We Help People And Families Affected By Autism

Meltdowns: Inside and Out, by Reese Eskridge

Meltdowns: Inside and Out, by Reese Eskridge

Trust me when I say that I have had plenty of meltdowns. What stands out most is the excruciating and overwhelming physical and emotional pain that occurs every time. The meltdown experience is like the stages of a volcanic eruption: It begins with pressure beneath the surface. With the added pressure of outside circumstances, or stimuli, the chance of an eruption grows—until it blows.

Just before a meltdown occurs, observable signs are like the rising smoke and tremors of a volcano shortly before it erupts. These signs, to name a few, include heavy and fast breathing, body tightness (curling up, clenching, and so on), and change in tone and level of voice.

The stimuli most often include the following:
• unreasonably high expectations and my inability to meet them
• social exclusion
• out-of-routine or out-of-order activities
• unnecessary punishment or discipline
• unpleasant surprises
• misunderstandings, especially those that feel derogatory
• confusion and helplessness

When an eruption does occur, I experience many emotions, including rage, confusion, fear, paranoia, anxiety, sadness, self-deprecation, isolation, helplessness, and hopelessness—all at the same time!

Fortunately, my experience and life lessons have given me ways to decompress before I melt down—and even after. Here are the seven steps that I take to prevent and remedy meltdowns:
1. Cultivate a strong sense of self-awareness.
2. Prepare for the worst, and expect the unexpected.
3. Learn all that I can before I go somewhere new, and acclimate myself by becoming familiar
with the environment and the people I’ll be with.
4. Make sure that others know what to expect and how they can help (or hurt) me.
5. Devote myself to daily forgiveness and mindfulness practices.
6. Constantly monitor the emotional impact that the environment, activities, and other people
have on me.
7. Find the lessons to learn from each experience and the best measure to prevent and treat
future meltdowns.

Sun contributor Reese Eskridge is an autism advocate who’s currently employed as a food science technician at United Cocoa Processor in Newark, Del.

This text was edited for consistency of language and message and appears in the summer 2018 issue of the Autism Delaware™ quarterly newsletter, The Sun.

Learning To Get Around On Your Own, By Reese Eskridge

Learning To Get Around On Your Own, By Reese Eskridge

When I started thinking about how I was going to get around on my own in my life, I considered this interesting fact: Not driving inhibits the ability to go from place to place. People who don’t drive miss developmental, educational, and recreational activities outside the home and school. Developmental gaps can result as well as the loss of self-confidence in the long term. Plus, it’s inconvenient when I cannot get where I want to go and arrive when I want to arrive. And being able to do this is what it means to be independent, doesn’t it?

The following seven-step method helped me tackle some of the most pressing issues facing drivers on the autism spectrum.

Step 1: Decide how you are going to get around.

For many people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), driving is a major challenge with many risks involving basic decision-making and interpreting nonverbal cues. Every moment behind the wheel can impact the quality of an autistic person’s life and ability to reach a destination.

I began by asking this question: “Am I ready to tackle driving?” The best thing to do is to ask insightful questions like this. There are plenty of other questions to ask as well. Many have to do with life skills that can be learned.

If you decide you are not ready to drive, consider the other possible modes of transportation and experiment with them. Ask yourself if the mode of transportation does its job well. Or does your bus driver have a disrespectful attitude? Is the taxi driver notorious for tardiness and losing his way? If your driver is a friend or family member, does he or she tend to get distracted?

Try a different means of transportation until you find one that is right for you. Use this as your default mode of transportation.

If you have decided to learn how to drive, read on!

Step 2: Overcome your fear.

Did you realize that self-imposed restrictions limit your independence? And refusing to practice a life skill actually fosters anxiety because every time you dwell on what’s unfamiliar, you become more nervous. In turn, you’ll avoid the driving practice necessary to expand your previously learned skills and current knowledge.

To face your fear, try this five-step approach:
Step 1—Acknowledge the fear.
Step 2—Use critical thinking by asking “Why?” five times to get down to the root dilemma.
Step 3—Break the dilemma down into simple parts, and devote time to addressing the possibilities related to each part.
Step 4—Visualize what you want to accomplish, and use it to break the barriers caused by your fear.
Step 5—Make a habit of breaking these barriers—and the fear will disappear.

Step 3: Assess and build your skills.

Know that driving is a privilege that you must earn. Determine all of the skills you need, from tackling a wide variety of driving situations to taking the road test. Then, assess your ability to handle these situations by looking at your skills in challenging activities that do not require driving.

Note your strengths and weaknesses. Acknowledge your strong points, and establish the relationships you need to turn your weaknesses into strong points. Plan, implement, evaluate, and modify your strategies for strengthening your skills.

Maintain your skills through consistent and diverse driving sessions.

Step 4: Learn by observing.

Watch driving videos that tackle a driving situation from multiple viewpoints. Be sure to account for the emotional experiences of the driver and what is most likely to occur as a result.

Ride with another driver, and observe as many facets of the driver’s experience as possible. Focus on one facet at a time. Repeat sessions when necessary.

Then, ask a driver to let you drive to test your abilities. Strengthen what were once weak points in your driving through repetition. Gradually look for more of your weak points and address each of them.

Step 5: Know the rules of the road.

Understand the rules that apply to driving, and follow them. Constantly ask yourself “What is the best thing to do in this instance to keep myself and others safe?”

Step 6: Learn the language of the road.

Learn the common nonverbal cues. For example, what does it mean when a driver flashes the vehicle’s lights? Or when someone waves at you, are you being given the right of way? If you understand what these cues may mean, you will know how to respond responsibly.

Step 7: Celebrate the milestones.

The act of driving means independence to me: I go to the gym by myself, visit friends on game night, work to earn that sweet paycheck every month, and drive to the beach for a day of relaxation.

When you get your driver’s license, acknowledge that you made a life-changing decision and that this deserves celebrating.

Sun contributor Reese Eskridge drives himself to and from work as a food science technician at United Cocoa Processor in Newark, Del., five days a week.

This text was edited for consistency of language and message and appears in the autumn 2018 issue of the Autism Delaware™ quarterly newsletter, The Sun.

The Impact of POW&R

The Impact of POW&R

In my first post, I shared a little about myself and the challenges I face as an autistic individual. I also touched base on Autism Delaware and the difference it has made in my life. Now I want to go into more depth as to how Autism Delaware made that powerful impact in my life; helping me in my growth as an adult with ASD.  And where I would like to start is with their POW&R program. I was introduced to the POW&R program back in 2009 through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Working with the program director and a number of direct service professionals, I was taught a variety of new skills to help me in the job environment. One area that they found I had a particular strength in was data entry. They introduced me to the FileMaker database, demonstrating and then having me enter contacts and donations on my own.

At roughly about the same time I was placed with a number of businesses as a volunteer so staff could get a feel to what my other abilities were and how they could be directed. In time, when the coaches felt confident that I could hold a position, I was given employment in a number of real office environments. My first job was at a tax accounting office, handling filings and mailings. A little over a year later I moved on to a different position at a doctor’s office, handling the scanning and filing of medical documents.  Later on after employment with the medical office, I joined Autism Delaware, taking on a broader range of responsibilities; responsibilities that looking back on I could not have handled on my own without the patience, strength, and support of the staff at POW&R. And I am forever thankful for all that they have done to help me reach where I am at now.

About Kyle Bryan

Kyle Bryan is a speaker, an advocate, a friend, brother, son, uncle, team member at Autism Delaware and an adult with autism spectrum disorder. In these blog posts Kyle will share some of his experiences as a self advocate and the challenges — and support — he finds along the way.

Who I Am

Who I Am

On behalf of Autism Delaware and myself, I want to extend a warm welcome to my blog. As a member of staff, I handle responsibilities in various light administrative duties. More recently, I’ve taken on the additional role of advocacy, speaking on behalf of families and loved ones affected by autism.

As an adult with autism, I can testify in first person terms to the challenges I have faced throughout my life and the numerous affects autism has had in my day to day living. It has affected

  • social skills: lacking the ability to read facial expressions and body language.
  • problem-solving skills.
  • motor control skill: difficulty judging distances and catching objects.
  • sensitivity to light and sound.
  • difficulties in handling stressful situations: often resulting in inappropriate outbursts.
  • being able to discern manipulation: In youth I was an easy target for mean tricks to be played on.

These and more have made my life amount to a long drawn out blur of emotion.

Thankfully, with the support of Autism Delaware, that world is changing. With the support of staff in my employment, and with past training in their POW&R program, my self-esteem and sense of worth has been rebuilt. And in that rebuilding, I’ve been able to expand personal growth beyond the office environment. Over the last few years I’ve assisted foreign scholars and students alike with their English-speaking skills through RUFI at the University of Delaware.

All this and more have made a tremendous turnaround in my life, and looking forward, it is the wish of my heart that in the upcoming months I share more about my experiences in the hope of encouraging others that we can grow. We can succeed in life and make a difference.

About Kyle Bryan
Kyle Bryan is a speaker, an advocate, a friend, brother, son, uncle, team member at Autism Delaware and an adult with autism spectrum disorder. In these blog posts Kyle will share some of his experiences as a self advocate and the challenges — and support — he finds along the way.

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