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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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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