By Patty Pacelli
Parents should begin thinking about employment for their children on the autism spectrum when they are very young. Involving them in household chores, volunteer work and other projects will help prepare them for employment later on. Our son Trevor had weekly chores and took care of his own needs as much as possible, and as early as possible. He was choosing his own clothes, making his own breakfast, and getting himself up in the morning with an alarm by about 10 years old. By middle school, he was making his own lunch to take to school as well. He learned to take care of the cat, clean the bathroom and vacuum in elementary school as well. He found comfort in these weekly chores because of his need for routine and schedule-keeping. These tasks can help your child to become a dependable employee later on.
In middle school and high school, job-shadowing and other similar opportunities, such as volunteer work in different areas, are great preparation for people on the spectrum to start exploring what they might want to do for a career or a part-time job.
As parents, the more you can keep your child's adult future in mind and look for ways to prepare for it, the better. Find more about autism and work in my book, Six-Word Lessons for Autism-Friendly Workplaces. --Patty Pacelli
By Trevor Pacelli
It’s been a tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme… Beauty and the Beast. It was one of the animated instant classics to trigger the Disney Renaissance of the 1990s, defined an entire generation of Disney fans, set off some of the most iconic songs ever to grace the screen, was honored in several lists by the American Film Institute, was preserved in the National Film Registry the second year it was eligible (which is a huge deal), and was the first animated film in history to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.
Here are my autism lessons from the film: “This is the first Disney film to feature an exclusively gay moment!” “If Emma Watson wants women to have equal choice, freedom, and liberation, why is she wearing barely any clothes in Vanity Fair Magazine?” We all know of the controversy that Disney triggered to get more people talking about this movie, which if you ask me, is unnecessary when you’re the most successful family entertainment industry in the world. So why do so many businesses and companies want to stir up attention based on sexuality?
Well, one thing’s for certain: In today’s age of mobile technology, information can circulate faster than you can take a breath, so talking about something that attracts a plethora of mixed heated opinions guarantees greater attention given to the source. However, just because a business can generate revenue that way doesn’t mean they should.
To prove my point, I’ll explain it from the perspective of autism.
I have seen plenty of news stories that circulated because somebody with a disability was discriminated against. Now, at this point, it’s no longer a heated debate from two sides, most everyone agrees that poor treatment towards somebody with autism or another disability is publicly unacceptable. Yet people still do it to generate greater attention.
You all remember when Donald Trump appeared to mock a man with a limb disability; I don’t know what his specific motives were in doing so, but the attention certainly helped him “trump” over the other Republican candidates, right? On a smaller scale, I recall a story when a boy with autism was beaten by neighbors in their house, and the video was posted online. Again, it’s difficult to pinpoint their exact motives in posting the video online, but my guess would be because they wanted to show the world how stupid mentally disabled people are.
People with autism and other disabilities are used as substances of drawing attention all the time in the media, and it’s not always in forms of bullying that is commonly expected. At times, a publication could post an article about how they’ve hired somebody with a disability. Although their intentions are good, they ultimately (in several cases, not all) are using it to improve their own public branding. This is not okay.
Yes, we should always celebrate whenever somebody on the autism spectrum gets a high-paying job or is honored for their unique skills. But we should also be aware that these are people with thoughts and opinions as strong as anybody else’s. They do not want to be used as a marketing ploy or attention grabber. If a headline came up saying, “Person with autism hired by big business,” wouldn’t you think that it demeans the identity of the person a bit, diminishing them to a label?
While Beauty and the Beast may have received more public attention by its controversial marketing, at the end of the day, the way it’s marketed doesn’t matter: once people actually go see the movie, all that matters is whether or not they had a good time. In the same way, using autism as a means to draw attention to yourself is not going to always make your own productivity any better, all that matters is the services that people receive from what a business has to offer.
To read the full review of Beauty and the Beast, go to TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com.
By Patty Pacelli
When researching colleges for your student who may have learning differences, it is worthwhile to look at universities that have dedicated centers or programs that go above and beyond the standard academics for your student, such as the SALT (Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques) Center at The University of Arizona.
Last weekend, I was an author/vendor at the annual Tucson Festival of Books on the University of Arizona campus. I sold copies of my book, Six-Word Lessons for Autism-Friendly Workplaces. While in Tucson, I arranged a tour and visit with Hilary Cummins and Laurel Grigg Mason at the UA SALT Center. "SALT" stands for Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques, and the program offers fee-based support for students with various learning challenges, including those on the autism spectrum. The beautiful, newly-remodeled and expanded building, the Patricia A. Bartlett building, is in a convenient central location on campus, and contains seating and study spaces of all types. It is filled with attractive individual study stations, private rooms, and tables for groups of all sizes. The SALT Center is equipped with educational technology for various subjects of study, and offers assistance with learning the latest useful apps and programs.
Hilary and Laurel shared with me that tutoring is one of the main benefits of the SALT Center, whether it's one-on-one, small group or large group, or studying for exams. Students enrolled in the SALT Center can drop in or make appointments with tutors, many of whom are peers who have been trained and certified. The inviting spaces make it easy to succeed in the challenging environment of university academics while simultaneously offering camaraderie and social opportunities. Students also meet with their assigned Strategic Learning Specialist weekly. These meetings cover a variety of topics, including organization and time management, academic strategies, and a review of their progress in each course.
On the tour I saw a large wall of dozens of handouts on many topics that would help students with their academic career and life on campus. Topics included 5-Minute Therapy with a list of small things to help stay calm when anxious, Mindfulness Exercises, which included an exercise to notice the five senses, Success Strategies from other SALT Students and Gratitude Exercises. I was impressed with the wealth of services and helpful resources to make sure students with learning differences have a truly positive college experience, leading to better career success upon graduation.
Because of the SALT Center, the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 edition listed The University of Arizona, along with 15 other major universities, as having strong support for students with learning disabilities. Universities with programs such as this are another factor to consider when choosing the right college.
By Trevor Pacelli
Dealing with the death of a relative is never easy for anyone, there are lots of mixed feelings, grudges against other family members, and doubts about the future. I personally have lived a charmed life up to this point, as no relative significantly close to me has died. I did lose an aunt to lung cancer about five years ago, and it was certainly sad for all of us, but I had no real personal connection with her. I also lost another aunt to old age, but it was not nearly as sad for any of us, for she had severe dementia and dying peacefully in her sleep was what all we really wanted for her.
While I would not be the expert in this type of issue, here is the best of what I can give for you to understand how one with autism deals with the death of a family member.
Half the time, a death can come very suddenly, like it’s depicted in this movie. It’s not like the person is at an old age and has a spot reserved in the nearby cemetery, rather a car crash, cardiac arrest, and public shooting can take your relative’s life away faster than you can blink. Change is already a complicated matter for anyone on the autism spectrum, but if their parent or sibling suddenly dies in an unexpected tragedy, all sorts of uncalled for changes take place. Now there’s nobody to carry out the essential duties in one’s day, nobody to carry on familiar laughs and inside jokes with, nobody to say “I love you” when times are difficult. It’s worse than a sudden schedule plan to what a person with autism does, it’s a complete absence of mental stability.
The solution to handling this sadly does not happen overnight, in fact, it may take months or years to overcome the trauma. But what anybody with autism most needs amidst a family tragedy is the presence of another family member who is still there.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #100: Never Stop Saying, “I Love You.”
They need to understand that while one family member is no longer there to provide comfort and joy, there are still numerous others around to listen to problems and show sincere empathy. If I lost my dad, I’d still have my mom. If I lost both, I’d still have my sister. If I lost all three, I’d still have my brother-in-law. There will always be somebody who loves you and will offer a shoulder for you to cry on.
But then there’s the countless other problems that happen as a result of the family tragedy:
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #74: Daddy Won’t Live With Us Anymore.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #74: Daddy Has a New Wife Now.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #74: The Parent’s New Partner Moves In.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but the death of a parent could almost certainly lead to getting a new stepparent and stepsiblings. It could even mean a housekeeper is hired to take care of things, causing all sorts of conflict.
There is no simple answer to how anyone, autistic or not, handles a change as huge as this, as it varies with the person and the situation. But when talking long term, as I said before, loved ones are still vital to the livelihood of one’s tragedy. Yet this is also a good opportunity to learn how to adjust to new changing situations, while setting a new routine for a new way of living.
Now this I am certainly an expert in, as I did have to go through lots of change. I had to change schools, places to live, jobs, and none of them were easy by any stretch. It certainly takes time (and lots of it) to adjust to a significantly new situation. Depending on what the change is, the new normal will always be embraced eventually. It’s all a matter of laying out what the new routine will be, and translating the old way of living into the new way of living.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
By Trevor Pacelli
Most everyone has had a pet at some point. Thus, many also had to bear that tough day when the cat, dog, parakeet, or hamster breathed its last breath. Knowing a pet’s tendency to become a member of the family, losing them can feel as tragic as losing a longtime friend.
Well, now I am about to face said trial. My family’s sixteen-year-old cat, Kasie, recently showed shocking signs including seizures and coughing fits. My mom took her to the vet, and we found out her lungs had fluid buildup. This is very hard for all of us to wrap our minds around: our longtime furry companion will likely leave us soon…
Which leads me into the subject I really want to discuss: how those on the autism spectrum develop a much deeper connection with animals than people.
My dad jokingly compares Kasie and me to E.T. and Elliot, as we always did the same things together. I was the only one in our family who let her sleep in my room at night, and whenever my parents would homeschool me, she sat right next to me the whole time. I could not underestimate the benefit Kasie added to my social growth; unlike the stressful act of communicating with humans, I found no pressure in communicating with a nonverbal cat. Plus, the unpredictable, dishonest nature of people can be hazardous for those with autism in conversation, whereas cats thrive off their impulses—you can easily tell exactly what they’re thinking.
Likewise, Kasie apparently had a greater understanding of me than the others in the family. Compared to mom, dad, or my sister, she displayed a particular behavior when I wasn’t there. While at Arizona State University, my parents in the early months told me of her increasing neediness, as expressed in discontent by pooping on my bed—twice! It seemed like she acknowledged my extra attention given to her. Thus, it explains my difficulty to digest a fast approaching cat-less reality.
The main thing to remember between autism and animals is: Dying is just a part of life; death gives motivation for the living to progress. Here are helpful reminders to describe my reasoning:
By Patty Pacelli
As our son Trevor reached about 18 months, we noticed he had stronger than normal reactions to certain happenings in his day. He got extremely upset at anything that interrupted the schedule that he had formed in his mind. He couldn't verbalize his feelings or thoughts at that age, so he would cry, scream and throw himself on the floor. Even when he became more verbal, at about 4, it was still difficult for him to explain what was wrong, and to control his emotions. He exhibited these behaviors in settings such as church and preschool, so on the way to church in the car we would coach him and have him repeat, "No yelling, no hitting, no falling down." We aren't sure how much that helped, but he remembered the words.
At the time, he hadn't been diagnosed with anything other than speech delay, so we didn't know for sure what was causing these behaviors. We later learned these were early signs of autism. The difference from his older sister's behavior at the same age, was that he had different reasons for the tantrums, and less communication about those reasons. He got especially upset when something didn't happen the way he expected. It was so upsetting to him that he would throw himself on the ground even if it was something he loved, such as going to the zoo.
The other big reason for his tantrums was being forced to switch quickly from one activity to another. Most kids that age love surprises, and distracting them from one thing with another is usually a good strategy to keep them happy. It was the opposite with Trevor. He had to have a lot of warning about any changes, and still was sometimes upset. He explains in his book, Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, in the chapter, Sudden Changes are a Big Challenge, that he often had his whole day planned out, even as young as 4 or 5, so anything that changed or interrupted that was extremely upsetting. These reactions also sometimes led to occasional hitting, toy-grabbing, or other rude behaviors toward other children.
Trevor's Dad, Lonnie Pacelli, created a one-minute video about the importance of keeping a schedule for people of all ages with autism spectrum disorders.
Because of these extreme reactions, and the reasons for those reactions, combined with the speech and language delays discussed in a previous blog post, we were not surprised to receive the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder when Trevor was in kindergarten.
Inspiration for Life with Autism
This blog has a variety of articles about people living life with autism, and topics and ideas that can help in the journey. Guest bloggers are welcome. Inspired by Trevor, a young adult film critic, photographer and college graduate on the autism spectrum.