Q: My boyfriend (an aspie) will just blurt things out and it can be embarrassing. What can I do to help him stop doing this or at least notice it is not appreciated?
A: This is a great question and it sounds like you are a patient and caring person. First understand “mind blindness” (Theory of Mind). Read research by Uta Frith. Basically, he is unaware of those around him, the situation or for that matter, whether anyone cares to listen. He has a thought, idea or opinion and he just expresses it. Generally the problem is that since he struggles to think that others may not share the opinion or agree is the last thing he probably is noticing. The good news is, that he can become more aware with guidance, patience and his wanting to. The blurt just happens but learning to “filter” is possible with some work. Learning that others have thoughts, ideas, opinions and feelings is a step towards connecting socially. I have to work very hard in order to do this myself but it is possible.
Manners and politeness are important. Also, understand that when he blurts, you can guarantee that it is honest. Something that can be rare with all the unwritten rules, white lies and complicated usual social messages.
* We continued our discussion via email
Q: What advice do you have for me about puberty and sensory over-stimulation? I am a girl.
A: Oh my, that is a very complicated question with no easy answer since as well as each person experiencing puberty differently, there is also the question of personal sensory experiences. If you do not have someone to ask the questions that you definitely will have, start with a scientific research on a reputable medical site to better understand the stages your body will experience and why. Also be sure to develop a clearer understanding of your possible emotional and psychological changes due to the changes in your hormones.
Now, about the sensory issues. There will be many physical body changes happening to you from the growth of breasts, development of pubic hair, underarm and leg hair etc (no worries, you will not get man hair) Your body structure will change but this too is quite natural. Continue to eat healthy and exercise. The cramping and discomfort of having your period is definitely something you should research and try different strategies to ease these experiences. focus on your hygiene as you may develop problems with body odor (shower more but don’t let it rule your life (OCD), just be aware). Decide on the product you wish to use during your period flow and be careful to change a tampon regularly as directed (this is important)
Now for the main issue: You can now become pregnant if you engage in sexual intercourse! Be wise, be careful. You are at an age that boys tend to want to try new things and to be quite honest, due to our inability to understand most social cues and also we tend to be naive and vulnerable, I would like to stress your own personal safety. Be very aware of social situations. If a situation does not feel right..LEAVE!! Read these awesome books:Safety Skills for Asperger Women by Liane Holliday Willey
and The Aspie Girl’s Guide to Being Safe with Men by Debi Brown
* note: we continue to email each other and walk step by step through the challenges of puberty
Q: I am nine and kids are mean to me. what can I do.
A: It is never okay to be mean to anyone! You MUST talk to people about this. Talk to you parents. Talk to your teachers. Talk to your brothers or sisters (if you have any) Talk to any of your relatives. Talk to your principal. Talk to a police person. Talk to the librarian. The more people you talk to about bullying, the better chance of someone listening. And please remember..you have a voice. If kids are hurting you, do not be quiet. Yell loudly, ” STOP HURTING ME!” Someone will hear you. I can hear you but because I am not there, I send you a hug and want you to know…I care. You are important and must not remain quiet about bullying.
Q: I am a non-verbal autistic girl. I want to be able to express how I feel but can’t. Do you have any suggestions.
A: Writing is one way. You just expressed yourself very well in the question you just asked. I heard you! It can be lonely when you are not being understood by those around you but you do have a voice. If you can draw/paint..express yourself. Write, play an instrument, dance. Learn sign language. There are more ways than just the verbal form of communication in which to express yourself. Find your own way and then speak loudly. You have a voice
Q: Do all aspies get angry so quickly?
A: Everyone whether on the spectrum or not will show the emotion of anger but for aspies, the blunt force can sometimes appear overwhelming to others. We are generally “all or nothing” on everything that we do so you may not see or be aware that the emotions are already building in the AS individual so it will seem as though it is a burst of anger. Generally, when people are becoming angry, there are signs that you can read that an emotion is escalating but with your aspie friend, there may be no warning. Just remember that once the emotion is out, all it may take for the situation to calm, is time. Quiet time and little response will generally calm the moment and if you give them time to process what happened, you will quite likely be able to have a calm conversation and come to a balance.
Q: How much disclosure about Aspergers should I give when I start a job?
A: Disclosure of special or personal requirements will depend on the job requirements and what will be required from you in order for you to perform the tasks involved. Since each individual on the spectrum has their own strengths and weaknesses and depending on the employment you are attempting to be hired for, disclosure may be as minimal as saying that you need point form instructions or full disclosure which could mean providing your employer with information on Asperger Syndrome and a detailed document of your needs. Examples: sensory issues, processing time, difficulty with fine motor skills, social inadequacies of understanding, etc.
If there are safety issues due to your differences….definitely speak to your employer about these issues!!!! I have found that, depending on the type of employment and the issues that I personally feel may be a struggle for me, I will explain the important aspects of my difficulties but also stress my strengths when I begin a new job. Then I work hard and try to do a good job and disclose any problems I may be having if an issue arises. Example: My boss started telling me this long story, to which I was becoming bored and she could see that I was no longer listening. Finally she asked me if I could fix the problem she was trying to make me aware of. I said I would and then returned and explained that it works best for me if instructions were delivered in a brief, direct manner. As in required task and purpose. I have found this to also work in my personal life.
Disclosing that you have differences must be your own personal choice. In my experience, it depends on each situation and the need for information to be shared. In all honesty, I have found that informing employers and coworkers of my differences has produced as many negatives outcomes as it has positive. My advice would be, like a small leak in a tire, release information as needed but never be afraid to disclose the honesty of who you are. Discloser does not only include the things you may struggle with. Be honest about your strengths also. Then do your best and show what you are capable of…being a valued employee!!!! You be the teacher!
P.S. Just because you have a LABEL for your differences, remember the typical person is not going to disclose their differences…especially the negative ones.
Q: I am an adult female diagnosed with Aspergers and OCD’s. I know that I have good things to give to people but it seems like everyone only sees the bad things about me. I feel like I am useless! Can you give me some advice please.
A: You are neither bad nor useless. Even though I do not know you, I can definitely say that these feelings you are having are quite normal if your life has been one of more questions than answers. The usual path of receiving a diagnosis is discovery, acceptance and eventually finding that comfort in realizing that you are a person of value. Most of what is written or said about Aspergers is negative and most of what people on the spectrum hear, is also negative. Realize your strengths! Develop your attributes and stop listening to the negatives.
Someone that is emotionally abused is generally so beaten down in the area of their self worth that they no longer feel they have any purpose or value. If those around you have neglected to assist you to see your positive attributes, you need to do that for yourself! Only you can truly make the difference for you. You have to do the work but also surround yourself with people that are also positive and are patient and understanding. YOU HAVE WORTH NOW DISCOVER YOU AND REALIZE YOUR PURPOSE! I do not know you but I believe in you…do you?
Q: I seem to encounter the same problem, no matter where I work. I work, and what I loosely consider CO-WORKERS, stand around and talk instead of working. I get angry and I leave the job.
A: Sometimes we as Aspies can and will create our own problems on the job. It has been my own personal exerience and that of other Aspies that I know, that we can encounter difficulties on the job since we tend to “stay to the task” once we have learned it. This should not be a negative but it can become one if we must work amongst other people. Let me better explain. People generally spend an amount of time while at work engaging in “chit chat”, the very thing that we tend to avoid. While they are chatting, most Aspies will stay to task, keeping on schedule and in the strategic order of how they were instructed to perform the job. If they also have OCDs, it makes it even more difficult since the job then MUST be done in a certain fashion, by a certain time and completed.
Now, here is where the problems may arise. If you continue to stay on task, it may cause difficulties since the other employees will either feel negative towards you since you may “make them look lazy” or even worse, they may realize that even if they do not do the job…YOU WILL!!!! The later has been my problem. I just cannot leave the work undone. I see and hear the other employees, standing around talking and not working but I will, at first, blame myself for not being capable of small talk and wish that I could do the ” be part of ” thing but eventually, I may become bitter… I feel gullible since I allowed myself to step into this situation. I put myself in this position. I will get the work done!! Partially because of who I am, partially because I know I have to work harder to stay at the job (especially if I disclosed my differences) and partially because I want to do a good job…that is what I was hired to do.
Even if they do choose to stand and talk, they know that I will stay on task and get the job done.
Pace yourself!!!! Stay to task but do so in a fashion that allows for you to relax and breathe. If you spend your time attempting to mingle and chit chat, it may create a whole new group of problems for you since it may not be your strong point to gossip and be interested in the small talk of your coworkers. DO YOUR JOB, NOT THEIRS! And learn to let go of the stuff that doesn’t get done…it is a job…not your life!!!! Just about any person is replacable in their position but if you do decide that this job is not for you, stay calm and leave on good terms, a reference letter is very handy.
Q: I am an adult Aspie and have tried many times to become and stay employed but this never seems to work out for me. It is not that I can’t or don’t do the assigned job tasks, I have many reference letters that speak highly of my work, the problem is the exact opposite. I tend to work so hard and efficiently, that it causes “hard feelings” among the other employees which then not only creates tension between them and me but also they work slower knowing I will pick up the slack since my OCDs will not let me leave work incomplete. Any suggestions?
A: The story you are telling is one that I have heard from many aspies and also lived myself.
To put this bluntly…you are being bullied and taken advantage of. So, my advice is, since you cannot change others, you must change you. Slow yourself down without allowing the quality of your work ethics to slip. Your OCDs are something you need to start with. Begin at home by doing things such as leaving a small task undone or moving some things out of place. Slowly you will become more comfortable with the fact that it is okay if some things are left undone or done later. Remember that at work, you are not the only employee!!!! Do your job but that doesn’t mean that you should do everyone elses. A good boss will be aware of your work ethics and production. It is difficult to give you a “perfect” answer to your question since each situation is so completely different but from my own experience my suggestion would be, focus on you and what you need to do to get your job done….period!!!
Q: My name is Jeff and I was diagnosed when I was 7. I am now 18. My mom and dad divorced. I live with my mom. She tries hard to help me but we never can talk. I don't know what to say to her. It is easier not to talk. I try to tell her things but she doesn't understand. she says I should try harder. I do try.
We have been like this for a long time but now we are doing better. I have a friend now and she helps me to learn about the social stuff. She has taught me things like listening to other people. She doesn't get mad at me if I say stuff that is wrong and makes other people mad. My mom and her talk about me and now my mom and I can talk some. Do you have a suggestion so I can learn not to say stuff that makes people mad.
A: It sounds like you have a good friend beside you and as hard as it is for you, your Mom is trying too.
The best things that worked for me as I was learning is 1. Be more aware of your surroundings (when you enter a room, pay attention to what is going on and wait to speak) 2. Before you BLURT anything out…say the word..”FILTER” to yourself. It stops your thought and gives you an opportunity to rethink what you are going to say. Keep trying Jeff…you are doing awesome.
Q: My name is Katy and I am a 23 year old that was recently diagnosed with A.S. I also have social anxiety disorder and OCD. I was told to check out your webpage and found so many things on there that I thought that you were talking about my life. I wish that my teachers had read the information when I was in school then maybe I would have done better. I tried hard but could never seem to get past the social parts to find my confidence to really focus on my acedemics. I did graduate but that was because my mum was a great support and really helped me. My mum died last year and I have been trying to find an advocate to help me with all the things I now need like housing, rent and stuff but mostly to have someone that I can talk to. Each time that I think I find one, they do not have much training to understand Asperger Syndrome. They spend so much time trying to fix me but do not help me to find employment and somewhere to live. They make me feel more broken. So after reading your information I was just wondering if you are a professional that can help me?
*I wrote Katy back and told her that no, I am not someone that has the educational background that would qualify me to be a professional. The only letters behind my name are “L.I.F.E.” My background beyond being an A.S. individual that has raised two children that are diagnosed with A.S. I have done extensive research in the areas of A.S.D., the Human Brain and sociology, psychology, educational laws and regulations, socialism, social justice and other areas that pertain to the wellbeing and advocacy rights of individuals with differences but the bulk of my knowledge is life experience and I still believe in humanity. The opinions I express, as with everyone, are my opinions and thoughts. We now correspond when needed and I have sent her information to assist her in finding an agency or individuals that may open doors for her.
Q: Hi my name is Ben and I am 32 years old. I was diagnosed when I was 22 and still live at home. I did not finish high school but study on my own. I do not have any friends besides the safe ones that I meet on-line. I like gaming, enjoy drawing and am interested in law.
I have tried very hard to fit in but for me to accomplish this, I cannot be me so I do find it easier to stay home and chat via computer. To be honest, I am scared of the world out there. It never seems to work out very good when I step into social situations but here is what I am doing, trying. I keep trying. Sometimes I do not know why I try so hard to conform when the social inadequecies that I witness are that of hurtful, spiteful and ego based ideals. If you watch the news or stay privy to current events, they are of injustices and wrongdoings that Typical individuals express upon each other so why do I keep trying? I try because I want to use the skills that I have to make a difference, a change. To create a life for myself by using my awareness of the injustices to allow for the just ideals to be put into place. I am currently studying within different aspects of the law and one day hope to find a position that will allow for me to make that difference. Until then, thanks for listening and to all the other aspies, find your way without losing you. To conform is to become something you are not, to adapt is to be yourself but develop techniques that allow you to progress in your chosen direction.
* Yeah Ben, keep going and do so as who you are. I appreciate and applaud your determination
Q: I am currently 17 years old and my boyfriend and I have been going out for almost a year now. It just so happens my boyfriend has aspergers. He’s such a wonderful guy and I love him to death. My boyfriend went through a lot of bullying in school; anything at all. They’d pick on him for wanting to play sports, they’d steal his toys and literally beat him up every single day. I know he has a hard time with those memories, so I was wondering if you had any tips for me? Is there something I could do to help ease the pain from his past?
A: Patience…Understanding…Acceptance….these are the gifts that you give to each other.
The past is what we lived. It does not have to define who we become.
Being bullied can leave an impact on any individual but it is how we choose to act or react to
bullying that will create the way we impose it into our lives.
I choose not to allow the bullying that I encountered to have me fear what I can accomplish if I
find the courage to try. What your boyfriend lived…is the past…
As long as he allows the anger and fear from the past to make his decisions for him…they (the bullies)
will always control him. The reality is…they have moved on in their lives and give very
little thought to what he is now doing in life. This is the true reality of bullying.
They do the deed and move on…the person that was bullied…tends to hang on to the past.
I cannot tell your friend how to face these things of the past but I can say…make a choice!!!!
To live his life as they decide..in fear….or stand up and see who he is NOW as a person…
He will see….he is no longer the same person that he was when they bullied him..
Have a look….see yourself now…
….you are a gift since you stand and walk beside him…..
Q: My son is a only child and is diagnosed Asperger’s and Ocd. He has a problem with when he does not win.We play games every day to teach him he cannot always win. He takes losses at home pretty well. At school every month you can buy tickets to win small prizes to support the school activities. He likes to buy the tickets but when he does not win he becomes very disappointed and this can lead to a melt down. He is 10 years old , weighs 150 lbs. and is foot 3 inches tall and one belt away from a black belt in Tae-kwan-do. He is not easy to control when he has a meltdown. Do you have any suggestions as to how we can teach him the disappointment of not winning and accepting it ?
A:The not knowing how to lose is quite normal but his understanding of losing and what the benefits
are of knowing HOW TO LOSE…should be where you focus his attention. Simple games such as Tic Tac Toe can teach many aspects of fair play, strategies, win/lose, patterning, turn taking. He is ten so the movie called War Games may help him learn.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHWjlCaIrQo this a link to the ending.
Do not worry, there is nothing violent, graphic or obscene in this movie. It was made in 1983
and stars Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy. It is about computers learning winning and losing.
The game tic tac toe is the lesson at the end. The computer that is supposed to be perfect and can never lose, and must learn that the only way to never lose is to not play the game. So then the computer learns and asks to play another game. This is a lesson your son can understand. We can’t all be good at everything but we may learn to be good a something. Like having good and bad happen in our lives, if we do not experience both, how can we understand or appreciate the other. If we never lose, how can we strive to improve and truly celebrate our wins. But to not play at all we would miss out on the fun and experience. We would be left sitting alone. I did this with my son, he still has
to have a moment of “AWWWWW DANG” ( like anyone would) if he loses…but he handles it much better now OCD’s can be directed to a positive…give him a white board in his room…break it into 3 categories.
Responsibilities (help with that one), his goals, his accomplishments. Only he gets to write on it. Then to learn to adapt the board and his categories so they work for him and others..it is a visual aide.
Changing his life is about attitude …his attitude. You can guide, you can open doors..but he must walk through. Be there to support him and let him know he is safe, and teach him for every action there is a reaction….he has a meltdown when he doesn’t get what he wants….he does not get to be part of the next time. He can join again…after that. He doesn’t even see or is not aware of the reactions around him when he melts down after losing…tape it!!!! Let him see and be sure to tape the others around him and explain their reactions since he cannot READ OTHERS
EMOTIONS AND FEELINGS…he will learn from this. Remember…he loves you and trusts you!!!!
Q: My child has HUGE anxieties and this is stopping her from doing so many things in her life that she wants to do. How can I help her?
A: Although it is very difficult for you to understand and rationize her anxiety, the perception and emotions of anxiety are very real to the individual. It is fear! Fear of the unknown. Fear of what is
misunderstood and the fear in what the individual is perceiving to be a threat.
Anxiety can be a good thing since, as humans, it can keep us safe from harm but when the rational perception of the anxiety is blurred by the fear of “worse case scenerio”, it then can envelop our lives and create difficulties. How do you help?
Guide her to challenge her anxiety. When she begins to show the signs of her anxiety, ask her to visually step back from the situation. This will allow her to not only see the situation differently but to assess the situation by challenging herself to overpower what she was perceiving. It will then become a self mind/body study. Her questions…what is in this situation that I fear? What do I believe will happen if I continue into this situation? What in the past has led me to feel these things MAY happen? In the past, when I was in these situations, what did actually happen and what was the outcome? Is this situation identical to the past situation? Am I the same person as I was in the past experience? What did I learn from the past and how can I make it different now? I will take small steps towards the fear…I will challenge my fear knowing that I am a different person now.
Anxiety is very real to the individual and only the individual can understand, learn and challenge what is creating the anxiety for them BUT…you are a major factor in their success also. Guide her and support her but do not create more barriers by overprotecting her.
She must take the first steps to identifying and experimenting with her anxiety triggers and as she does, assist her in developing the strategies and understanding to challenge and overcome.
Q: I am an adult Aspie and my question is, ” How do you know when people are being honest with their intentions to be your friend and are not just either curious or want to manipulate you because you are gullible.”
A: This is a sincere and honest question and one that I am not sure I can give you a definite answer to. I have learned that whether Aspie or Typical, being manipulated happens to both, although we tend to be a tad more naive in “catching on” that it is even happening. Personally, I am very gullible and admit it since I am also very fortunate to now have friends that will see and understand from a different perception. These are the people that I trust and have learned that it is best if I ask, rather than be caught in situations that I do not understand. If you do not have someone that you can trust, then I would only say…”IF IT DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT…THEN IT ISN’T RIGHT” Anything in life that when you are thinking about it, it causes you stress, you then need to take a different look at the situation. Be critical of what it is that you may lose or gain…do not stay only for the purpose of having a relationship so you will not be alone or to fit in. It is okay to say no to people and to walk away and there may be times where if you do not, you could become a casualty or create irreversible damage for your future endeavors. Making clear choices will not only help you to grow and learn but it may open up new opportunities for you. Just remember to learn the lessons as you go and admit when you were wrong. But also remember…..If you can’t be you….than it is the wrong connection. My friends are my friends because they are patient and understanding and they also know that I try really hard but I also stay who I am. When they tell me that I have behaviours that I need to adapt, they explain why and then help to guide me to a more socially acceptable behaviour. There are many social situations, emotions and circumstances that evade me but I do understand your fears and wish I could give you a more defined answer but societal rules and expectations change so quickly with each situation, the company and the needs or wants.
Curiosity, take advantage of it and become the teacher!!!!! You never know, you could make a difference for someone else and for yourself. Being an A.S. individual is difficult since we look typical but our quirks and behaviours will set us apart. Like anything in life, different makes people curious. Understand that those that stay near once the curiosity has worn off or those that really wish to know….teach them!!! You have an opportunity and it it unwise to allow opportunities to pass through your life without using them. I do apologize that I could not give you concrete answers. I am personally learning and teaching all of time so as I learn more, I will be in contact.
Q: I want to hug my child but it seems to hurt him. Is there a proper way to hug him so that it does not cause him to be anxious or distress?
A: Each person is different and the sensation that they feel from being touched varies with each individual so I can only answer from my own perspective. I myself did not like to be hugged although I craved to have the ability to experience and share this human behavior. I began by learning more about the meaning of the embrace and then attempting it, with set rules. 1. Ask the person first or have them ask you. Preparation is part of the experience since surprise is similar to being attacked (fight or flight response). 2. People tend to move their hands a lot when they embrace, DON’T! A firm but not abusive (like a squeeze from Aunt Jennie) embrace does not overstimulate the senses as much as a light embrace where you are not really committing. Do not pat or move your hands or body around. 3. A slight angle approach works best. Like with any animal, when you are approaching, if you go directly towards them, it is threatening and sending signals to back them out and away. A slight angle (not from rear or side) is a less intrusive approach. 4. Pay attention to the person’s response. If they start to tense up, slowly and gently release and step back out of their personal space (again on an angle). This will give them the message of, you respect their space and do not wish to harm them.
Be patient and understanding. Hugging can be very difficult. I have finally learned to accept and give a hug if I really trust the person but I do verbalize to them first what does not work for me. Still there are many times, due to my anxieties that any form of touch is too much and may push my sensory issues into over drive. It has been said that a picture says a thousand words…I have discovered that sometimes a hug speaks volumes so I keep trying. When you and your child are trying to communicate and he is struggling to express himself…ask him to try a hug instead of words…it may in time, come as a relief to him. He loves you but expressing this can be hard so open up his world by wanting to hug him for him and giving him time to adjust to what may become a expression of what he struggles to feel and say. I know that personally, a hug will always be difficult for me to experience although I can now hug and do appreciate a hug from those I REALLY trust. Mostly, it is more about me being able to touch or have those I trust touch me, that really sends the message that, I TRUST, LOVE AND APPRECIATE YOU. Hugging may never happen for him/her but the understanding of why people hug and that you want to hug him, is a gift. Being the person that they know understands….IS THE HUG!!!
Q: Our young son will hit us when he becomes angry but does feel remorse after he calms. How can we stop this from happening?
A: The reason you are the target is because he trusts you. This sounds like an odd statement but he knows you will not leave. This is a HUGE factor for any child but especially for someone that has or will become accustom to others not understanding and leaving. The phrase, “I’m used to it”, is one of the most honest and saddest phrases that an Aspie says but it is generally a reality.This does not mean to allow it to continue but the remorse is a good thing, he is aware. Always walk away unless he is in danger and be brief and direct in your statement as you walk away. Only say, “It is wrong to hurt me!” Do not confuse him with more conversation. You may try to video tape him and then play it back to him when he is in a calm state much later on. Do not show it to him right after or during his emotional outburst since he will already be confused and then tired from the venting of emotions. Let him ask the questions or make the statements and answer very briefly since the processing has already begun when he sees himself on video. There is a very good chance that his “lashing out” is due to being over stimulated, not defiance as you would suspect. Another thing that may help, is to give him a way to safely vent his emotion. Keep a box of cans and safe boots, in a spot that he can access. When he feels the need to vent, show him that he can go put on his boots and crush cans ( don’t tell him but he is crushing your recycling for you at the same time. The fact that he has to “control” himself until he gets his boots and then begins to crush cans, is a step for him in being more aware and controlling himself until he can release in a more appropriate and acceptable manner. To let him continue to hit you, is not an option!
Q: My child struggles in class. He is afraid he will be teased by other children, if he says or does something wrong. Do you have any suggestions to help him?
A: Part of the problem may be the seating arrangement. Ask the teacher to place him beside or “buddy up” your child with a child that has a good heart. Also mention to the teacher that your child may process slower and to provide an opportunity for him to answer through other avenues. Work on his confidence. Do not get stuck on what he may be struggling with. Use his interests to do tasks that are hard (ex. airplanes- 400 people on a plane and each has two pieces of luggage. How much luggage is on the plane?) Help him to be more aware of his surroundings, this will assist with how he acts and reacts. Have the teacher send the next day homework so that you can prepare your child for some of the expectation of the work. Write down his thoughts and ideas on the subject to be studied so he will have guide notes for the next day class. Developing even one good friend that your child can connect to will be worth more than getting an “A”. Volunteer in class if you can and help your child find that one child. If you cannot volunteer, ask the E.A. or teacher to assist with this aspect.
Q: The noise levels at school and busy places when we go into public, bother my A.S. child. This makes it very difficult for him to focus in class and we try not to go anywhere that may set him off. We do like to do things as a family and do not want his siblings to miss out on opportunities because of possible outcomes. Any suggestions?
A: School can be very overstimulating for the senses. It can be difficult to focus but, having the option of an Ipod/Mp3 player may help give him a calming outlet. Personally, I don’t leave home without my MP3 player, since I am never sure when I may become overwhelmed. If your child has an IEP, I would suggest that you have the use of the player, be included on the IEP documentation. It is within your child’s right to have this device to assist him. (I would suggest that you only record instrumental music onto the player. You would not want him/her to start singing in the classroom) The device can be used when he/she is doing independent work or when anxiety/meltdown is pending. When out in public, prepare your child as much as you can for what he/she may encounter but also devise a plan so that he/she may let you know that there is a problem. Do not always run, try to help your child develop strategies to deal with the problem. Start now to work together as a family to find solutions that work for all of you. The family is what your A.S. child depends on to assist him/her to learn.
Q: How should the teachers and I respond to the meltdowns of my child?
A: Each individual has their own perception and reaction to whatever it is that may be overwhelming your child’s senses. Typically, people are only looking at what “just occurred” or “is occurring”, in order to find the trigger of why the anxiety/meltdown is happening. The trigger may have begun long before the reaction to it. Generally, those trying to help, are looking for the answer and to “fix” the problem as quickly as possible so they may start asking questions. They hover or crowd the individual or restrain them. Restraining is only needed if there is a danger to the individual or others or if he/she is throwing or breaking things. If the meltdown is just a verbal outburst, how it is dealt with will define whether the behaviours change over the long term. Stand Back!!! Assess the situation and know the individual child. Let him know of your presence in a brief statement, “I am here beside you. I will wait”. Sometimes a firm but not rough touch, on the arm can bring the individual back to you but do not rush in, since this may cause it to escalate. A meltdown is a release of emotions and must be processed. The typical person can express themselves to release slowly but those with A.S. tend to become frustrated and “hold in” until they burst. The over-stimulation on an A.S. individual is like they are a spring that slowly compresses as they try very hard to hold back their anxieties from all the over-stimulation upon their senses. Sometimes they can make it through the day before it lets loose but not always. They need the chance to decompress slowly.
Once the “storm” has passed and the focus has changed, the process of discovering together what the cause was, must now begin. Asking how they felt or what happened is not going to work. In a small child, drawing where they were when they became upset is a good starting place. From there you may ask about that place, what bothered them and why they needed to go there. In a older child, you can discuss the “outside environment” and what was happening around him/her when the individual was “away”. To find the cause, sometimes it helps if the individual understands there is a reaction for each action, including theirs. Always give time for them to process the information and test the theory since Aspies need to learn in their own distinct manner. Personally, I am not aware of the outside environment when I “go away”. A caring individual that patiently explains what they were understanding of the experience, assists me to try to develop better coping strategies for me.
Be patient!!!! Everyone, including Aspies want to learn and belong and be who they are without fear of judgement.
Q: My son is 17 and diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and is basically a shut in.
I worry about his future, both emotionally and financially. Any suggestions?
A: Every one needs interaction in order to understand a higher sense of purpose and to increase their confidence. It can be exhausting for an Aspie to interact if they do not possess the social skills that will aide them. Start at home. Help them learn the skills that they will need to function on their own (cooking, cleaning, shopping, hygiene etc) Set up white boards in the house to help them learn to create a routine (we are good at sticking to routines) and take responsibility for their existence. Role play with them some actual social situations that they may encounter. Prepare them for situations, such as: shopping, paying bills, financial budgeting, job interviews (check adult section of this website for more info). As long as you are doing these things for them, he does not have to take responsibility. Find groups of interest or places to volunteer assisting others so that he can learn to see beyond himself. Develop his interest into a marketable career (ex.computer programming). He may be an Aspie but the basic need to survive is part of who he is… so give him the skills and opportunity to build his own confidence by learning and accomplishing for himself.
“Independence is a reward for believing in yourself”.
to teach about financal responsibilities, assist him to set up an account for his future and explain the purpose.
A Registered Disability Savings Plan is a good place to begin (Canada) http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/disability
(providing you have a T2201 Certificate) This must be filled out by a qualified practitioner
Q: I am an A.S. adult. I struggle to have friendships since due to past experiences, I expect the friendship to end. I worry all the time that I will do something that will anger or upset the other person and they will leave. They will say that I am too much work. Do you have any suggestions?
A: The statements you have made, are statements that are typically heard from many Aspies. “Too much work”, there is A.S. book titled, ” It’s so much work to be your friend”, that is how true it is to A.S. individuals. A typical A.S. response to having a friendship end or to being left out of social events ” I’m used to it”. Worrying, is partially due to past experiences but also due to not understanding social rules and expectations. When we worry, we generally begin thinking of the worst case senerios, we have doubt and begin thinking, “what could happen”, “what we should have done”, “what we wish we didn’t do”. My suggestion would be to trust in those that you have as friends or family. Ask them! Yes, this will be hard to try to put into words an emotion or feeling that you do not understand. This is where the trust part comes in. Trust in the friend to be patient and understanding. If they do not show you this understanding then maybe it is best to move on but do not assume the worse with each person. They became your friend because of who you are so be who you are. You do not understand something or are worried, ask and hear what the response is. From experience, I have been and still struggle with the same worry but I have learned to trust in those closest to me and I can honestly say, they are true friends.
Q: My son tends to play rough or to just hit out at other children when things do not go his way. How can I stop him from doing this?
A. Using visuals of different situations may help. Asking your son how the other person feels is not something he will be able to answer. You need to tell him how the other person feels when he hits them and explain LOGICALLY how his actions create a chain reaction which will make the other children not want to be near him and why. You could naturally understand or learned the rules to getting on with others, he doesn’t. Social mindblindness is real and what you think he should know, he honestly doesn’t know. Teach him with patience and understanding. Remember that he wants to have friends but needs help. Just as he is learning to read, do math…he needs his own teacher, techniques and guidance to learn what is okay and not okay socially and WHY for each situation.Do not accept excuses..hitting is not good. Angry outburst are generally fear and frustration but again the behaviour must be adapted to a positive remedy. ACTION-REACTION..explain with logic
Q: What does a meltdown look like and what do you do to help the person?
A: What is typically called a meltdown, is a overwhelming burst of emotion or over-stimulation being expressed in an action or reaction to the influence on the brain and senses. What is meant by this is, typically people have a type of slow leak when something is bothering them or overwhelming them. They may have the skills to vent slowly and calmly or to use strategies that make sense to release or avoid an outburst. When someone is angry or frustrated, they yell, or voice their opinion loudly, some even strike out. What happens if you do not know how to put into words or understand the emotion you are feeling? What do you do when you know that within society, you have learned that this type of behavior is not acceptable or welcomed? How do you express something that you do not fully understand or cannot process quickly enough or perceive as others do? How do you explain that an environmental factor overstimulated your senses and very quickly a tornado formed in your brain putting your senses into overdrive? You Meltdown!!! The volcano of anxiety that formed, erupts into a verbal or physical flow of exterior emotion that sees, hears and feels no boundaries and without direction, it flows freely from the individual that is erupting. This is both frightening for the individual and comforting since it releases all of what they have been holding inside. Someone with A.S. wants to be accepted and be part of society but the social blindness and expectations of society and life can become overwhelming.
What do you do as the person within distance of the flow of the eruption? If they are not self harming…stand near but do not add to the individuals over-stimulation by asking questions and touching them. They are releasing and cannot take in when they are putting out. Try to calm them by being stable, standing strong and patiently so there is something/someone for the individual to know is safe. If the person is endangering themselves, others or damaging things, yes, they should be restrained in a compassionate yet firm manner. Still do not ask questions such as, “What is wrong?” or “What can I do?”. Do not, tell them to stop this behavior, they are not doing it voluntarily, they are trying!!!! Later, after they have calmed, sit and have an emotionless conversation about the occurrence and develop strategies to better cope with or avoid the emotions being left to build to a meltdown. Ask them what it is that you, someone who cares, should do to assist them. Meltdowns are an expression of the individual, help them to trust in you and work together to develop skills so they may learn to vent slowly or calm themselves. We all express ourselves in different ways within society but when you do not understand society and are trying hard to maneuver your way through…sooner or later you are going to step on a land mine and the explosion becomes inevitable, you meltdown. Or if you are attempting to stifle your emotions, like everyone else, they will erupt but yours will not vent out slowly. Create a map/plan and learn who and what the person wants or needs in order for them to avoid or stifle a meltdown.