Self-Advocates Speak for Themselves


Let's Talk: Conversations with The Arc of New Jersey Family Institute

Pictured above Harlea Maria, self-advocate.

The Importance of Self-Advocacy in High School
Self-advocate Harlea Maria is 23 years old, attends college and volunteers in her spare time. Join Lisa Ford the Director of The Arc of New Jersey Family Institute about why self-advocacy is important in high school and how she advocates for herself.

A Student's Perspective on His College Experience
Nick attends the DREAM Program, at Mercer County Community College. Hear what he has to say about his experiences as a college students who happens to have a disability.

A Self-advocate's Perspective on Advocating for Himself
Self-advocate Stephen Coston talks with Family Institute Director Lisa Ford about why self-advocacy is important and how he advocates for himself in a number of areas in his life.


Kathleen's Korner

Kathleen Carter is a teen who has been living with Asperger’s Syndrome for as long as she can remember. She strives to educate her peers and others about AS. Recently, she began focusing her efforts on writing proudly about how her experiences differ from other people her age.

5 Great Summer Activities for Teens with Asperger’s

Summer is just around the corner, and for most teens that means day trips to the beach, concerts, visits to amusement parks, and countless other fun-filled opportunities. But if you’re an Aspie like me, it isn’t always easy finding ways to keep busy until school starts back up; there are a lot of traditional summer activities I’m simply not interested in. Luckily, over the years I’ve realized I don’t have to follow the norm when it comes to enjoying my summer. If you’re a teen with Asperger’s Syndrome, here are a few activities to keep you engaged and entertained during your vacation:

Make a movie with your friends. The coolest part about creating your own movie is that you get to decide everything — the plot, the characters, the dialogue, the action, it’s all up to you. My Asperger’s sometimes causes me to blurt out things I wish I hadn’t, but in a movie you can call cut and try again. Heck, in a movie you can say lots of things you normally don’t get to! Plus, working together with others toward a common goal can take the stress out of social situations. Just don’t forget to have fun!

Explore your creative side. I won’t lie to you: I recognize that there are probably going to be some days that you’d rather keep to yourself than go out and be around people. And that’s totally OK! Take advantage of your solitude by exercising your creative muscle with some art therapy. You can paint, sculpt, draw, color, build, whatever! For me, art can be a way to get myself back to center when I’m feeling overwhelmed. It gives me control, but I can also break the “rules” if I want to. If you have a sensory processing disorder, it can also be an outlet to push your boundaries (if you choose). Try sculpting a coffee mug out of clay or using your hands to paint and blend on canvas. Don’t think too much — just create!

Find a part-time job you enjoy. You don’t have to go to the local drive-thru window to find a summer job; start by thinking about what you enjoy doing and tailor your search to fit. For me, I wanted something that involved animals but not many people. I thought about applying at a local shelter until a friend suggested I become a dog walker for my neighbors with hectic work schedules. And the best part about summer is that people are going on vacation and need dog sitters, so I get to hang out with cool pooches all day! It’s a great way for me to make money and be social without the pressures of human interaction. Not into dogs? People still want their houses (and plants) looked after while they’re gone. Or if you’re musical, you can offer your services to a local art gallery for openings or to a café in need of some ambience.

Go on an adventure with a friend. At school, it can be difficult to connect with my best friend because I feel like I’m competing with everyone else. Summer gives us a chance for more one-on-one bonding time, and I like to take full advantage. Take your bestie on an adventure to a state park or that new area downtown you’ve wanted to check out. Have a photo contest to see who can find the most unique perspective or complete a scavenger hunt as you explore. Challenge each other to try new things. With your best friend at your side you’ll be more confident to push your boundaries, and you’ll create lifelong memories along the way.

Start a blog. I’ve found that writing can be an excellent way to cope, especially when my Asperger’s prevents me from communicating the way I want. It can even help me sort out my thoughts when I’m not sure how I feel. Start a blog as a way to express your joy, your fears, your anger, or anything else that’s bottled up inside. It can be topical — focused on movies, shows, art, music, etc. — or personal, and you can make it private so that no one but you reads it, or you can share it with others.

However you decide to spend your summer, take advantage of the extra free time to learn about yourself and try new things. Don’t let your Asperger’s hold you back — instead, find ways to work it to your advantage!

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