Autism Spectrum Australia

The changing tides of life

  • Posted: 13/03/2014
  • Author: Thomas Kuzma
  • Comments: Loading.. .


Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to a new week on Aspire! This week I went rock climbing with my friends, learnt about why you shouldn’t start making dinner at 7 and lastly tried running gung-ho into the last world in the video game Infamous -  only to be gunned down! Why can’t transitional periods in games be much smoother?

We all go through transitional phases in our lives. Whether it is going from primary school to high school, growing mature or going from playing Mario to Sonic, we have all seen transitions. Sadly for us on the spectrum, change can make us feel like fish out of water. What makes us dislike change?  People on the spectrum love structure; it would be very rare to meet an Aspergian who hates it. It has been said we have one-track minds. Anything that breaks that track might cause a meltdown. Now transition is a part of change in structure. The question is what can we do about it?

A Professional Opinion

Berinda Karp is a Teacher Consultant from TAFE who has a transition and orientation program for people leaving high school and entering post school study/work.

“My role is to assist students coming to TAFE in guiding them to appropriate vocational courses to match their skills and interests. The Transition and Orientation Program for Aspies came about because I could see these students were disengaged in their studies even though I could see their potential. The main issues included the anxiety they face when transitioning to the new environment, and then the hidden curriculum in the classroom (that is things not explained like group work, understanding assignments, unwritten rules of the classroom, sensory overload) that caused meltdowns.

So, I put together a short program to address as many of these issues or ‘hiccups’ before the students come to TAFE. This includes:

  • relieving anxiety by giving the person a safe experience (role play, visits) with support so they know what’s going to happen next time when they have to come to campus independently
  • moving around the campus. It’s very large and finding your way around is hard
  • providing someone to be their point of contact to help advocate for them
  • providing a person to interpret the expectations of assignments and classroom communication eg a support teacher or tutor
  • friendship groups – the groups have made ongoing aspie friends that “get it”
  • organisation and time management.

We mainly deal with big changes. My brief is the transition from high school to TAFE, but we also have strong links with the DES providers (Disability Employment Services) to transition the person to employment.

People who have completed this course have gone on to complete further study at TAFE and Uni, their apprenticeships and maintained employment. To me, knowing that I give the person lifelong skills, empowerment and independence is an even truer measure of success.

My Two Cents

As a kid I embraced change, from preschool to primary school and moving house. But when we had to move to the Blue Mountains, it was kind of a big step, unbeknownst to my gleefulness, I didn’t see the oncoming doom. I didn’t anticipate the way I talked would make me a target. Sadly, I started to fear change.

In my senior year I was finally getting support for my Aspergers. I was introduced to Berinda Karp who placed me in a prototype Orientation and Transition Program. Slowly I started enjoying change again. Today I have made loads of progress, but there have been times where change hurt. Transitioning takes a little time but overall I’m handling it well. It’s like they say, the last cherry blossom to bloom is the most beautiful one.

I have learnt to deal with transitions by coping with stress. If you have stress problems and are in a constantly changing environment, I would say learn ways to overcome that stress. I find that music, especially smooth jazz helps. A bottle of water calms me and keeps my hydrated.

I have begun to develop my skills with different kinds of hobbies. I have become better at multi-tasking and am now well equipped to face change head on. For instance when I go rock climbing with Sam and Amanda I have to deal with coordination and what ledges to use. When I belay I have to be prepared if anything goes wrong when they are climbing. In exchange they learn about my Tom-foolery. The great thing about these hobbies is you are able to make friends with like-minded interests.

Brain training games have also helped. I started using Lumosity in early February. Since then, my concentration has picked up, my brain speed is faster and I am solving problems better than R2D2 and C3P0 combined!  With my coordination and brain flexibility enhanced I would have to say I am thankful; and addicted.

In Conclusion

Transition and change is constant in our lives. If we weren’t beings of change this blog would be written on a cave! But change can be fearsome, just as we covered in the blog about the DSM 5. But what can we do to cope with it all? Firstly please don’t turn to Johnnie Walker, Captain Morgan, or any of the other characters from the liquor isles. Instead go to the items in the “my two cents” section. I say embrace the change. Don’t just jump into uncharted waters, but make sure you know where you are going, so you land on your feet. Today’s last quote I give to those who fear change from what has happened to them in the past. To quote the legendary Rafiki from Lion King:

“Oh yes the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it!”



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The changing tides of life