Who Is This Chick and What Is She Doing Talking About Autism Anyway?

Autism.  Either 1 in 150, 1 in 85, or 1 in 66 people have autism, are autistic, or live on the autism spectrum, depending on who’s talking and who they are talking to.  And I’ve got the nerve to start a blog that’s going to be a bi-weekly advice column all about autism and Asperger’s.  (Yes, Asperger’s still exists.  It’s labeled differently these days for Official Sort-of-Science-y Diagnostic Stuff, but it’s still here.)

My name is Jennifer and I come from a family in which having “strong autistic traits” is normal.  Like the guy in the movie said, autism doesn’t just run in my family, it gallops!  A bunch of us have been official diagnosed with various autism spectrum disorders, while the rest just keep living with a major combination of strong autistic traits and awesomeness.

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Safe Retreats: A Life Line for Bullying Victims

In my last column, I talked about the realities of being a bullied kid.  Here I’m going to talk about the one thing that helped me the most, something that I believe can work for a lot of kids when we can’t immediately solve the problem of bullying.

The biggest single help I had when I was bullied in school was a series of what I thought of as strategic retreats, hidey-holes, and/or escape routes.  Places I could go of my own accord, was not forced to stay in, where I could be around people who treated me like a person. Continue reading

It’s Not Their Fault: When Kids on the Spectrum Get Blamed for Being Victims

Note: This column deals with serious bullying issues and incidents. No holds barred.

I never will forget the day I sprung a tiny little truth bomb on an unsuspecting student studying speech pathology.  I will never forget how her eyes widened.  I really hope she doesn’t forget either.

I was giving a talk entitled “Growing Up on the Autism Spectrum” for a college classroom full of aspiring speech pathologists. They were a great audience: attentive, interested people who laughed at every blessed one of my jokes.  Yes, ALL of my jokes.  Even the dreadful ones. Continue reading

Ignorance Is NOT Innocence: Sex Ed, Autism, and Reality


Question: (From an autism conference attendee) “My daughter has been diagnosed with Asperger’s.  She is 18 years old and will be going away to college this coming fall.  When should I start talking to her about sex?”

Answer:  An awful lot of parents have asked me similar questions over the years.  It’s tempting to say, “Well, you’re going to need a flux capacitor.” Continue reading

Tantrum Magic: The Technique My Mom Used to Cure My Tantrum Habit

Right now I’m  answering the questions people ask me the most at conferences, via email, and on Facebook. Here’s a common one:

Question: What do I do about my kid having temper tantrums?  He sometimes has meltdowns, where he totally loses control, and I’m trying to find ways to deal with them, but he also just plain throws tantrums when I won’t buy him a toy or give him candy.  I don’t want him to yell himself red in front of everyone at the grocery store, but I also don’t want to spoil him by giving him everything he wants.

Answer: First, let me say how great it is that most people asking about tantrums are aware that there is a huge difference between tantrums and meltdowns.  Knowing the difference is a great start that will help you and your child throughout your years of parenting. In fact, knowing the difference is so important I’m going to do a quick review. Continue reading

How Do I Get My (Aspie) Kid to Read?

Here’s a question I got after a conference a few years ago, and the answer illustrates a really useful point for parents of kids on the spectrum – or of kids, in general.  The parents asking the question had a son who’d been diagnosed with Asperger’s who was in the third grade.

Parent: My husband and I are trying to get our son “Freddy” to read, but it just doesn’t seem to be working.  Freddy will actually just look at the book and turn the pages without reading, or he will tantrum, or he will sit silently glaring into space, but he will not read. Continue reading