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 struggle with socializing and communicating 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.

At that time, I was studying at BCIT.

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 at the eyes.

Straight back.
Eye contact.

I also had at least one Skype session with him.

Using Skype on a tablet.

For one of the next sessions with him, we went to a restaurant nearby. That meant I could practice my social skills with the restaurant staffs while they were serving such as by asking them some questions. 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.

inside restaurant.png

If I remembered correctly, the restaurant session was the last session with him. For the next sessions, 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 education program instead of regular classes.

Before high school, I struggled with my classes that I needed assistance from SEA’s and tutors. One of my tutors was my SEA at school. I often went to the resource room. If I remember correctly, I had essays omitted because I was very stuck on them quite a few times. They were likely the school wide write essays. Other big exams may have been omitted as well.

In grade 8, 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. We learned money math, writing, reading, and life and social skills. The academic subjects were around grade 3 in terms of difficulty. Sometimes peer tutors, who were students in regular classes, helped us out.

lals classroom
Learning Assistance Life Skills classroom.

For most of grade 8, I took the school bus to school and home. Near the end of the year, I learned to take public transportation alone.

school bus.jpg
School bus

We regularly took turns planning field trips. We did the research and reservations. We were in charge of the timing. If the field trip costed something, we had to do the banking. The field trips included museums, shopping malls, bowling, swimming, hiking, restaurants, and cinemas. Some of them were half day and others were all day, depending on the time needed. Some of the field trips were places were Richmond Centre, Grouse Mountain, Varsity Ridge Bowl, Red Robin, Granville Island, Science World, Silver City, Planer Lazer, and the Student Union Building at UBC.

Grouse Grind.
Bowling alley.
red robin
Red Robin.
Bowen Island.

We cooked as well. We did the planning, shopping, and food preparation.

We had PE with the students from the Life Skills program. The LS program was different from the LALS program in terms of the functioning levels of the students. 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 other sports including basketball, hand ball, volleyball, and California kickball.

Some of us actually took regular PE classs. They took two PE classes so that there were enough students in the special ed’s PE class. That’s what I did for my last year of high school.

For after school, we were encouraged to try out after school special needs programs. I went to the TLC Special Needs Program at a community centre for almost a year, and Special Olympics doing basketball and aerobics for about a few months.

For the last two years of high school, I tried out cross country running and track and field.

We had work experience. Some of them included grocery stores and department stores.

work experience.jpg
Serving meals in the community lunch program near our school.

We were allowed to take classes that we were interested in. I took regular chemistry, physics, math, and communications classes. That meant about three classes at a time. I had tutors outside of classes and my grades were reasonable. Some students took wood working, sewing, and cooking.


The program also covered transitioning to post secondary education. The students had tours to different colleges such as Kwantlen Polytechnic University. After graduating at age 19, I went to the Food Technology program at BCIT. What I needed to do was to pass a communications exam because I didn’t take English 12 or other suitable courses.

Updates on my Employment

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

Taxi meter.

If you know me on social media, you’re probably aware that I’ve been sharing autism posts. I think it can improve autism awareness which may lead to better support as autism is often invisible.

In January 2017, I stopped working at a full time job doing data cleansing because I wasn’t able to keep up with it.

I started applying for some job positions such as electronics assembly. I had some job interviews.

A month later, I was getting support from Jobs West. They help people with developmental disabilities with employment. Autism is a developmental disability which was why I was qualified for the support. They did employment discovery, helped with writing resume and cover letters, and accompanied me during job interviews and job fairs.

I showed my job coach some of my LEDs projects. She thought they were interesting. She shared some pictures of them with my potential employers.

sunrise simulator image
Custom made sunrise simulator without its diffuser.

I also contacted some staff members from Pacific Autism Family Network for more support.

During spring, when I was asking to get some work done on my bike, a mechanic from a local bike shop was interested in my bike setup so he asked me whether I wanted to work there. My bike had electric horns and custom made lights. I worked there as an assistant until the bike season was over.

Bicycle mechanic in a workshop in the repair process

During fall, my job coach recommended that I volunteer at Bike Kitchen to improve my skills and get more experience. I volunteered there for a while overhauling hubs and truing wheels.

Truing a bicycle wheel.

Around December, I received a job posting for an equipment installer position from a staff from PAFN. I mentioned that I was interested in it. One month later, I was interviewed and accompanied by my job coach, and was hired. For the job, I installed taxi equipment in cars.

tool box
My tool box at work.
bike at work.jpg
My bike parked at work. It’s more secure inside.

Once in a while, my job coach kept in touch with me. If I have any concerns, I could contact her. The company didn’t mind that I used noise cancellation to concentrate.

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 was installed on a self-levelling mount so that whether the helmet was tilted up or down, it would still be visible to drivers behind.

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 around 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!

Myth 14: More Lumens Make a Better Light

Off The Beaten Path

As the days get shorter, many cyclists are thinking about lights. How do you measure the quality of a headlight? It’s tempting to look at how many lumens the light puts out. After all, brighter is better, isn’t it?

On the road, what matters is not lumens, but lux. What is the difference?

Lumens looks at the source: how much light does the headlight emit?
Lux looks at the result: how much light arrives on a given surface area of road.

In the image above, the circle on the left is the wall projection of the beam. Its brightness multiplied by its size give you an idea of how many lumens the light puts out. The side view shows where the light is going. The plan view illustrates how many lux arrive on different parts of the road surface.

Lumens can be expressed as a simple number, but lux depends…

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My Hybrid Bike Fit from the Bicicletta Bike Shop

whole bike fit

I had a hybrid bike fit at Bicicletta because the bike fitter there was very experienced and knowledgeable.

The day before coming to the bike shop, I removed my bike basket in case there wouldn’t be any room. They might lower the handlebar. If there’s not enough room, it’s possible to get a shallower one.

The bike fitter used the Retül bike fitting system. It uses LED markers attached to your body so that it can how well you’re pedalling, and how well your fit is. Before coming there, you’ll need to wear tight shorts to allow the markers to be attached and not move around. I didn’t bring my shorts so I had to get a pair a block away.

Before the bike fit, the fitter asked me some questions including how long I ride, and any pains. I mentioned that I experienced tingling and back pain.

During the bike fit, I rode my bike on a trainer and adjustments were made. Adjustments were made to the cleats on my shoes, my saddle, and my bike stem.

I was also taught how to pedal properly. My hips needed to be rolled back, my elbows and shoulders needed to be more relaxed, my knees needed to be further apart, and my heels needed to be higher. It should take a week to get used to the new posture.

After the bike fit, the fitter recorded the adjustments made on my bike. My seat post and saddle rails were marked with tape so that I know how they should be adjusted.

What I liked about the service was that they know whether you have proper posture.

Prescribing VO2max

Spare Cycles

June 26, 2018

I’ve written an UPDATE to this post where I reconsider a few assumptions given below. One major change is that 90% HRmax seems to be a better target than 88% HRmax. This post has been updated to reflect the changes.

Optimizing VO2max Interval Prescription

I left my conceptual post on VO2max with a tease for some practical application of VO2max intervals. Here’s where I’ll discuss some of the workouts I’ve been doing and the research that led me to them.

First, recall my definitions for T90VO2max and MAP (Max Aerobic Power).

T90VO2max is used to refer to the duration or time (T) spent at or above 90% VO2max, ie. duration at near-maximal rate of Oxygen consumption as measured in ml/kg/min via lab analysis.

MAP is maximal aerobic power, which I use to refer to the maximum power/workload, and therefore shortest duration that will elicit VO2max

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