Autism And Tips For Coping With Life - Part 1/3Jul 06, 2022
With thanks to Sam Warner The Autistic Interpreter for this week's article, this is part one of a three-part series, for updates on the series and future blogs pop your details in the form here.
There are things in life that are rarely taught or talked about and for neurotypical people, it seems they were just born with this knowledge. For those on the Autistic Spectrum (ASD) becoming self-aware, acquiring coping mechanisms and giving yourself thinking time to cope with situations that may arise means you can be less confused and feel more confident.
Remember that your perception of the world is a little different, it just means that your brain works differently. Not everyone works in black and white (all or nothing) most work in greys so it can be harder for them to empathise and understand if you appear to be obsessed or single-minded about something.
There are some books out there with guidance, but I’ve put together my own brief list as not everyone wants to read a book.
Here are some tips to cope in society when you're Autistic
Worrying & Stress – Find people you can trust to talk over your concerns privately. Always ask yourself: “Can I do anything about the thing that bothers me?” If the answer is yes, then do it, even if it’s finding another person to help if it’s beyond your capability. If it’s no, then you can give yourself permission to put that in a mental box and put a lid on it. Your energy is precious, so use it wisely. (Don’t spend it on stress.) In order to solve problems you need to think clearly, you do this with a positive mind. This also helps to stop guilt from creeping in.
Positive Mental Attitude – Keep a log of all your achievements, and things you are proud of. You can use this to feel better when things are not going so well. You are not looking at the world through rose-tinted specs by believing that positive things can and will happen. You are choosing to welcome positive thoughts and hope into your mind that will make you feel better about yourself and more equipped to deal with the unexpected. This is something to practise every day. Affirmations can be useful to put you in the right frame of mind at the start of each day but they do have to be believable.
Autism is a gift, we all just need to learn how to use it
Anticipation & Preparation – By anticipating certain situations, you can remove a lot of the stress. If you can run through conversations, scenarios and environments that you are going to face then you can prepare for unexpected events, questions or responses. It means you don’t have to worry so much about knowing the right answer instantly or knowing what is going to happen. You use your imagination to run through the situation in your mind. It’s very calming and gives you more confidence.
Body Language – Includes facial expressions, gestures, eye contact and tone of voice. Unfortunately, you can’t learn this like a school subject, everyone is so different and you have to get to know people in order to understand the cues and what certain things mean in a given situation. Sarcasm is one the hardest things to understand and you will earn that not everybody says what they mean. There are a lot of hints, nuances & suggestions in everyday language. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if the body language doesn’t match the words or it’s just not clear how you should be reacting. It’s unusual for people to be deliberately misleading. Also, your use of body language is important in your communication – become more self-aware & think about if it matches your words and intent. Eye contact can be tricky because too much or too little becomes noticeable & sometimes uncomfortable, so a little of both is fine.
Conversation – Take turns to allow both parties to have a say. When the other person is talking you need to give them visual clues that you are listening and that can be a nod of the head, saying “uhah” and smiling using a bit of eye contact. If you don’t want to be touched during a conversation with someone (not everyone is self-aware and some people are very tactile), you might need to say something or stand a couple of feet away to put some space in between you and them.
Emotional overload – Anger, excitement, joy and sadness are all valid emotions that can be expressed visually, with body language, facial expressions, words and energy. Understanding what is appropriate in a given situation is very helpful because we don’t always want to stand out in the crowd and we want to feel accepted by others, not stared at. It might be appropriate to take yourself off somewhere else for a few minutes to express yourself if the occasion doesn’t fit how you are feeling. But don’t be fake and don’t subdue your ebullience or joy.
Not always truthful – Sarcasm, white lies, fantasy play, exaggeration, figures of speech, jokes, teasing, and misunderstandings are all ways that we get caught out. Doubt creeps in. Are they telling the truth? Is this a joke? Do they mean it? Do I laugh now? It can be very confusing and it may take you a while and a kind friend to help you understand who are the serial jokers and fibbers. When you are amongst real friends you can let them know that you are a bit gullible because you take things at face value, and like to keep people to their word. Then they know your boundaries and needs.
Friends – Don’t be a space invader (standing too close) and don’t try to monopolise the conversation no matter how passionate or knowledgeable you are about the subject. It’s a lot more pleasant to take turns in talking, but also to have someone listen whilst you are talking, and to be listened to in return. It’s okay to have just a handful of friends, you don’t have to have lots of friends. Just a few that you trust and who don’t take advantage of you.
For more help on friends and what healthy and unhealthy friendships look like check out ‘Coping: A Survival Guide for People with Asperger Syndrome by Marc Segar on page 22 of this PDF there is a table that will give you a great visual example of what is and what isn't healthy.