Awareness

bookclubThe only thing better than reading a good book is getting the chance to talk about it with other people who love reading as much as I do, in my opinion. So today being the monthly meeting of the autism/Asperger book club I belong to made it a very good day. :)

Our group has been meeting for about a year and a half, and each of us has a close connection to the world of autism. Several have a child or children on the spectrum, others a grandchild or sibling, and for some, even a spouse. So far, I am the only regular member who is diagnosed on the spectrum herself.

We have read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, all with some connection to the world of autism. This month’s selection was a novel called The Kitchen Daughter, written by Jael McHenry, in which the main character, Ginny, has Asperger’s Syndrome.

The book centers on how Ginny and her sister Amanda deal with the sudden death of both of their parents. Needless to say, they have very different ways of handling the situation and the emotions that arise throughout the process. At times, it’s unclear whether the grief will pull them together or push them apart for good.

One thing I personally liked a lot about the book was the connection Ginny has with Gert and her son David, as through these characters we see other examples of how different people and even different cultures handle grief, in ways that are sometimes more and sometimes less healthy than Ginny’s and Amanda’s own responses. The way cooking helps Ginny connect with those that had died, shown in the book through the conjuring of their ghosts by preparing recipes each had handwritten, is fascinating as well.

Despite being a first novel with a few rough spots and a slightly too-perfect ending, we all agreed that we enjoyed reading it and most even rated it more highly than a novel we read several months ago by a well-known author with a number of best-selling books to her name.

Every time we meet, I am glad to have taken the time to connect with this group of women. Their friendship and sharing has enriched my life, and the enjoyment I get out of it always makes it worth overcoming the anxiety that inevitably crops up as each meeting gets close.

Have you ever been (or are you) in a book club? What did you like, or not like, about it?

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This Is Gabriel Making Sense of School: A Book About Sensory Processing Disorder
written by Hartley Steiner
illustrated by Brandon Fall
Sensory World, 2012

About the Book:
This is Gabriel Making Sense of School provides a look into the challenges children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) face in the classroom. This easy to read and beautifully illustrated picture book gives teachers, parents and students a better understanding of all seven senses, how they are each affected at school and what kinds of accommodations are necessary to help children with SPD become learning sensations!

My Thoughts:
This is a perfect book for elementary students to share with their classmates to help them understand about the ways their senses may work differently and why they might need different objects or strategies to cope with being in school every day. Each of the eight senses is briefly explained in kid-friendly language, followed by examples of why this could be a problem for a child with sensory processing disorder and what types of things could help make it better.

The book is short enough to be read aloud to a class in one sitting and easy enough to read for most second or third graders. I would highly recommend it to elementary school teachers and therapists, or even as a great book for a parent to come in and read to a class.

Discount Opportunity: If you order This Is Gabriel Making Sense of School directly from Future Horizons, you can use the code INTERRUPTED to receive 15% off and free shipping in the continental US.

Note: I received a review copy of this book for free, but all opinions are my own. I am an affiliate of Future Horizons and receive a small amount of compensation for any sales made using the promotional code provided. You can use the code INTERRUPTED when ordering books or other materials – or even conference registrations – to receive 15% off plus free shipping in the continental US.

Asperger’s on the Job: Must-have Advice for People with Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism, and their Employers, Educators, and Advocates
by Rudy Simone
Future Horizons, 2010

About the Book:
Up to 85% of the Asperger’s population are without full-time employment, though many have above-average intelligence.

Rudy Simone, an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome and an accomplished author, consultant, and musician, created this insightful resource to help employers, educators, and therapists accommodate this growing population, and to help people with Asperger’s find and keep gainful employment.

Rudy’s candid advice is based on her personal experiences and the experiences of over 50 adults with Asperger’s from all over the world, in addition to their employers and numerous experts in the field.

Detailed lists of “what the employee can do” and “to employers and advocates” provide balanced guidelines for success, while Rudy’s “Interview Tips” and “Personal Job Map” tools will help Aspergians, young or old, find their employment niche.

There is more to a job than what the tasks are. From social blunders, to sensory issues, to bullying by coworkers, Simone presents solutions to difficult challenges. Readers will be enriched, enlightened, and ready to work—together!

My Thoughts:
This is another great book by Rudy Simone which I would highly recommend to anyone with Asperger’s, as well as to those who are teaching, supporting, or supervising someone with AS. The book is laid out in a fashion similar to that of Aspergirls (which I loved!), with each chapter having a discussion of the topic followed by suggestions for the person with AS and for those around them. While disclosure of Asperger’s may be desired or necessary at times, Simone leaves that decision up to the reader and offers advice that can easily work for those who wish to keep that information private.

Here are just a few of the insights that are shared in the book, each of which can create a positive or negative impression in others but are really just pieces of information that can be used to better understand someone with AS, thus allowing for improved communication and productivity:

  • People with Asperger’s have an irrepressible urge to inform, often without correctly anticipating the emotional reaction of the recipient.
  • A person with Asperger’s Syndrome will often say or do what is logical rather than what is socially and emotionally expected of them.
  • Their face won’t always match the way that they feel; nor will their expression be what one might expect in a given moment.
  • You can be sure that if they are “in the zone,” they are unsurpassed in diligent effort, research, problem-solving, and just plain work.
  • Internal motivation is what will drive a person with AS, the feeling of a job well done, more than prestige or promise of reward…. People with AS possess a diligent, perfectionist attention to detail.

In addition to these practical topics and useful ideas to make a workplace more conducive to the needs of a person with Asperger’s, Simone also tackles difficult situations such as workplace gossip and bullying that make it unbearable, and even unsafe, to remain in a job, as well as issues such as handling an interview and the use of personality tests in the hiring process that make it tricky to even get a job in the first place.

Ultimately, her goal is to assist both employees with Asperger’s and their employers to work together for both of their benefit. After all, who wants to feel like they have to look for a new job, or be forced to take the time to find a new employee? As Simone puts it, “Employers should not lose a valuable employee over things that can be fixed. Nor should a person with AS leave a job they love for the wrong reason.”

Discount Opportunity: If you order Asperger’s on the Job directly from Future Horizons, you can use the code INTERRUPTED to receive 15% off and free shipping in the continental US.

Note: I received a review copy of this book for free, but all opinions are my own. I am an affiliate of Future Horizons and receive a small amount of compensation for any sales made using the promotional code provided. You can use the code INTERRUPTED when ordering books or other materials – or even conference registrations – to receive 15% off plus free shipping in the continental US.

Editors Note: This is a guest post on a topic that affects us all in one way or another. I received no compensation for posting this, but simply wanted to share it because I think it’s an important issue in our society.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and this year’s theme is “A Strong Workforce Is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?” The topic couldn’t be more salient. A job is a precious commodity, but never more so in a slowly recovering economy; and it is up to each of us to insure that the economy we’re reviving is predicated on jobs that are open to all qualified applicants.

NDEAM is a national campaign sponsored by the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). It originates from a 1945 law declaring the first week of October “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week” and has undergone several permutations since then. The campaign’s current primary aim is to educate and empower the public, employers, and individuals with disabilities in order to celebrate diversity and safeguard equal opportunity to work.

The first step we can all take this month is to acknowledge that the biggest barrier to employment many individuals with disabilities face is not always, in fact, a disability: it’s a stereotype.

Human beings are quick to label, and when a job applicant discloses a disability, the disclosure can often overshadow the applicant. Even conscientious employers may unintentionally focus more on the disclosure—or some of the most pervasive myths about hiring individuals with disabilities—than on the unique skills, knowledge, and other qualifications the applicant may possess.

Individuals with disabilities also face practical obstacles, such as transportation or scheduling issues. They may have had fewer opportunities to cultivate and refine skills essential to their fields, and their resumes may not reflect continuous employment (or the entirety of their professional worth). It is therefore the responsibility of employers and human resource administrators not only to fully adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but also to foster an inclusive professional culture.

This means more than disregarding pervasive myths, such as the idea that people with disabilities have a higher absentee rate than employees without disabilities or the fear that employing people with disabilities will be more expensive than not. In fact, according to a 2008 Rutgers University study, employees with disabilities have a lower absenteeism rate than other employees, and ODEP reported the same year that most large and mid-sized companies report no significant increase in cost with the addition of employees with disabilities.

A truly inclusive professional culture can only be attained when human resources administrators undergo appropriate training and education. Some of the requisite subjects in which human resources administration should be fluent include disability etiquette and “person-first” perspectives; ADA and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance; tax incentives that support the employment of individuals with disabilities; and all relevant ethical and legal perspectives on wages, benefits, and job-evaluation equity.

Human resources administrators can further enrich the workplaces they oversee by exploring the ways in which diversity and accessibility build business. For instance, an inclusive and vibrant workplace leads to greater employee engagement—which leads to greater productivity and fewer turn-overs. That’s because all people, with and without disabilities, flourish in communities that honor diversity, inclusion, and individual recognition. In other words, we all stand to benefit by adopting NDEAM’s mission not just in October, but every day of the year.

About the Author
Dafe Ojaide writes on human resources degree and training programs for University Alliance on behalf of Florida Tech. For more information visit Florida Tech.

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova is not so much a story about the life of the young boy named Anthony as it is a story about the echo he left behind. Anthony had autism, and just as his mother Olivia was beginning to embrace the reality of who he was, his life was cut short by a seizure.

Read my review of this amazing book, and enter to win a copy for yourself, at 5 Minutes for Mom.