Non-Profit Founder Suggests Humor, Creativity and Relaxation Techniques Can Benefit Individuals With Asperger’s Syndrome

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Adam 2 Adam founder and amateur comic, Peter Eichler, applies his own experiences with Asperger’s syndrome to help others explore their untapped potential.

As someone living with Asperger’s Syndrome, non-profit founder Peter Eichler has overcome many challenges – the latest being a stand-up comedy act performed in front of a live audience. Eichler’s experiences and subsequent successes were the impetus behind his non-profit organization, Adam 2 Adam, which supports young adults with Asperger’s and embraces humor, creativity, music, exercise and relaxation techniques as forms of therapy.

Eichler made his stand-up debut on October 16 at New York City’s Gotham Comedy Club, where he assumed the persona of a character named Melvin. “After the show, I was convinced my first performance would be my last. I found the writing difficult, the rehearsal intense and my stress levels very high,” he stated, noting that this level of sensory stimulation is especially difficult for someone with Asperger’s. “However, the feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive, and ideas for new jokes kept flowing – so I brought ‘Melvin’ back out of retirement.”

Since then, Eichler has performed two more stand-up gigs and plans to do additional shows in the future. He is quick to point out that comedy is not his calling, but rather something he does for fun and to encourage others with Asperger’s Syndrome to push their own boundaries. Audience members responded warmly to both Eichler and his character, and fellow comics also voiced encouragement.

Vinnie Vitale – who is the Director of Operations at the American Comedy Institute as well as a comedian, writer and comedy consultant – was one of the comics who performed during Eichler’s first show, and he served as emcee at Eichler’s second comedy gig. “I think Peter’s ‘Melvin’ character is great. In fact, I’m not sure the audience even realized it was a character! Everyone seemed really interested in finding out more about this Melvin guy and what he had to say,” remarked Vitale. “Even though Melvin experiences hardship and pain, he still maintains a happy-go-lucky attitude. Through frustration and tragedy, we can find comedy – and that’s what this is all about.”

Vitale noted that Eichler’s act encourages others to take control of their lives and pursue their passion. “For Peter to do this is really amazing and inspiring. Peter and Melvin are living proof that you shouldn’t let anything prevent you from doing all the things you want to do. So long as Peter continues to pursue comedy, he will always have a place onstage at any of the shows I put together. I think he's a great comedian, and I would love to see more of Melvin. I believe the more we see of Melvin, the more we are actually getting to see into the enigmatic mind of Peter Eichler.”

Among the attendees at Eichler’s debut performance was Barbara McKeon, Director of Aaron Academy in New York City. After the show, McKeon reached out to Eichler and invited him to present at her school. “Aaron Academy works with Asperger’s students through a strengths-based model, as opposed to the deficit-based approach used by most special education schools. We believe these students have tremendous gifts and talents that will be the key to their success,” she explained. “Peter’s approach to his journey with Asperger’s is from that perspective, and fits in with our universal design for learning, or UDL, instructional framework. While Peter may not be familiar with the UDL educational philosophy, he struck me as someone who lives it, in that he seeks to access the world through his comedic strength.”

McKeon believes Eichler’s visit will be of value to students, parents and staff alike. “We believe in community partnerships that help make our students aware of their potential in the world and embrace diversity in how to get there. We bring people into our school who embody non-traditional understandings of success and see our students for their potential. What I hope parents, community members, students and staff gain from my partnership with Peter is an understanding that success is defined in many different ways; and to embrace a person’s strengths and promote their passion is one of the keys to that success.”

Eichler hopes to develop a comedy workshop for McKeon’s students, and intends to speak with parents about how they can create an environment in which their children can thrive. He also plans to share a video of his comedy debut, which ends with a personal message where he discusses his experiences with Asperger’s, the techniques that have helped him, his foray into comedy and his goals for Adam 2 Adam.

“As I have come to understand the psychology of Asperger’s for myself, I realize that all the noises I hear, the things I feel on my skin, the images I see – like people moving in a crowd, certain smells and sometimes tastes … these things make my body feel overwhelmed and overworked, so I haven’t had the energy or concentration for all that I’d like to do and learn,” said Eichler. “My body is so sensitive to stimulation that it treats these stressors as if it were being attacked. But over time, I’ve discovered that there are certain things I can do to relax my mind and body. Slowly, with patience and in very small steps, all kinds of learning can begin to take place, talents can be discovered and relationships made.”

While Eichler recognizes that what works for him may not necessarily work for everyone with Asperger’s Syndrome, he feels that it’s worthwhile for others to explore their options, including music, humor, exercise, meditation and other relaxation techniques. “I am making significant progress by keeping my life as simple and organized as possible, exercising regularly and vigorously, taking risks, knowing my limits, participating in relaxing hobbies like music and maintaining non-stop determination to feel better about myself and my life,” he asserted.

Through Adam 2 Adam’s partnership with JESPY House of South Orange, N.J., Eichler is working to create outreach and mentoring programs for children and young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome. Adam 2 Adam also recently partnered with the Elila Center for Natural Healing in Berkeley Heights, N.J., where Eichler is helping to develop a program that incorporates meditation, yoga and other holistic therapies that specifically address the needs of individuals with Asperger’s. The program will integrate various modalities that cater to those whose minds and bodies operate differently from the general population.

In addition to managing Adam 2 Adam as a non-profit business, Eichler offers consulting services to schools, parents and others who wish to create learning and living environments in which individuals with Asperger’s can thrive. “I will share my experience in helping to evaluate existing environments, routines and coping strategies, and will help clients build a foundation that enables people with Asperger’s to forge greater connections – both within themselves and with others,” he stated.

“The concept is that when you reduce stimulation in various areas of someone’s life, you create an environment where greater learning of all kinds is encouraged,” Eichler explained. “For example, I’ll review the physical environment from the standpoint of acoustics and lighting, and examine routines to see if they can be streamlined to reduce stress. I can also provide a nutritional evaluation and develop exercise routines that are tailored to the individual. Where needed, I can recommend and coordinate the integration of additional services and mentoring.”

Eichler’s goal is to help others who share his condition, and show that they can achieve a better quality of life – with laughter, creativity and strong social bonds. For details on Adam 2 Adam, including Eichler’s contact information and comedy video, please visit http://www.facebook.com/adam2adam.

About Peter Eichler and Adam 2 Adam
Peter Eichler is the founder of Adam 2 Adam, a South Orange, N.J.-based non-profit organization that provides mentoring and support to teens and young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome. Eichler was diagnosed with the autism spectrum disorder at age 40; his late father and one of his sons were also found to have the condition. It was this male-lineage genetic link and mentorship focus that gave Adam 2 Adam its name. The organization’s mission is to generate awareness of Asperger’s Syndrome, and to promote creativity, relaxation, music, and humor as therapy for the mildly autistic – ultimately empowering individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome to forge strong social bonds. Eichler leads outreach and mentoring programs in partnership with JESPY House. He is also available for public speaking engagements at schools and community organizations. To learn more, visit http://www.facebook.com/adam2adam.

Watch the full video on YouTube - Melvin Makes His Comedy Debut - Tribute to Those With Asperger's Syndrome Video

Media Inquires:
Peter Eichler
4 South Orange Ave., #309
South Orange, NJ 07079
Phone: 732-841-4752
peter.eichler(at)aol(dot)com

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