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15 Things to Remember When You Love Someone with Autism

15 Things to Remember When You Love Someone with Autism

People with ASD (autism spectrum disorders) face enormous challenges. In many cases, autism flies under the radar. But if sufferers get the right kind of support and encouragement, it can make an enormous difference.

In the UK, about 1 in 100 people are liable to suffer from this incurable condition, while the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in the USA estimates that 1 in 68 births may have this disease. Some experts say that as many as 66% of adults with autism are not getting adequate support.

If you have a family member suffering from autism—which also includes Asperger’s and other co-morbid conditions—here are 15 ways you can love them and support them.

1. Learn about autism

Look out for some of the early symptoms so that you can get a diagnosis and make sure your child is on the fast track for better treatment and support at home and at school. The earlier, the better.

Some babies seem abnormally focused on certain objects and do not make eye contact. Toddlers may develop normally, but around the age of three you may notice that they are paying no attention to the normal social signals. The main problems occur when they display a lack of social interaction skills and will not want to share toys and mingle with other kids. They become obsessed with repetitive movements or behaviour which is often referred to as “stimming.”

Severity of symptoms will vary widely and some kids may only be mildly affected. But early symptoms usually center on a language delay, or the ability to relate to others and behave in a flexible way. Once you start learning about the disorder, you will feel more empowered and better able to cope as the child grows up.

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A must-read novel is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, which provides a wonderful insight into the strange world of an autistic child who decides to become a detective!

2. Understand your child better

A key to great support will come from studying the child closely and realizing what makes them uncomfortable and badly behaved. Notice what makes them feel at ease and more co-operative. Listen to the sounds they make and notice their facial expressions especially when they are hungry, irritable, or tired.

3. Discover your child’s talents

We should keep in mind that 30% of these kids have an IQ which is in the normal range. About 10% of autistic children have rather special intellectual abilities and skills which are remarkable. This certainly makes up for their lack of social skills. Let me list a few for you:

  • Powerful memory skills
  • Musical talent
  • Artistic skills
  • Math skills
  • Honesty
  • Intense focusing skills

Check out this link for kids and teens with autism who displayed enormous talent.

Many children can read fluently, memorize large chunks of texts, do calendar calculation, and dismantle or assemble things. Help your child discover his or her niche by letting them explore their passions and interests.

If your child loves animals, get him to help out a local animal shelter.

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4. Help them overcome language difficulties

Autistic children may have problems with understanding idioms and metaphors, not to mention sarcasm and jokes. Time to simplify things by speaking clearly without using fancy metaphors.

Don’t tell a child that something is “a piece of cake.” Just say, “this is really easy.” Similarly, it is better to say you are “really busy” instead of “busy as a bee.”

5. Resist labelling your child

Everybody loves a label because it defines the problem and the boundaries. On the other hand, this can be negative because it classifies a person and this is too limiting. Full acceptance of what autism involves can help us to accept our children as they are. They will have quirks, oddities and limits. Accept the differences, celebrate little successes so that your child will gain self-esteem. Resist using ‘normal’ children as a yardstick for your child’s progress.

6. Break down instructions

Teachers of autistic children need to concentrate on the students’ strengths in concrete thinking and learning by heart. They can effectively use visual aids in helping students learn, gain self-esteem, and improve self-control.

Both parents and teachers need to break down instructions into individual units instead of giving too many in a short space of time.

7. Use more visuals

Using pictures and drawings in the home can often avoid problems and accidents. They are also an invaluable aid to bridging the communication gap between the child, parents, and teachers.

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The great thing about visuals is that they do not disappear, like words do, into thin air! They can help the child to put things in order so that they can learn a skill step by step. They are a great aid for rehearsing and practising, whether they are school tasks or household chores.

8. Use routines and schedules consistently

Children and adults suffering from autism thrive on well-established routines and schedules.

Having an organized schedule when meals, school, treatment and play time happen with unfailing regularity is a great help. It is advisable to keep interruptions or changes to a bare minimum, and as far as possible you should warn the child in advance. Kids tend to become fixated with one object or task and when this is removed, all hell can break loose.

9. Reach out for support

Find a local organization in your area which helps and supports families who are coping with autism. Sometimes they have a helpline and you will be able to exchange experiences and get advice from other people who are living with this condition.

10. Help with sensory issues

One of the things we learn about autism early on is how kids and adults can be hypersensitive to most sensory perceptions. This will include touch, light, smell and sounds. Researchers at UC San Francisco found that autistic children’s brains are wired differently, which partially accounts for their sensory perception issues. Basically, they have difficulty in processing all stimulation coming from the senses.

Attending shows or watching TV with its garish colors and loud crashing sounds can be traumatic for kids. This explains the success of The Lion King which was hailed as the first autism-friendly production in history!

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Common problems arise when kids scream uncontrollably if their faces get wet or they try to eat inedible things. One possible solution is to note what usually triggers these responses and make an effort to avoid them. It must be said that autistic kids are not always consistent in their reaction to certain stimuli.

11. Decide which treatment plan is best

No one size fits all when it comes to the best treatment. It is alarming to learn that there are over 400 treatments according to the WebMD site. Each treatment has to be tailor made for your child. It will certainly include a very predictable routine, your child’s interests, and activities which are highly structured. Teaching tasks are always step by step. In addition, there are features in place for rewarding positive behaviour and celebrating successes. Behavior therapy is the one treatment which has shown the most promise.

12. Get up to speed on your child’s rights

A child who suffers from autism or a similar disorder has certain rights at school and in society. The parents may be the only advocates they have so it is important to know what is available and how it can benefit your child. Again, your local support group will be able to help you out on this one. It will also depend on which country or state you live in. It is important that you know whether special education services or IEP is available in your state and you need to be actively involved in it. It will also help you deal with issues at home, and teamwork here can be of great assistance. You may have to insist on getting a second, independent opinion about your child’s diagnosis. You can also request an IEP meeting if you feel that your child’s needs are not being catered to.

13. Build in sensory breaks

Some repetitive actions and movements are a comfort to the autistic person. He or she will find solace in them and it is recommended that they have a sensory break every few hours. Individual needs will vary. But activities like rocking, spinning, rubbing something, or even wearing a weighted blanket can help. Getting exercise too is a great way to help with calming down. There is some excellent advice in the book by Martha Herbert, a researcher at Harvard, called The Autism Revolution: Whole-Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can Be.

14. Helping teens and adults look for jobs

Employment prospects for people with autism can be a problem. There are encouraging signs that nonprofit organizations are leading the way in making employers more aware of the unique talents that autistic people can bring to the workplace. One of these is Specialisterne USA which was founded by Thorkil Sonne whose youngest son has autism. Their organization is hoping to create 100,000 jobs in the next year or so in the USA.

15. Brad’s story will encourage you

Brad suffers from autism and cannot speak. But from an early age, his father spotted his enormous talent for putting things together, like model aeroplanes and furniture. He now has his own furniture assembly business. Watch the video to learn how autism can lead to great opportunities and creativity.

Let us know in the comments how you have supported a loved one with autism.

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on October 17, 2019

How to Spend More Quality Time with Your Partner

How to Spend More Quality Time with Your Partner

You see your partner every single day. They are the first person you talk to in the morning and the last person you kiss goodnight.

But does seeing each other day in and day out equal a healthy relationship? Not necessarily.

Spending quality time with your partner is the best way to ensure your relationship stays healthy and strong. This means going above and beyond sitting together while you watch Netflix or going out for the occasional dinner. You deserve more from your relationship – and so does your spouse!

What does quality time mean? It means spending time with your spouse without interruption. It’s a chance for you to come together and talk. Communication will build emotional intimacy and trust.

Quality time is also about expressing love in a physical way. Not sex, necessarily (but that’s great, too!) but through hand-holding, cuddling, caressing, and tickling. Studies show that these displays of affection will boost partner satisfaction.[1]

So how do you spend quality time with your partner? Here are 13 relationship tips on making the most out of your time with your partner.

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1. Recognize the Signs

If you want a healthy relationship, you have to learn how to recognize the signs that you need to spend more quality time together.

Some telltale signs include:

  • You’re always on your phones.
  • You value friendships or hobbies over quality time with your spouse.
  • You aren’t together during important events.
  • You are arguing more often or lack connection.
  • You don’t make plans or date nights.
  • You’re not happy.

If you are experiencing any of these relationship symptoms, know that quality time together can reverse the negative effects of the signs above.

2. Try New Things Together

Have you ever wanted to learn how to play an instrument or speak another language? How about skydive or ballroom dance?

Instead of viewing these as solo hobbies and interests, why not involve your partner?

Trying new activities together builds healthy relationships because it encourages spouses to rely on one another for emotional and physical support.

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Shared hobbies also promote marital friendship, and the Journal of Happiness Studies found that marital satisfaction was twice as high for couples who viewed each other as best friends.[2]

3. Schedule in Tech-Free Time

Your phone is a great way to listen to music, watch videos, and keep up-to-date with friends and family. But is your phone good for your relationship?

Many couples phone snub, or ‘phub’, one another. Studies show that phubbing can lower relationship satisfaction and increase one’s chances of depression.[3]

Reduce those chances by removing distractions when spending quality time together and showing your partner they have your full attention.

4. Hit the Gym as a Couple

One way you can spend more time together as a couple is by becoming workout partners. Studies show that couples are more likely to stay with their exercise routine if they work out together.[4] Couples also work out harder than they would solo. One study found that 95 percent of couples who work out together maintained weight loss compares to the 66 percent of singles who did.[5]

Join a gym, do at-home couples’ workouts, try couples yoga, hit the hiking trails, or get your bikes out. No matter which way you choose to exercise, these healthy activities can promote a healthy relationship.

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5. Cook Meals Together

Pop open a bottle of wine or put some romantic music on while you get busy – in the kitchen, of course!

One of the best relationship tips for spending quality time together when you both have busy schedules is to cook meals together.[6]

Spice things up and try and prepare a four-course meal or a fancy French dish together. Not only is this a fun way to spend your time together, but it also promotes teamwork.

If all goes well, you’ll have a romantic date night meal at home that you prepared with your four hands. And if the food didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped, you are guaranteed to have a laugh and create new memories together.

6. Have a Regular Date Night

Couples experience a greater sense of happiness and less stress when they are spending quality time together.[7] One of the biggest relationship tips for a healthy partnership is to include a date night in your weekly routine.

The National Marriage Project found that having a weekly date night can make your relationship seem more exciting and helps prevent relationship boredom.[8] It also lowers the probability of divorce, improves your sex life, and increases healthy communication.

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Some great ideas for what to do on your date night include:

  • Have a movie marathon – Gather up your favorite flicks and cuddle up on the couch.
  • Play games together – Cards, board games, video games, and other creative outlets are a fun way to spend quality time together.
  • Recreate your first date – Go back to that restaurant and order the same meal you did when you first got together. You can spice up your evening by pretending you’re strangers meeting for the first time and see how sexy the night gets.
  • Plan a weekend getaway – There’s nothing better than traveling with the one you love.
  • Dinner and a movie – A classic!
  • Try a new restaurant – Make it your mission to rate and try all of the Mexican restaurants/Irish pubs/Italian trattorias in your area.
  • Have a long sex session – Intimacy promotes the release of the oxytocin hormone which is responsible for a myriad of great feelings.[9]

Here’re even more date night ideas for your reference: 50 Unique and Really Fun Date Ideas for Couples

Final Thoughts

The benefits of spending quality time together are endless. Here are just some of the ways it can contribute to a healthy relationship:

  • Improves emotional and physical intimacy
  • Lowers divorce rates
  • Improves communication
  • Reduces marital boredom
  • Bonds couples closer
  • Improves friendship
  • Boosts health
  • Reduces stress

These are all excellent reasons to start making date night a regular part of your week.

It’s easy to have a healthy relationship when you set aside dedicated time to share with your spouse. Try new things together, make your spouse your workout buddy, and look for innovative ways to be close and connected.

These relationship tips will bring great benefits to your marriage.

Featured photo credit: Allen Taylor via unsplash.com

Reference

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