and journal papers just to get the background information so that I could find the answer that would save my hearing. I was looking for a unifying principle that would explain all the research results. One study reported that steroids such as Prednisone could save my hearing and another study reported that steroids do not work. How did I sort the data out? The first clue was that many studies were published in arthritis journals instead of ear and nose journals. The reason for this is that arthritis doctors really understand autoimmune disorders where the immune system attacks a person’s body. In my mind, I pictured wrecked, deformed arthritic joints. For a treatment to be successful, the drug has to be given before the immune system has destroyed the joints. I then had a flash of visual thinking insight. I imagined that the immune system attacking my inner ear was such as a house on fire. This is what I call a visual symbol picture. If the fire is put out when it is confined to a waste basket, the house can be saved. If the whole house starts burning, it will be destroyed. The explanation for all the conflicting studies in the medical journals was really simple. Steroid drugs such as Prednisone put out the fire of autoimmune inflammation, but they do not repair the damage. Treatment has to be started before the ear is wrecked. The explanation for all the conflicting scientific studies was a simple basic principle. I had to get a prescription for Prednisone before the autoimmune inflammation destroyed my inner ear. I looked up a second ear specialist in the phone book and he immediately gave me the prescription that saved my hearing.


The method of bottom-up thinking really works well for me in problem solving where a basic principle has to be determined from masses of conflicting data. One disadvantage of my kind of thinking is that huge amounts of data are required to find the answers. Since my mind works similar to an Internet search engine, my ability to solve problems got better and better as I had more and more experiences and read more and more books and journal papers. This provided lots of images in my memory for the search engine in my mind to search. Many people have told me that my talks have improved between the ages of 40 and 60. My ability to think in a less rigid way keeps getting better as I fill up the Internet in my mind with more and more information. I greatly improved socially in my 40s and 50s compared with my 20s. This was due to having more experiences in my memory that provided guidance on how to behave.


When I was in high school at age 16, many teachers did not understand why I kept talking about going through little doors and thinking in visual symbols. Since my mind stores information as photo-realistic pictures, I do not have true abstract thinking. To visualize the concept of my future after high school, I had to use door symbols. In fact, the first door symbols were real doors I could practice walking through. Today I no longer think in door symbols because I have a huge database in the Internet inside my head. Instead of visualizing doors, I visualize either real past experiences or events I have read about.


To form a concept from the many specific photo-realistic pictures I have stored in my memory, I sort them into categories. Categorization of my specific visual memories was the beginning of concept formation (Grandin 2000, 2002). When I was a child, I categorized dogs from cats by sorting the animals by size. All the dogs in our neighborhood were large until our neighbors got a Dachshund. I remember looking at the small dog and trying to figure out why she was not a cat. I had to find a visual feature that she shared with big dogs. I had to create a new category in my mind to differentiate. All dogs, no matter how big or small, have the same nose shape. My concept is sensory based, not word based. Other ways of sensory-based categorization would be sound (barking or meowing) or smell.

Researchers have found that people with autism often have difficulty in forming new categories (Minshew et al. 2002). When I was a child, we played lots of games such as Twenty Questions that forced me to get good at thinking in categories. Category formation is a fundamental property of the nervous system. Brains are wired to put visual information into categories (Freedman et al. 200 1). The hippocampus also has the ability to determine whether or not similar photos of objects are the same or different (Bakker et al. 2008). Observations of stroke patients have shown that brain damage can cause them to lose their ability to categorize objects such as tools, but they can still categorize vegetables and animals (e.g. Mummery et al. 1998).

In my case even abstract questions are answered by putting photo-realistic pictures into categories. One time I was asked ‘Is capitalism a good system?’ To answer this question, I put pictures from countries that had different types of governmental systems into the following categories: (i) capitalistic, (ii) capitalistic/ socialistic, (iii) socialistic, (iv) benevolent dictatorship, (v) brutal dictatorship, and (vi) war and chaos. These pictures were taken from my memory and they are from experiences travelling or the news media. My answer was that I absolutely do not want to live in a brutal dictatorship, or war and chaos. Pictures helped me make a choice because in the last two choices I see news photos and TV images of killing and destruction.

My ability to provide a well thought-out answer has greatly improved with age because I have travelled more, and have more pictures both from actual experiences and from reading. They can be sorted into the different categories. When I read, I convert text to images as if watching a movie. The images are then stored in my memory. In college, I photocopied images of my class notes into my brain. When I was a teenager, answering the question about capitalism in an intelligent manner would have been impossible. I simply did not have enough experiences or enough information in my memory to answer it.


In college, the process of sorting out the basic principles from masses of data was much slower and laborious compared with my abilities today at 60. 1 figured out my ear problem in two weeks. When I was in my 20s, it took me 10 times longer to develop a theory from 100 journal papers.

As an undergraduate, I did an honor’s thesis on the subject of sensory interaction. Here the question was how a stimulus to one sense, such as hearing, affects the sensitivity of other senses. I had over 100 journal papers and I numbered each paper. On small pieces of paper, I typed the major findings of each study. I then pinned hundreds of little slips of paper on a bulletin board. I called it my logic board. Since my thinking is totally non-sequential, I had to develop a way so I could see a display of all the information at the same time on the bulletin board. To discover the categories and concepts, I started pinning the slips of paper into different categories. It was very time-consuming. As I gained more experience with sifting through scientific research, I no longer needed the bulletin board. I became better and better at finding unexpected clues, such as many deafness treatment papers being in arthritis journals. From my previous scientific knowledge, I made the association of rheumatoid arthritis to autoimmune, and therefore saw that ear damage would work the same way as joint damage.

When I was young, my thinking process was extremely slow because I was less skilled at finding the basic principle from the masses of data. But skills in people on the autism spectrum still develop when they are adults. The more research I did analyzing the results of scientific studies, the better I got at it. I always read the methods section of a paper carefully so I can visualize how the experiment was done. Differences in methods often explain conflicting results of scientific studies.


For many years I thought everybody else thought in pictures the same way as I do. When I wrote Thinking in Pictures, I started interviewing people about how they think. I was shocked to learn that most people processed information differently to how I did. Most people are able to visualize their own car or visualize walking through their own house. They can do it because they are very familiar with it. I discovered the differences in thinking when I asked other people about objects they were less familiar with. I asked them about an object that everybody sees really often, but it was not visible when I asked the question. I always ask the question in the exact way so I do not bias the answer. ‘Access your memory of church steeples. How do they come into your mind?’ I was shocked to discover that many people saw a vague generalized steeple and sometimes it was a stick figure. They saw a generalized steeple where I saw only a whole lot of photo-realistic pictures of specific ones that I could identify. Research by Nancy Minshew and her colleagues has shown that in people with autism, word based tasks are processed in the visual parts of the brain. Functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning indicated that sentences with both high and low visual imageries were processed in the visual parts of the brain in the autistic subjects and that low visual imagery sentences were processed in the language parts of the brain in normal subjects (Kana et al. 2006). The sentences with high visual imagery were about animals and plants. One of the low visual imagery sentences was about arithmetic. When I did the experiment, I instantly saw my third-grade teacher writing on the blackboard and explaining borrowing in subtraction.


When I wrote Thinking in Pictures (Grandin 1995), I thought everybody on the autism/Asperger spectrum was a visual thinker. People with autism and Asperger’s are specialist thinkers. They are good at one thing and bad at other things. From both books and interviews, I have concluded that there are three principal types of specialist thinking.

  1. Photo-realistic visual thinkers–such as I. All my thoughts are in photo-realistic pictures (Grandin & Johnson 2005). My area of weakness is in algebra because there is no way to visualize it. Visual thinkers can do geometry and trigonometry, but not algebra. For my work, visual thinking is very important. I can see everything in my head and then draw it on paper. Figures 1 and 2 show two of my drawings, done by hand, of livestock handling facilities. They date from the mid-1980s when I did much of my best work.
  2. Pattern thinking–music and math mind. This is a more abstract form of visual thinking. Thoughts are in patterns instead of photo-realistic pictures. Pattern thinkers see patterns and relationships between numbers. Some of the best descriptions are in Daniel Tammet’s book Born on a Blue Day (Tammet 2006) and in Jerry Newport’s book Mozart and the Whale (Newport et al. 2007) The weak area in pattern thinkers is usually reading and writing composition.
  3. Word-fact thinkers. These individuals have a huge memory for verbal facts on all kinds of things such as film stars and sporting events. They are often poor at drawing and other visual thinking skills.

Figure 1: Drawings of livestock handling facilities by Temple Grandin dated May 13, 1985.

Figure 2: Drawings of livestock handling facilities by Temple Grandin dated November 2, 1987.


Recent research on the white matter in the brain may provide an explanation for the uneven profile of abilities that is found in many individuals with autism. There are defects in the white matter interconnections between different localized brain regions. Courchesne et al. (2004) called these connections the ‘computer cables’ that wire different parts of the brain together. The frontal cortex gets less connections than other parts of the brain, but some local areas in the brain may get extra connections (Minshew & Williams 2007). Casanova and colleagues (2006, 2007; Casanova & Trippe 2009) found that the brain of both famous neuroscientists and people on the autism spectrum have more circuits (mini-columns) per square centimeter of brain. They suggest that this may explain savant-like skills. The disadvantage of this type of brain construction is that these small circuits have fewer long-distance connections between distant brain regions that facilitate complex social behaviors.

There is a wide range of brains that should be considered part of normal variation. A brain can be built with larger fast circuits that facilitate social communication or smaller, slower circuits that improve cognition in a specialized area.

In any information processing system, there are always trade-offs. Brains with high-speed connections to many distant areas will be fast and details will be missed. Research shows that normal brains fail to process details that the autistic person perceives (see Happe & Frith 2009; Happe & Vital 2009). My model for visualizing the different types of brains is a large corporate office building. The president (frontal cortex) is located at the top and he has telephone and computer connections (white matter) to offices throughout the building. I hypothesize that in a highly social brain, the frontal cortex has high-speed connections that go mainly to the department heads in the building. The network is fast and details are omitted. In the autistic/Asperger brain, the frontal cortex is poorly connected, but the visual and auditory parts of the brain (technical nerd departments) have lots of extra local connections providing better processing of detailed information.


Michelle Dawson, a woman with autism, has teamed up with Laurent Mottron, a researcher in Canada, to show that autistic intelligence goes beyond just rote memorization. Instead of using just the Wechsler IQ tests, they tested both normal and autistic children with Raven’s Progressive Matrices (Dawson et al. 2007). In this test, the person is shown complicated patterns and he/she has to choose the pattern that will complete a series of patterns. Dawson and colleagues found that the IQ scores for the autistic children were 30-70 percentile points higher on the Raven’s compared with the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), while normal children have similar IQ scores when given the Raven’s and the WISC. Scheuffgen et al. (2000) found that children with autism can show fast information processing despite poor measured IQ. These results show that autistic intelligence is truly different.

In 2006, Nancy Minshew and her colleagues performed a method called diffusion tensor imaging on me. They found a huge white fiber tract that runs from deep in my visual cortex up to my frontal cortex. It is located in the brain slice made at the level of my eyes. It is almost twice as large as my sex- and age-matched controls. I used to joke about having a big high-speed Internet line deep in my visual cortex. It has turned out that I really do have one. This may explain my ability to read massive amounts of detailed literature and sort out the details. In my case, abstract thought based on language has been replaced with high-speed handling of hundreds of ‘graphics’ files. Studies of patients with fronto-temporal dementia show that language-based thinking can cover up detailed visual thinking and music. As the disease destroys the frontal lobe and the language parts of the brain, art and music talent can emerge in people who had no previous interest in art or music (Miller et al. 1998, 2000; see also Snyder 2009).


I am concerned that people with mild Asperger’s syndrome may be held back by the diagnosis because people may perceive them as not capable. Simon Baron-Cohen asks ‘is Asperger’s syndrome a disability?’ (Baron-Cohen 2000; see also Baron-Cohen et al. 2009). Many famous musicians, scientists, artists and politicians would probably be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome if they were children today (Ledgin 2002; Fitzgerald & O’Brien 2007). What would happen to them in today’s system? In the USA, the lucky ones get apprenticed into the Silicon Valley technical world by their parents. Many parents in technical fields teach their children their jobs at a young age. The unlucky ones do not have somebody to help them develop their skills. In countries such as China or India, a person with mild Asperger’s syndrome would go to engineering or computer science school. I have discussed this with parents from India or East Asia and they stress working with the child from a young age in career-relevant skills. We need to be working to develop the unique abilities of these individuals. I am worried about them getting ‘stuck in a rut’ and their creative skills will not be used.

Department of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA 

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society(2009) 364, 1437-1442
doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0297

Reprinted from with permission.


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New to Autism? How to Cope

Parents new to the world of autism usually have a tough time after getting the diagnosis. Parents  learning to cope with the diagnosis of  autism may  find the following tips helpful:

  • First,  acknowledge your feelings, and allow yourself to feel the emotions that are there. These emotions, may come back time and again, but you will learn to cope.
  • Know that the emotions you feel  as a parent of a child with autism, has been compared to the stages of grief that a dying person goes through.
  • Recognize what you are feeling and try to use those emotions to your benefit. If you are angry, use that energy to find out all you can and advocate for your child (just be careful not to take out your anger on those that are there to help you). If you are feeling isolated, join a support group. If you are feeling powerless, go on the internet and do some research to learn about what options you have for your child, or which advocacy group exists in your state (every state has one) for the developmentally disabled community.
  • Keep in mind you are not mourning the death of your child, you are morning the loss of your expectations. The child you have may not be the child you were expecting, but he still needs you and loves you.
  • Reach out and find an autism support group in your area that can help you feel less isolated and can help you with information.
  • Find out all you can that can help your child so you can make the right choices. Empower yourself with the knowledge you need to help your child the best way that you can.
  • Take care of your self. Just like in an airplane where the flight attendant instructs you in case of an accident, to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help your child; you come first.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to help your child.

At Autism College, we can help you as we help other parents coping with autism. Our Parent Empowerment Course can help you with some information such as how to know what will help your child, and the affects of autism on siblings and grandparents. Our free Library will have information you can use (coming soon!).  Two of my books would be really helpful to you at this time:  Autism Spectrum Disorders, and 41 Things to Know About Autism.