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When You Spend Thanksgiving Alone: Tips for Adults on the Spectrum

Thanksgiving is a time of tradition, and traditions have a funny way of becoming expectations. But what if you are going to spend much - or all - of the Thanksgiving weekend alone? No matter the reason that you’re alone, you can make it a wonderful day all the same.  

Here’s how:

1. Be more physically active. Physical activity is one of the best ways to make yourself feel better.

2. Cook. One of my favorite things to do on Thanksgiving is to cook myself an elaborate meal (that may or may not fit-in with traditional Thanksgiving cuisine). This year (believe it or not), I am planning on making baked spaghetti, garlic bread, and a tossed salad. For desert, I will be having caramelized apples. Sound good?

3. Creating a “gratitude journal” can be a wonderful exercise in cultivating an attitude of gratitude, and can leave you with a written record of everything you have to value in your life. Read through it when you're feeling blue.

4. Curl up on the couch with hot chocolate, a warm blanket and a movie.

5. Donate your time to a cause you believe in. Helping others who are less fortunate than you can fill you with feelings of love and connectedness. You’ll be part of something larger than yourself, and you’ll be immersing yourself in the true spirit of “giving.”

6. Find places that will stimulate and amuse you. Museums, festivals or streets decorated for Thanksgiving might recharge you.

7. Fix up that guest room, do some indoor planting, or weather permitting, do some touch-ups outside your home.

8. Focus on things you really value in your life (e.g., your work, the hobbies you have, your potential, etc.).

9. Forget about what’s “supposed” to happen. Remember that a lot of people out there are doing what’s expected, and probably running themselves ragged. What they wouldn’t do for some time alone!

10. Have you been telling yourself you’d start painting again or get back to playing the guitar? Now’s your chance.

11. If you feel lonely much of the time, this may be a cue that some changes are in order for the coming year. You may want to examine what’s behind your feelings of loneliness, either on your own or with the help of a counselor.

12. If you’re on your own, a few friends or acquaintances might be, too. Get in touch with them and make some plans.

13. If you're feeling a lack of love in your life, make a concerted effort to focus on the love that you do have (e.g., from friends, family, neighbors, pets, etc.).

14. Is something inside of you causing you to keep people at a distance? Would you benefit from putting more time into your social life so that you have stronger relationships? If you’d like to deepen your friendships, it can cost a little extra time and energy, but the payoff is having increased support and feelings of being heard and understood.

15. Just because you’re not with family or friends doesn’t mean you can’t make contact. But make sure the calls are a nice diversion for the day, not the centerpiece of it. Enjoy the moments of contact, rather than dwelling on the fact that you’re not with family or friends.

16. Make your time alone count. Make it special. Then, when you’re through with personal time, pick some activities that will surround you with others.

17. One easy antidote to “feelings of lack” is to cultivate feelings of appreciation for what you already have. It's hard to focus on both at once.

18. Read a mystery novel by the fireplace.

19. Some people regain their equilibrium when they set one or two specific, manageable goals every day (e.g., cleaning out a closet or drawer, writing a letter, etc.). The satisfaction they get from completing these tasks adds to their sense of well-being.

20. Stop putting unreasonable pressure on yourself to be happy during the long Thanksgiving weekend. When you have legitimate reasons for being happy, acknowledge them and be gentle with yourself.

21. Take a candlelight bubble bath.

22. Take a walk.

23. Watch your consumption of alcohol. While a few drinks may make you feel temporarily euphoric, alcohol is a depressant and often ends up making you feel worse than before.

24. While it may be uncomfortable to feel lonely, it’s also okay to feel this way. Talking to others who may share your feelings (e.g., via the internet, or in real life) can help you to feel less alone in your situation.

25. While you may be feeling alone in your life right now, knowing that Thanksgiving can be a lonely time for many people may help you to feel less so.

Have fun. God bless!

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Getting Through the Holidays: Tips for People on the Autism Spectrum

Do you have Asperger Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism? And do you typically dread winter and the holiday season? Then this video is for you! 

From the Perspective of a Male Aspie: The Positives and Challenges of Asperger’s

Hi. My name is Rick. I’m a 23 year old guy on the autism spectrum. These are my observations from a male perspective on how Asperger’s affects daily life (these observations may or may not be true for you):

The Positives—

1. Attention to detail – sometimes with painstaking perfection
2. Can spend hours in the library researching, love learning and information
3. Excellent rote memory
4. Experts say that many people with AS have a higher than average general IQ.
5. Focus and diligence – The ability to focus on tasks for a long period of time without needing supervision or incentive is legendary.
6. Higher fluid intelligence – Scientists have discovered that people with AS have a higher fluid intelligence than non-autistic people. Fluid intelligence is "the ability to find meaning in confusion and solve new problems. It is the ability to draw inferences and understand the relationships of various concepts, independent of acquired knowledge.” 
7. Highly gifted in one or more areas (e.g., math, music, etc.)
8. Honesty – the value of being able to say “the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.”
9. Independent, unique thinking – People with AS tend to spend a lot of time alone and will likely have developed their own unique thoughts as opposed to a “herd mentality.”
10. Internal motivation – as opposed to being motivated by praise, money, bills or acceptance. This ensures a job done with conscience, with personal pride.
11. Logic over emotion – Although people with AS are very emotional at times, we spend so much time ‘computing’ in our minds that we get quite good at it. We can be very logical in our approach to problem-solving.
12. Visual, three-dimensional thinking – Many people with AS are very visual in their thought processes, which lends itself to countless useful and creative applications.
13. We can be very loyal to one person.

The Areas of Challenge—

1. Being "in our own world"
2. Can obsess about having friends to prove we’re “normal”
3. Clumsiness / Uncoordinated motor movements
4. Collect things (in excess)
5. Desire for friendships and social contact, but difficulty acquiring and maintaining them
6. Difficulty understanding others’ feelings
7. Don't always recognize faces right away (even close loved ones)
8. Eccentric personality
9. Flat, or blank expression much of the time
10. Great difficulty with small-talk and chatter  
11. Have an urge to inform that can result in being blunt / insulting
12. Idiosyncratic attachment to inanimate objects
13. Lack of empathy at times
14. Lack of interest in other people
15. Likes and dislikes can be very rigid
16. Limited interests / Intense focus on one or two subjects
17. May have a hard time saying I love you, showing physical affection
18. May have difficulty staying in college despite a high level of intelligence
19. Non-verbal communication problems: difficulty reading body language, facial expression and tone
20. Often are attracted to a woman purely because she is attracted to us
21. Often times, we will make no motions to keep a friendship going.
22. Our attention is narrowly focused on our own interests.
23. Preoccupied with our own agenda
24. Rigid social behavior due to an inability to spontaneously adapt to variations in social situations
25. Shut down in social situations
26. Single-mindedness
27. Social withdrawal / may avoid social gatherings
28. Speech and language peculiarities / early in life, may have a speech impediment
29. Strong sensitivity to sound, touch, taste, sight, and smell (e.g. fabrics—won’t wear certain things, fluorescent lights)
30. Unusual preoccupations
31. We can be distant physically and/or emotionally.
32. We can be obsessive.
33. We can be very critical.
34. We can become quite defensive when our lady asks for clarification or a little sympathy. The defensiveness can turn into verbal abuse (usually not physical abuse) as we attempt to control the communication to suit our view of the world.
35. We find emotions messy and unquantifiable. If our partner tries to share her love for us, we may find her need to “connect” smothering.
36. We need to withdraw and have solitude.
37. We often feel as if our partner is being ungrateful or “bitchy” when she complains about how we are uncaring or “never listen.”
38. We take life too seriously.
39. We takes things too personally.

NOTE: I'm comfortable being who I am. This is why I used the term "challenges" rather than "deficits." I don't look at the 39 observations above as "bad" traits. Rather, they are areas that I will be working on to improve. And we all can improve ...we all have challenges. That's life! I'm going to meet these challenges head-on!! Won't you join me?

 
COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... I was wondering last night how I could get into my son's head so I can get even a glimpse of how he thinks. Rationally I know I have to change my approach but sometimes I feel I have no way to relate. Even though you are a different person I see some of the things you are talking about in my son. I really appreciate you sharing this.
•    Anonymous said... My daughter is the same way.
•    Anonymous said... My son is 16 and has his first girlfriend first friend period and I see a lot of what you’re saying in him I think he likes her because she showed interest but it's been like 2 months and I can see he is not interested in keeping the relationship going like he can't be bothered anymore I'm not sure how to go out talking with him about it and all he says is he doesn't want to talk about it it's frustrating!!
•    Anonymous said... Rick, I love this post. My 15 year old accepted this designation when he was younger but now that he's in his teen years, he's denying it. He has many of the characteristics you name and though at times difficult, I love all the idiosyncrasies. Our "challenge" (a word I use regularly instead of "problem") is getting him to accept himself just the way he is.
•    Anonymous said... Wow I feel better for reading this and all your comments I thought I was a parental alien until now. Others who have no idea don't see what we experience as parents. Sadly I have had to endure so called professionals who cite horrid theories as to why a teen with HFA behaves in the ways stated in the article. That impacts vastly on relationships when you are not believed. My son is amazing being a teen is difficult for any child but for those with HAD it’s a minefield for them and their parents who generally are on the end of their frustrations. Brilliant article am very grateful. Thank u.

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