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Finding Fulfilling Employment on the Autism Spectrum, with Dr. Stephen Shore | EDB 69

In this episode, Hackie Reitman, M.D.continues his conversation with return guest Stephen Shore, Ed.D.- author, autism advocate, board member for Autism Speaks, and professor at Adelphi University. He also serves on the US Autism & Asperger Association board. Dr. Shore discusses his initial diagnoses as a child, the importance of people on the spectrum finding work that fulfills them, and how accommodation for people with different brains improves life for everyone. (For the first part of our conversation with Dr. Shore, click here.)

Both Dr. Hackie Reitman and Dr. Stephen Shore will be presenting at the US Autism & Asperger Association 12th Annual World Conference and Expo in Portland, Oregon August 25-27, 2017. Click here for more information.

For more information about the work of Stephen Shore, please visit his website http://www.AutismAsperger.net/

Or check out his channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/tumbalaika/

For more on Adelphi, visit: http://www.adelphi.edu/


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HACKIE REITMAN, M.D. (HR): Hi I’m doctor Hackie Reitman, welcome to another episode of Exploring Different Brains. Today we have the wonderful professor from Adelphi University, who has visited us before and travels the whole world spreading the good word about neurodiversity, the autism and Asperger advocate and professor at Adelphi, Stephen Shore himself on the spectrum, welcome Stephen.


STEPHEN SHORE, ED.D. (SS): It’s a pleasure to be back with you.


HR: Well, Stephen it’s always a pleasure to talk to you I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t let our audience know that they wanted to lock you up when you were about 4 years old. Tell a little about that.


SS: Yeah well pretty close, it was actually 2 and a half. For me I was after 18 months of typical development I was struck with what I call the regressive autism bomb and that’s what happens to about 30 percent of us on the spectrum. After typical development we lose functional communication, meltdowns we draw from the environment and in brief I become a pretty severely affected autistic child. Because there was so little information know about autism at that time it took my parents a whole year to find a place for diagnosis and when they did all I can say is that it was so fortunate for me that my parents rejected the professionals recommendations for institutionalization. Because in those days a diagnosis of autism was tantamount to a lifetime in an institution. But maybe if things went really well there could be some sort of small employment later on in life but most of the time even that didn’t happen because of the dire circumstances of being in an institution but going back to my parents like we see so many parents today, they advocated on my behalf and they convinced the school to take me in about a year. It was during that year that my parents implemented as to what we refer to today as an intensive home based early intervention program. This was a program that emphasized music, movement, sensory integration, narration, and imitation. So it probably looked like more of one of the developmental approaches we have today such as the Millen method of floor time or RDI. I see pieces of daily life therapy as well that is practice at the Boston Higashi School and what is fascinating to realize is that my parents did this at a time when the concept of early intervention did not even exist. And with the work that they did, it began to return at age 4. And I was admitted to that special school, I got reevaluated instead of being autistic and having childhood psychosis and being ready for an institution I got upgraded to naratotic. So things were looking better.


HR: Now Stephen what other areas would you like to let our Different Brains viewers know about, our audience, that we have not yet covered on this, what would you like to emphasize?


SS: Well lets see we’ve cover employment; I feel that’s vitally important, there is a job for everybody on the autism spectrum. Digging further into employment it’s important to realize that not all of us autistics are computer geeks. As a matter of fact, it’s not even a majority of us but however there is a big enough group that where it pays for IT companies such as SAP such as Microsoft and others who are doing wonderful work in developing employment opportunities for autistic individuals. However, my question is what about everybody else?


HR: Let me interrupt you there to tell you my experience giving a workshop at FAU, Florida Atlantic University, I find this happens different times you might find it to in some audiences, they almost got into fights because some of the parents got very upset that I was presenting the Rising Tide carwash here in Parkland, Florida Thomas D’eri’s program, which is a successful entrepreneurial model that an investor can make money. You put together the land and the car wash; you hire all autistic individuals who love doing the same repetitive thing of cleaning the car that’s involved. I take my truck there, they do a wonderful job, they’re happy, they’re independent, they’re productive and what a great thing, well wouldn’t you know it, a woman raised her hand and said I think this beneath our kids, my son is going to have an interview with Microsoft to work there. Listen all of us are not going to be computer people, people have to have pathways to do what they love doing where they can maximize their potential, earn a good living, and be happy. What you’re saying is I think or having gone out on a ledge the same thing.


SS: It definitely is, and I think we need to consider if we an autistic person is fulfilled and productive with their life then that’s a success. For some of us it might be serving as a University professor for others it might be at Microsoft for others it might be working at a carwash for others it might be fixing lawn mower engines. Whatever it is, if we get that match between interest and skill and ability, where ever it is, then we have the recipe for a filling and productive life. I think that’s universal, it works for everybody whether you’re on the autism spectrum or not.


HR:  What has been one of your biggest road blocks?


SS: Well it depends on the context, I would say dealing and processing subtle social situations. Commonly you’ll find examples of that in office politics and employment. So that can be a challenge. I’ve had a number of challenges in that area, fortunately I recognize that it is a challenge and I seek mentors to help it out when addressing actual or potential situations where things might be challenging socially such as in education that seems to be particularly important as we often find people with as we call very very long toes. Because in education and other areas people tend to carve out certain areas of educational real estate and things that they do and if in the wrong way you get too close to these areas or perhaps engage in these areas sometimes it can be perceived as competition. The idiom for that is stepping on another person’s toes. In some professions these toes can be very very long and very easy to step on so one has to be very careful in these areas.


HR: I have a great visual of that and I’ve never heard that before, I’m going to use that. That’s a good one. You always teach me something, Stephen Shore professor at Adelphi University, doing such great things on every continent so far except Antarctica, where can people learn more about you?


SS: Well people can learn more about me on my website which is www.autismasperger.net I also have a channel on YouTube and if you forget all of these things if you type Stephen Shore and then the word autism or Asperger’s syndrome after that into Google, a whole bunch of videos including the one that we’re doing and the one that we did some time ago they will pop up and you find out more about me. I’m happy to answer any emails that people may have, whatever questions they many have. I have an email inbox from someone in this area that was referred to me by Larry Kaplan of the USAAA that both of us have been to and have had great times with. So she needs some help with her adult son on the autism spectrum so I’ve got to get to that shortly and see what I can do to help her out. So these are ways for people to reach me.


HR: Stephen Shore, professor at Adelphi University, I’m going to be speaking down at St. Kevin’s Catholic School in Miami. They requested I come down there to talk to the staff on neurodiversity and the things we’re talking about and I’m going to show them this clip of what you’re going to tell these teachers that I’m going to speak to. I’m going to show them this clip. Tell the teachers at St. Kevin’s Catholic School something that they can take away that they can take away from this and really apply to their students.


SS: Well I think the most important thing is to consider your students with autism and by extension other conditions, disabilities or whatever you want to call it as individuals, get to know them as individuals. Find out what their likes and dislikes are, what are their strengths, what are their challenges, and find ways whenever possible to use those strengths in order to accommodate those challenges.


HR: Stephen what do you hope that 2017 has in store for you and Adelphi and all that you’re doing?


SS: Well I hope that 2017 will bring greater awareness of the work that we’re doing at Adelphi University surrounding Autism. We have some programs for people who want to learn more about supporting individuals with autism, whether they’re educators in schools systems and looking for additional certification or recognition form the state of New York regarding autism. Whether it’s people in allied fields being a school nurse or a social worker or a school counselor or an administrator such as a principal who wants to learn more about Autism. We’ve got a program for those individuals as well. And finally we’re about to launch our program into cyberspace. And that is students will be able to take these courses online, completely online and that way students from other countries for example be of Malaysia or Russia or Brazil or one of the many places that I present and I often find that people are interested in taking our courses at Adelphi University. However, there is the challenge of distance, the challenge of time, the challenge of funding of whatever needs to get a student visa, and these challenges can be overcome by taking these courses online and those people interested in learning more about autism can do so from the comfort of their own home, from their school, and apply that knowledge directly to what they’re doing with out having to deal with having all the complications of moving to another country or continent to learn this material.


HR: How do people find those courses?


SS: Well one-way is to contact me through my website, another way is to go to the Adelphi University website and that will be www.adelphi.edu and search under the term autism or autism spectrum. And there you will find information there about our programs and find the course or courses that best fit you or even the entire program.


HR: Stephen it’s been a pleasure to have you here at another episode of Exploring Different Brains, thank you so much for all you do.


SS: Oh it’s been my pleasure and my honor and I believe we covered a lot of important material.




This video is owned by Different Brains Inc, kindly donated by it’s original producer PCE Media LLC.

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Different Brains® Inc. founder Harold “Hackie” Reitman, M.D. is an author, filmmaker, retired orthopedic surgeon, former professional heavyweight boxer, the past chairman and president (and current board member) of The Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County, and a neurodiversity advocate. However, it was his role as a father that led to the creation of the DifferentBrains.org website.

Hackie’s daughter Rebecca grew up with epilepsy, 23 vascular brains tumors, and underwent 2 brain surgeries before the age of 5. Her struggles and recovery put him on the road to, through 26 professional heavyweight boxing matches, raising money for children’s charities (to which he donated every fight purse).

Rebecca eventually went on to graduate from Georgia Tech with a degree in Discrete Mathematics, and Dr. Reitman wrote and produced a film based on her experiences there (The Square Root of 2, starring Darby Stanchfield of ABC’s Scandal). After graduation, Rebecca received a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. Hackie, shocked at his own ignorance of the topic despite being an M.D., embarked on years of research that culminated with his book Aspertools: The Practical Guide for Understanding and Embracing Asperger’s, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Neurodiversity (released by HCI books, publishers of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series).

This experience revealed to Hackie the interconnectedness of the conditions that fall under the neurodiversity umbrella, while alerting him to the in-fighting and fractured relations that often plague the organizations tasked with serving the community. Convinced that overcoming these schisms could help all of society, Hackie forged the Different Brains philosophy of inclusive advocacy: “Supporting Neurodiversity – From Autism to Alzheimer’s and All Brains In Between”.

In the company’s initial years of operation, Hackie self-financed all of the content on DifferentBrains.org, all of which offered free to view to the public. Currently he is the host of our weekly interview show Exploring Different Brains, writes blogs for the site, and tours the country speaking at conferences, conventions and private functions, all with the goal of improving the lives of neurodiverse individuals and their families, and maximizing the potential of those with different brains. Separate from Different Brains, Hackie is the founder and CEO of PCE Media, a media production company focusing on reality based content. He recently co-executive produced the documentary “Foreman”, the definitive feature documentary on legendary boxer and pitchman George Foreman.