Ask Mike

My name is Michael Westwood. I am 24 years old and I am currently living in Florence, South Carolina. I graduated from Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts this past May with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. While I attended Curry College, I earned the “Resident of the Year” Award in the Spring of 2016. My hobbies include watching professional wrestling, watching sitcoms and listening to music. I consider writing to be one of my strongest talents, so I am hoping to be a professional writer someday. I am also on the autism spectrum, which I have learned to cope with very well. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in the third grade and it impacted my ability to socialize properly for several years.

However, through getting treatment by way of social skills courses provided through the grade schools I attended, I progressed in being able to hold a conversation and read non-verbal cues. I recommend social skills courses for any person on the spectrum, as the courses I took were very beneficial to me and allowed me the opportunity to make friends in both high school and college.

Due to my success socially, I would like to help anyone that is curious by answering questions that anyone may have on how to live with this disability, as it is lifelong and can be hard at times depending on the severity of it. The column is called “Ask Mike,” and hopefully, I will make a difference. Please use the form below to submit your questions and I will do my best to answer them in the column.


“Ask Mike” Question Submission

Q: I am very excited about this new feature. My son, who is autistic and 11 years old, seems to get very upset when his daily plans change. Do you struggle with this? If so, what helped you? – Amelia

A: Hello Amelia,
I did struggle with my daily routines being changed as a child, as that is a normal symptom of autism. Fortunately, I have been able to cope with that symptom much better as I have gotten older. My advice to you would be to do what my parents did for me, which is to sit your son down and explain to him why the changes are being made and what the new plans will be. It may take a few times of doing this to get him used to it as autistic people, especially children, need certain things to be reiterated to them because of how their minds process information. I hope this helps,


Q: Hi Mike! I work as a nurse in a hospital and often see patients on the autism spectrum come in with pain or in need of surgery. Can you think of anything I can do to make them feel more comfortable, or to help them communicate their needs to me? Thanks for your time!  – Eliza

A: Dear Eliza,
This is an excellent question and I appreciate you taking the time to ask my opinion on this subject. From my experiences in hospitals, I have had two surgical procedures and the things that helped me out were not having too many people in the room at once, having a support person in the room with me and having everything explained to me step-by-step prior to the day of the procedure. The day of the procedure, it is important that everything be explained again as it occurs because autistic people are easily overwhelmed by uncertainty, change and surprises and it is comforting for them to know what is happening. I hope this helps,


Q: If you were to help young children with Autism who were struggling socially in ways similar to how you did growing up, what is the most important thing you feel they should know and why?  – Colin

A: Dear Colin,
Wow, this is a very insightful question as all autistic people may struggle at times throughout their lives. What helped me was receiving social skills therapy through my grade school years, which I took from grades 3 to 12. It was harder for me to make friends in elementary school and junior high school; however, in elementary school, the school psychologist came into my classroom when I was not present and explained to my classmates what autism is and why I behaved a little “differently.” Young children are uncomfortable with what they do not understand, so to have my disability explained to them gave them the opportunity to ask questions about it. As it turns out, a lot of my classmates were open to interacting with me and were under the impression that I did not want to interact with them. It is a typical misunderstanding between autistic people and non-autistic people. While there is not a direct answer to this question, I am hoping that this advice will help even one autistic child have a better opportunity to be more socially accepted in their formative years. Thanks for the interest,


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