My 5 year old son, C, is one of a kind. He is the most imaginative person I have ever met. He lives in a world full of magic, but visits our mundane planet to spend time with the people he loves (and for the chocolate).
The sensations on this planet can be hard for him to handle. Some noises are so loud or distracting that he has to plug his ears. Some places that are so quiet that it makes his head hurt. He is afraid of the dark, but bright lights make him edgy (even if he doesn't realize
Time moved slowly in our house. Everyone else’s children grew up quickly, became dentists and lawyers, and most of all, best friends as siblings often do, later in life. Our lives were different. We moved forward in small increments, too often unnoticed, too often unfelt. And our goals were more simple -- get James through sixth grade, be able to go out to dinner as a family without being asked to leave because the kids had a screaming match at the ice cream bar. . .
Once Emma asked me wh
Learning is defined by dictionary.com as:
1. Knowledge acquired by systematic study in any field of scholarly application.
2. The act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill.
3. Psychology. the modification of behavior through practice, training, or experience.
Let's look at #3, the modification of behavior through practice, training, or experience. When you really think about this definition it can be exciting or kind of scary. What behaviors are we practicing,
I sometimes feel like dealing with people with Asperger's is like playing Dungeons & Dragons as a Gnome Wizard and then stumbling into a non-magic zone.
"Haha! Your tricks won't work here!"
The "normal" tactics that we reach for as a society tend not to work well with folks on the spectrum.
In other words: people with Asperger's tend to not respond well to force. I was on a train last night coming back from Los Angeles and the guy behind me was talking about his experiences
This is a paradigm shift that changed my life, so I'd like to share it with you: When we want to change something about a person, place or thing, it is very common in our society to ask "How can I get X to...?"
"How can I get my daughter to do her homework?"
"How can I get my husband to finally pick up his socks?"
"How can I get my computer to stop freezing on me?"
Yet when we ask "How can I get?" there are some hidden assumptions there that can be very dangerous and damaging
Every year between 2014 and 2019 I told myself that I was going to go the gym. Every year, I was going to get healthy…. I’m going to get healthy, I’m going to get healthy, I’m going to get healthy. But come the first week of January, or any time really, I would be in that gym for 10 minutes max.
Sensory overload is the loud noises of weights dropping. The massive amounts of people. Someone engaging me in a conversation that I really don’t care about. It's uncomfortably bypassing a group of ex
“James has autism,” I typed the next day. I was sending an email to our family and friends. I couldn’t imagine talking to them all, saying the words again and again on the phone. I knew some people would be mad that I was putting such big news in an email, but I also knew that some people would be relieved that I wasn’t telling them face-to-face.
“The psychiatrist at Dayton Children’s diagnosed him, and we will, of course, seek a second opinion, but it looks like the diagnosis is correct.
It starts with a little push.
Life, it screws me over.
Standing on the Edge
And I've fallen sober.
As I plunge into the
I feel numb.
I feel nothing.
I feel so
All emotion is void
And there's nothing I can do.
But fall endlessly.
Fall into Numb.
Where nothing is feeling.
And feeling is nothing.
Where I am nonetheless
Dead in all ways except physical.
I am numb.
And I've fallen deeper into
My heart beats normal,
My eyes see the same world,
But my brain doesn't meet there...
My mind is gone.
My emotions are dead.
My feelings are left at
Nothing but physical.
My heart keeps beating,
But my emotions have
I'm dead inside,
I feel disconnected.
You could call me
A robot, of sorts.
I've lost touch with
My Vital Signs Failed.
“I feel like I’m shielding our son from having a Christmas,” I said to Sean.
“I know. Not very merry, is it?” he answered. He was untangling the lights that we were going to put on the tree.
“His counselor actually said that we should try to keep things normal.”
“Well, that’s fun,” Sean said. He yanked too hard at one of the knots, and two little bulbs popped out, extinguishing all the lights.
“Your sister is still coming next week?”
“Yeah,” Sean said.
In September, my son James started at his new school. I decided not to tell his teachers about his autism diagnosis. I was determined that he not be labeled. As a teacher myself, I knew what labeling did to a child -- it hurt them, it stunted them. Even though I worked hard not to categorize my special needs’ students, I still sighed when I saw the words “learning disabled” on a student’s file at the beginning of the year. To put it simply, it meant more work for me.
I was determined that
I was often concerned about Danny’s eating habits. He wasn’t willing to try pizza or pasta until he was 9, and has never tried red meat, fish, or most vegetables. He would have a meltdown if we cooked anything involving fish or olives that he claimed “smelled up the house and caused him pain,” and would be agitated if any prepared meal had anything green on it. As for school lunches, he ate the same thing - a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and apple sauce - every single day for 7 years!
We're returning to Los Angeles for our flagship workshop, Deep Into Defense Mode Live!
We'll be in Pasadena, CA on March 21st & 22nd, 2020 with 40 awesome individuals ready to get out of Defense Mode, gain some clarity & know what to do when it comes to motivation, relationships & more.
In this workshop, we focus on 4 major areas:
Understanding Defense Mode - What goes on inside the mind & body of someone with Asperger's when they are in Defense Mode?
By Ellen Raede (Danny's mom)
Raising a son with Asperger's, we often had to celebrate in a different way. Here are three examples:
1) When Danny turned 12, we were on vacation in Seattle. To celebrate his actual birthday, Danny didn't want a party or special dinner, but instead requested a tour of Microsoft Headquarters. Fortunately, we had a business acquaintance whose son coordinated a fabulous tour of the campus. I really didn't understand all of the technical terms or descriptio
After James' diagnosis of Asperger's, Syndrome, I read hundreds of articles on autism, sensory processing disorder, and oppositional behavior defiance disorder. I signed up for a conference given by Tony Atwood, sat in on "chats" in discussion rooms online, and attended a parenting class at the local YMCA. I joined a Mother's group too. I knew I needed to talk about it all -- but instead, the mothers talked to me.
Mostly about diets. Good Lord, the diets that were recommended to me! No dai
Since I can remember, I have hated looking back at the child I was. I look at my childhood and I cringe, and for the longest time I have had the resounding thought that I was a stupid kid. I was stupid, weird, and ugly, and that's why other people made fun of me. That's what I thought, for years. But it wasn't the truth. Because when I was seventeen, I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. And while I hate to say it, that explained everything.
For instance, I have never understood s
Throughout my life I have not been able to relate to people on a level where I feel connected, understood, or accepted, and even more painful . . . in a way I feel loved. There was always a missing piece, a sense of being different, excluded, isolated, and just not part of.
I used to love rolling myself up in a rug and feel the tightness around me. I loved my grandmother’s heavy comforter. I could barely slip under it, and as I lied there with this heavy weight from the comforter on my ches
Right after James’ diagnosis of autism, his preschool had an end -of -the -year party. Parents talked about their vacation plans while little ones played on the swings and slides. I sat on the curb, away from everyone and glared at them. I glared at his teachers, who had first referred James for testing. I glared at the kids, who had refused to play with him all year and even now, were avoiding him. I glared at the other parents, especially the woman who had said upon hearing our news, “Oh, we
Are the holidays something you dread? Maybe it’s too many people, high expectation placed upon you or even worse low expectations? You’re not alone.
I can tell you that I approach holidays from a very different place now that I know better. What do I mean by know better? I mean listening to my own body and being honest about the capacity I have for celebrations, as well as listening to my twins Lillian & Chloe.
Before I understood what Asperger’s/Autism was, I took my daughters
Coming Out with Autism
By Eva Angvert Harren, Core Coach and Educator
Often when we get into recovery we think, “Oh, THAT’s what’s wrong with me! Now that I know what’s wrong with me, I know how to fix it.”
If I use the 12 steps and do what they tell me, I’ll become a better wife, mom, daughter, friend…a better whatever! That great awakening happened for me in 1990.
The support in the 12-step programs is incredible, and many participants of these programs create a life beyond
In just about a week and a half we'll be headed to San Jose, CA for "Understanding Asperger's" where we will take you on a 2 day deep dive into what it feels like to live with Asperger's. You'll learn what goes on in our heads, how we think, as well as whats happening on the physiological side too.
We tend to go all over the country, and its rare that we repeat an area for at least a year and a half, so if you are interested in coming, see this page ASAP. Tickets are limited.
Note: This letter was emailed in to us, so, with permission, we're posting it on the behalf of the author here.
I attended one of Danny’s seminars early this year on Getting Unstuck. I want to share my impressions with you.
I was so impressed with the quality of the work he and his partners are doing, the resources they offer, and their international reach…and with the brilliant, courageous participants.
I am a psychotherapist specializing in trauma treatment and an executive coac
Note: This author of this letter has asked to remain anonymous, so we are posting this for them.
Yesterday C and I discussed mandatory non-electronic down time after school (and what qualifies), then the importance of doing homework and chores before electronics.
He rolled around on the floor and moaned for a short time when it came time to do chores, and then he suddenly sat up and with pursed eyebrows said, "I'm feeling overwhelmed." I asked him if he would like me to help
Note: The author of this letter has asked to remain anonymous, so we're posting this on their behalf.
Three years ago I came across you in a state of acute desperation.
My 11 year old eldest daughter had been diagnosed with aspergers, and our life was in chaos. She was decidedly unhappy and angry and we all tip-toed around her sensitivities and tantrums. She would squeeze her head to stop unwelcome thoughts, throw things and destroy her possessions in her anger, and I lived in trepidat
Note: The author of this letter has asked to remain semi-anonymous, so we're posting this on their behalf.
Dear Asperger Experts;
I recently flew from New Jersey, to Seattle, to attend your two day seminar with my 15 year old son who is on the autistic spectrum.
I am a physician and have practiced for 16 years, at some of the most prestigious institutions in the country.. I have attended countless seminars and conferences watching presentations of the most innovative advancements
Note: The author of this letter has asked to remain anonymous, so we're posting this on their behalf.
I have 5 children 2 of which have aspergers, We have struggled for the last few years with my now 14yr old son who is aspergers. He has been (as we now know) in full defence mode.
His school anxiety became so bad 2 years ago that he developed emetaphobia and refused to eat which resulted in dangerous weight loss and him being signed out of school on medical grounds, after a long battl
How To Motivate by Adding Direction:
There’s a famous scene in Alice in Wonderland where Alice encounters the Cheshire Cat in a tree and asks him for directions. The interchange went something like this:
Alice: “I just wanted to ask you about which way I should go.”
Cat: “Well, that depends on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “Oh, it really doesn’t matter so long as I get somewhere.”
Cat: “Then it really doesn’t matter which way you go...”
See, your child doesn’t j
Once upon a time I was coaching a mother and her daughter who was diagnosed with Asperger’s (we’ll call her Sarah). In one particular session, they were having some disagreement about what constituted an appropriate bedtime for a ten year-old. Sarah insisted that she wanted to stay up reading an additional thirty minutes and that she could still wake up on time.
Mom was principally opposed to the idea. She said that she frequently had to nag Sarah all the way out of bed and through her morn
Folks, here’s the meat and potatoes: When you’re trying to change or encourage a particular behavior, “capability” is the first and most important place to start. Many people believe that if someone doesn’t appear to be motivated, it’s because they don’t want it. People hardly ever look deeper to find that someone actually does want something, they just don’t have the capacity and capability. As a coach, I see this every day when talking to parents. They tell me they’ve been trying for years to
I was once working with a mother who had a twenty-something year-old son living in her basement. She complained to me that he never did anything except play video games. I asked her to describe what approaches she had tried so far, and what a typical day looked like. What she said next genuinely surprised me.
It turned out that her son had no regard for cleanliness and self-care. So, bless her heart, mom would go down to the basement every day to clean and organize his room. She also said h
In 2003 a brilliant woman by the name of Christine Miserandino published an essay entitled “The Spoon Theory” which went on to change the way people think about mental and physical challenges. Here’s the short and sweet version:
“Spoons” is a metaphor, a code word, to describe and measure how much physical and emotional capacity each of us has to get through the day. Imagine you start the day bright and early with ten Spoons. You use up one Spoon getting out of bed and getting ready, then a
Dad comes home from work and tells little Johnny to take out the trash. So Johnny disappears for about 10 minutes and then says “I did it!’.
When the dad checks, the trash is literally just sitting outside the door. So dad gets frustrated. Meanwhile Johnny still thinks he fulfills his end, and this devolves into a fight.
The problem here is unclear expectations AHEAD of time about what “take out the trash” means.
In other words, if you are speaking German and
Holding space is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do to help someone with Asperger’s emotionally process the day. Simply put, holding space is acceptance without judgement. It often, but not always, involves sitting with someone, practicing Deep Listening, and being a mirror to help them become aware of themselves (their feelings, emotions, and physical sensations).
Holding space helps people with Asperger’s (or really anyone) process their emotions, feel safe, and be a
When your child is of moving out age and you’ve tried everything you know to light a fire under them and get them motivated.. And nothing seems to work, make sure your actions are informed by these 2 guidelines:
#1 - Your job is to create calm, not join their chaos
If they are struggling to be motivated to move out, 99% of the time it is a capacity issue, rather than a motivation issue. They are probably deep in Defense Mode, so make sure to hold some space for them, and help them proc
Defense Mode is one of the 4 core pillars of the AE Model. This is a state in which someone with Asperger’s is scared, frustrated, or angry, as well as shut down and & withdrawn. In Defense Mode, everything is harder because you are constantly trying to protect against an imminent, perceived, but extremely vague threat. The perceived threat creates the same anxiety as a true life threatening situation. Fortunately, the vast majority are not actual threats, but merely signals that the brain p
You have never felt more powerful than you do in this moment. You are conscious of your muscles warming up as blood flows into them preparing to handle whatever is about to happen next. You feel the familiar tightening in your chest and neck. The tingle of sweat beginning to form on your skin. Your focus sharpens. You feel awake and alive.
What is this amazing feeling? The answer may surprise you: stress.
For those of you that have somehow avoided feeling stress this far into your life
Ah that is the age old question, isn’t it? Why won’t they just listen?
You daydream about a perfect world where the beds are always made, homework is swiftly done, teeth are frequently brushed, your viewpoints are clearly expressed and understood, and there’s not an argument to be had.
Sadly, that is not the world in which we live. It sucks, I know.
So what do you about it? Are you doomed to wallow in misery as these problems remained unsolved? Sure, if you want to. But there’s a
When you look at the etymology of the word “Influence”, it means “any outpouring of energy that produces effect.” Without this idea, we wouldn’t be able to change or shape our internal world, the world of others, or our relationships.
In our work at Asperger Experts, questions regarding Influence are the most asked type of question. Things like “How do I get my child to do their homework?” or “How do I stop myself from having anxious thoughts?”
A parent will try to get their kid to do
Why do people with Asperger’s sometimes smell like the inside of an onion that has been rotting in a graveyard for a century? Or to put it another way, why do people with Asperger’s often struggle with hygiene issues?
It’s not that they aren’t motivated. It’s not that they don’t care. Often, it’s just that they are so deep into Defense Mode that they don’t have enough energy to care. Their energy is completely spent just getting through the day, and defending against the world in general.
So your child has just gotten their very own Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis, or at very least, you strongly suspect that they’re on the spectrum somewhere. Congratulations! As a proud Aspie myself it is my honor and pleasure to welcome you and your family to our little community. I really think you’re going to love it here.
Many times when I’m speaking to parents who are just getting introduced to this new world I’m often asked the same question. Whether the child is 4 or 44, pare
You screwed up again, didn’t you? And you know what that means. It means you’re a failure. Well my friend, let me be the first to congratulate you! I’m a failure too, and I couldn’t be prouder. Oh man, I’ve failed loads of times. More than I could ever possibly count. Some of my mistakes, both conscious and accidental, have been small and mostly inconsequential. Others have been so monumentally, unfathomably stupid that they are still impacting my life today. And of cours
Note: This was written by a parent in our AE+ Support community who wished to remain anonymous. Learn more about AE+ here
Why rewards and punishments don't work with neuro atypical people who suffer from anxiety.
I am prompted to expound on this topic because I am frequently in frustrating positions trying to explain to others why their well intentioned suggestions of a rewards and punishments model will not work with my neuro atypical daughter. I try hard to not be offended at their d
I’ve noticed the theme of my personal life over the past 6 months has been building a solid foundation, so I’d like to share some thoughts that may help you:
I’ve observed that most people’s problem solving strategy is “Oh crap! There’s a problem! How do I fix it now? Hurry!” As you’ve probably noticed, that doesn’t work all that well. It is extremely stressful and doesn’t actually do much to solve a problem, because inevitably you end up making decisions out of fear, and as one AE+ member
Today I’d like to share with you a story of something that impacted me deeply during our event we held in Los Angeles last year.
On the second day we try to go deep into the feelings of hurt that usually manifest on both sides of a family struggling with Defense Mode:
Oftentimes the kids feel powerless,manipulated, and invalidated… meanwhile, the parents feel like they are never given any respect or gratitude.
That was shown clear as crystal when one of the moms stood up and said
We’ve unfortunately heard this story thousands of times. School ends, the services dry up, and a wonderful young person with Asperger’s and all the potential in the world ends up playing video games in their room all day, refusing to get a job and move forward with their life.
It sucks. So whether you are in this situation, or worried about what will happen to your child when that time finally comes, here are 3 things to remember:
#1 - It’s rarely a willingness issue
I remember when I first discovered that the body had an innate ability to resolve its own issues. And what I mean by that is any time that you are uncomfortable, anxious, depressed, scared, or just plain a new sensation that you don't like, the idea is that you need to stuff it down. You need to force it. You need to manipulate it.
You need to change it. You need to fix it. You need to heal it. You need to do something about it. And I was of the same idea.
I need to take some medicatio
Whether you are a parent, teacher, therapist, or person with Asperger’s, learning how to build & create trust leads to strengthened relationships, less Defense Mode, and an improvement in life in virtually every area.
Since a large portion of living with Asperger’s means understanding, living with, and eventually getting out of Defense Mode, and since Defense Mode relies on connection & trust, learning how to build trust is essential.
Raising someone with Asperger’s is pretty m
To be honest, when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s (High-Functioning Autism) at age twelve, it didn’t have much of an impact on me. My parents, the therapist, and I sat on the couch as the good doctor took a few minutes to explain the particulars of my diagnosis while I listened politely. He asked if I had any questions. I didn’t. I remember thinking it was a funny word, but, at the time, I didn’t comprehend its full meaning. To me, it was just a word like any other.
And that was it. In fac
Back in the early days of Asperger Experts, when we were first learning how to help everyone in the best way possible, I attended a seminar called “Experts Academy”. There I was taught how to create courses, market those materials, work with coaching clients, etc.
The music was loud. There were a lot of people. It was hectic. And yet, because it was my current “special interest”, I enjoyed it. I didn’t get overwhelmed. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
Anyway, there was 1 thing that Bren
A lot of people ask me, “Danny, what was the “thing” that changed you and got you motivated? How did you become independent and start thriving in life?”
Today I’m going to answer that question. Our story begins with a boat. And not just any boat. I'm talking about Oasis of The Seas, currently the one of the largest cruise ships in the world.
Back in 2009, I had just gotten out of high school and I moved to Denver, Colorado to attend College Living Experience. College was nice, but the
If it came down to video games, or going to your High School Graduation ceremony, which would you choose?
Can you guess which one I did?
If you choose video games, you are correct! (Sorta).
In May 2009 I was graduating High School (FINALLY!). I helped my video production teacher setup for filming graduation, got my graduation pictures taken, yearbook signed, etc.
Then promptly ignored the graduation ceremony entirely and went to a video game orchestra concert with my parents
I remember when my parents first sent me away from home in California to go to College Living Experience over in Denver, CO. It’s a very expensive program that helps kids with learning differences navigate the college world, gain some independence and begin to hopefully thrive in the world.
So there I was, sitting in my new apartment in Denver, just as my parents had left, wondering how the hell in the world I was going to do this thing called life. For about 2 years after that, I always fe
It was the Spring of 2013. I was sitting in a chair on day 3 of a 4 day seminar on spreading your message as an expert. At that time, Asperger Experts had really only reached about 100 people or so (mainly my mom’s friends) and I WANTED to do great things in the world, but I really didn’t believe I could.
Then that day, I “got it”. Finally I was in a place where people could see I was doing great work, I felt appreciated, and more than that, I had guidance.
The speaker on stage was tel
This is going to suck. A lot.
I’m not talking about this article. I’m talking about your journey with Asperger’s.
There are times when you are going to be frustrated. There are times when you are going to want to give up. There are going to be times when you just can’t. At all. You have 0 left to give.
There are times when you are going to be confused. There are times when you are going to feel like the weight of the world rests squarely on your shoulders.
And there are going
Stop berating yourself. Seriously. Stop, right now. You’re an awesome parent. Do you want to know how I know that? I’ll tell you. At this very moment you’re reading an article trying to learn how you can better help your child. Bad parents don’t do that. In fact, bad parents are often the ones that think they they already know everything there is to know about parenting.
Having occasional doubts about your child’s capability doesn’t make you a terrible mother or father. It only makes you hu
You read a book. Or listen to a doctor or therapist and think "That's a great idea!"... but when it is time to finally IMPLEMENT that advice, you easily forget to actually use your new found wisdom.
Sound familiar? It's something I've done time and time again. So as a reminder, here are the top 9 things to remember when raising someone with Asperger's. You might want to print this one out and hang it somewhere to remind you. If you'd like more reminders, inspiration, and hope, you can join
At school I ate a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch almost every single day from 1st grade - 10th grade. When I say almost every single day, I mean that I can literally count on both hands the number of days I didn’t eat PB&J.
I was one of the pickiest eaters you can imagine. Everything had to be a certain way. EVERYTHING. I had to have a specific brand of bread. I had to have a certain type of jelly. And if you used the same knife to cut my sandwich that touched anything gre