Research Information Request:
Asperger Syndrome in the Military Service

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On the ASPIRES web site, please find the first article of its kind, addressing Asperger Syndrome (AS) and military service.  It is found at http://www.aspires-relationships.com/articles_as_in_the_military.htm.

The article referred to above is directed towards commanders in the field.  It is not a medical treatise, nor is it designed for mental health or psychological professionals in the armed forces.  It may be of interest to AS adults or AS students if there is interest in a young or mature adult's enlisting in the armed forces.

The author will be working with Department of Defense decision-makers and others to develop personnel policies uniform throughout all of the US armed forces affecting reporting, evaluation, and administrative protocols for retention, reassignment, and separation from the service.

The author requests those who have been in the active, reserves, or National Guard military service to please contact him so that he can complete a second article on AS and the military.  That article will focus on identifying, evaluating, reassigning or separating AS individuals from the service with an emphasis, in all such steps, on a "soft landing."

Why this Research?

It is no secret that many adults now being diagnosed for the first time with AS are serving or have served with distinction and for varying periods of time and varying degrees of success in the armed services. Now that more is known about Asperger Syndrome in adults, constructive proposals and suggestions regarding sensitive handling of AS in the military are overdue.

Choice of whether or not to serve in the military is a personal matter.  Respectful discussion of that issue should acknowledge the highly individual nature of each adult person's right to make decisions regarding military service.

What makes this topic a matter of moment is the radical change experienced in all military services, both in this country and around the world, very much a function of technology and transportation allowing rapid deployment and "turn on the dime" demands placed on individuals and their units of assignment.  Individuals who, in the past, have been accustomed to set routines and predictable working conditions may find themselves suddenly facing challenging, new conditions that generate out-of-scale reactions to change that do not appear to be correctable.  Under combat and high-stress conditions, their reaction to sudden demands and rapid changes may present a danger to themselves or to others.

About the Researcher

This author has managed a small number of cases of AS adults involved with military service, and understands the policy and practical issues of what happens when things are handled badly, or not at all.  He expects to handle more of these cases.

The principal researcher has counseled young and mature adults for forty years, starting this work as a personnel specialist in the US Army in the mid to late 1960's.  He specializes in comprehensive, wrap-around case management.  He has been trained in person-centered counseling and a variety of whole-person humanistic approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapy.  He is a cognitive disability consultant to professionals in agencies and private practice, and maintains a small practice as a paid social security claimant representative. He is author of the Asperger Syndrome Employment Workbook (2001), a chapter in Ask and Tell (Shore, ed. 2004) and a forthcoming book on peer-led Asperger Syndrome adult support groups.

Who may Participate

Individuals with military experience, or with military experience in their immediate families where there is informed reason to believe that the service member is Asperger Syndrome.  The subject individual may either be self-diagnosed or formally diagnosed by a licensed medical or mental health professional.

Reporters should be individuals who...

1.  are AS themselves and have served in the armed forces of any country, at any level, at any time; and/or

2.  are adult children of parents, caregivers, friends or close family members who have reason to believe a given active or former member of the armed forces is Asperger Syndrome.

Other Entities Likely to Participate in Policy Outcome

Other allies in the information gathering process include independent family support service organizations working with families of armed services personnel where there is disability in the family, Asperger Syndrome included.  The military's own family support system does address the issue of AS children and non-serving spouses through its community services programs at each location where families are billeted, whether on base or off base.

Veterans organizations and their social support specialists as are being asked to provide any information they offer to former military members and their families regarding the rights of such former service members to new or continuing medical and mental health care for themselves and their family members.

Recruiters are now seeing an increasing number of young and older adults either diagnosed with AS or likely to be diagnosed as a result of the medical and psychological screening that is a part of the recruitment and voluntary service entrance process. Individuals in all service ready and inactive reserves, when called back to active duty, are processed through recruitment centers.  There is an informal network within the recruiting command designed to handle each application on a case-by-case basis.  At present, there are no services-wide policies regarding AS.

National Guard recruitment and retention matters are handled at the state level, but will follow nationally developed policy.  State adjutants general, appointed by governors in each state will add additional guidance materials for local units relating to mental health matters in conformity with national policy.  Governors' sensitivity to AS can be raised through the efforts of state legislators and the autism community concerned enough to approach state capitols with accurate, non-hysterical, non-sensationalistic information about AS.

The US Congress has members easily approached to discuss AS without ratcheting talk about AS to a hysterical or politically insensitive level.  Some autism allies in Congress may have to be bypassed in order to accomplish the delicate task of having others carry this issue "clean" of the kind of stridency and theatrics known to turn of many of their fellow House and Senate members.  Some of these better candidates to carry the issue are in powerful positions on the appropriate policy formation and oversight committees in both chambers.

The Research

Research for the second article will only partially involve anecdotal information collected from personal accounts. Much of the material to be found in the second article will summarize the best procedures and practices of handling diagnosis, disclosure, and the aftermath of working effectively with late diagnosed adolescents and adults.  The author will solicit information from professionals experienced in the fields of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and those who design programs for individuals with mental health and developmental differences following institutional discharge or repeated, short episodes of high-intensity out-patient care.

The preferred method for gathering data is a telephone interview.  The author is developing a short questionnaire designed for that interview.

The author recognizes that some individuals with Asperger Syndrome are not comfortable using the telephone.  A written questionnaire will soon be available at a web site for convenient downloading, completion, and return via Email.  Because telephone interviews often involve follow-up questions, the written questionnaire will be longer so as to prompt answers to either "yes" or "no" questions requiring further explanation.

Individuals completing the questionnaire in writing are encouraged to retain a copy for themselves.

Confidentiality, Privacy and Contributor Review

Individuals contacting the author will be assured that their identification will remain confidential.  However, for purposes of authentication and verification, such identifying information will be retained in research documentation leading to the second article.  If the author intends to use direct quotes he will notify each person requesting specific written permission to do so while still preserving their anonymity.  The final article may not be submitted to contributing individuals for either scrutiny or editorial approval.  Individuals whose words are directly quoted are assured that their comments will be used in contextually appropriate ways.  No separate contributor copyright shall attach to such quotations.

Author contact Information

Email and telephone calls are welcome.

Roger N. Meyer
Subject Line:  AS in the Military Service
Email:  rogernmeyer@earthlink.net
Phone (US): 503-666-2776

Roger N. Meyer
"...of a different mind"

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We all contribute to the song of life."
...Sondra Williams

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