For more than two decades, AANE staff have learned about the talents and struggles of adults with Asperger profiles. Working closely and talking extensively with adults with Asperger’s, ranging in age from 18 to 83, along with their parents, relatives, and spouses, we have together explored successful strategies for addressing the challenges of Autism Spectrum differences. We have developed a comprehensive array of services and programs to meet the needs of adults and their families, including—but not limited to—telephone and face-to-face supports for adults and their families, social activities in multiple locations, discussion/support groups for adults, in-person and online support groups for parents of adults, book readings, and internships in the AANE office. Below is a review of some of the recurrent themes that have arisen out of our collective years of experience.
Racism is killing us. According to the Office of Minority Health, “African Americans have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites.”
Regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, John Hopkins University states that, “while Black Americans represent only about 13% of the population in the states reporting racial/ethnic information, they account for about 34% of total Covid-19 deaths in those states.”
What is all this about?
Plainly put, Black people are not given equal access to resources and social programs that make good health outcomes possible. The burden of racism is mentally and physically oppressive and makes it hard to bridge the gap between us and those who are not experiencing racism. This makes Black people sicker and, due to no fault of their own, living less healthy lives than their white counterparts.
Black people suffer and no community public health campaign is going to change it. The problems are systemic and broad. They are ingrained in our psychology as a nation and they will be inherently hard to root out.
Ongoing inequalities in social causes that affect Black people are the result of all kinds of access to care issues, which are interrelated with a range of quality-of-life risks and outcomes.
It is infuriating to live in a society when at every turn, the walls are stacked against you. Where no matter where you focus, there is a blind spot. Without systemic interventions, nothing is going to change. Black people will continue to have bad health outcomes, will continue to die en masse from COVID-19 and other chronic illnesses.
Perhaps some of your senses start to diminish, your eyesight – you may need reading glasses – your hearing, things like that. But your ability to actually be able to process, to understand, to apply, that really – not only does it not change it, it can actually get sharper, can get better as you get older if you continue to use it. It is sort of the use it or lose it phenomenon when it comes to the brain if you think of the brain like a muscle, which, I think, is a fair metaphor.
Seeing someone else in pain or suffering can be very difficult. For many, we experience a sympathetic sense of the pain and suffering within ourselves and it can almost seem healthier to harden the heart and avoid taking it in. The trouble is, that can lead to guilt or feeling dissociated or disconnected and that is not very satisfying either.
After compassion training the neural activation was quite different, including the medial orbitofrontal cortex, putamen, palladium, and ventral tegmental area.
The compassion training involved spending one day with a teacher of kindness meditation. The intention was to create a general sense of prosocial feelings, rather than to prepare them for anything specific. Participants continued the meditative practice during three laboratory tested sessions of 45 minutes and privately at home for an average of 5-6 hours.
In recent decades, public interest in mindfulness meditation has soared. Paralleling, and perhaps feeding, the growing popular acceptance has been rising scientific attention.
Still, there are a handful of key areas — including depression, chronic pain, and anxiety — in which well-designed, well-run studies have shown benefits for patients engaging in a mindfulness meditation program, with effects similar to other existing treatments.
If you accept the scientific view that your thoughts are physical parts of your brain and that changing your thoughts can have an effect on your body, then you’ve just developed a powerful weapon.
Our cognitive and physical abilities are in general limited, but our conceptions of the nature and extent of those limits may need revising. In many cases, thinking that we are limited is itself a limiting factor. There is accumulating evidence that suggests that our thoughts are often capable of extending our cognitive and physical limits.
With the rise of managed health care, which emphasizes cost-efficiency and brevity, mental health professionals have had to confront this burning question: How can they help clients derive the greatest possible benefit from treatment in the shortest amount of time?
Recent evidence suggests that a promising approach is to complement psychological counseling with additional activities that are not too taxing for clients but yield high results. In our own research, we have zeroed in on one such activity: the practice of gratitude. Indeed, many studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed.