Blogs from the Heart
Under the American Disabilities Act, people with ADHD are only “disabled” if their symptoms impede some major functioning of life. Using this same approach, a person with Asperger Syndrome (AS) may have very unique characteristics but does not have to be “disabled”. In fact, many of the attributes that can cause the AS person difficulties in school and social settings can actually be utilized profitably in work settings.
The Asperger Advantage listed
by Kristina Elaine of
Following are just some of the types of attributes that AS adults have which can make them uniquely qualified for some employment and entrepreneurial settings.
1. Focus and attention: Your ability to focus on and attend to one objective, idea, concept, or project over long periods of time without becoming distracted allows you to accomplish complex and challenging tasks. This was viewed in school as a “distraction” since it prevented you from focusing on what your teacher wanted you to focus on, but you were internally able to accomplish great things in your mind with the focus of your attention! You were happy but your teachers were not! This same focus/attention can be channeled into productive activities.
2. Global insights that are unique and creative: Your ability to find novel connections among facts and ideas from a multitude of areas allows you to put together unique and different perceptions and products unforeseen by others.
3. Independent thinking: Your willingness and ability to consider unusual and even unpopular possibilities creates new and unique perceptions, options and opportunities and can lead the way for others.
4. Internal motivation: You motive yourself and usually are not highly motivated by the encouragement, direction, or insistence of others. You are not swayed by social convention nor social pressure or fear of failure. Both positive and negative reinforcers are not effective with you unless you have initially selected them. You encourage yourself from within not from external approval.
5. Attention To Detail: You not only focus but you can remember and process minute detail without being distracted from other stimuli or overwhelmed by the complexity of a problem.
6. Multi-Dimensional Thinking: You are able to perceive and mentally process on many levels and dimensions presenting you with a unique perspective when seeking, designing and creating solutions to complex problems.
7. Perception of Truth: You see things and then can articulate them with honesty without fear of social reactions and this can be vital for the success and completion of a project. When younger and in school, this probably got you into a lot of trouble. But as an adult in the working world, this trait along with some improved diplomacy and tact can make you a leader!
8. Logical Decision Making: Your ability to make logical and rational decisions without the interference of impulse or emotion and to persevere on a project permits you to work through difficult problems and situations without losing focus or purpose. Others will rely on your steadfastness, your logical problem solving, and your perseverance to accomplish a group task.
Many of these traits caused the person with AS difficulties and possibly even non-acceptance from others while they were growing up. Yet in the adult world these same traits can make this person a leader and desired participant in projects, programs, and companies looking for uniqueness, creativity, and honesty! To the AS adult: be proud of whom you are, and let’s maximize your strengths!
When I was trained as a psychologist in the 60’s “homosexuality” was presented as a disorder. We viewed it as a mental condition that was treatable and that had certain preconceived notions to it. The American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations decided in 1973 to discontinue it as a mental disorder and removed it from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).
As a psychologist and as an administrator of various programs, I have worked with gay men and women and have hired and fired gays based on their competence or incompetence but never because of their sexual orientation. I simply never saw how what they did in their private lives impacted their work with our clients. Although I had employees who were gay, I did not really have close “friends” who were. I was accepting of them but not in agreement with their choices of life style. I also had psychotherapy clients who were gay and who had therapeutic issues (just like my heterosexual clients)!
As I progressed through life and certainly the last 8 years, I have had more opportunity to meet and get to know gay and lesbian professionals and acquaintances. The most influential period was when my wife and I joined a church that was very “open” and accepting of all sexual orientations. As we became involved and met other congregation members and worshiped together, met for discussions, and socialized, we realized that many of our new friends were gay and lesbian, transgender, bisexual, cross-dressers, etc….and it really did not matter. As I got involved in men’s groups for discussion and sharing, I realized it really did not matter what they did in their bedrooms since we all had diverse ideas and thoughts about various topics. Plus I realized that I really could not identify who was what! Becoming close with other men without prejudging them was enlightening and very special. I respected their views and opinions and did not focus on their gender, sexual orientation, or life style. They were simply human beings with feelings and thoughts like the rest of us…..they are part of us and one of us, not separate or different from “us”!
I’ve come along way but am frustrated by others who demonize and discriminate against others who they perceive to be different. Although Jesus did not say anything directly about homosexuality, he implies in some of his teachings and references to the scriptures (now our Old Testament) about homosexuality. At the same time, Jesus demonstrated through his actions that he would be loving and accepting (although maybe not condoning it) of all sinners and concurrently emphasizing not judging others but simply loving others. Jesus actually talked and acted upon adultery more than he did homosexuality in his teachings!
Final note: I simply feel that here in America we value “freedom” but that should mean freedom for all to live and to thrive without judgment from others. Our own history has demonstrated how we as Americans have progressed and improved in providing “freedom” to all from the emancipation of blacks, the increase rights of women, our desegregation of schools, enhancing the civil rights of all of our citizens, marital rights of all genders, and the push against the discrimination of anyone due to race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Just as our Nation as progressed, I as an individual and as a psychologist have progressed in my thinking and approaches to clients, friends, and all people. I try to love and accept others without prejudging them and will continue trying to grow to be more accepting of those whose ideas and life styles are very different from mine. I love to travel and to experience other cultures, foods, and ideas…..diversity is truly the spice of life and I want to experience as much of it as I can, for as long as I can. Many who are so anti-gay I feel simply have not had or have not taken the opportunity to get to know gay and lesbian people; they avoid them without really getting to know them! They are missing some great opportunities to expand their views and their lives! Fear and ignorance can disable us and limit our knowledge and openness to new and different experiences!
Just some of my thoughts…..
I was recently speaking to a friend about “visible” and “invisible” disabilities and how they are treated within our society. A physical disability/challenge that requires a wheelchair, crutches, white walking stick, sign language, etc. indicate and demonstrate a person’s need for some sort of accommodation or possible assistance which may involve a change in the environment or extra help to maneuver within the environment. Within the college setting, these physical challenges may require certain provided assistance or modifications to allow access. Do they also require or imply the need for special instructional accommodations or modification? They may; such as a deaf or hard-of-hearing person requiring a sign language interpreter or a blind person being allowed auditory recording and/or Braille technology. A person in a wheel-chair may need special access but may not need special instructional accommodations such as extended time or separate testing site due to distractibility, etc.
Invisible disabilities require a psycho-educational assessment to evaluate the extent and need for any special instructional accommodations. A person with a possible learning disability, with ADHD, with Asperger’s Syndrome, etc. do not wear “LD”, “ADHD”, or “AS” on their foreheads announcing their challenging issues. Their behaviors and reactions with others or within the classroom or within their academic work may demonstrate their challenges but no one just looking at them may know or understand their internal issues (in fact, their behaviors may actually cause misinterpretation of real internal factors). These types of issues need to be validated and assessed to determine eligibility for such accommodations or modifications to curriculum or instruction.
I have been providing psycho-educational evaluations to college and graduate students for the past 12 years. Potential candidates need to be aware of certain features and need to understand the process of assessment, decision making, and providing accommodations.
A typical psycho-educational evaluation can range in time, extensiveness, and price. Some providers want to produce a neuropsychological battery which gives extensive and, in some cases, important medical information to the client and reader of the reports. For “accommodations” assessment, this may be “overkill” and provide more information than needed for the person or committee reviewing the data to make decisions. This type of extensive evaluation takes several days to provide and can be quite costly, frequently several thousands of dollars. Does insurance cover this testing? Under certain situations, circumstances, diagnoses, and/or extent of one’s insurance policy, they may be covered. Often examiners require full payment at the time of assessment. I have provided flexibility with clients: preferring full payment but under certain circumstances allowing a payment plan or insurance submittance. I always encourage clients to check with their insurance companies but to also be cautious that sometimes they say “yes” but, due to final diagnosis, they may reject claims due to being educational rather than medically necessary.
The “accommodations” assessment should include a cognitive and academic battery including a reading comprehension as well as fluency testing as well as an examination of visual and auditory processing and memory. Some colleges and especially graduate boards (LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, etc.) specify certain tests to be used; so testers need to be aware of those requirements as well as the statistical data requirements, such as the use of “age norms” instead of or with “grade norms”.
Our “accommodations” evaluation takes about 4 hours (longer if a foreign language waiver needs to be assessed due to some additional assessments required). The client completes an Intake Form and provides copies of any previous evaluations. A history of previous learning issues and/or accommodations is imperative. Some college students who actually do have significant learning/testing issues have not been previously identified due to attending small nurturing and informally accommodating educational settings and having parents who provided much assistance in the form of tutoring, structure, etc. If no accommodations have previously been provided, then it is essential to explain why they were not when possible learning issues were most likely involved. The client is also requested to complete several survey forms assessing the client’s self-perceptions of possible ADHD issues, problems with executive functioning, and/or social/emotional features.
The actual evaluation utilizes both computerized and one-on-one assessments. It’s important to understand that not only the resultant statistical data is analyzed but the clinicians also rely on their own observations of the client during the testing session: how the client approaches tasks, problem-solves, verbally respond, non-verbal gestures, etc. The way we respond, the way we talk, what we say, how we write, etc., all contribute to how others perceive us and portray who we are. So both the scores and the observations assist in developing perceptions of the client and are of value in developing final impressions, diagnosis(es), and even recommendations.
Understanding results: clients need to realize that although they may have strengths and weaknesses and have challenging behaviors, they may still not be eligible for special academic accommodations. In the statistic results, we are looking for two main features: (1) significant discrepancies between or within testing features such as high intellectual skills verses low academic results and (2) low scores that are “below average”. Within the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is presented that a person who has challenging issues but who can function as well as “an average” person is not considered to have a “disability”. Therefore, an extremely bright person who is only functioning in “reading fluency” within the “average” range does demonstrate a significant discrepancy, but their low score is NOT low enough and is, therefore, not considered “disabled”. They certainly are demonstrating a learning challenge and possible issues within reading, but it is not extensive enough to warrant special accommodations. To qualify for special accommodations, the statistical test results speak for themselves! There have been many times that I wished that I could qualify an individual due to their pattern of issues and because accommodations would be extremely helpful to them but have not been able to justify such recommendations due to their particular test results.
I’ve had some cases where clients have received previous special education or special accommodations under “504 Plans” but whose current test results are simply too high to justify continued accommodations. This sometimes happens when a bright student with significant learning disabilities or possibly ADHD has learned to effectively compensate for such issues and that these underlying issues do not impact significantly on their academic functioning. This is often true with ADHD. Remember that an ADHD diagnosis alone does not qualify a person for accommodations; the significant impact of the ADHD on some aspect of their “life functioning” is required.
If you have questions about “special accommodations” and/or the testing procedures or requirements, please feel free to contact me via email or by telephone. If you need a testing appointment, I can usually schedule clients within a week or two. Once evaluated, I attempt to score and write the resultant report within one week, getting information back to the client in a reasonable time. The other important factor to understand is that even though I might recommend special accommodations, it is the college or university’s final decision whether or not the client meets their particular requirements.