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.

Quick Tip (transitioning): The Autism Files

Quick Tip (transitioning): The Autism Files

Mum, stop mumbling!

Quick Tip (Transitioning): Autism Files

Children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often have difficulty transitioning from one activity to another.

When my son Michael was a toddler (before his diagnosis with autism at age 3) he would tantrum when I tried to finish one activity and move him to another.


One day he was playing in a kiddies playground and when I wanted to leave, he refused. I called his name several times with no response. I came inside the play area and told him we had to leave – no response. I tried to hold his hand and walk him out – he scuttled off, crying, and scurried high up into the slippery slide tube. After about fifteen minutes of getting nowhere fast, I had to climb up into the play equipment and physically carry him, kicking, screaming and crying, out of the playground, on my shoulders. It was not a good look.

What was the problem?

1.  At first he was so engrossed in playing that he was not even listening to me speak (he couldn’t hear me).
2.  When he did hear me, he didn’t understand the words I was using (my sentences were too complex);
3.  I hadn’t given him any warning that we would be leaving soon.
4.  I had not provided a motivation for shifting to the new activity.

What to do?

  • Keep your speech simple with young ASD children.
  • Five minutes before the activity needs to end, give a simple warning. Make sure the child is listening by going right up to them and getting down to their level and speak slowly, clearly and in very few words eg. ‘Michael, going soon’. Use sign language if you need to.
  • Give another warning 2 minutes before the finish.
  • When it is time to leave, approach the child again, look at them and say ‘finished’ (preferably signing with hand and thumb).
  • Provide a fun activity or extra special toy (that is only used on special occasions, such as in the car) as a reward for transitioning without tantrums.
  • You can use the first/then strategy (say to the child: first car, then special activity/toy). This is a clear, simple verbal instruction.

This approach is a guideline only and can be adapted to your circumstances. Wishing you happier transitions.



Hidden Curriculum: The Autism Files

Hidden Curriculum: The Autism Files

Hidden Curriculum: The Autism Files

We live in a world full of unwritten social rules that most people just seem to intuitively understand, without direct instruction. We generally know what behaviour is expected of us in different situations and we have a good idea of the consequences of violating these social rules and behavioural expectations.

The number of rules is huge and varies across cultures, but here are some examples:

  • take turns speaking in a conversation;
  • don’t swear or tell off-coloured jokes to your teacher;
  • don’t tell someone their new outfit makes them look fat;
  • don’t stand too close to strangers,
  • don’t stare at strangers on public transport;
  • don’t hug someone you have just met;
  • follow your bosses instructions, even if you think he is an idiot and you have a better way of doing things.

These rules and expectations make up the hidden curriculum.

People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often have great difficulty with social interactions and in deciphering the hidden curriculum. Having ASD is like being a traveller in a country with a different language and customs – it is easy to put your foot in it and offend the locals.

Individuals on the spectrum, including those with Asperger’s, often unwittingly break social and behavioural rules and they suffer the consequences. They can appear rude, arrogant, and deliberately disrespectful.

Not understanding the hidden curriculum can result in difficulty making and maintaining friendships. They may become social outcasts and the target for bullies. Their safety, self esteem and ability to concentrate and learn at school may be compromised. They can become anxious and fatigued as a result of hyper-vigilance in a hostile environment.

They not only break social rules but are often unable to interpret the subtle signs and non-verbal cues (body language) emanating from the person they are offending.

For example, a person with Asperger’s may monologue at length on a topic of special interest, such as trains or the benefits of rubbish collection, and be totally unaware that the recipient’s body language is indicating total boredom (yawning, looking away) with the one-sided conversation. They will be surprised when the listener suddenly has quite enough and snaps at them to shut up. They will wonder what has gone wrong.

The person with ASD needs to explicitly discover the hidden curriculum through the help of therapists, teachers or books.

People who are involved with individuals on the spectrum need to be aware of these issues and to assist them in learning the rules for different situations. Direct instruction and the use of social stories and role playing activities can all be useful strategies. A book on understanding body language is also a great resource.

With help the individual with ASD can discover the hidden curriculum and develop skills to successfully navigate this social world we live in.