Learning Social Skills from the CEO of the Sluis Academy as an Autistic Adult

Many of you may know that as someone on the autism spectrum, I needed to improve my social and communication skills, so my parents decided that I should try out some sessions with the CEO of the Sluis Academy.

The program was supposed to help special needs children with their social skills. A friend introduced the CEO to my parents.

I was studying at BCIT during that time.

For the first session, he came to my home. He taught me what to do when socializing. I learned that when socializing, we should gradually introduce something we want to talk about rather than be too abrupt. I was reminded to keep my back straight and have eye contact. One technique of eye contact involves looking near the person’s eyes but not in the eyes.

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Eye contact.

I also had at least one Skype session with him.

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Using Skype on a tablet.

For one of the next sessions with him, we went to a restaurant nearby. That meant I could practise my social skills with the restaurant staff while they were serving by doing small talk with them. I was also reminded to keep my back straight and have eye contact while I was talking. He did it in a way that was clear enough, but without interrupting.

 

If I remembered correctly, the restaurant session was the last session with him. For the next meetings, one of his employees visited me to train me for job interview skills. I practiced with some common job interview questions. I had a few sessions with her.

Special Education Program During my High School Years

During high school, I was in a special-ed program.

Before high school, people knew that I needed supports from SEA and tutors. I often went to the resource room.

Starting high school, I went to the Learning Assistance Life Skills program. The school was a little further away since the closest one didn’t offer the program.

They taught us how to be independent by teaching us academics, social skills, travelling by public transportation, field trip planning, and cooking. Sometimes peer tutors, who were students in regular classes, helped us out.

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Learning Assistance Life Skills classroom.

The field trips included museums, shopping malls, bowling, swimming, hikes, restaurants, and cinemas. Some of them were half-day, and others were all day, depending on the time needed.

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Bowen Island.

We learned cooking as well, including planning, shopping, and preparation.

Some of us were enrolled in classes outside the program. I took chemistry, physics, math, and communications classes. I had support from tutors, and through asking my teachers questions. Other students took woodworking, sewing, and cooking.

We had PE with the students from the Life Skills program. The PE class was different from regular PE classes because it needed to accommodate people with disabilities. We had warm-ups and stretching and played sports, including basketball, handball, volleyball, and California kickball.

Some of us took both our PE class and regular PE, which I did for my last year. One advantage is that you’ll become very active if you take two PE classes.

We were encouraged to participate in after school activities. I went to the TLC Special Needs Program at a community centre, and Special Olympics doing basketball and aerobics for a few months. For the last two years there, I tried out cross country running and track and field.

We had work experience, including grocery stores and department stores.

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Serving meals in the community lunch program near our school.

The program also covered transitioning to post-secondary education, including tours at colleges. After graduating, I went to the Food Technology program at BCIT. What I needed to do was to pass a communications exam.

Updates on my Employment

After almost a year of getting support for employment, I was hired to work at a company that installs taxi equipment.

If you know me on social media, you’re probably aware that I’ve been sharing autism posts, which is an easy way of supporting those on the spectrum.

I was getting support from Jobs West and other sources. I was in their employment discovery program and received assistance with writing resumes and cover letters and other job search activities.

Some of the jobs that I applied include bike shops and electronics companies.

I showed my job coach some of my LED projects. One good reason for sharing your hobbies is that it can sell and communicate your strengths.

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Custom made sunrise simulator without its diffuser.

During spring, while I was waiting at a bike shop, I was hired on the spot. My bike had electric horns, so the mechanic chatted with me. I think he wanted to install the horns on his bicycle. I worked there for the summer.

During the fall,  I volunteered at Bike Kitchen for a while overhauling hubs and truing wheels.

Around December, I applied for an equipment installer position and was hired, installing taxi equipment. I also used noise cancellation as I was sensitive to noise there. Once in a while, my job coach kept in touch with me.

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My toolbox at work.

It’s now almost a year of working there.

Update on my Helmet Light (Reduced Weight Design)

This is my newest helmet light for safety while commuting. It’s similar to my previous one but was designed to be lighter.

It was powered by 3 rechargeable AA batteries. The unused battery slot was used for the circuitry. It used AMC7135 LED drivers so that 3 AA batteries could be used instead of 4 for stability.

The front light was warm white for preserving night vision and had a narrow beam pattern.

The rear light was wide-angle and installed on a self-levelling mount to make it consistently visible.

It weighed around 175g. With less weight on the helmet, it should be easier on the neck and back. It’s possible to go even lighter by using 3 AAA batteries instead, but you’ll need to recharge them more often.

The light was programmed to have four settings in total. It has two settings for being seen during the day, and two for seeing at night. On its lowest setting, it lasts around 40 hours, and on its highest setting, it lasts approximately 6 hours which I think is reasonable.

Here are some pictures of the older helmet light. It used 2 18650 cells and had more LEDs. It weighed about 350g, about twice as heavy as the newest version!

Do you have any suggestions for improvements? If so, please share by commenting below!

Updates on Using Noise Cancellation for Sensory Overload at Work

I’ve been using noise cancellation to concentrate better at work and would like to give an update about it.

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I used them frequently so that two pairs of earmuffs broke!

Even on the first day of my most recent job, I used dual hearing protection. My goal was to block out music playing and other noise sources, which tend to affect my concentration.

Around this August, the reconfirmed my need for hearing protection. My supervisor noticed that I was easily distracted when the music was playing. That day during lunch, I even took the time to handwrite a letter, pointing out that I thought I needed excellent hearing protection.

After lunch, I was repeating the tasks and time them. For a long time, I was taking 45 to 60 minutes to complete it even when using only ear muffs. When I did the simulation with dual protection, I was able to complete it in less than 25 minutes! My supervisor was even surprised that I was faster doing the simulation compared to doing the real work.

One issue with regular earplugs is that you can only wear them for so long. I decided to try custom-fitted non-vented earplugs from Nextgen Hearing. I reasoned that being able to work was well worth the cost even though they were quite expensive.

The non-vented ones offer the most attenuation. What they did was put silicone in my ear canals to get an impression. They took around a month to arrive.

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dB Blocker non-vented custom-fitted earplugs.

Once they arrived, tried them out, and the good news was that I could use them all day.  However, there were a lot of vibrations, so I went back to disposable earplugs. They’re probably better for protecting hearing or jobs that require little movements.

So far, I have other options, including turning down the music and not wearing regular earplugs all the time. At work, I’m now using dual protection to concentrate during more time-sensitive tasks and using just earmuffs when it’s less busy.

VO2 Max Spreadsheet Calculator

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You may not need a lab test to estimate your VO2 max. You can use a calculator to do it. You’ll need to know your age, resting heart rate, waist circumference, exercise frequency, intensity, and duration.

Once you have the information you can use this VO2 max calculator.

The formulas were based on the HUNT Study in Norway.

Here’s an article about it: https://www.runnersworld.com/sweat-science/should-your-doctor-check-your-vo2-max

Here’s the link for the study: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/fulltext/2011/11000/Estimating_V_O2peak_from_a_Nonexercise_Prediction.2.aspx

Minoura M80 Trainer’s Power Curve at its Maximum Resistance Setting

This chart was made using LibreOffice Calc. The power was measured at different speeds. There was a big gap between the last two points because a high power output was required even though I used the minimum resistance to do the test.

Since it’s linear, you can use a speedometer to estimate your power. You should set the wheel size so that the numbers are close to those in the chart. This is useful if you don’t have a power meter.

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