Marc Jackson, a screenwriter with high-functioning autism, faces the challenges throughout the world. He proves that autism doesn’t hold him back as a filmmaker.
Paul Louden is a radio host with autism who hosts a radio show called “Theories of Mind.” The show is about how adults go through life with autism.
Find him at KTEK 1110 in Houston, I❤radio, or at www.business1110ktek.com.
- I am autistic, not just adult with autism. It’s part of who I am. Autism is part of who I am. I was born this way. I would not choose to change that. Acknowledging my autism as a part of me is entirely compatible with respecting me as a person with thoughts, feelings, and talents. I am a human being like everyone else and deserve the same dignity and respect that any one else deserves. Please considering whatever term I prefer and do not use language that suggests I suffer from an unfortunate disease.
- Autism is a neurological variation, not a disease, or mental illness. Autism often includes differences in social behavior and practical skills. My behaviors and learning styles might vary. My perceptions may differ. I may learn and understand things in way that’s different and process the world in a different way. Please do not judge me or other autistics for our differences.
- Who I am and what I am capable of is not defined by medical diagnosing criteria. I am born with my own set of abilities and difficulties, autism included. Those who use it to tell me who I am and what I can do are using it as a stereotype. Please do not make generalizations and assumptions about me or other autistics.
- I am not going to be cured. Nothing will change me, and if it could, it would destroy who I am completely and would leave me worse off. I have the right to refuse questionable or risky treatments. My life is my own, I do not want to be cured and I think the idea of curing me and other autistics is wrong. Please respect my individuality and do not try to fix me, because I am not broken.
- I may be your adult child, but my life is own. parents do not have the right to choose questionable or risky treatments without my consent. I have my own mind. I can think for myself. I know what I want and don’t want.
- Focus on the positives of my, and others autism. I am living my life as best as I can, I want to the make the most of it every day. Talking negatively about autistics and focusing on our weaknesses all the time causes me and other autistics emotional distress. Please do not use language that suggests that being autistic is bad.
- I am a logical thinker, that is one of my strengths. It can make me take words, literally, or misunderstand jokes. Also, I may be misunderstood equally by others, if you do not understand my own logical style. I do have my own sense of humor that is unique to me, it’s a stereotype that autistics have no humor.
- Socializing is not always easy, if I don’t want to join in, that’s my choice, and I will avoid a situation if I am uncomfortable with it. I am not trying to be rude or impolite. It is simply better for me to participate socially when I choose, rather than feeling forced.
- I do have emotions, autistics are not emotionless like some stereotypes suggest. However, I may express them in a different way. What may make someone else cry, can be different for me, it doesn’t mean that I don’t care, or am an uncaring person. My facial expressions might not always reflect my emotions.
- If you have an autistic adult in your family, try to find out information about autism. Many articles in the media only concerns children, try and find out the differences in an autistic adult. Some autistics do get married, have jobs, leave home, some don’t, we are all unique. Please do not use language that suggest that being autistic makes a person violent.
There nearly half a million adults in the UK with undiagnosed autism. The Royal College of GPs has launched a three-year training program to raise awareness and help improve diagnosis rates. Chris Goodchild was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 42. He spoke to the BBC about how it affects his life.
There is a team of adults with autism running a project called “Autistic people speaking out” to show the world what we have to say.
If you’re interested, go to their website: http://autistics-speaking.tumblr.com/
Some people with autism would like to be parents like other people. Even though autism would make it difficult for that person to be a parent, that doesn’t mean they’ll be parents. Most people with autism turn out to be good parents. Autism has nothing to do with the reproduction side. It doesn’t cause infertility.
Here’s a link of an autistic pregnant woman: http://autistics-speaking.tumblr.com/post/55965301552/autistic-and-pregnant
On the adoption dept., they have to prove to the adoption agencies of their capabilities before they’re allowed to adopt a child.
Advice for Parents of Children Just Diagnosed with Autism:
Don’t be ashamed of yourselves. It’s not your fault. It just happened. It’s okay that you’re frustrated and overwhelmed, but things will get better in time. Be patient. Don’t push the autistic person too hard. That person is still there for you no matter what. Don’t give up! Quitting is not an option. Don’t worry what other people think. Find some support from people who understand your situation. To hell with the ignorant ones! Build a community of people you can get advice and support from.
You don’t always have to rely on just specialists and professionals, but on other parents of kids with autism, and adults on the autism spectrum as well. Jason Katims, the executive producer of NBC’s “Parenthood,” and the father of a son with autism, once said he thought that finding that community was the first thing any parent should do after their child is diagnosed. A network of new friends might recommend a therapist or a social skills group or a place for a haircut. More importantly, they’re on the same boat as you are. Whatever you’re going through or struggling with or celebrating, many of them have been there and they can relate. A little empathy can help a lot on a difficult day. People with autism want your unconditional love.
Here’s what other parents say: Sharon Fuentes, author of “The Don’t Freak Out Guide to Parenting Kids with Asperger’s,” blogs about her experience raising her son Jay, 13, at Mama’s Turn Now. Her advice: “Your son or daughter is still the same person they were before they got the diagnosis. I know this may not have been the path you would have chosen to have traveled down, but some of the best journeys in life are ones that happened when we unexpectedly took a left turn. Yes the road can get bumpy, but that is when you need to reach out to all those that have been there before you who do whatever they can to smooth the path for your child. Remember that you are not alone, trust your own instincts, breathe, laugh often, believe in yourself and more importantly believe in your child and never ever lose hope! ” Bernie DeLeo is a drama teacher at West Springfield High School in Fairfax and has a 20-year-old son, Charlie, with autism. This spring, the school staged a play DeLeo wrote, “Nerdicus (My Brother with Autism),” about his daughter’s experience growing up with a sibling with autism. His advice: “My biggest advice to parents is, first, don’t panic. Second, after the initial freak-out and panic (you will, even though I told you not to), educate yourselves and know your rights and options. Third and most important, don’t let people tell you what they think your child is capable of. They will immediately see the disability, and NOT your child’s capabilities! Every child will be different. At my son’s high school, they recommended that he not take languages or aim for the Advanced Diploma. ‘Special Ed children tend not to do well with languages,’ they said. We ignored that advice, he took 5 years of Spanish, and now he’s living away from home and majoring in languages at Marshall University.” Shannon Des Roches Rosa is one of the editors of the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, a book and Web site devoted to providing information information from autism parents, autistics and autism professionals. She also has a personal blog at Squidalicious, where she writes about her adventures parenting 13-year-old Leo, who has autism. Her advice: “I wish — more than anything — I’d tried harder to understand my son instead of trying to ‘fix’ him. He was the same sweet, capable boy both before and after his autism diagnosis; the only change was my awareness of his needs. And he needs me to love him, respect him and champion him. He needs me to make sure he has time to play. He needs me to fight for appropriate communication and learning resources. He needs me to get him supports to navigate an autism-unfriendly world. Understanding instead of fighting Leo’s autism makes us both much happier people.”
Raising a Child with Autism: Educate yourself about autism. Love your child unconditionally. Ask someone is already aware of autism for advice if you need any help. Teach your family about autism. Learn how to deal with their behaviors or seek professional help that fits your criteria. Use caution or be prepared for their meltdowns or certain situations. Plan time for breaks. Help them boost their confidence when they’re feeling down. If they find out they’re autistic, talk to them about it. Help them understand the meaning of their condition and understand how they feel about dealing with their disability. Parents, you and your children will still lead normal lives. Don’t worry about other people say or think. Some people are just ignorant. There is nothing to be ashamed for raising an autistic child. Tell your children there is nothing to be ashamed of for being different. They are still special no matter what.
5 Lessons From Who’s Been There, Done Autism: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-m-green/5-life-lessons-from-moms-whove-been-there-done-autism_b_6095578.html 13 Harsh Truths Only Parents of Children with Autism Face: https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/13-harsh-truths-only-parents-of-kids-with-autism-115310158708.html
The “typically developing” siblings of autistic children are, in fact, the furthest thing from typical. Often, they are wiser and more mature than their age would suggest. And they have to be, given the myriad challenges they face: parental responsibility; a feeling of isolation from the rest of their family; confusion, fear, anger and embarrassment about their autistic sibling. And on top of all of it, guilt for having these feelings. My advice: Don’t feel left out or jealous. It’s okay if you feel neglected, but resenting your family or autistic sibling does not help. It only makes the situation worse. And yelling at your autistic sibling out of anger does NOT help either. Find some common ground with your autistic brother or sister and find a way to connect them. Don’t push them too hard. If you feel left out, talk to your parents and figure out how to work it out—getting the equal amount of love and attention as your autistic sibling. It’s not the end of the world. You’ll still get love and attention no matter what. Be patient and understanding. Put yourselves in your parents’ shoes to understand them. Create special time. There is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Don’t worry about what other people think or say. When you think your sibling’s embarrassing, encourage honesty and laugh. Example: if you have friends who make fun of your sibling, defend your sibling and don’t make fun of them. Tell your friends what’s going on and teach them how to tolerate your sibling, and if they don’t understand, they’re not your real friends. A lot of typical siblings are more outspoken. They’ll go up to people and say, ‘Yes, that’s my brother or sister. He has special needs. Do you have any questions?’ Sense of humor is key. Another example: At a bus stop, when an autistic kid, Annie, started jumping up and down and making weird noises-just being herself. When her brother, Charlie’s friend started making fun of Annie, Charlie said, “hey, don’t make make fun of my sister! Everybody learns differently. You gotta respect that.” Siblings, stand up for your brother or sister when he/she is being bullied by other people. If you’re embarrassed in public, ignore your sibling’s tantrums or quirks, find a way to calm them down, or ask for help from someone reliable and trustworthy.
Brothers and sisters, if you feel like you’re the parents, let your siblings be the children. Don’t think of it as a babysitting job. Think of it as an opportunity to be responsible and bonding with your sibling. Ask family members for help when it comes to holiday social gatherings and other different types of situations. And discuss future plans when you have doubts about adulthood. Find a safe haven, a safe room, in case your autistic sibling gets aggressive. Help your parents create an intervention plan. Parents: educate your non-autistic children about their sibling’s disorder. Dr. Raun Melmed, co-founder and medical director of the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center in Phoenix, suggests including non-autistic children in visits to the doctor or other autism professionals. A great way for kids is to meet other siblings of autistic children, which they can do at sibling workshops. Siblings will commonly have negative feelings, some might never connect or want to connect with their autistic siblings, but the good news is that typical siblings often turn out to be more compassionate and caring than average. Love your sibling unconditionally. Let them come to you. This advice for parents and siblings may also apply to relatives and guardians.
African American families share autism experiences: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-05-african-american-families-autism-video-series.html
12 Great Things to Say to Parents of Kids with Autism: https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/12-great-things-to-say-to-parents-of-kids-with-117807341361.html
12 Things Not to Say to Parents of Kids with Autism: https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/12-things-not-to-say-to-parents-of-kids-with-117800029051.html
20 Confessions of an Autism Dad: https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/20-confessions-of-an-autism-dad-121866238891.html
Amazing! Learning life skills isn’t always easy for those on the spectrum—but that didn’t stop Noah and his dad. http://blog.theautismsite.com/living-with-autism-a-grocery-store-outing/
Much APPlause for this Dad: http://blog.theautismsite.com/autism-village/
The Jack Nicholson Line that Made this Parent View Autism Differently: http://themighty.com/2015/04/the-jack-nicholson-line-that-made-me-view-autism-differently/
How To Keep Your Marriage Strong When You Have An Autistic Child: http://autism-daddy.blogspot.com/2011/12/12-ways-to-keep-your-marriage-strong.html
What It’s Really Like to Have a Child With Autism: https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/what-its-really-like-to-have-a-child-with-autism-126936999977.html
When a Mother Realized Her Nonverbal Autistic Child was Communicating: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marci-lebowitz/the-first-time-i-realized-my-nonverbal-autistic-child-was-communicating_b_8965384.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592
How Families Experience Autism: http://www.npr.org/2016/01/17/463359369/after-the-diagnosis-how-families-experience-autism
Raising a Tween with Autism: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2016/03/17/raising-a-tween-who-has-autism/
Tell the autistic person your name. Hang out with them. Bonding is a great way to get along with each other. People with autism encounter great difficulties in social interactions. This is a way of being for them. Most often you may need to be the one to make first contact and initiate any discussion. They show little interest in playing games etc, so you may need to be the one who initiates these interactions. Hanging out with them all the time may make them feel like they are the most important person in the world! Ask them their dislikes. Some autistic people have louder hearing then we do. Help them out with anything including their problems. Compliment them. Find little things that they are good at and notice them. They will have more confidence with things that they do, and that will help them stand up for themselves in the future. Don’t push them too hard at anything or they get stressed out. Give them time and space. Sometimes they like to be alone to think, so if they ask you to go away, do what they say, or if they seem upset, ask them if they are. Don’t take it personally if they don’t respond. They’re wrapped up in something else, not being ignorant. If they say no at joining a club or going to your house or whatever social opportunity it is, it doesn’t mean they’re rude. They just want to think about it whether they want to do it or not. Don’t encourage them to do bad things or force them to do things they don’t want to do. Don’t pressure them to give up on things they love.
If you don’t like some of their interests, ignore it. Maybe you’ll have something else in common with them. Find a way to put up with their quirks. Like any other friendship, stay loyal. You’ve got their backs no matter what. Love your friends unconditionally. Treat them like a regular person, a human being. Nothing to be ashamed of having an autistic friend. If they get bullied often, stand up for them. Even if the bully is your best friend. Getting you friends to be nice to your autistic friend will help he/she feel like they are not just a person but an important person. Always be there for them. It will make him/her feel appreciated! Everyone, remember this: You are not alone. Autism is a unique thing.
A Little Girl Explained About her Friend: https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/a-little-girl-asked-why-my-daughter-with-autism-is-115318232851.html
Truths About Making Friends When You Have Autism: https://www.yahoo.com/health/10-truths-about-making-friends-when-you-have-124615316498.html
7-Year-Old Girl with autism writes Heartbreaking letter: http://news.yahoo.com/7-year-old-girl-with-autism-writes-heartbreaking-161740146.html
A Parent’s Letter to Autistic Child’s Friend: https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/to-the-friend-who-s-1343999367151670.html
On April 12, 2015, Dateline had an episode about what would happen when a person with autism turns 21:
What’s Like to Live with Autism as an Adult:
There is controversy over shocking people with autism with electric shock devices to modify the behavior. The FDS considers banning the devices.
Personally, I do not think the shocks are the answer. There are other ways to modify the autistic behavior.
To modify the autistic behavior:
- A structured daily routine is important. The child will perform best under familiar conditions, including location and activities. Later, as the situation improves, the rigid routine may be gradually modified, as tolerated. Teach your children how to be flexible when it comes to changes in routines.
- Temper tantrum control: Controlling temper tantrums is of extreme importance. The holding technique, as demonstrated during the office visit, requires a gentle, yet firm hold of the child, with the back to the parent’s chest; the child’s legs should be held between the parent’s legs. During the holding time, the parent must try to communicate with the child, calm him/her, yet not give in to the behavior that led to the tantrum. This procedure is not a form of punishment. It is devised to protect the child and others from the erratic behaviors. It must be done gently, not to hurt the child, yet firmly to get a clear unequivocal message through. It definitely is not meant to be “fun” time and a firm approach is required. Communication must be short, clear, and firm, expressing the parent’s appropriate emotional reaction to the behaviors that led to the tantrum. The reaction (firmness of communication) must be proportionate to the severity of the behavior. This will also teach a child whose ability to understand emotional responses are impaired, how one must react under different circumstances. The main objective of the holding and the behavioral modification program is to correct inappropriate behaviors, thus trying to normalize the child’s routines and behavior, including all social interactions as much as possible.
There are three priorities, when it comes to insisting with a child over behavioral issues.
- First priority: Temper tantrums and inappropriate behavior that if left unchanged may potentially become life threatening, such as hitting, throwing objects, jumping out of high places or windows, running into the street, or refusing to eat, must be attended to immediately, without compromise.
- Second priority: “Sitting skills.” Behavior, that if left alone, will make it impossible for the child to sit in class and, therefore, impossible to attend school with his/her peers, regardless of his abilities or “baseline IQ.” This consists of teaching sitting skills. This may be accomplished while sitting for dinner with the rest of the family, sitting in a restaurant or at any family or social gathering that require sitting skills.
- Third priority: Dealing with the “repetitive ritualistic habits. Unusual bizarre behaviors, that may result in social isolation or difficulties, if left unchanged. Such are inappropriate play habits, pervasive repetition of activities, self-stimulatory behavior, hand flapping, persevering into strict interests or production of unusual sounds. This may be done with a simple firm “stop!” command, and by directing the attention to more appropriate behaviors.
- The holding technique is very important and constitutes the frame structure for the behavioral modification program. The holding should be done with compassion, not trying to hurt the child, but helping him/her to adjust to a difficult situation. This is not a form of punishment. Only one parent should communicate with a child while being held. One parent holding, while the other is smiling and trying to console the child, will cause confusion and the wrong message to come through.
- The behavioral modification teaches the child to acquire a more socially acceptable behavior, thus giving him/her a better starting point, to enter life’s social requirements, compared to a child who still remains with all the attended social, behavioral difficulties associated with ASD.
- Communication must be short, clear, loud (not yelling). Many children with ASD have auditory integration difficulties. Talking to them excessively will not be registered and may sound to them like gibberish. Therefore, communication must be very simple and to the point, leaving time between words to integrate the information. Eye contact must be worked on. As the child improves, communication may become more fluent and elaborate.
- Never smile or regard inappropriate behavior as cute or funny. Some behaviors as pulling a parent to different locations must be discouraged. Facial expressions by the parents must be appropriate and sometimes exaggerated to teach the socially appropriate way of expressing emotions. Proper attempts by the child to communicate must be encouraged and pursued.
- Individualization of care: The behaviors of individuals with ASD may differ in many aspects. Each child has his own strengths and weaknesses. A good behavioral modification must be customized to each child’s specific needs. The principle of correcting inappropriate behavior, however, applies to all.
- Placement and education: The most regular, highest functioning environment, including a regular educational system, should be attempted whenever possible. This, with independent supplementation of all the other needs, including speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy, if needed, will result in the most favorable outcome. When a regular educational system is unrealistic, each community may offer different options. The parents should individually and personally check these options. Once in the program, I do encourage parents to come in and observe first hand the quality of services provided, and how the child fits in. You have to give it some time, but remember, be a strong advocate for your child. There is no program that fits exactly the individual needs of every child with ASD, therefore sometimes you may have to use your creativity, based on the knowledge of your child, to obtain the best solution. Rarely, you may have to actively pull your child out of a program if he/she does not fit and seems to regress, and find a better alternative. Parents must, however, be realistic about the child’s potential.
- Emotional aspects: No one can clearly determine the final outcome of a child with ASD. Do not give in. Have realistic expectations yet try to push him/her as much as possible. Try to demand from your child to behave like any other regular child and regard them as such. Do not let the child “get away with things” because he/she is autistic. If your expectations are set too low, it may impair the final outcome. On the other hand, when it is clear that a child cannot perform a certain task, know where to stop. The right balance may be sometimes difficult to determine.
- The “A” word and the social stigma: The public and some professionals, unfortunately, lack education when it comes to ASD. Do not deny the problem, try to educate yourself and deal with the specific difficulties. On the other hand, keep the diagnosis private, if possible, to prevent expectations from educators and the public in a way that may eventually affect your attitude and opinion as well. This applies to mild cases of ASD.
- Other treatment options: Different modalities are available. Some are controversial, some clearly ineffective. There are no studies that unequivocally demonstrate beneficial results from vitamin or diet therapy, but there are some anecdotal reports falsely supporting many modalities. Contrary to this, there are reports of improvement without any “therapeutic” intervention.Teens:
-Teenagers need to learn to make their own choices. Giving choices to your growing teen will teach him about decision making and accepting the consequences of his choice (good and bad), as well as help him realize he will eventually have more control over his own life. This applies no matter what the functioning level of the child. Offer him choices, regularly, and abide by the choice he makes. Remember, as he gets older he will want and need to be more involved in his life and his transition planning. By letting him make choices now (within your parameters at first) you are teaching him valuable life skills.
• Explain to your child about his/her changing body. Imagine how scary it must be to realize your body is going through some strange metamorphosis and you don’t know why, and yet there is nothing you can do about it. This is especially difficult for those who do not like change. Whether your child has Asperger’s Syndrome and has sat through hygiene classes at school, or he is more impacted by autism and you’re not sure how much he understands, it is important to discuss the changing male and female body in a simple way he can understand. Otherwise, your teen may be overly anxious and agitated when she starts menstruating or when he has wet dreams. Visuals that include photos or drawings and simple words may be helpful, especially at the beginning. Be concrete and don’t overwhelm – this is certainly not a one-time talk!
• This is rarely the case. (I never had any seizures). Watch out for seizures. One out of every four teenagers will develop seizures during puberty, according to the Autism Research Institute. Although the exact reason is not known, this seizure activity may be due to hormonal changes in the body. For many, the seizures are small and sub clinical, not typically detected by simple observation. Some signs that a teen may be experiencing sub clinical seizures include making little or no academic gains after doing well during childhood and preteen years, losing some behavioral and / or cognitive gains, or exhibiting behavior problems such as self injury, aggression and severe tantrums that do not appear to have an antecedent or pattern.
The adult’s meltdown-behavior looks a bit different than a child’s. Under severe enough stress, any normally calm and collected individual may become “out-of-control” – even to the point of violence. But some individuals experience repeated meltdowns in which tension mounts until there is an explosive release.
The adult version of a meltdown may include any of the following
•aggressive behavior in which the individual reacts grossly out of proportion to the circumstance
•angry outbursts that involve throwing or breaking objects
•banging your head
•pacing back and forth
•quitting your job
•talking to yourself
•walking out on your spouse or partner
•yelling and screaming
On the mild end of the continuum, the adult in meltdown may simply say some things that are overly critical and disrespectful, thus ultimately destroying the relationship with the other party (or parties) in many cases. On the more extreme end of the continuum, the adult in meltdown may attack others and their possessions, causing bodily injury and property damage. In both examples, the adult often later feels remorse, regret or embarrassment.
Meltdowns, usually lasting 5 to 20 minutes, may occur in clusters or be separated by weeks or months in which the Aspergers adult maintains his/her composure. Meltdown episodes may be preceded or accompanied by:
•Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
A number of factors increase the likelihood of experiencing a meltdown:
•A history of physical abuse or bullying: “Aspies” who were abused as kids have an increased risk for frequent meltdowns as adults.
•A history of substance abuse: Aspies who abuse drugs or alcohol have an increased risk for frequent meltdowns.
•Age: Meltdowns are most common in Aspies in their late teens to mid 20s.
•Being male: Aspergers men are far more likely to meltdown than women.
•Having another mental health problem: Aspies with other mental illnesses (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders) are more likely to have meltdowns.
The meltdown is not always directed at others. Aspergers adults who experience meltdowns are also at significantly increased risk of harming themselves, either with intentional injuries or suicide attempts. Those who are also addicted to drugs or alcohol have a greatest risk of harming themselves. Adults with autism who experience meltdowns are often perceived by others as “always being angry.” Other complications may include job loss, school suspension, divorce, auto accidents, and even incarceration.
If you’re concerned because you’re having repeated meltdowns, talk with your doctor or make an appointment with someone who specializes in treating adults on the spectrum (e.g., a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, etc.).
Here’s how to prepare for an appointment with a professional:
1.Make a list of all medications as well as any vitamins or supplements that you’re taking.
2.Write down any symptoms you’re experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
3.Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
4.Write down questions to ask your doctor. Preparing a list of questions can help you make sure you cover everything that’s important to you.
5.Don’t hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don’t understand something.
There’s no one treatment that’s best for Aspergers adults who experience meltdowns. Treatment generally includes medication and individual or group therapy. Individual or group therapy sessions can be very helpful. A commonly used type of therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, helps Aspergers adults identify which situations or behaviors may trigger a meltdown. In addition, this type of therapy teaches Aspies how to manage their anger and control their typically inappropriate response using relaxation techniques. Cognitive behavioral therapy that combines cognitive restructuring, coping skills training, and relaxation training has the most promising results.
Unfortunately, many Aspergers adults who experience meltdowns don’t seek treatment. If you’re involved in a relationship with an Aspie, it’s important that you take steps to protect yourself and your kids. Any emotional and/or physical abuse that may be occurring is not your fault. If you see that a situation is escalating, and you suspect your partner may be on the verge of a meltdown, try to safely remove yourself and your kids from the area.
Anger in adults with autism:
Adults on the autism spectrum may be prone to anger, which can be made worse by difficulty in communicating feelings of disturbance, anxiety or distress. Anger may be a common reaction experienced when coming to terms with problems in employment, relationships, friendships and other areas in life affected by autism or Asperger’s syndrome. There can be an ‘on-off’ quality to this anger, where the individual may be calm minutes later after an angry outburst, while those around are stunned and may feel hurt or shocked for hours, if not days, afterwards. Family members and partners often struggle to understand these angry outbursts, with resentment and bitterness often building up over time. Once they understand that their loved one has trouble controlling their anger or understanding its effects on others, they can often begin to respond in ways that will help to manage these outbursts. In some cases, the individual on the autism spectrum may not acknowledge they have trouble with their anger, and will blame others for provoking them. Again, this can create enormous conflict within a family or relationship. It may take carefully phrased feedback and plenty of time for the person to gradually realize they have a problem with how they express their anger. The next step is for the person to learn anger management skills. A good place to start is identifying a pattern in how the outbursts are related to specific frustrations. Such triggers may originate from the environment, specific individuals or internal thoughts.
Common causes of anger in relation to autism spectrum disorders
• Being swamped by multiple tasks or sensory stimulation
• Other people’s behavior e.g. insensitive comments, being ignored
• Having routines and order disrupted
• Difficulties with employment and relationships despite being intelligent in many areas
• Intolerance of imperfections in others
• Build up of stress.
Identifying the cause of anger can be a challenge. It’s important to consider all possible influences relating to:
• The environment e.g. too much stimulation, lack of structure, change of routine.
• The person’s physical state e.g. pain, tiredness.
• The person’s mental state, e.g. existing frustration, confusion.
• How well the person is treated by those around them.
Recommended Steps for Anger management:
-Becoming motivated: The person identifies why they would like to manage anger more successfully. They identify what benefits they expect in everyday living from improving their anger management.
-Self-awareness: A person becomes more aware of personal thoughts, behaviors and physical states which are associated with anger. This awareness is important for the person in order for them to notice the early signs of becoming angry. They should be encouraged to write down a list of changes they notice as they begin to feel angry.
-Awareness of situations: The person becomes more aware of the situations which are associated with them becoming angry. They may like to ask other people who know them to describe situations and behaviors they have noticed.
-Levels of anger and coping strategies: As the person becomes more aware of situations associated with anger, they can keep a record of events, triggers and associated levels of anger. Different levels of anger can be explored (e.g. mildly annoyed, frustrated, irritated and higher levels of anger).
-Develop an anger management record: The person may keep a diary or chart of situations that trigger anger. List the situation, the level of anger on a scale of one to ten and the coping strategies that help to overcome or reduce feelings of anger.
-A simple and effective technique for reducing levels of anger is the Stop – Think technique:
A person notices the thoughts running through their mind.
1 Stop! and think before reacting to the situation (are these thoughts accurate/helpful?) Is it worth it? Is It worth it to be worry about? Tell yourself it’s not a big deal or you don’t care, so you concern yourself too much.
2 Challenge the inaccurate or unhelpful thoughts
3 Create a new thought.
A plan can also be developed to help a person avoid becoming angry when they plan to enter into a situation that has a history of triggering anger. An example of a personal plan is using the Stop – Think technique when approaching a shopping center situation that is known to trigger anger.
Other possible approaches:
• Relaxation techniques
• Self-talk methods
• Use visual imagery (jumping into a cool stream takes the heat of anger away)
• Find anger management classes in your area
• Creative destruction or physical activity techniques to reduce anger
• Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
Coping with high – extreme anger: It is hoped that people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder can make use of these strategies when they notice themselves becoming angry and therefore avoid feeling high – extreme anger. However, this is clearly not always possible. For situations where people feel they cannot control their anger they can have a personal safety plan.
Possible steps in a personal safety plan:
• Plan ways to become distracted from the stressful situation e.g. carry a magazine
• Explain to another person how they can be of help to solve the problem
• Leave the situation if possible
• Phone a friend, or a crisis Centrex to talk about the cause of anger
• Avoid situations which are associated with a high risk of becoming angry
• Make changes to routines and surroundings e.g. avoid driving in peak hour traffic
• Explore the benefits of using medication with a doctor or psychiatrist.
For teens and adults, use similar strategies for a child with autism.