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18 Things To Remember If You Love A Person With Autism

18 Things To Remember If You Love A Person With Autism

I still remember the first time a friend of mine from college found out his son had autism. “My wife and I face enough obstacles as it is, I wonder what more challenges an autistic child might add to the marriage”, he said. Will they ever find love and acceptance?

If you love and care for someone with autism, I am sure you need no introduction to the difficulties. However, this article about the autistic will inspire you and invoke compassion. Here are eighteen things to remember if you love someone with autism.

1. They are not broken – Autism is nobody’s fault

It is human nature to want to fix things that we think to be broken. When dealing with an autistic loved one, it is all too easy to go into “fix it” mode. However, this mindset can be very damaging. When trying to create a nurturing relationship, remember that your loved one didn’t choose autism. It is no more their fault than it is yours. It is important that you continue to show love, empathy and a genuine desire to understand the struggles they face.

2. They can be socially awkward

Everyone has had moments where they experienced social awkwardness. When you love someone who has autism, you will experience these frequent moments of social incompetence by association. The embarrassment and frustration that you feel is understandable. Yet remember that aggression, compulsive behavior and hyperactivity are symptoms of the condition and are outside of their control. Life is hard and short as it is, find happiness in learning to find some humor in these moments.

3. They can be hard to communicate with

From initial speech delays in their early developmental years to speech impairments as they progress, it can be hard to communicate with someone who is autistic. Loved ones will constantly have to find new and creative ways to connect. Remember that speaking isn’t the only way to talk.

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4. They have limited focus

If a loved one has autism, remember that they probably have limited focus. This means that they either will zone in on a few limited things or can’t focus on anything at all. However, you can turn this challenge into a positive opportunity. If you find one thing that they love, be supportive and help them flourish.

5. They can seem to lack emotion

Most of us have learned to communicate, connect and understand social clues with facial expressions and eye contact. Many people who have autism will lack expressive features. They avoid eye contact, often speak monotone and wear blank expressions. This may make them seem apathetic. They may not be able to communicate in a way we understand. But lack of expression does not mean lack of emotion or empathy.

6. They like structure

Many of our autistic loved ones are obsessive about repetition and routine. It is not always going to be easy in our normal lives of chaos and disorder to accommodate this need for balance. But understand that the more you can create an atmosphere of routine and stability, the more you allow them to thrive.

7. They love information – trivia

It’s not uncommon to find that our autistic loved ones are a wealth of information when it comes to random trivia statisticsand knowledge. Like a sponge, they have them ability to regurgitate stored information eloquently. While this behavior is often compulsive, remember that they are sharing what they love or care about with you. Be patient and take the time to listen to what could be their passion.

8. They are visual learners

There are many ways to learn, and being autistic makes you no different. In this age of information overload, visual support helps autistic kids move more efficiently through the day. Before we judge our loved ones with autism as slow, remember that even we “regular learners” sometimes need some visual aid to help us process and digest information better.

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9. They are not all the same

Too often we might want to box everyone with autism and characterize them as all being the same. This common misconception is flawed. The condition affects everyone differently and each case will require a different type of specialized attention. It is important to treat everyone with autism respectfully and celebrate their individuality. Knowing one person with autism means nothing because they are all so uniquely different.

10 . They have unusual eating behaviors

Unusual eating behavior is a common occurrence in most people who develop autism. Autistic kids have extreme sensitivities and preferences when it comes to food choices. This can be frustrating to deal with. Yet it is a problem that if you are aware of, can save a lot of heartache. However remember that in this age of diets, we all have at some point developed unusual eating habits.

11. They are resistant to touch

Sometimes all we want to do with the ones we love who have autism is touch them, hold them and comfort them. Unfortunately individuals with autism are often uncomfortable and resist being touched. Remember though that while you may want to comfort them with your touch, it is really you who is seeking the comfort.

12. They can be sensory sensitive

The normal everyday hustle and bustle can be overwhelming to our loved ones with autism. Normal senses like sight, sound, and taste can be jarring, frightening and painful. It is impossible to avoid all outside stimuli but understanding the discomfort they go through is a huge first step to loving someone with the condition.

13. They take things literally

Puns, nuances, metaphors, and idioms are too often lost and confusing to the autistic. “Hold your horses”, “it’s a piece of cake”, “lets hit the road”. We use these phrases every day without even realizing we have said them. However to our loved ones with autism they make language confusing and hard to understand. If you have ever read an Amelia Bedlia book, you will understand how confusing language can be without a point of reference.

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14. They can be temperamental

Unusually, this is a sign or signal that something is wrong. When our loved ones seem to be agitated, withdrawn or manic, do not answer with a quick and impulsive response to the behavior. Instead try to understand that these behaviors are symptom of missed communication. They may be trying to tell you they are tired, frustrated or hungry.

15. They need affirmation and reassurance

Everyone understands the power of positive affirmation and reassurance. As humans, it is something we have come to crave and thrive on. When dealing with an autistic loved one, remember that need is greatly heightened.

16. They have difficulty finding medical help

Being medically diagnosed with autism is not the same as having the flu where you can find quick and easy access to medical care. The condition is extremely individual and no two cases will be the same. This poses a challenge for medical doctors and therapists to medicate the condition. Because this quote from Doctor, musician and author, Stephen Shore, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome as a child, is true:

“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

17. They still like to have fun

If you have a loved one with autism, remember that they still deserve to have fun and joy in their lives. Education and therapy are important but so is play time. Try not to lock them away or limit their experiences. Find things that they enjoy and schedule a time to engage in those actives.

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18. They are not a label

Our labels often carry perceptions that limit our passions and hinder us from becoming who we want to be. When others think of someone with autism, they probably assume the definitions and limit people’s lives to its stereotypes and perceptions: slow, difficult, weird, disruptive, etc.

If you have a loved one with autism, remember that they are not the label, they are not a Noun. Do not limit their lives to the false perceptions of the condition. People with autism are unique in their Verbs, passions and talents.

“We are not Nouns limited to the complete truth of a Noun, label and its perception; we are Verbs liberated in the actions of our passions.”
Be the Verb – Not the Noun

Living with someone that is autistic is not all bad and if they are allowed to thrive, they can contribute immensely to society. Hopefully you are inspired by these eighteen things to remember if you love a person with autism.

Featured photo credit: http://www.mychildwithoutlimits.org/understand/autism/ via mychildwithoutlimits.org

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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