Autism Interview #11: Alex Chrenka on Communication, Medicine, and Advocacy

meThis week we have the opportunity to hear from Alex Chrenka. Alex is a commercial artist with Asperger’s syndrome. He currently is working as a Graphic Designer for a real estate firm, but has side projects involving 3D modeling and illustration which can be viewed at chrenkaart.wordpress.com. He is currently illustrating a children’s book about his experiences growing up with autism. Alex is a strong advocate for awareness of autism and helping those learn to cope with it. He has experienced the effects of medication and has had many life-changing events through those trials. Self improvement and accomplishment are the keystones of Alex’s life philosophy, and he believes no matter how difficult life gets, you can work towards a happier one by setting goals, having a positive outlook, and being a better you.

On Outgrowing Autism

outgrowing autismSomeone commented to me recently about how my son’s particularities reminded him of his own son. He joked about his son, saying, “If he’d ever been tested as a child…who knows what they [the doctors] would have diagnosed him with!” I’ve heard similar statements many times before, and, while I know they are well-intentioned (meant to show similarities between typically developing children and those on the spectrum), they still bother me.

Autism Interview #10: Chris Bonnello on Understanding Different Perspectives

Chris Bonnello

Chris Bonnello is a public speaker and writer with Asperger’s syndrome from Great Britain. He formerly taught primary school in Britain where he worked in special education classes with children on all areas of the spectrum. Chris currently blogs at autisticnotweird.com where he writes to raise awareness about the needs of people on the spectrum and offer guidance to those “trying to navigate their way through life with autism.” He is also working on his MA in Creative Writing.

Prenatal Screening for Autism

prenatal screening for autism

If a prenatal test existed to screen your child for autism, would you have it performed? Should sperm banks be allowed to screen embryos for an increased potential for autism? These questions explore the modern ethical dilemma of disability and eugenics, a controversy our society has grappled with for decades. This topic recently surfaced in the autism community after Ari Ne’eman, President and co-founder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, wrote an article for the Guardian revealing that Britain’s largest sperm bank was screening embryos for autism. Prenatal screening for autism is problematic due to the variation of symptoms on the spectrum, and the ethical implications of eliminating a group of people from the human gene pool.

The Problem with Autism Labels

“Your son’s test results are consistent with a classic autism diagnosis.”

I stared at the psychologist and waited for her to continue. But she didn’t.

“Is it PDD-NOS? Or Asperger’s?” I asked.

“No,” she continued. “In order to be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, he can’t have a language delay, which he clearly has. And he has enough symptoms that fall into the classic autism category of the spectrum.”

He’s Going to Make It: A Story of Autism Perseverance and Acceptance

Individuals on the spectrum shouldn’t have to fight to survive and function each day. I’ve heard individuals on the spectrum often speak about the exhaustion of managing their schedules each day because they are trying to live in a world that isn’t always aware of and sensitive to their needs. Jodie Van de Wetering, an autistic writer from Australia, explained this to me once, saying,

“It is over and above what a neurotypical person would need, and it is disheartening sometimes that I need three timers, a whiteboard and endless reminders and checklists to achieve what other people seem to be able to do with nothing more than a slim diary. But it’s not about doing what other people do, or looking sleek and elegant. It’s about getting the job done, and this is what I need to do that.”

This reminded me of how my son fought for survival after being born 3 months early and the subsequent obstacles he has faced with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy and autism. This week I wanted to share a personal essay I wrote almost 4 years ago about how my son had been putting up a daily fight to survive and then develop after his extreme premature birth. He hadn’t yet been diagnosed with autism, but the specialists were already swarming with predictions about his future. Writing this was one of the first steps to understanding the variety of different ways autistic people experience the world and beginning to work towards supporting their needs and advocating for autism acceptance.

Enjoy!

Interview with Dr. Carrie Hastings: Autism and Sports Part 1

carrie dec 2013

As a follow up to last week’s post on autism and sports, this week we have an interview with Carrie Hastings, Psy.D, a sports psychologist who specializes in helping individuals on the autism spectrum and their coaches. Dr. Carrie Hastings is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where she was a sprinter and hurdler on the track team. She obtained her master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology at Pepperdine University, where she has worked as part of the adjunct faculty and as a therapist in the student counseling center. She presents nationally on the topic of bullying, and specializes in sports psychology, neuropsychological testing, and individual therapy. Dr. Hastings provides clinics for coaches and parents as part of Notre Dame’s Play Like a Champion Today program, a national outreach initiative promoting the moral atmosphere of sports and the potential for sports to build character. She conducts research for the organization and has developed extensive resources for athletes with exceptionalities (e.g., ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disorders).

Autism and Sports

autism and sports

The benefits of competitive sports are accessible to all children, even those on the autism spectrum. If your child shows an interest in sports, that’s great! There are many benefits to participating, including healthy exercise and learning important life skills like cooperation, teamwork, overcoming obstacles, and the rewards of hard work, among others. Parents may be apprehensive about signing up their autistic child for a particular sport, but with the right amount of support, these activities can turn into wonderful opportunities for social and emotional development. This article helps parents identify and address potential obstacles to sports success so they can advocate for their child’s needs in the sports environment.