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August 2013



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Archive for August, 2013


We Need Your Help!


For too long people with invisible disabilities have been left out of the unemployment services system. Although people with invisible disabilities have incredibly high unemployment rates, many workforce developers at American Job Centers (AJCs) (old name One Stop Career Centers) have shared that they feel inadequately equppied to work with this population. They need more education.


To help address this problem, ASAN is conducting a Secret Shopper program. People with invisible disabilities such as autism who want to be Secret Shoppers will visit American Job Centers and then share their experiences with ASAN through an online questionnaire. This questionnaire will help ASAN develop educational materials based on the Secret Shopper experiences. These materials will be shared with the AJCs to help create individual and system level change and improve inclusion of individuals with invisible disabilities.


We are currently recruiting participants who have invisible disabilities to visit their local AJC. Each participant will be given a stipend of $50 at the completion of the project. 


Please email Melody Latimer at mlatimer@autisticadvocacy.org for more information. 

Deadline to visit your local AJC and fill out the online questionnaire is September 30!


ASAN is proud to announce that Navigating College: A Handbook on Self Advocacy Written for Autistic Students from Autistic Adults is now available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com!

Leaving high school and going to college is complicated for everyone. But if you’re a student on the autism spectrum who is about to enter higher education for the first time, it might be a little bit more complicated for you. Maybe you’re worried about getting accommodations, getting places on time, or dealing with sensory issues in a new environment. Maybe you could use some advice on how to stay healthy at school, handle dating and relationships, or talk to your friends and classmates about your disability. Maybe you want to talk to someone who’s already dealt with these issues. That’s where we come in.

Navigating College is an introduction to the college experience from those of us who’ve been there. The writers and contributors are Autistic adults, and we’re giving you the advice that we wish someone could have given us when we headed off to college. We wish we could sit down and have a chat with each of you, to share our experiences and answer your questions. But since we can’t teleport, and some of us have trouble meeting new people, this book is the next best thing. So as you go back to school, check out a copy of Navigating College for yourself or your loved one. We’ve done this all before–let us help you out.

Good luck, and happy reading!


The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is honored to join The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation in presenting Empowering Leadership: A Systems Change Guide for Autistic College Students and Those With Other Disabilities, a resource for equipping the next generation of leaders in the disability rights movement.


Empowering Leadership is a clear, detailed guide to help college students with disabilities build a strong community of disability activists at their school, practice effective self-advocacy, and ensure that the legacy of disability advocacy continues long after they have graduated.  In this handbook, you will find in-depth information on establishing a disability advocacy group at your school, navigating disability and mental health services, and ensuring that disabled students have a voice on campus. Among the wealth of content in this handbook is information on how to determine the difference between reasonable and unreasonable accommodations and how to request reasonable accommodation, tips on organizing meetings and events, and a variety of other tools and strategies for equipping student activists to effectively advocate for change on campus, share disability culture, and make the most of their college experience.

On behalf of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation, we wish you the best of luck as you continue to grow as activists, students, and self-advocates. Nothing About Us Without Us!

Lucrative: Eight of her paintings have now been sold, with one fetching as much as £830


By Hugo Gye



A three-year-old autistic girl has made a splash in the art world with her extraordinary paintings.


Iris Grace Halmshaw began doing art as therapy, but when her parents decided to put the works on sale they began fetching prices of up to £830.


And painting has also helped improve the youngster’s condition – she is now eager to play with her parents and has adopted a much happier demeanour.


Her mother Arabella Carter-Johnson, of Market Harborough in Leicestershire, said she had received positive feedback since posting her daughter’s paintings on Facebook.


‘We realised about three months ago she is actually really talented,’ she said. ‘Inquiries to buy her paintings were flooding in from all over the world and a framed print sold in a charity auction in London for £830.’


Iris Grace’s financier father, Peter-Jon Halmshaw, added: ‘When she started doing art therapy we thought it was amazing, but we’re her parents so we think everything she does is amazing.


‘But lots of other people started saying it was great. It went berserk from there.’


So far, the family has sold eight of Iris Grace’s artworks, and is planning to makes prints of the paintings available too.


Read in Full:


The ongoing exhibition Power of Natural Impulses at Beijing’s Namo Space features works by Francois Bossiere(Photo/China Daily)


(China Daily)    15:09, August 02, 2013


For years, art curator Zhang Yanbo had wanted to present a visual experience that would destroy boundaries of nationality, age, gender, religion and social rank.


The concept became clearer when Zhang chanced upon long-time friend Francois Bossiere’s oil series Chromoto-pies. The French artist infused blocks of colors with a folding texture on the canvas.


In Bossiere’s paintings Zhang found childlike discovery and experimentation transformed into visual delights. She had seen the same passion for creativity in paintings created by autistic children.


The ongoing exhibition Power of Natural Impulses at Beijing’s Namo Space features works by Zhang Sen


“They all painted from instinct, from being curious and imaginative, crossing the fences of either illness or painterly doctrines. In an unsophisticated manner, their works strike deeply on our soul,” she says.


Zhang juxtaposes dozens of works of Bossiere and three teenage autistic painters at an exhibition titled Power of Natural Impulses at Beijing’s Namo Space.


Zhang Sen, 15, is the oldest of the three self-taught painters. The boy from Shenzhen, Guangdong province, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, an autistic spectrum disorder, at the age of 4. His works give full expression to his obsessions of the mysteries of the universe, military subjects and science fiction.


He started drawing pencil and ink sketches, and robots and machines become recurring subjects. He painted aeroboats and fierce battles between pilots and warships, drawing inspiration from fantastic scenarios in Hayao Miyazaki’s animations.


(Editor:LiXiang、Ye Xin)




Yoghurt Barn




Give yogurt some more brownie points.


It’s been known for some time that one’s gastrointestinal tract functions in essence as one’s “second brain”, lined with hundreds of millions of neurons. In fact, the gut manufactures more dopamine and serotonin, important neurotransmitters that powerfully influence mood and motivation, than does the “head” brain.


The accepted view has been that due to the blood-brain barrier, hormones produced in one’s g-i tract can’t travel to the brain. Nevertheless, the gut can generate nerve signals that can communicate with the brain and thereby influence mood.


A recent study has shown that addition of probiotics to one’s diet can potentially lower anxiety and heightened reactivity to negative experiences.


Researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA found that women who consumed a fermented milk product with probiotics for four weeks experienced changes in brain areas that regulate emotional processing.


The women involved in the study were healthy, without any digestive or psychiatric disorders. One group of study subjects received the fermented milk product (FMPP), another group received a non-fermented milk product (control group), and a third group received no treatment (no intervention group).


The first two groups were directed to consume their assigned milk product (125 grams, or about ¼ cup) twice a day, for 28 days. All study subjects were given detailed brain scans (functional magnetic resonance imaging) before and after the four-week intervention, to gauge how their brains responded to an attention task. The emotional faces task involved viewing human faces and matching them to negative emotions such as anger and fear.


Such a task measures both instinctive and conscious brain reactions to emotion-laden information. In other words, the task can pick up on minute shifts in emotion regulation.


… So, if you’re struggling with anxiety or tension, heading to the nearest market and stocking up on some yogurt or kefir might be worth a try.


Read in Full:







If you suffer from social anxiety, is chatting with people on-line or posting a status update on Facebook preferable to face-to-face interaction?


Two recent research studies indicate that it’s a mixed bag.


Social anxiety is characterized by fears of being judged by others in an unfavorable light. Such concerns can become debilitating and lead someone to shun most or all social interactions. A person can consequently become caught in a catch-22, in which they deny themselves the chance to receive positive feedback from others, often increasing their sense of inadequacy.


Researchers Aaron Weidman and colleagues hypothesized that communicating with others on the Internet, such as on social networking websites or chat rooms, might be viewed favorably by people high in social anxiety, due to the ability to remain relatively anonymous, have time to write responses (as opposed to “real-time” face-to-face communication), and not disclose one’s physical appearance.


For the first study, a group of undergraduate students answered questions gauging their level of social anxiety, self-disclosure, freedom from inhibition, and decreased social pressure. As expected, the results showed that socially anxious people were more comfortable with on-line communication than with in-person socializing and tended to share more about themselves on-line (and less off-line) than people with less social anxiety.


Next, the researchers investigated how higher levels of online communication affected the level of well-being for those struggling with social anxiety. Undergraduate students completed questionnaires measuring their social anxiety, depression, quality of life, and internet usage. Questions included “My interactions on the Internet have led me to feel more confident and comfortable when interacting with people face to face” and “Spending time on the Internet makes it easier for me to avoid interacting with people face to face”. The researchers were thus able to determine whether on-line communication facilitated or substituted for in-person interactions.


It turned out that individuals with social anxiety who frequently utilized on-line contact at the expense of in-person communication suffered from lower self-esteem and more depression than people who were less anxious socially. In other words, turning to the internet instead of engaging in face-to-face communication decreased well-being for socially anxious people, despite their feeling more comfortable with online contact.


As the researchers stated, several factors may be at play here:

  2. 1. “First, the social comfort and self-disclosure reported by individuals higher in social anxiety in Study 1 may not translate into the formation of satisfying social bonds. Internet engagement may take a largely passive form, such as displaying greater quantities of information on an online social profile (e.g., Facebook).”
  4. 2. “Second, attempted self-disclosure may cause individuals higher in social anxiety to anticipate rejection from others as a result”.
  6. 3. “A third possibility is that social anxiety may manifest negatively online. Individuals higher in social anxiety tend to maintain a self-protective focus and to respond less to partners’ disclosures during conversations, thereby presenting as aloof and distant (Meleshko and Alden, 1993) and often causing the people with whom they interact to experience less satisfaction and positive affect (e.g., Heerey and Kring, 2007).”


What are some take-home messages?


Read More …



Overcoming Fears With Photoshop




Taking back control of your life from fear involves resolving your fears and conquering them. Our minds condition themselves to be fearful. In most cases this is a protective strategy designed to keep us alive and safe. Sometimes, these fears are irrational and can impede our ability to function normally. Our anxiety and fear takes control over us and dictates our behaviors. We might begin to avoid activities associated with the fear, reinforcing our brains conditioning to fear these activities. This becomes a vicious cycle which can become disabling.


In daily life, not everyone becomes immobilize by their fears. However, we may develop and condition ourselves to smaller things, and do not realize the impact they have on our lives. A person is fearful of failure and so they don’t take risks at work. A manager is insecure and so afraid of not being liked by his employees that he is unable to effectively manage his employees. There are many ways fear can interfere with the success of our daily lives. 

You are in control of your own happiness; don’t give fear control over you.
There are 5 steps to overcoming fear that can be useful in any situation. They can be universally applied to any aspect of your life if you take the time to understand your fears. This understanding removes the power and control that fear has over you.
Step 1 Acknowledge the Fear and Self-Doubt
AA had it right when it said, “admitting you have a problem is the first step”. Acknowledging that you have fear is the first step to overcoming it. Often people will minimize it, or disguise it by saying, “Oh I didn’t want to do that anyway”. People will call it nervousness, anxiety, or anything else to avoid saying fear. Admitting that you have fear means admitting a weakness, and it takes a strong person to admit that they have a weakness.
Step 2 Quantify the Fear
List your fears and rate them. Are you afraid of heights? Is this fear as significant as your fear of commitment? Assign your fears a value and then prioritize them. This is the order of accomplishments that you plan to achieve.
Step 3 Imagine the worst case scenario
This is my favorite activity. So often people are afraid to make a move, take a lead of faith, or any significant change because their fear is “what if it doesn’t work?” Well think about the worst case scenario. Is it really that bad? Is it the end of the world? For example, Marie has been working in a dead end job for years now. She is miserable and knows that leaving will make her happy. She is afraid to leave her job though because if her new position doesn’t work then she will be in trouble. The worst case scenario is that she loses her new job, she can’t pay her bills, and she loses her house. The idea of this terrifies Marie, and has paralyzed her for years. But this horrible situation is not the end of the world. Marie has family and friends who will be there to support her and help her get back on her feet. Yes, this will be a difficult setback for Marie, but it does not define her or who she is. And at the end of the day it is not the end of the world.


Read in Full:






Summer is in full swing, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining and all you want to do is curl up alone in a dark room and be alone. This is the stark reality of someone who deals with chronic depression. The general public knows this image well. Mention depression and they imagine a person who withdraws from social events; who can’t get out of bed, and are either tearful or angry.


Now imagine Sally. She gets out of bed every day. She goes to work; she puts a smile on her face and engages with coworkers as needed. She attends family functions, but might leave the party early citing an excuse of some sort. She spends her nights at home, zoned out with the TV or spending time alone. You can often find her curled up on the couch with her favorite cat, watching old reruns on Saturday night. Sally’s energy levels are low and she is often tired. She does what she needs to do so she can get by, but there are no goals or dreams in her future. She stays focused on the past and on the present. Life has become more about surviving than thriving. Sally is what we call functionally depressed.


A few years ago I first heard the term “functional depression”. It affects countless people, often impacting the lives of individuals who don’t even know they suffer from its symptoms. So often when people think of depression, they imagine the cliché of a dark room, a teary eyed woman sitting alone, unable to get out of bed. They think to themselves, that’s not me. I must not be depressed, but I still don’t understand why I’m not happy. Functionally depressed people are depressed, but they are able to function in daily life and can meet the minimum expectations. However, they are sad, they do not have dreams, they do not set goals, they often have low energy levels, and find that maintaining their social circles is more of a chore than a pleasure. They put on a good show in front of others, but can’t get home fast enough to be alone and let their guard down.


Functional depression is not an official diagnosis. You will not find a lot of information on it, and you will not find in in the DSM-V (diagnostic manual for mental health). The symptoms are very much like mild to moderate depression, but less obvious to outsiders. Functionally depressed people will find the energy to do the activities needed to meet the minimum expectations. Family members may not notice Sally is depressed because she continues to attend family functions. She continues to interact with people, holds conversations of a superficial nature, talking about work and others. She has a valid excuse when it’s time to leave early, and no one is the wiser.


Read in Full:



By Bahar Gholipour, Staff Writer   |   August 02, 2013 10:08am ET


Children with Asperger’s syndrome show patterns of brain connectivity distinct from those of children with autism, according to a new study. The findings suggest the two conditions, which are now in one category in the new psychiatry diagnostic manual, may be biologically different.


The researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) recordings to measure the amount of signaling occurring between brain areas in children. They had previously used this measure of brain connectivity to develop a test that could distinguish between children with autism and normally developing children.


“We looked at a group of 26 children with Asperger’s, to see whether measures of brain connectivity would indicate they’re part of autism group, or they stood separately,” said study researcher Dr. Frank Duffy, a neurologist at Boston’s Children Hospital. The study also included more than 400 children with autism, and about 550 normally developing children, who served as controls.


At first, the test showed that children with Asperger’s and those with autism were similar: both showed weaker connections, compared with normal children, in a region of the brain’s left hemisphere called the  arcuate fasciculus, which is involved in language.


However, when looking at connectivity between other parts of the brain, the researchers saw differences. Connections between several regions in the left hemisphere were stronger in children with Asperger’s than in both children with autism and normally developing children.


The results suggest the conditions are related, but there are physiological differences in brain connectivity that distinguish children with Asperger’s from those with autism, according to the study published Wednesday (July 31) in the journal BMC Medicine.


“The findings are exciting, and the methods are sophisticated,” said Dr. James McPartland, a professor of child psychiatry at Yale University, who was not involved in the study.


Read in Full: