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2012 at Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism

2012 was an eventful year at Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism: Our book drew much acclaim, three new editors joined our team, we featured more than 30 profiles of Autistic kids and adults for April’s Slice of Life series, we went to the International Meeting for Autism Research in Toronto, our Facebook community hit and surpassed 10,000 members while remaining a nexus for thoughtful autism news and conversation, and we were cited and our editors were interviewed frequently — especially whenever autism made headlines. We also continued to publish thought-provoking and educational essays and interviews on this site, and all enjoyed and learned from the ensuing discussions. The 15 TPGA posts (with excerpts) below were 2012’s most popular — meaning hotly debated and/or praised — and give a sense of what we in the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism community had on our minds these past twelve months. Thank you…

Getting Through the Holidays!?

We chose the punctuation above for a reason — cautious optimism and the hope that, with the right guidance and attitude, we can make it through the winter holidays, possibly even with some happy memories. So if you, your families, and your friends are hunkering down for the holidays; and if you, like some of us are also a bit … stressed about changes in routine, location, or faces — consider what the wise folks below have to say about navigating this most tumultuous time of the year. And if you have any advice, please leave it in the comments below! Happy Holidays, friends. -The Editors —- Self-advocate Annabelle Listic: …it is especially important, during the holidays, for any autistic person to have:  A way to communicate basic needs, emotions, opinions (a travel dry erase board, sticky notes with simple language on each, a typing program on a phone, tablet,…

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How Telling Your Autistic Kid Santa Isn’t Real May Not Go As Planned

Photo © operabug | Flickr/Creative Commons [image: Crying East Asian toddler being held up to encounter  a cheerful waving white man dressed as Santa Claus.]  Kate Foreword from the author: This essay contains large Christmas spoilers, and may offend some people with deeply held theistic beliefs. If this is you, I recommend that you stop reading now, and if you read it anyway and are offended, then please do not complain. I was two months shy of ten when I learned the truth about Santa Claus. I was in fourth grade, and a year or two earlier, my voracious reading had convinced me that there was no way for it to be true. But then my best friend, told me that she had, in fact, stayed up until midnight the last Christmas Eve and seen him with her very own eyes put the presents under their tree. It never occurred…

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Chanukah

[image: black-and-white clip art of a menorah.] Carol Greenburg aspieadvocate-ascd.blogspot.com Certainly ours is not the the most pious Jewish family in Brooklyn, so I was a little nervous when asked to write a piece about our  Chanukah celebration. When it comes to things Jewish, we follow the lead of A, our minimally verbal autistic son who took it upon himself this Chanukah to set up and light the candles, which are a central component of most Jewish Holidays and the be-all and end-all of Chanukah, otherwise known as the Festival of Lights. The word Chanukah essentially translates as “dedication” commemorating the chutzpah, the sheer gall, of a Jewish rebel force called the Maccabees. This ad-hoc army defeated Greek occupiers who had systematically removed or defiled everything Jewish from the most sacred of Jewish sites, The Holy Temple. During the cleanup, the Maccabees discovered that the Temple’s centerpiece, an eternal flame,…

Autism, empathy, and violence: One of these things doesn’t belong here

Some news coverage in the last 24 hours has mentioned autism in the context of the tragedy in Connecticut, particularly referencing Aspergers or “high-functioning” autism. Talking heads have brought up the “empathy” factor when discussing autism, and I’d like to set some of the record on that straight. Empathic ability comes in two forms. One is the social ability to recognize the emotion someone is feeling by following social cues, subtle vocal fluctuations, and other nonverbal communications. Psychopaths, for example, might be quite good at reading people, at applying this cognitive empathy and then possibly exploiting it. Autistic people, on the other hand, generally tend not to be that great at this kind of recognition in non-autistic people. After all, the hallmark of autism is difficulty navigating this territory and registering the meaning of a nonverbal language that is unfamiliar to them. Worth noting, non-autistic people also seem to struggle…

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How One Mother with Asperger Syndrome Grieves Sandy Hook Elementary Victims

Today, December 14, 2012, I got a text about four minutes before I walked into my son’s school to play the piano for a winter program. The text said that 18 (then up to 20) children had been killed at an elementary school, not unlike my son’s. Children the age of the children I would be making music with in a few minutes. I was in shock. The texts I was receiving came from my dear brother, who has small children of his own. Since I was not online or near any media sources, he wrote to me what I was seeing on breaking news, and we texted together, as parents, about how horrible, how unthinkable, this heinous act was. His children were with him; mine was in school, and I had to resist an overwhelming impulse to sign him out and leave. Then I had to go into the…

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TPGA’s All Ages Holiday Book Guide

Do you love to give and receive books? We love to give and receive books. So for you and for us, here’s a short selection of recommended books by, for, about, and enjoyed by autistic people and their families. If you have additional suggestions for books that you, your child, or your clients enjoy, please list them in the comments. And consider TPGA Editor Kassiane Sibley’s suggestion that books focusing on a person’s special interest topic are … usually a good choice. Non-Fiction    Loud Hands ($24.99) – Julia Bascom “Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking is a collection of essays written by and for Autistic people. Spanning from the dawn of the Neurodiversity movement to the blog posts of today, Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking catalogues the experiences and ethos of the Autistic community and preserves both diverse personal experiences and the community’s foundational documents together side by side.” Keep…

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How Apps Can Support Social Skills

Shannon Des Roches Rosa www.squidalicious.com www.blogher.com Sometimes I think social skills apps are redundant, since iPads are themselves such social magnets. These tablets can motivate people of all abilities to interact, and give them a common ground for communicating. But as social skills are multi-faceted, and since different folks need support in specific areas, I am grateful for the variety of apps that allow me to turn my son Leo’s iPad into a custom social skills springboard. Leo doesn’t always use apps developed specifically for fostering social skills. Instead, he relies more on apps created for communication and labeling purposes. Leo has a strong social urge, but he’s often overwhelmed by the factors involved — simultaneously processing names, body language, and words. He appreciates apps that simplify the socialization process, streamline his choices, or help him learn to identify people consistently. Leo needs practice and options for learning to recognize…

A Gift Guide from Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism

Over the years many of us have struggled trying to figure out the perfect gift for our autistic friends or family, and while the quest may still be difficult, we’re hoping that some of the suggestions we have below, and in our Amazon store will give you a quick way to shop, or open your eyes to a new way to think about gifts. No matter who you’re buying for, one thing we can all remember is to truly keep the recipient of the gift in mind. Gifts should be given because they work, not because they are “age appropriate” or “gender appropriate.” A “practical” gift that may seem unfestive to you, may bring lightness of heart for someone who struggles to make ends meet. And always, consider what that person enjoys doing, not what someone thinks they should like. Give a Gift of Independence   Description: bus, metro, or…

Study Finds Shortcomings in Healthcare for Autistic Adults

AASPIRE www.aaspire.org Researchers with the Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE), have found that autistic adults, who represent roughly 1 percent of the adult population in the U.S., report significantly worse health care experiences than their non-autistic peers. The study included an online survey of 209 autistic adults and 228 non-autistic adults.  Autistic adults reported more unmet healthcare needs, more frequent use of the Emergency Department, and less use of preventative services like Pap smears.  They also reported lower satisfaction with provider communication, and less comfort in navigating the healthcare system or managing their health. AASPIRE Co-Director and principle investigator of the study, Dr. Christina Nicolaidis, said, “As a primary care provider, I know that our healthcare system is not always set up to offer high quality care to adults on the autism spectrum.  However, I was saddened to see how large the disparities were. We really…