Autism Acceptance Month Day #13 – Bullying is a public school crisis that has been occuring for decades. Technology.

Bullying. It’s been occuring for decades and decades. We see it portrayed in the scenes of the film Grease Where a member of the T-Birds has a shocking device in his palm and shakes the hand of a nerdish looking fellow. Years later we have read and see in the book made film The Outsider’s of it occuring outside school.

Nonetheless it is prevelant and while there has been no bullying specific policy made until the turn of the last century, it was not so enforced and followed to the directed manner as it should. There’s the great model of Olweus. This model was enacted in several school districts in the area over the past few years and policies have been enhanced more recently to include reporting methods to make it safer and efficient for all parties involved.

However with advances in technology and the use of social media, it is becoming more and more public than ever before. Many individuals with autism are the victim of such bullying, seeking friendship and acceptance in society. A developing body and not understanding social ques is just some prevelant hindrances that those on the spectrum face often times daily.

Whilst this was once a late elementary /middle school occuring. It has grown to all levels of public education, including College. We hear about it in the media time and time again. The only reason I can think of it occuring in the middle years of public education is because of a complexity of developing bodies, the changing of clothes in locker rooms and other close contact instances like developing a relationship. I have since learned that a prior curriculum requirement, the need shower after physical education has been eliminated for both the safety of the students and staff involved.

My only example of technology as a motive of bullying was in Seventh grade (remember this was 1998.) I had a computer at home, However I didn’t have my own email address. A peer and I exchanged emails with each other. Later on that day when I got home, i received an email from him with a hyperlink. myself being naive opened the link and it was a homosexual pornographic image. I then learned to gain trust before exchanging emails with others.

In the twenty one years since then, we have become Facebook Friends and forgave each other of our differences as he now has two children and is gainfully employed. Also in the same time, technology has jumped leaps and bounds. We have smartphones, social media, Alexa, which her smart plugs and so much more. With it has came then bullying and the consistency of the necessity of upgrading school policy often.

In closing, individuals on the spectrum must develop the skills necessary to protect themselves in the public eye to prevent seriously and potentially embarrassing and harmful instances from happening. Tomorrow we will close the week with issues in physical and mental bullying.

Autism Acceptance Month – Day #10 : The next step has gotten better

The Labrynith Center at Indiana University of Pennsylvania comprehensive and holistic approach to support IUP students with Autism Spectrum Diagnosis as they build relationships, gain independence, experience academic success, and graduate from IUP with the professional and personal skills needed to embark on a fulfilling life and career.

Labyrinth is designed to be a multidimensional program based upon best practices in college programs for students with Autism Spectrum Diagnosis and is committed to providing consistent and comprehensive services led by experienced faculty and staff.

The IUP Labyrinth model consists of four components that provide enhanced supports to IUP students. The components include a one-credit course taken each semester, academic and life coaching, supervised study sessions, and peer and faculty mentoring.

IUP LABYRINTH COMPONENTS

CREDIT BEARING CURRICULUM

The curriculum is comprised of a required one-credit course taken each of the eight semesters that the Labyrinth student is enrolled at IUP. Course content will be dedicated to the skill sets necessary for building relationships, increasing independence, academic success, and professional and personal growth.

ACADEMIC AND LIFE COACHING

Each Labyrinth student will meet weekly with an academic and life coach. Coaching sessions will address current academic standing, course requirements, time management, residential concerns, communication issues, procedural questions, and any other related academic or social concerns.

SUPERVISED STUDY SESSIONS

Each Labyrinth student will attend four hours of supervised study in the Labyrinth Center per week. These sessions will be supervised by coaches and staff in order to provide support related to good study habits and productive use of designated study time, with focus on current and upcoming assignments, examinations, and projects.

PEER AND FACULTY MENTORING

All Labyrinth students will initially be assigned a trained peer mentor to facilitate social understanding on the college campus. The two students will meet for a minimum of one hour weekly. Peer mentors will be closely supervised throughout the year by Labyrinth faculty and staff. When students reach their junior year, a faculty mentor will be identified to support their career-specific needs.

Following acceptance to IUP, students apply to the Labyrinth program. Students are encouraged to begin the admissions process as early as possible.

Autism Acceptance Month – Day #9 – The Community College and Autism

While I high School slightly consider attending community college, it would not be until I became privileged to bump into another individual on the spectrum that was in attendance at the school that would become my Alma mater.

It would be 2011, I would be not quite 26, but I would be privileged to hear at a Leader in Recovery award winner, of which I would be five years later receive the the designation for our attendance. He nor anyone was able to accept the award on his behalf but was tempted by hearing his story. While he was on the spectrum like myself, his upbringing wasn’t the most pleasant as he had to attend a special school, but he overcame the challenges and go to College.

The following fall, I was attending the comparison award ceremony for families at the college. I learned he was taking web Technology and that he was very successful. While his grandparents were bestowing the honor, he was in attendance because he was attending classes that day. I went home and creeped his Facebook and seen he had many similarities that I did. So i did my research and did find that Web Technology was very a very popular talent for individuals on the spectrum. In fact in high School, I did take a web design course and loved it annd also had an obesession for the website template features of Microsoft Word.

My decision was final one day when my therapist had the website for the school on her computer screen for the client prior. I told her I was Interested in going back and she was a big cheerleader in doing so. Furthermore, there was an local branch that I could attend for what couldn’t be completed online. So I began the process of filing for financial aid, application, placement tests, etc.

They’re are advantages to attending community college. The classes are generally smaller, even so at the branch campus where I had was only one of three students. The tuition is affordable, in fact my college was the lowest in the state. Financial aid was abound. I even got a scholarship and additional aid for books.

While I went part time, I did finish in three years and had to have proctored testing for math classes. I do regret not taking advantage of Disabilities services and accommodations, that could enhance my grade. Nonetheless I was successful, I did get to become a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and did receive a medallion for being the top of my class.

This summer, I will have been out of college four years and I have contemplated on whether or not to go further. However I am placing that on the back burner for now as I am planning to take time for me this year. Tomorrow, I will discuss the autism related programs of larger Universities.

Autism Acceptance Month – Day #8: The Hiram G Andrews Center, Pennsylvania Disability and Autism Asset

In 2001 while in a Residential Treatment Facility, I learned a lot about the Hiram G Andrews Center in Johnstown Pennsylan-i-a and began exploring the possibility of attendance. It would be a long road ahead of me and many cheerleaders to advocate for the admission process to be done.

That year I was connected with the state agency that operates the school, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. Plans were made for a tour that summer. I went and fell in love with the campus, 12 acres – barrier free. Only the state Farm show complex is the only larger Commonwealth facility under roof and barrier free.

Nonetheless I began the process of admission that winter with the plans to attend the school for evaluation the following summer. However, my past inappropriate behavior presented roadblocks from this occuring. With the guidance of several, including my parents – my biggest advocate ever and lots of extra time. I received a phone call in July 2004 that admission for an vocational evaluation was granted and I graciously accepted the offer and attended in October 2004.

During this process, I took a battery of tests, learned public transportation, and sampled career areas. My first preference was architectural drawing. However this was eliminated because I spent a lengthy time processing the material. The last preference was Retail. I didn’t like it because it was too menial. My choice was General Office Clerk, known today as Office Technology. I was granted admission on May 2, 2005 and graduated successful on April 28, 2006

While there I was socially akward to a degree. Having a roommate did help the process some, and a student across the hall in my dorm is on the spectrum. While I did not develop the friendships I longed for, I did run into some cool students that advocated for me including dorm officers. I did lack in areas of hygiene and cleanliness. However I did acquire the skill of expanding my usage of transportation to include Intercity passenger rail to go visit my sister.

Since 2006, services have been enhanced. While there was a cognitive skills enhancement program (CSEP), it has been enhanced by dividing it into three tiers. Access to and from campus has been controlled by a key card system. During my stay there it was discussed about installing security cameras, this has been done. The first semester I attended, smoking was permitted to occur in selected dormitories, including the one that I resided in. However this was stopped and you were free to smoke anywhere outside. This has been changed in recent years by limiting this to shelters strategically placed around campus.

Enhancements specific for individuals with autism include a group specifically for issues related to the needs of individuals on the spectrum. Fundamentals of transportation is more enhanced and is mandatory. Many of the language of the elements of the center has been changed to reflect the current norm. Dormitories are called halls, the health clinic is now called the wellness center, Recreation is now called enrichment and is more involved in the students social time.

In closing, this school is perceived to serve individuals with physical limitations z while it will continue to do so, it should not be overlooked as a place to start that post secondary journey. While I did go on some time later to Community college, which will be to tomorrow’s story, it is definitely a good start. By the way, while I do have a Associates degree, I utilize the skills I acquired at HGA on a consistent basis in my employment.

Autism Acceptance Month – Day#7 :A driving force behind the change

In the 1980s, the number of individuals in Pennsylvania diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has risen by over 2000%, from 2 per 10,000 people to over 40 per 10,000. State and local agencies responsible for providing care to this population, especially the Special Education system and the Mental Health/Mental Retardation system, have struggled to meet their needs, but have lacked appropriate resources, planning, and vision. In response to this growing problem, Estelle B. Richman, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, created the Autism Task Force. This Task Force, which is comprised of over 250 family members of people living with autism, service providers, educators, administrators and researchers, was
charged with developing a plan for a new system for individuals living with autism and their families that would make Pennsylvania a national model of excellence in autism service delivery.

As a rule, there are fewer services available to individuals living with autism as they age. Nowhere is this more apparent than when individuals turn 21. Adults living with autism have no entitlements to any services. Depending on their abilities and needs, adults with autism could benefit tremendously from various levels of vocational, educational, and life skills training, as well as supported housing
arrangements. If proper community supports are put in place, many (if not most) adults living with autism can become productive, tax-paying citizens. Without the proper supports, these same adults often live atbhome, resulting in personal hardship for themselves and their families. When families are unable to assume the financial realities or caretaking responsibilities for their loved ones living with autism, these
individuals are often sentenced to a life in an institution or heavily supported housing. This can cost the state upwards of $100,000 per individual, per year.

Just as autism is a spectrum disorder with a wide range of presentations, families living with autism vary widely, reflecting that persons of all ethnic and socio-economic groups are affected. It follows that families
have differing beliefs, strengths and resources to bring to bear in facing this challenge. The current system
places the burden on families to seek information on autism, learn what services are available, apply for those services, and, once receiving them, coordinate services from different sources. At the same time, it
provides few resources to assist families in doing so. Families who do not have necessary financial.resources, do not have a strong command of English, are not aware of how state and local bureaucracies
function or related responsibilities, do not live in locations where services are readily available, do not have the tools to advocate for their children, or come from groups that are traditionally underrepresented
or discriminated against, face even greater challenges in obtaining appropriate services for their family members with autism.

While we have made improvement over the past decade and a half ago, there is a more prevelant need for more spectrum specific services locally to accommodate needs of individuals on the spectrum. The question is always of what system should it be housed under. A suggestion might be to create a new department and model and make it a inclusive model using new and existing supports to meet the individuals best need. To enhance this delivery, individuals on the spectrum should be employed in some aspect when ethically possible to create a mutual support system as well as utilize the talents of individuals, as many do attend post secondary School, including several at the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation’s Commonwealth Technical Institute at the Hiram G. Andrews Center. (I have wrote an article about my time there years ago. Things have enhanced for individuals on the spectrum and we will include this resource this week.) Individuals attend other education entitles. With several individials having an IEP in school, many utilize Vocational Technical Schools to acquire a trade, of which Perkins grants are used for the assistance of Special Education students within the Vocational Technical Realm. Some do go to the Colleges and Universities. Likewise, some of the big name Universities have autism specific programs.

In closing of today’s post, we know there’s a need, let’s do something about it, not just kick the can down the road, it’s not going away anytime soon.

Autism Acceptance Month – Day #6: Autism By The Numbers (Locally)

In the conclusion of the subseries of the larger Autism Acceptance Month series, today we look at the local numbers in Fayette County and Westmoreland County.

In Fayette County, most individuals with autism receiving services were White/Caucasian (91%). A smaller proportion of
individuals with autism receiving services in Fayette County were Black or African American (6%), Hispanic/Latino (1%), or
Other (2%) when compared to the rest of Pennsylvania. This comparison between county and state demographics can be
helpful to understand what specific or additional challenges your county may face.

In Fayette County, the majority of individuals with autism receiving services are between the ages of 5-17. However, the number of adults over 21 years old is increasing as the population of individuals with autism receiving services ages.

This should be a wake up call for those in human services in Fayette County. Many of the individuals county, both of age and the larger 5-12 population will be or are in the transition process to Adulthood. There needs to be a plan for both system and natural supports in our community as adults on the spectrum age. Many on the spectrum, including myself have common struggles and need specific supports for ASD. We simply do not have what we need to be successful and thriving members of society and community.

Westmoreland County

In Westmoreland County, most individuals with autism receiving services were White/Caucasian (92%). A smaller proportion of individuals with autism receiving services in Westmoreland County were Black or African American (4%), or Other (4%) when compared to the rest of Pennsylvania.
In Westmoreland County, the majority of individuals with autism receiving services are between the ages of 5-17. However, the number of adults over 21 years old is increasing as the population of individuals with autism receiving services ages.

However there are some more supports for individuals with autism in Westmoreland County, included are transitional services and an Autism Society of America Chapter.

While I do agree we have a wide array of services in the Behavioral Health realm, I do feel we need to enhance services for the individuals in the Autism Spectrum community.

Autism Acceptance Month – Day 3: Why do I support Autism Speaks

Note: I am not encouraging you to like or Support Autism Speaks, The purpose of the today’s post is to explain why I support the charity. Shall you find it in your heart to donate to our team, please click here.

While the integrity of charities is tested from time to time. Autism Speaks has certainly been through the ringer over the years. Many think that their CEO makes an exorbitant amount of a salary, and they were thought of attempting to seek out a cure for autism (please, there will never be). After being placed under a microscope, they have been steering their coffers towards much prevalent needs like insurance advocacy, advocation and linking supports to those in need, etc. They do research about causes and genetic links as to how it is acquired and distributed.

Absolutely, first and foremost, I disencouage autism as a disease, but rather a condition that needs care and NOT a cure. I want to bring that straightforward. Other avenues they provide include awareness/acceptance initiatives, early intervention screenings, improvement in the transition process, Ensuring Access to Reliable Information across the Life Span.

It should also be noted that now 85 cents of every dollar funds research, advocacy, programs and services. More than 18 million people have received free autism information and resources.

As there are several autism non-profits out there, none is now bringing it to attention than these guys, they have woken up and smelled the coffee and and discovering the need as it is lifelong and isn’t going anywhere.