International Asperger’s Day 2013

International Asperger’s Day 2013

Today is International Asperger’s Day 2013.

ASA IAD 2013 120px

Happy 107th birthday Dr Hans Asperger.

International Asperger’s Day is a day to celebrate the good doctor’s birthday on the 18th of February and to increase awareness of Asperger’s Syndrome.

Dr Hans Asperger was an Austrian paediatrician who in 1944 described the key features of Asperger’s Syndrome. The syndrome has more recently been classified as belonging on the autism spectrum and can be found sitting near or sometimes on top of high functioning autism.

My 12 year old son has high functioning autism but his behaviours are indistinguishable from someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. The key difference lies in the fact that he did not develop speech typically (could not communicate effectively) by the age of three. A historical differentiation which is essentially not important in the grand scheme of things.

Features of Asperger’s Syndrome include intelligence within the normal range and a profile that includes some or all of the following characteristics:

‘A qualitative impairment in social interaction:

  • Failure to develop friendships that are appropriate to the child’s developmental level.
  • Impaired use of non-verbal behaviour such as eye gaze, facial expression and body language to regulate a social interaction.
  • Lack of social and emotional reciprocity and empathy.
  • Impaired ability to identify social cues and conventions.

A qualitative impairment in subtle communication skills:

  • Fluent speech but difficulties with conversation skills and a tendency to be pedantic, have an unusual prosody and to make a literal interpretation.

Restrictive Interests:

  • The development of special interests that is unusual in their intensity and focus.
  • Preference for routine and consistency.

The disorder can also include motor clumsiness and problems with handwriting and being hypersensitive to specific auditory and tactile experiences. There can also be problems with organisational and time management skills and explaining thoughts and ideas using speech.’

The above extract is from Dr Tony Attwood’s website which can be found here.

Dr Attwood is the author of The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome which is widely considered the ‘bible’ of texts on the subject. If you can only afford one book on Asperger’s Syndrome, this is the one to buy.

If you’d rather surf the net, his website is the one to go to for all the information and links you could ask for on the subject. I and many others think Tony Attwood is the bees knees :) in this business. He lives and works in Brisbane, Queensland too!

Tony considers that people with Asperger’s Syndrome have a ‘different, not defective, way of thinking’.

I agree.

Further support and information can be found through the volunteer, not-for-profit, organisation Asperger Services Australia.

I will sign off with the self-affirmation pledge for those with Asperger Syndrome by Liane Holliday Willey:

  • I am not defective. I am different.
  • I will not sacrifice my self-worth for peer acceptance.
  • I am a good and interesting person.
  • I will take pride in myself.
  • I am capable of getting along with society.
  • I will ask for help when I need it.
  • I am a person who is worthy of others’ respect and acceptance.
  • I will find a career interest that is well suited to my abilities and interests.
  • I will be patient with those who need time to understand me.
  • I am never going to give up on myself.
  • I will accept myself for who I am.



Willey, L.H. (2001) Asperger Syndrome in the Family: Redefining Normal. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Note: If this sounds familiar it means you have been reading my blog for some time and would be right up to date with all things aspergers ;)! I was too busy today (collating all of the boy’s ASD assessments and reports for his new school) to be more original than an edited repost. Thanks for sticking with me folks.

Today is International Asperger Day 2012

Today is International Asperger Day 2012

Today is International Asperger’s Day, a day to celebrate and show support for people with Asperger Syndrome and their families and carers.

I’ve been blogging about Asperger’s Syndrome for the past few days and today, the 18th February is the day.

Here is a wonderful video of the amazing surfer Clay Marzo who has Asperger Syndrome. Tony Attwood is in the video discussing Asperger Syndrome and how the condition has helped Clay Marzo to excel in the waves.

Aspies Rock

Aspies Rock

Aspie’s Rock

People with Asperger Syndrome often call themselves aspies.

Aspies mostly call people who are not on the autism spectrum – neurotypicals. I nearly choked on my Weet-Bix when I heard that expression for the first time ;).

There is a theory (promulgated by aspies I should think) that people with Asperger’s Syndrome are higher up the evolutionary ladder than the rest of us. I don’t know about the scientific basis for that theory  🙂 but there are certainly many wonderful things about aspies.

Including the following:

Lateral thinkers (the inventors of the world)
Genuinely goodhearted
Unique sense of humour
Persistent (they will solve the problems of the world)
Determined (they will keep going when others give up)
Creative (some have outstanding artistic, musical and other talents)
Great attention to detail and can spot mistakes others may not notice (make great editors)
Super senses (wine connoisseurs and perfume makers of the world )
Strong sense of social justice (make good policemen, judges)
Direct, honest and speak their mind
Strive for perfection
Can list large amounts of factual information
Strong desire to seek knowledge (great on game shows and trivia nights)
Extremely knowledgeable on topics of interest (the trainspotters, collectors of the world)
Visual thinkers (make great surveyors, architects and engineers)
Exceptional long-term memory
Logical thinkers (the computer programmers of the world)
Great desire for fairness
Great respect for rules
Dedicated to special interests (many aspies reach the top of their chosen career because of their single minded dedication to an area of interest)


Endless potential

and the list goes on …

I know and love quite a few aspies and I think they rock!


Note: This is a celebration of International Asperger Day 2012

Quick Tip (Novelty Bag): The Autism Files

Quick Tip (Novelty Bag): The Autism Files

Photo by Michael Bryden

Quick Tip (Novelty Bag): The Autism Files

What do you do when the queue is too long and your child is getting agitated?

What do you do when there is a traffic jam and your child is in the back seat, squirming?

These are situations that can make all parents uneasy, but if you are the parent of a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) it can make your blood pressure rise as you wonder if the situation will get out of hand.

When agitation and stress increases in a child with ASD, you need to put a break in the circuit, otherwise a tantrum of epic proportions may occur.

One circuit breaker that parents have found useful is to produce a bag of sensory toys and items when their child is showing signs of greater than usual stress. It is best if this bag is only brought out on special occasions (a novelty bag for emergencies) for maximum effect. You can keep a bag hidden in the car, have a small collection in your handbag, and take a bag with you to waiting rooms.

ASD children often seek out sensory stimulation (eg. the feel of squishy balls or soft material, things that flash, things that spin, things that light up, things to chew or suck).

When you have identified your own child’s sensory needs via a sensory profile, you can tailor the sensory toys to suit them. When you observe the warning signs of too much stress, you can bring out the novelty bag and provide them with a sensory distraction.

My son with ASD loves to chew on things, especially when stressed. We have evidence of his excessive chewing all over the place (t-shirts with large holes, erasers with little pieces missing, a bunk bed with hundreds of small marks that look like a rat has been chewing the wood).

My sensory bag included such things as rubber chew sticks, squeeze balls,, and even chewing gum, and lollipops. I found that sucking on a lollipop was often the only way he could get through some aversive experiences, such as the hairdressers.

He also loved all things that spin, so the kit included toys with spinning lights and parts.

An Occupational Therapist can help you with developing a sensory profile and recommending sensory toys. There are also many internet sites that sell sensory toys.

Good luck.


Note: There are other ways to distract/divert children’s attention with things such as Ipads and computer games, but I will talk about that in another post.

Visual schedules are important: The Autism Files

Visual schedules are important: The Autism Files

visual schedule (on the far right)

When a child is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), therapists often suggest that parents develop a visual schedule. I thought this seemed a little strange when I was told to do it by my son’s speech pathologist, but went along for the ride ;). It turns out to be one of the most effective strategies you can use with ASD children.

What is a visual schedule?

A visual schedule is a series of pictures arranged on a board (or in a notebook, on a computer, or other device) that show the child what will be happening during a specific time period (usually a day).

Why are they used?

ASD children often experience the world as chaotic and confusing and subsequently have a greater need for structure and predictability in their life. The visual schedule can assist the child in understanding what is planned for the day or week and therefore provide this structure.

ASD children (and adults) often prefer the visual over auditory and the use of pictures helps them realise what will be happening next (in the absence of the ability to read or comprehend speech).

How do you make one?

There are many ways to make a visual schedule.

When my son needed a visual schedule around the age of three, I glued felt onto a wooden board and divided the board into the 7 days of the week (using coloured strips to divide the week and the name of the days at the top of each section). I am not a crafty person so this was no mean feat 🙂

7-day visual schedule with one day showing main activities via pictures

Some people prefer to have one day, instead of the whole week. Some will even have a shedules for part of the day (eg., at kindergarten).

I used clipart from the internet and photos (laminated and with a Velcro dot on the back of each picture) and anything else I could get my hands on, for use on the felt board. The picture is easily placed on the schedule using the velcro backing. Note: a laminator was a good investment, back then, and most of the parents from the early intervention centre invested in one ;).

I would place the pictures on the schedule in the morning (or night before when my son was asleep) so that he could see what was happening on that one day (I would leave the other 6 days blank except for a picture of kindergarten or home).

When the activity (eg., swimming lesson, lunch) is finished, the laminated picture can be removed (or crossed out with a laminated X). Most ASD children find this process of indicating the completion of an activity, very satisfying.

There are endless ways of making visual schedules (use your imagination). Some use laminated strips with velcro dots attached to a desk (at school), or on the board. Today the Ipad is being used for similar tasks with great success for ASD children.

How long do you use a visual schedule?

This depends on the child and the severity of the ASD.

My son now uses calendars, diaries and lists of activities (as he can now read and write) to assist in managing his day. We still use some visual schedules combined with text for important routines including 1. What to do before school in the morning; and 2. What to do before going to bed.

The internet is also a great source of information for finding clipart, images, and ways to make visual schedules.

Good luck!

ps. I am a great believer that schools should include visual schedules for all children, as everyone can benefit from schedules, especially young children.

Guest post on Spirit of Autism

Guest post on Spirit of Autism

One of my articles on Autism Spectrum Disorder ‘An Iceberg: The Autism Files’ has appeared over at Debi Taylor’s blog Spirit of Autism. Click here to have a look see.

Debi blogs from Atlanta, USA and she describes Spirit Of Autism as offering ‘practical tips, resources, tools and strategies to teach you how to find clarity and balance to help your child step into their best self!’

‘Debi Taylor is an Autism Specialist with over 3,500 hours of research and implementation of real-life tools and solutions for children and families affected by Autism. Through her experience and dedication to her own child, she created a transformational system for children on the Autism Spectrum that covers fitness & nutrition, tips and tools for identifying sensory vs. behavior, coping strategies, calming techniques, Autism safety, emotional support for parents and more’

Thanks Debi 🙂

all cats have asperger syndrome

all cats have asperger syndrome

The picture book all cats have asperger syndrome by Kathy Hooperman is a highly recommended read/look if you know and love someone with Asperger Syndrome (AS).

I absolutely love this book!

Gorgeous and hilarious photos of cats and kittens are matched with descriptions of Asperger Syndrome in a touching and humorous manner, highlighting the unique qualities and potential of people with AS.

People with Asperger Syndrome are different, not defective, and this book emphasises their distinctive attributes.

The book is terrific for explaining AS to children, including siblings in a gentle, entertaining manner.

I would also recommend it as an educational tool for relatives and friends who may not have time to read copious technical material on autism spectrum disorder.

I have myself read this book to young primary school children as an awareness raising exercise – they laughed their heads off at the pictures (and I hope they learned something as well – haha).

ps. Cathy Hooperman has another picture book All dogs have ADHD which is just as good (I’m sure we all know someone with ADHD 😉 ).

Sensory Issues: The Autism Files

Sensory Issues: The Autism Files



Sensory Issues

The sensory world is perceived differently by people who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

People with ASD can be

  • insensitive to sensory information (don’t feel enough) or are
  • oversensitive to sensory information (feel too much).

One sense can be highly tuned while another is muted. Sometimes they find it hard to turn off the channels and too much information is coming through at the same time. Filtering out irrelevant information becomes difficult. Sometimes the channels are mixed.

It can become so overwhelming that they have a meltdown or temper tantrum.

Imagine living in a world where:

  • the sound of a refrigerator humming (500 metres away) grates on your nerves.
  • the smell of a person’s perfume is like bleach and makes you want to vomit.
  • you are oblivious to physical pain, so that you are unaware of burning your hands when the tap water is too hot.
  • you would rather starve than eat some foods because their texture or smell is unbearable (like being forced to eat meat that has been rotting for days).
  • the frequency of light from a fluorescent tube is like a strobe light at a nightclub.
  • you are not sure where your body ends and other objects begin.
  • you can feel like you are dizzy and falling.
  • it is painful to feel the light touch of a hand.

Every child with ASD is different and needs to be assessed as an individual. An Occupational Therapist can complete a sensory profile for children to map the problem areas. They will assess the outer senses (taste, touch, sight, sound, smell) and the inner senses (vestibular and proprioceptive). I hadn’t heard of those last two either!

The vestibular sense helps you keep your balance (it’s the thing that goes haywire when you are on a rocking boat for too long and you get seasick).

The proprioceptive sense lets you know where your body parts are in space (eg., an awareness that your arm is at your side or how close you are to furniture) and how much force is needed to do a task.

Parents can do their own sensory profile. List each of the senses and try to work out if your child is under-sensitive (actively avoids) or over-sensitive (seeks out) in that area. Try to step into the child’s body and ‘feel’ the world through their senses. Think of specific problem behaviours and consider whether a sensory issue may be the cause. Here is an example of a profile that I put together for my son Michael (3 years old)**:




Behaviour or Reaction

Taste Under sensitive Seeks out strong taste eg. vegemite, salty foods (now loves curry)
Touch Over sensitive in head/neck area Avoids being touched at back of neck and head, hates haircuts, getting hair wash, teeth cleaning. Insistent on wearing the same soft t-shirt every day.
Sound Over sensitive Covers ears in shopping centres and playgroup, meltdowns. Hates some sounds (eg., vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, hand dryer). Upset at birthday parties.
Smell Over sensitive Food refusal. Hates the smell of most fruit (phenolic smell – probably smells like nail polish to him) and has meltdowns when confronted with foods.
Sight Over sensitive Avoids or looks away from bright lights (especially fluorescent light), agitated, covers eyes. Difficulty finding things right in front of him.
Vestibular Under-sensitive Seeks out swinging, spinning, trampolining,
Proprioceptive Under-sensitive or reduced awareness Never sits straight, always leaning on things for support, falls over when support moved.Loves being supported from all sides (eg., heavy blanket, inside boxes, deep pressure hugs, wearing weighted vest). Always getting into small spaces.

I believe that dealing with sensory issues is very important for people with ASD and there is so much that can be done in this area to help.

Some strategies are simple (eg., earplugs, iPods, movement/exercises such as trampolining, dark sunglasses, Irlen lenses, removal of fluorescent lights, weighted vests, movement cushions, chew sticks, squidgy balls).

Some strategies are more complex (sensory integration therapy, auditory integration, behavioural optometry, desensitisation).

An Occupational Therapist can guide you in this area or you can find out more in the many books that are available.

** Leith Johnston, Michael’s speech pathologist at the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane, showed me how to do this type of sensory profile (there are also questionnaires that can be used). Thanks Leith.

2010 International Asperger Day

2010 International Asperger Day

Aspergers Services Australia are celebrating 2010 International Aspergers Day (the anniversary of Dr Hans Asperger’s birthday) with an event that includes the following guest speakers:

Professor Tony Attwood

Ms Rachel Harris

Ms Camilla Connolly

Mr Alex Goodwin

Date: Saturday 20th February 2010

Time: 9.00 – 3.00pm

Location: Brisbane – The Holiday Inn, Brisbane Transit Centre, Roma Street

Contact:  07 3866 2911 or email or visit their website at

Altered State – A Concert for Autism

Altered State – A Concert for Autism

Autism Awareness has organised a concert to raise funds for autism.

The concert is on Wednesday 3rd February at the State Theatre in Brisbane.

Altered State will be a night of music and comedy from many of Australia’s leading entertainers

Autism Awareness are committed to making a difference for individuals and families affected by autism. They do this through a variety of  projects including the 1000hrs campaign. In order to continue this great work, they need your help.