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10 Things People with Asperger’s Syndrome Want You to Know

10 Things People with Asperger’s Syndrome Want You to Know

An estimated 68 million people are known to have Asperger’s syndrome, which was more recently folded under the umbrella heading of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the U.S. However, numerous researchers believe that this number is actually probably much higher because many adults with this condition have never been diagnosed. If you know, or suspect, that someone in your life has Asperger’s, it is important to be aware that their lives are filled with many challenges and strengths, regardless of how functional they appear to be.

1. Every Person with Asperger’s is Impacted by Their Symptoms Differently

There is a saying in the autistic community: “If you’ve met one person with Asperger’s, you’ve met one person with Asperger’s.” This is a reflection of the fact that a wide variety of symptoms and traits can be attributed to Asperger’s and autism in general, and everyone reacts to them differently.

For example, some individuals with Asperger’s have such a high pain tolerance that it can be dangerous, while others feel pain much more intensely than people who are neurotypical. In other words, it is important to be cognizant of the fact that each person with Asperger’s will be challenged in different ways by having a neurodiverse brain.

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2. Movie and TV Representations Are Often Over the Top

Some people with autism are similar to depictions found in movies such as “Rain Man” and “Jane Wants a Boyfriend,” but it would be erroneous to believe that these representations are accurate for everyone. Asperger’s symptoms are often hidden by people and may only be easily observed by those who know them very well. In fact, girls and women with Asperger’s are especially adept at blending in, and this can cause them to go undiagnosed for several decades. When you combine this with a flawed methodology that looks primarily at boys and more extreme cases, it becomes easy to understand why movies show over the top examples, but this is not truly indicative of the lives that most individuals with Asperger’s actually have.

3. A Sensory Diet Doesn’t Involve Food

One of the biggest challenges about Asperger’s is regulating sensory input in order to avoid becoming overloaded. A sensory diet is meant to help the individual down and upcycle as needed. For example, being out in public causes someone with Asperger’s to experience a lot of incoming information, ranging from noises to lights.

Some people choose to wear noise-cancelling headphones in public to block out some of this sensory input. It is also common to reduce time spent socializing, exercise daily and engage senses in positive ways such as burning certain types of incense or blowing off steam via martial arts. As an added bonus, some of these activities can help improve motor skills and coordination, which are often less developed. In many cases, a sensory diet can make the difference between a good and a bad day.

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4. Meltdowns Are Embarrassing but Often Unavoidable

Everyone loses their temper or cries sometimes, but this is not what is meant by a meltdown. Adults with Asperger’s typically have a more difficult time with emotional regulation, and they also need to pay close attention to sensory overload. When they become overloaded or fail to have their emotional and sensory needs met for an extended period of time, a meltdown can occur. This is an often embarrassing reaction to struggling to fit in to the neurotypical world.

It is important to note that a meltdown, which is often characterized by an extended period of crying and the inability to properly articulate feelings, is not something that is being done to try to manipulate someone or to control the situation. Instead, it happens because the individual loses their ability to control their emotions as a result of their sensory processing issues.

5. Seeking Medical Care can be Difficult

Receiving medical care is often difficult for people with Asperger’s for a wide number of reasons. In some cases, it is hard to find a medical professional who has experience with adult autism. Social issues and feeling extremely uncomfortable with others touching them can also hinder those with Asperger’s and prevent them from seeking out regular medical assistance. Fortunately, online medical communities such as Lybrate enable these individuals to speak to a doctor without leaving their house.

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6. Lack of Eye Contact Doesn’t Mean Lack of Attention

Making and keeping eye contact is not easy for many people with Asperger’s. Women often adapt better to this social requirement, but either way, the amount of eye contact that someone makes with you is not a good indication of whether or not they are paying attention. Individuals with Asperger’s are often noted for their attention to detail and ability to see things that others don’t, so make sure that you don’t hold their lack of eye contact against them or assume that they are not taking in what you are saying. On the other hand, don’t assume that someone who can make eye contact cannot have Asperger’s.

7. The Autistic Community is Divided about the Autism Speaks Organization

The autistic community has been involved in many controversies surrounding the organization Autism Speaks. Otherwise known by their catchphrase “light it up blue,” Autism Speaks has a history of using language and symbols that many with Asperger’s find to be demeaning. The group also does not have any people with autism on its board, and their focus on finding a cure for autism is understandably offensive to neurodiverse individuals who are high functioning and do not feel the need to be cured. On the other hand, there are many parents of autistic children who are committed to helping Autism Speaks with the goal of finding a cure. Due to this, the community is extremely divided on this topic.

8. Routines and Planning Really Do Make Life More Enjoyable

Movies and TV shows sometimes poke fun at the idea of those with Asperger’s needing routines. However, the reality is that having a firm plan for the day, along with incorporating specific routines, is one of the best ways to make life feel less chaotic and more sensory friendly. When these routines and plans are interrupted, it can cause a lot of emotional distress. This is something to always keep in mind when you will be spending time with someone who has Asperger’s.

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9. No One “Looks” Autistic

One common complaint within the autistic community is that people say things such as “you don’t look autistic.” Perhaps this is meant to be a compliment, but it really shows a lack of understanding of what it means to be on the spectrum. One person with Asperger’s might regularly exhibit certain behaviors that make them stand out, but another person may be able to restrain most of these traits in public. This does not mean that either of them looks less or more autistic because the reality is that they both have the same neurological condition. The odds are high that you know people with autism, even if they haven’t told you or been diagnosed yet, so avoid using harmful phrases based on stereotypes.

10. Individuals with Asperger’s Often Excel in Certain Fields

Someone with Asperger’s may have a hard time socializing or spending a lot of time in a crowded store, but this does not mean that they are unable to excel professionally. In fact, some companies specifically seek out employees with Asperger’s due to their attention to detail. Asperger’s is often associated with several other positive traits, including loyalty, dependability, a strong sense of right and wrong, honesty, persistence, passion, a specific talent and a unique way of looking at the world.

Despite these similar traits, women and men may fit best into different careers. For example, men with Asperger’s are often drawn to jobs in the tech field, but many women end up doing something creative such as writing, art or photography. Singer Susan Boyle provides a prime example of the talented side of Asperger’s.

Routines are vital to those with Asperger’s, but they also need to schedule downtime in order to recharge. When these people are given the support and freedom they need to embrace their strengths and minimize the challenges that can be associated with Asperger’s, they are able to lead very fulfilling lives and have a positive impact on their friends, family and coworkers.

Featured photo credit: Garry Knight via flickr.com

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Holly Chavez

Writer, Entrepreneur, Small Business Owner

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How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

His motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • He riles up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

Becoming the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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