Autism Acceptance Month Day #19 – Autism and Driving

Today, I am going to revisit the topic of Autism and Driving. While it is a proud achievement of mine, I still have some concerns about driving in the future.

While for some autism and driving are a good fit, oftentimes there are several individials that indeed struggle at the task, especially at Intercity driving, highway driving, etc. Likewise caregivers express concerns of individuals driving for fear of anxiety and meltdowns, etc. To get an caregivers perspective, I have included a video of another individual on the spectrum as their caregiver expresses her concerns on her Facebook page.

Sooooooo…. this driving thing…..
Chevy is an excellent technical driver.
Chevy has NO FEAR, and NO NERVES about being a new driver.
Chevy, if anything, is over-confident when it comes to driving ( note the one hand on wheel, as if he’s been doing it his whole life…)

Yet….

Chevy still only has his Learner’s, and I think I’m to blame.

As parents we don’t want to hold our kids back from reaching goals that others their age already have.

But I am scared, damn it. I mean really scared.

There are issues too long to list here, but my number one worry is his need for stimulation, and his sensory seeking. I’ve been in the car with him when he’s suddenly got the urge to put the pedal to the metal, just for the thrill. And it’s different that any typical young person with a ‘need for speed’…. it’s a ‘no rules apply in this moment but my own’.

He IS an excellent driver.
He IS abiding of MOST road rules ( probably more than the average person )
He IS wanting to get his full license.

But I’m not.
I’m not ready.

I struggle with this almost daily…. IS this me being over protective…? IS this me being a Nervous Nelly? Orrrrrrrr, is my son on the autism spectrum, and with that, comes the ever-present unpredictability factor that means anything could happen at any time……

I know I have to take him to get his lisence. Just look at how freakin happy he is in this video.

Sigh…I want to retract my earlier statement of being scared.
I’m terrified.
I’m terrified of him getting his lisence.
I’m terrified of him NOT getting his lisence.

And therein lies the conflict in every ASD parent’s mind, every minute of every day.

We are scared of what they can’t do, and we are scared of what they CAN.

In my opinion, I feel that she does have valid concerns as do my parents. However it is a decision I have to make and it is difficult for me right now and I have struggled with it at times to times I have had some heated conversations with my mother. Nonetheless, I do see her concerns and I know I have them too. Likewise due to financial constraints, I feel like getting a car at this time is not a viable option for me right now.

I too have to realize that in the last nine and a half months I have made alot of changes my life that have in addition to having a driver’s license, but also moving into my new place among other things. While I am putting driving on the back burner for now, I am choosing to take care of myself this year.

Some think that not wanting to drive is not my choice, in fact it is my choice to NOT drive. This decision while partially based from a financial standpoint, also takes into play my symptoms of my mental health such as anxiety. I think by me moving on my own has provided better access to public transportation as well as the central areas of my town. Additionally there are ample opportunities for recreation among other things. So I am satisfied at the present time.

A side note is that anxiety runs my family, in fact some members of my family have/had driver’s licenses, however were/are too anxious to Operate a vehicle under standard driving conditions. With that being said I am unsure of what the future entails, but for right now I am happy with what I have.

Autism Acceptance Month Day#18 – Autism and Sexuality

Today’s autism Acceptance Month subject deals with yet another touchy subject and is one that is more forthcoming than ever, Sexuality!

Believe it or not it is more common than you know that individuals on the spectrum like to explore sexuality, indeed there is yet another Community out there that signifies individuals on the LGBTQ realm and ASD as Twinabow, because they have two rainbows (ASD and Sexuality). This can be challenging at times as with uncertainty of the I individuals and societal norms are complex alone.

It is something that has to be discovered by the individual themselves. Oftentimes, the individual is pressed by caregivers into societal norms because their caregivers “think” that is what they want to pursue. Many think of sexuality as just same sex or transgender, there is more to that acronym than you think.

Let’s not forget the A , defining asexual as not relating to any sex at all and I, which means intersex, the fact of interchanging. There are also other terms that individuals identity as such as Pansexual and Bianary. While they are confusing, we must be open and accepting of the individuals preference, as long as they are safe in believing what their wishes are.

Yes, we know especially in minors that the ever evident bullying is present and this so called Twinabow will complicate the issue more. This is why as caregivers, allies, etc. we must advocate for what the individuals preference is. Now I must clarify that not all individuals on the spectrum will experience sexuality issues, in fact those on the lower end of the spectrum may have no clue what it is and just fine to be in their own little world, sometimes it is the best.

However, we must be evident that again it is the individuals choice of what course of sexuality, if any they wish to explore and as long as they are safe, then they should learn on their own terms.

Autism Acceptance Month Day#17 – Understanding when it is ok and when it is not ok

In 2018, NPR ran a series called “Abused and Betrayed” which highlighted the underreported statistics of sexual victimization against individuals with developmental disabilities. NPR found that individuals with developmental disabilities were at risk of sexual abuse at a rate of seven times higher than the general population. Many factors put individuals with developmental disabilities at risk for sexual abuse, including limited knowledge regarding healthy relationships and limited body autonomy.

In response to these alarming statistics presented in the NPR series, ASERT collaborated with the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina to develop the Be Safe Resource Collection. The goal of Be Safe is to increase the availability of knowledge and resources for individuals, caregivers, and professionals with the aim of prevention and intervention of sexual abuse and assault against individuals with autism.

To kick off this resource collection, ASERT created the Ask, Listen, Respect Pledge in 2018. ASERT called on family members, caregivers, and support staff to pledge that they will respect and promote the body autonomy of individuals they care for. Body autonomy is a right of all persons. It is the idea that individuals have a right to have a say about what happens to their bodies. This is especially important for individuals with developmental disabilities who may require support in self-care and daily living skills from family members, caregivers, and support staff. Promoting body autonomy is an essential first step to encouraging a positive and safe environment for all individuals.

The pledge focused on three important components. First, we will ASK an individual before touching them when providing support. Second, we will LISTEN to what the individual says and empower them to make choices about their body. Lastly, we will RESPECT the individual’s choice about their body. We also asked individuals to take the pledge by empowering individuals to make people ASK them for permission before providing physical assistance, LISTEN when they provide decisions about their body, and RESPECT their choice. In the second year of this campaign, we are asking individuals to recommit to this Ask, Listen, Respect pledge.

This year, ASERT will be promoting the Be Safe Resource Collection in honor of April’s Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Be Safe Resource Collection aims to provide resources and knowledge to individuals, caregivers, and professionals about the prevention of sexual abuse and sexual assault of individuals with autism.

These resources provide information about the rates of sexual abuse and assault, as well as factors that increase risk for sexual abuse or assault. Resources also include tips on how to teach body awareness and body safety, information on teaching relationship building skills, and resources on how to identify and report abuse in children and adults. We have developed infographics, social stories, eLearning courses and other resource materials to make these concepts accessible for many audiences. For more information, check out the Be Safe Collection website www.paautism.org/besafe.

We encourage you to continue to the Ask, Listen, Respect Pledge! Click HERE to take the Ask, Listen, Respect Pledge and download the Pledge Card Today!

Autism Acceptance Month Day#17 – Understanding when it is ok and when it is not ok

In 2018, NPR ran a series called “Abused and Betrayed” which highlighted the underreported statistics of sexual victimization against individuals with developmental disabilities. NPR found that individuals with developmental disabilities were at risk of sexual abuse at a rate of seven times higher than the general population. Many factors put individuals with developmental disabilities at risk for sexual abuse, including limited knowledge regarding healthy relationships and limited body autonomy.

In response to these alarming statistics presented in the NPR series, ASERT collaborated with the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina to develop the Be Safe Resource Collection. The goal of Be Safe is to increase the availability of knowledge and resources for individuals, caregivers, and professionals with the aim of prevention and intervention of sexual abuse and assault against individuals with autism.

To kick off this resource collection, ASERT created the Ask, Listen, Respect Pledge in 2018. ASERT called on family members, caregivers, and support staff to pledge that they will respect and promote the body autonomy of individuals they care for. Body autonomy is a right of all persons. It is the idea that individuals have a right to have a say about what happens to their bodies. This is especially important for individuals with developmental disabilities who may require support in self-care and daily living skills from family members, caregivers, and support staff. Promoting body autonomy is an essential first step to encouraging a positive and safe environment for all individuals.

The pledge focused on three important components. First, we will ASK an individual before touching them when providing support. Second, we will LISTEN to what the individual says and empower them to make choices about their body. Lastly, we will RESPECT the individual’s choice about their body. We also asked individuals to take the pledge by empowering individuals to make people ASK them for permission before providing physical assistance, LISTEN when they provide decisions about their body, and RESPECT their choice. In the second year of this campaign, we are asking individuals to recommit to this Ask, Listen, Respect pledge.

This year, ASERT will be promoting the Be Safe Resource Collection in honor of April’s Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Be Safe Resource Collection aims to provide resources and knowledge to individuals, caregivers, and professionals about the prevention of sexual abuse and sexual assault of individuals with autism.

These resources provide information about the rates of sexual abuse and assault, as well as factors that increase risk for sexual abuse or assault. Resources also include tips on how to teach body awareness and body safety, information on teaching relationship building skills, and resources on how to identify and report abuse in children and adults. We have developed infographics, social stories, eLearning courses and other resource materials to make these concepts accessible for many audiences. For more information, check out the Be Safe Collection website www.paautism.org/besafe.

We encourage you to continue to the Ask, Listen, Respect Pledge! Click HERE to take the Ask, Listen, Respect Pledge and download the Pledge Card Today!

Autism Acceptance Month – Day #16: The Bathroom

NOTE: As part of this subsection for Autism Acceptance Month, we are exploring topics of independence. As such I feel it is necessary to discuss needs of the restroom and other related material. As such the content may be disturbing to some, however I do feel it is a very necessary element that needs brought to the spotlight. Reader Aware!

In Autism Acceptance Month we mostly talk about topics and milestones that are bright and sunny. However, I unknowing came across a story on PBS Newshour that highlighted an individual with autism. We do know that Autism is prevalent in males, in fact this year 1 in 59 males are on the spectrum. When Newshour was highlighting this individual a toileting issue that not only happened in my childhood, but I did some research and found it, along with other issues to be prevelant in males across the spectrum Included below is the video of that report, if you do wish to watch it.

Anyway, the story, in part, highlights an individual on the spectrum while although verbal, is limited in functionality. His sister, who is slightly older than her is interviewed and is asked what she feels is a challenge as he is aged out of public school. She states her biggest worry is that when he uses a public restroom, specifically a urinal that he lowers his pants to his ankles. She worries if another male would happen to be in the restroom of how this would be perceived. The director of the school he was attending rebuttled in the next clip of that there is and should be more training in this topic.

As it relates to me I at one time in my younger years had phobia of using the restroom, oftentimes having to be escorted by a male when needing the use of one. I garnered the knowledge to use a urinal by myself at a field trip in second grade,  where I pulled my pants to the ground, as I was quickly told by a peer this was not the proper norm when using a urinal. I was mimicked for some years by my peers, and it was even brought up in various banter in Senior High. Nonetheless, I got over it and I know it isnt the proper thing to do. In fact, the same peers that have mimicked me are now friends with me online and I don’t hold that grudge against them not one bit.

I have seen instances of individuals, although less functioning than myself, performing this behavior, This is a proper example of why we need male role models in a positive and ethical nature to guide individuals that are unaware of public practices, such as using a urinal so we do not have any incidents as this family member fears. I personally feel that there is no attraction for skilled and talented persons, let alone those of the male gender to work directly with those on the spectrum. There are some treasured professionals, however they are few and far between and they are needed intensely. Some hinderance is the hiring and training process, although the computer has made this easier to some degree. Nonetheless the sticking point with skill and tenure of individuals is that of compensation and rate of pay. This has to be enhanced in some aspect of there is to be a continuum of services for any given individual, as individuals on the spectrum are honed in their routine and constant need for consistency.

In the same token , there was an instance brought to light in the local media of a local adult training facility where a sexual assault occurred. Here are some combined snippets of that article. It is provided in snippet form as to protect the privacy of the entities involved, although it is public knowledge.

The alleged victim, according to the complaint, lives in a community home, suffers from several disorders, and is non-verbal. The suit stated he could be easily victimized because he considers everyone a friend, and stated he cannot recognize potentially dangerous situations. Attorneys for his parents wrote that the man must have individual supervision at all times.

The suit claimed on that May 7, the man was told to use a restroom by another client who was trying to kiss the man’s cheek while no employee was present.

The two were in the restroom for about 20 minutes, unsupervised, when the alleged victim was sexually assaulted by the other client, the suit claimed. The suit stated that the man screamed, but no

 

A short time later, an employee went into the restroom and brought both of them out, according to the filing.

According to the complaint, the alleged victim appeared shaken.

 

The complaint also alleged that an employee contacted the man’s community home to report that he bit his own finger, causing a self-inflicted injury.

However, when an employee at the man’s community home arrived for the man, the employee observed multiple injuries that could not have been self-inflicted. That employee believed officials were misleading about how the man sustained his injuries, the suit contended.

Employees at the community home also examined the man and photographed his injuries, noting he had lacerations and bruising to his ear, a hand print to his back and bite marks and bruising on his head, legs and chest.

 

The man was transported to the hospital and examined in the emergency department where it was revealed that the man was bleeding from a bite to his genitals, according to the suit. Hospital personnel contacted state police, who are currently investigating the incident.

The complaint states that the day program failed to supervise the man, failed to promptly report and provide care to him and failed to notify the authorities.

While I am going to leave my opinion to the court of legal judgement. I am going to say this, individuals, whether on the spectrum or not have to right to like who or whatever they want, its called equality, and whether or not we want to face it is an ever evident issue no matter whether it is the autism, mental heath, substance use or intellectual disabled community.

What the issue lies in individuals that want any kind of activity, it must be made in terms that the individuals understand that consent must be acquired before pursuing such activity. And while in this specific incident,  there would have been no way to garner consent, nor was this the place for such activity. We must come to reality that individuals with disabilities have thoughts, feeling and views that are not of the traditional mom and pop values as the world did grow up. We must be forerunners in ALL needs of the disabled community as a whole, including individuals on the spectrum.

Likewse ASERT, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s leading Autism Gateway has begun a campaign this year entitled Be Safe: Ask, Listen, Respect. This campaign promotes the idea of body autonomy for individuals with disabilities. Many individuals with disabilities require support with intimate areas of their daily life, requiring physical support from family members, caregivers and support staff. An important prevention strategy is teaching individuals that their body is their own, and they have a say in what happens to their bodies. Therefore, ASERT has created a pledge for family members, caregivers, support staff and other professionals to take in order to promote a safe and positive environment for all individuals.  We will shine a light on this in tomorrows post

Autism Acceptance Month – Day #15: Bullying, Abuse and Grooming by Trusted Adults

Continuing on with the daily discussion for Autism Acceptance Month, we will be talking about one’s independence and how it is for me and what I want and dangers that are out there. This will include topics for all ranges on the spectrum.

Recently,  I have seen an ad on Facebook for a “listening” system for low-verbal and non-verbal persons ont the spectrum. It realized the true reality of abuse by trusted adults and how commonplace it is. The example provided is that this mother purchased the device for her son who was transitioning out of public school and into a day program. She listened for the first time and discovered audibily that her son was being verbally abused to the point he was screaming “Call Mommy.” She came to the rescue and removed him from the situation.

With that ad on Facebook, it brought to light the instances of abuse by trusted bullying, Abuse and Grooming by trusted adults. I have sometimes been a victim of all three during my childhood. However, I have garnished the street smarts in my adulthood to defend safeguard myself from becoming vulnarable.

Looking at bullying, I have never been truly bullied as an adult but according to my last two posts of cyber and physical and mental form. Oftentimes individuals on the spectrum take things literally and as a result I get bullied from time to time both at my day program and in public. Another instance is where another individual spoke out for herself in a public forum and when I was asked for the opportunity to voice my opinion, in which I believe could make her case better, I was shut down by her saying she didnt want to hear from me. One last instance was when I made a nonsence jerk and a bout of laughter at that same day program a week later. Another individual (not mentally well) told me to “shut up” and ” what the f*** was so funny” It hurt my feelings to the point that I didnt want to return to the program after the Christmas Break, which I have been a part of this program since I graduated from High School. While I brushed off the first and last instance I provided, I cant seem to fathom why none of the staff stood up for me in the middle instance. Anyway the individual from the latter instance no longer attends the program, providing some relief. However, taking things literally is something I continue to struggle with constantluy

As for abuse, I have been abused throuhgout Junior High and the occasional corrective hit or two by my parents. It has been tramatic for me to some extent. Addiitonally, there was a time where I had a direct care worker feel the need to restrain me when he felt the instance that I would strike him or cause bodily harm. This, along with other elements of the situation caused me trauma to some point, something that I continually struggle with. In fact, I can not frequent three business in our town of 8,000 that he frequents. One time he touched my backside in a supercenter. This made me regress in therapy for sometime. While he was charged with falsifying a college degree, he served his sentence in a program that resulted in that charge being expunged. In more recent years, he received an award from our local police department for subduing a would be robber in a convenience store. I was apalled, but everybody needs their fifteen seconds of fame and I have had a good share.

He was also a big groomer. While he worked with several individuals, he took a certain liking in me. I would stay at his house while my dad had cancer and was in the hospital. He would buy me things and buy me soda and other things to make me feel good about myself. We would go to restaurants alot to eat. I continually fear being unethical with other trusted individuals as a result.

In closing, we need to be evident of the abuse that could occur by those who cannot properly tell you all that occurs. Many individuals that cannot advocate have their parents who is indeed their best advocate and knows their child best. As for being independent, skills must be occured for an individual to know the difference between right and wrong and how and when to say NO!

Tomorrow, we touch on a rather sensitive subject, bathroom usage. While it is not extremely graphic, the post will contain some unique topics that are prevelent in those on the spectrum.

Autism Acceptance Month Day #14 – Bullying is a public school crisis that has been occuring for decades. Physical and Mental

In the second half of the subsubseries,we take a look into the realm of bullying. Yesterday we looked at it in the form of advances in technology. Today, we look at the physical and mental bullying aspects.

As I begun yesterday’s post of bullying being portrayed in film. We also covered in the realm of Cyberbullying. However there is still a lot of physical and mental bullying occuring in not only schools but by adults alike. We’ll explore the adulthood bullying tomorrow.

We are ever made aware of bullying nowadays because of the previlance of surveillance cameras, cell phones and social media. While the eyes aren’t everywhere, it’s usage of technology makes it easier to make it public. Reasons for bullying can be complicated and cumbersome. The instigator may have a rough home life of lifestyle, as can the victim. A critical part of what can be an irritant in individuals on the spectrum is the simple fact that things are black and white, taken literally so to speak.

A flash back of this occurred to me recently. My family frequently dines out at an Italian restaurant in my neighborhood. It is a family owned business, of which their son is employed as a waiter. We have had several instances of him being our waiter. One of the occurrences, when we were making conversation when he came back to check on our meals. He said something I took serious. He then said you can’t ever take a joke. It brought back some memories of not only my junior high years z but my senior high years as well. It also brought forth the instances of where I answered questions posed to me truthfully, however they weren’t intended to be a so.

One familiar instance I recall was the point where I was asked the size of my genitals. I would honestly answer with the correct length and then be kicked in the leg. There were several situations where I was depantsed, hit, kicked, abused shoved in a locker and even robbed of my lunch money, all through no fault of my own. Nonetheless by the time I graduated from high school many of those instigators took responsibility for their actions and we ended the last two years of high school associating frequently.

I have seen some of my former peers after graduation and some I am even friends with on Facebook. However, there are some that have been incarcerated, some deceased and others that are constantly in the local media for one thing or another. Some sadly have completed a suicide and some have moved away.

Nonetheless I know I have overcome those days and look forward to the ones to come. I like myself for who and what I am, not what someone defines me. There’s a saying that goes I define Autism, it doesn’t define me.

Starting next week we’ll be discussing independence and the success and needs of that realm. Tomorrow will bring forth the issues of abuse, neglect and grooming of individuals on the spectrum.