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Avoiding the Holiday Blues: Tips for Adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests, stress and depression. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands, including parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few. But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress and depression that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past. Here’s how:

1. Don't “give in” to your depression, but do accept its presence in your life so you can work with it. If depression comes in part from rejecting our feelings, rejecting the depression will just make things worse.

2. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sad. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

3. Try your best to avoid toxic people. If you absolutely must see such individuals, then allow only enough time for food-digestion and gift-giving. Drink no more than one glass of wine in order to preserve your ability to think rationally. You don’t want to get confused and decide you really do love these people, only to hear them say something horribly offensive two minutes later.

4. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.

5. Find some ‘extra’ social support through the holidays. If you attend Al-Anon once a week, go twice a week. If you attend a yoga class twice a week, try to fit in another. Schedule an extra therapy session as insurance against the potential meltdowns ahead of you.

6. Sadly, it's often easier for us to be nice to someone else than to ourselves. But we can use this tendency to help heal our depression. The great teachers tell us that when we do even a small act of kindness for someone else, at that moment we ourselves receive a blessing (perhaps because we come into healing contact with our own capacity to care). In the end, remember that, painful as it is, depression can lead us to explore healing approaches that we might otherwise never have tried.

7. Understand that you are not alone and that many of us experience depression around the holidays. Understand that sadness, loneliness, and anger do not indicate that something is wrong with you. Just the opposite! They show that you react to painful situations, that you feel, in short, that you're alive! This is healthy.

8. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Over-indulgence only adds to your stress and moodiness. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.

9. Don't watch too much TV over the holidays. Most programs are not designed to make you a better person, or even feel better.

10. “Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods,” says a Japanese proverb. Research shows that laughing is good for your health. And, unlike exercise, it’s always enjoyable! Remember, with a funny bone in place - even if it’s in a cast - everything is tolerable.

11. Exercise, move, and do physical work. Aerobic exercise for 30 minutes four or five times a week, yoga, chi kung, and tai chi are all simple, safe, and effective anti-depressants.

12. Identify your triggers. Before you make too many plans this holiday season, list your triggers (i.e., people, places, and things that tend to trigger your anxiety and bring out your worst traits). Don't let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

13. Learn to say ‘no’. Saying ‘yes’ when you should say ‘no’ can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and family will understand if you can't participate in every activity or family get-together over the holidays.

14. Since depression is often frozen grief or anger, if we can feel the warmth of the deeper feelings, we can sometimes begin to melt the ice of depression. Try this awareness meditation several times a week for 10 minutes: Sit with your eyes closed for five minutes and focus on your breathing. Then silently ask yourself, "What else am I feeling?" See if, along with the depression, there is any hurt, sadness, or anger. If so, open up to it and let yourself feel it more deeply. See what happens.

15. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.

16. Pleasure and joy are the enemies of depression. Even when we're depressed, there may be some little thing that truly pleases us (e.g., a piece of chocolate, a hot bath, a favorite piece of music, an old movie, a poem, etc.). Even a small amount of pleasure can perk us up and remind us that “life is good.”

17. Much of the pain of depression comes from the harsh way we criticize ourselves. But we can learn and practice a different way. Try this meditation: Sit with your eyes closed and think of something about yourself that's hard to accept. Now, let come to your mind the image of someone you know who truly cares for you. Visualize or hear this person accepting and forgiving you for what you find hard to accept. Try this for five minutes a few times a week.

18. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

19. Practice “SEE,” which stands for Sleeping regularly, Eating well, and Exercising often. Without these three basics, you can forget about an enjoyable - or even tolerable - holiday.

20. A great acronym to remember during the holidays is HALT: don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

21. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

22. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.

23. Before you go gift and/or food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend – then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

24. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing, and restoring inner calm.

25. Take the SAMe supplement during the holidays. SAMe is derived from an amino acid that is a quick, natural anti-depressant. SAMe is available in health food stores (use only GNC, Naturemade, or Puritan's Pride brands, because research has shown these to be the only brands with reliable efficacy).

Living With An Aspergers Partner: Help For Couples

Trust Issues: Tips for Aspergers Husbands

Are there certain behaviors that are causing you to not trust your neurotypical spouse? Do you have unresolved issues that are hindering you from trusting other people in general?

Trust is an essential part of any relationship. Although all relationships have their ups and downs, there are things you can do that may well minimize "trust problems," if not help avoid them altogether. You and your wife can develop trust in each other by following these tips:
  1. Be a good listener.
  2. Be consistent.
  3. Be fair – even in an argument.
  4. Be on time.
  5. Be organized and clear about your respective chores in the home. Write all the chores down and agree on who does what. Be fair: Make sure each spouse’s tasks are equitable so no resentment builds.
  6. Be sensitive to the other's feelings. You can still disagree, but don't discount how your spouse is feeling.
  7. Be willing to work on your relationship and to truly look at what needs to be done. 
  8. Call to say you'll be home late.
  9. Call when you say you will.
  10. Carry your fair share of the workload.
  11. Complement each other.
  12. Contact each other through the day.
  13. Do the things you used to do when you were first dating.
  14. Do what you say you will do.
  15. Don’t be jealous.
  16. Don't dig up old wounds or bring up the past.
  17. Don't lie (not even little white lies).
  18. Don't overreact when things go wrong.
  19. Don't think that your life will be better with someone else; the same problems you have in this relationship (e.g., due to lack of social skills) will still exist in the next relationship.
  20. If you both hate housework, maybe you can spring for a cleaning service. If one of you likes housework, the other spouse can do the laundry and the yard. As long as it feels fair to both partners, you can be creative and take preferences into account.
  21. Learn to let things go and enjoy one another more. 
  22. Make gestures of appreciation.
  23. Never say things you can't take back.
  24. Respect one another.
  25. Respect your partner's boundaries.
  26. Say "thank you" and "I appreciate you" several times throughout the week. It lets your spouse know that she matters.
  27. Schedule time together on the calendar just as you would any other important event in your life.
  28. Show an interest in each other.
  29. Thinking your spouse will meet all your needs – and will be able to figure them out without you having to ask – is simply wishful thinking. Ask for what you need directly.
  30. Use humor.

Living With An Aspergers Partner: Help For Couples

Social Skills Tips for Adults with AS and HFA

Arranging valuable social skills activities is one of the most critical challenges parents face as their teenager with Aspergers (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) enters adulthood. Skills like these are important in fostering a sense of independence in the young adult, and a feeling of lasting security for his family members.

The capacity of young adults with Aspergers to care for themselves reflects the need-based education and services they receive as kids and adolescents. With a rich educational background focused on proper behaviors and social responses, many Aspergers grown-ups go on to become contributing members of society with families, social lives, and careers.

Here are some tips for adults with Aspergers and HFA who want to cultivate a few important social skills:

1. Although it is typically your first instinct to talk first, listening can actually be an advantage. A primary benefit of listening is the amount that can be learned. If you spend most of your time talking, then how can you learn anything? One of the best ways to be viewed as more likable is to be a good listener. It’s not always easy, but listening tells others that you are genuinely interested in them as a person.

2. Appropriate social interactions for young adults with Aspergers provide benefits in areas of development that extend beyond building social skills. Group activities improve the capacity for relationships, promote communication, and build solid life skills. These peer-based activities can take place (a) in a setting that is structured for optimal learning, or (b) in a setting that is relaxed and casual for having fun and learning to successfully cope with others.

3. Classes of all kinds provide well-rounded social skills activities for Aspergers adults while teaching them useful abilities that will last a lifetime. Examples of group-based classes include: (a) acting and drama classes; (b) art classes in mediums such as painting, sculpture, or digital design; (c) music lessons that focus on group cooperation; (d) singing, choir, and other ensemble voice classes.

4. In many communities, there seems to be a greater focus on activities for Aspergers kids rather than grown-ups, but there are valuable services for all age groups with Aspergers. If you're looking for suitable activities for an adult with Aspergers or HFA in your life, try speaking with your doctor or local hospital. You can also get out the yellow pages and search for local nonprofit agencies that provide Aspergers services (e.g., parks and recreation services, group-based respite care, employment services that focus on social interaction, Aspergers day programs or camps that feature social activities, etc.).

5. Physical activities provide adults with Aspergers valuable opportunities to exercise. When engaging in group recreational events, these individuals reap many social benefits from exercise and sports activities. For example, (a) gymnastics improve flexibility and muscle tone in a safe, fun, and social environment with adults of similar interests and backgrounds; (b) martial arts help improve motor skills and muscle tone while teaching Aspies how to build lasting social relationships with others; (c) soccer and basketball benefits these young people by teaching them how to cooperate with others in order to reach a specific goal, and it heightens appropriate feelings of social camaraderie and pride; and (d) swimming is a safe and enjoyable social activity suitable for most young Aspergers adults.

6. Recent research examined the effectiveness of the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relationship Skills (PEERS) for young people ages 18 to 23 with Aspergers and HFA.  The researchers utilized a randomized controlled study design.  The study group utilized the PEERS program administered by parents.  Results were measured via self-assessment and caregiver-assessment. The researchers found that young people who participated in the PEERS program reported “improved knowledge in social skills” and also reported “feeling lonely less frequently.”  Parents reported observing “significant improvements in empathy, social responsiveness, social skills, and spending more time with peers.” The researchers state that the findings suggest that the PEERS social skills training program is an effective instrument in helping young adults with Aspergers develop social skills.

7. Sometimes, the best social opportunities arise from networking. Get together with other families that have older teens and young adults with Aspergers and coordinate activities (e.g., acting or singing competitions, cooking lessons, game night, matinees, park picnics, storytelling, etc.). While it's important to provide structure, it's also a good idea to allow Aspies to relax and enjoy themselves freely.

8. There are plenty of opportunities to show cooperation and teamwork in all areas of life. Whether you are in a crowded store or heavy traffic, cooperation will make the experience more manageable. If you are driving a bit slower than some, move to the slow lane and allow others to pass. If you are grocery shopping, don’t leave your cart in the middle of the isle. By being aware of those around you and showing consideration, you will be more likable.

9. When a young adult with Aspergers reaches the age of 22 in the U.S., the public school system's responsibility for his education and welfare comes to an end. This means that parents and friends must try to discover which social skills activities will most benefit the “Aspie” and fill the vacancy that forms after his education ends. Like kids with Aspergers, adults with Aspergers benefit from a constant reinforcement of the social skills they learned earlier in their lives. To leave this area of life skills unattended may lead to regression, depression, or even health problems.

10. While there are many therapies that are appropriate for young adults with Aspergers, treatment really depends on the Aspie’s response to the diagnosis – and responses can run the gamut from joy to anger and everything in between. Some adults are overjoyed, because finally everything makes sense to them (e.g., why they can't hold a job, keep a relationship, etc.). They have blamed themselves all their lives, but now they have a framework in which to understand their difficulties and their strengths. 

Living With An Aspergers Partner: Help For Couples

Win Her Back: Tips for Aspergers Husbands Who Are In the Doghouse

Are you about to lose your wife? Would there be mostly Ds and Fs on your "relationship skills" report card? Has she crowned you “asshole of the year”? Then you may want to consider the following "idiot-proof" tips to get out – and stay out – of the doghouse:

1. One of the most respectful things a husband can do for his wife is to laugh at her attempts at humor. Lots of men, over time, forget this loving gesture. You say your wife isn't funny? So what? Neither is your annoying boss – but you laugh at his lame jokes. Why? Because you're trying to prove you respect him. Hello!

2. Apologize when you're wrong. Sure it's tough, but just try it and watch something wonderful happen.

3. Do some chores you lazy bum. The average woman without children does 10 hours more housework a week than her husband.  Come on!  Get with the program.

4. Don't walk out the door without a ‘see-you-later’ kiss. You only need to set aside 3 seconds a day for this task. A kiss in the morning, a hug after work, and another kiss before bed can produce a lasting feeling of intimacy – and will only cost you about 10 seconds of your valuable time.

5. If you continue to respond in the same way that has brought you pain and unhappiness in the past, you can't expect a different result in the future. Just one little shift can make a big difference. If you usually jump right in to defend yourself before your wife is finished speaking, hold off for a few moments. You'll be surprised at how such a small shift in tempo can change the whole tone of an argument.

6. I’m a man, so I can say this: In the course of arguing with their wives, many men fail to realize that, consistently, they are wrong. They just are. They’re trying to be right, of course. But they’re failing at it. They can’t help it. It’s the nature of things. Men are taller, stronger, hairier and wronger. It’s a fact that they should just get used to. Thus, you should be doing a lot of tongue-biting and pride-swallowing from this point forward.

7. No clothes on the floor. You ain’t no teenager! Dirty stuff in the hamper, put the rest away.

8. Remember you are not a victim. It is your choice whether to react and how to react.

9. Remember you can't control anyone else's behavior. The only one in your charge is you.

10. Touch her frequently. As you pass by her on the way to the living room, give her upper arm a quick, affectionate double squeeze. As you're walking to the dinner table, put a guiding hand, lightly but surely, on her lower back. When she's standing at the sink doing the dishes, come up behind her and give her a kiss on the back of her head.

11. Try walking into a room with the mindset of your wife who spends a good chunk of time cleaning it. Ask yourself, "If I were a neat freak, what would bother me in here?" Suddenly, the unwashed coffee cup on the counter, your son’s sneakers under the table, and the newspaper crumpled on the couch will reveal themselves to you. Act accordingly. It'll take just seconds, but over time, the payoff can be exponential.

12. When you're in the midst of an argument, are your comments directed toward resolution, or are you looking for payback? If your comments are blaming and hurtful, it's best to take a deep breath and change your strategy (i.e., shut the f*** up!).

Strategies to Address Low-Frustration Tolerance in Adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Strategies designed to address the adult Aspie’s difficulty in handling day-to-day frustrations have been developed along with comparable interventions for emotional problems relating to anxiety and depression. Here are the “big three”:

1. Self-control techniques have been used in the treatment of both aggressive and anxious adult Aspies, and given the difficulty that some Aspies have controlling these emotions, it may be advisable to make this deficit a key target of interventions for these individuals. Aspies develop better self-control over their emotions by learning to recognize the physical signs of anxiety or anger (e.g., heart pounding, muscle tension, etc.), by practicing positive self-talk (e.g., “I’m upset right now, but I need to stop and think before I open my mouth”), and the utilization of relaxation techniques (e.g., muscle relaxation, deep breathing, etc.) to reduce emotional arousal and delay an immediate response to a stressful situation. This will permit careful reflection (e.g., problem solving, cognitive restructuring, etc.) prior to taking action.

2. Problem-solving skills are common to cognitive-behavioral treatment targeting behavioral or emotional problems. Adult Aspies are helped to think of several possible solutions to a given problem, and to reflect on the positive and negative consequences of each in order to choose the strategy that will maximize positive consequences in both the short and long term. Aspergers adults who get frustrated easily rely too heavily on aggressive solutions, whereas depressed adults often default to avoiding their difficulties. Problem-solving skills can be used in either case to broaden the repertoire of constructive coping strategies and enhance decision-making. Decreasing depression and anxiety related to low-frustration tolerance would be beneficial in itself for the adult with Aspergers, but it may have the added benefit of reducing negative moods that render the individual vulnerable to engaging in explosive, emotional and reactive aggression.

3. Reframing techniques have been used to deal with aggression, anxiety, and depression. The central feature of reframing is to identify thoughts that increase anger, anxiety or sadness, challenge their accuracy, and replace them with interpretations that are more realistic and less harmful. With regard to anxiety, a person on the spectrum may learn to recognize that her anxiety levels rise when she assumes that all of her coworkers would “think she is stupid” if she made a few typos in a business letter. Instead, she may be encouraged to take a more realistic view, recognizing that everyone makes mistakes, and that when other people make mistakes, she does not usually think badly of them. To reinforce this perspective, the adult might use some encouraging self-talk (e.g., “It’s alright to make mistakes from time to time …that’s how I learn to avoid making the same mistakes in the future”). Applied to address emotional difficulties, reframing techniques are often used to emphasize that there is more than one way to explain the actions of other people.

Aspergers adults who are easily frustrated over things both big and small face a complicated array of social and emotional challenges, and it is imperative that they recognize the full extent of their difficulties and tailor interventions to match their complex needs. More research is urgently needed to create and evaluate treatment strategies that integrate cognitive-behavioral strategies for the therapeutic intervention of both behavioral and emotional problems. In the meantime, therapists who work with these adults may broaden the focus of existing clinic-based interventions by flexibly applying techniques such as cognitive restructuring, problem-solving skills training and self-control skills, along the lines described above. 

Parents may play a key role in advocating for their older teens and adult children with low-frustration tolerance, seeking referrals where appropriate to mental health centers where individual therapy may be provided, as this may be a particularly appropriate context to tailor interventions to the specific needs of the adult Aspie.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Paranoia in the Asperger's Mind

Help for adults with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism who struggle in relationships:



The Paranoid Aspie

The paranoid Aspie is often hypersensitive and easily slighted. He often thinks he is in danger and looks for threats of that danger, not appreciating other evidence. He tends to be guarded and suspicious and has quite a constricted emotional life. His reduced capacity for meaningful emotional involvement and the general pattern of withdrawal often lend a quality of isolation to his life experience.

Other characteristics of the paranoid Aspie include:
  • a combative and tenacious sense of personal rights and “the truth” 
  • excessive sensitivity to setbacks and rebuffs 
  • preoccupation with unsubstantiated "conspiratorial" explanations of events
  • refusal to forgive insults and injuries
  • suspiciousness and a pervasive tendency to distort experience by misconstruing the neutral or friendly actions of others as hostile or contemptuous
  • tendency to bear grudges persistently
  • tendency to experience excessive self-importance, manifest in a persistent self-referential attitude

One man with Aspergers describes his Aspergers-related paranoia as "Assholeperger's Syndrome." He states:

"You made an excellent illustration of what I call my 'Assholeperger's Syndrome'. Usually I can realize that I have made a big mistake but it may be long after everyone involved has moved on. It is really hard for me to know what to do when this happens so I usually find myself just avoiding that person."

While it is fairly normal for everyone to have some degree of paranoia about certain situations in their lives (e.g., worry about an impending set of layoffs at work), the paranoid Aspie takes this to an extreme. It pervades nearly every professional and personal relationship she has.

The Aspie who is prone to paranoid thinking is generally difficult to get along with and often has problems with close relationships. Her excessive suspiciousness and hostility may be expressed in argumentativeness, recurrent complaining, or by quiet yet hostile aloofness. Because she is usually expecting to be slighted by others, she may act in a guarded, secretive, or devious manner and appear to be "cold" and lacking in tender feelings. Although she may appear to be objective, rational, and unemotional, she more often displays a hostile, stubborn, and sarcastic attitude. Her combative and suspicious nature often elicits a hostile response in others, which then serves to confirm her original expectations.

Because the paranoid Aspie lacks trust in others, he has an excessive need to have a high degree of control over his environment and those around him. He is often rigid, critical of others, and unable to collaborate, and he has great difficulty accepting constructive criticism.

Because of reduced levels of trust, there can be challenges in treating this Aspergers adult. However, psychotherapy, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications can play a role when the man or woman is receptive to intervention. If suspicions are interfering with your relationships or work, please watch the video above.

Financial Problems: 21 Tips for Aspergers Couples

Financial problems can start even before the wedding vows are said, from the expenses of courtship to the high cost of the wedding. Couples who have money issues should take a deep breath and have a serious conversation about finances:

1. Acknowledge that one partner may be a saver and one a spender, understanding that there are benefits to both, and agreeing to learn from each other's tendencies.

2. Allow each person to have independence by setting aside money to be spent at his or her discretion.

3. Be honest about your current financial situation. If things have gone south, continuing the same lifestyle that was possible before the loss of income is simply unrealistic.

4. Construct a joint budget that includes savings.

5. Decide how much you can save each month, and then save an additional 20 percent.

6. Decide upon short-term and long-term goals. It's OK to have individual goals, but you should have family goals, too.

7. Decide which person will be responsible for paying the monthly bills.

8. Don't approach the subject in the heat of battle. Instead, set aside a time that is convenient and non-threatening for both parties.

9. Don't blame each other for the money problems.

10. Don't hide income or debt. Bring financial documents, including a recent credit report, pay stubs, bank statements, insurance policies, debts, and investments to the table.

11. Don't panic when the market goes down. The most important thing you can do in a bad economy is to stay calm.

12. If possible, pay more than the minimum every month on your credit cards.

13. Keep investing monthly in your 401(k) or IRA. 

14. Line up your credit cards from the highest interest rates to the lowest. Pay the minimum on every single card to stay current. When the card with the highest interest rate is paid off, put the amount you had been paying on it toward the next card in line. Keep repeating this process until each credit card has been paid off.

15. Never close down a credit card since it will hurt your credit score.

16. Never go over your credit limit.

17. Pay your bills on time.

18. Search for the savings account with the highest interest rate.

19. Sit down with your expenses and separate wants and needs. Circle all expenses that are wants. If you have debt or no savings, eliminate the wants.

20. Talk about caring for your mother and father as they age, and how to appropriately plan for their financial needs, if necessary.

21. Try to save enough to cover eight months of expenses.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Sexual Issues: 12 Tips for Aspergers Husbands

Even couples who love each other can be incompatible sexually. Compounding these problems is the fact that Aspergers men (and some women) are lacking in both sex education and sexual self-awareness. Yet, having sex is one of the last things the Aspie should be giving up. Sex brings couples closer together, releases hormones that helps their bodies both physically and mentally, and keeps the chemistry of a healthy relationship intact.

How to fix sexual problems with your neurotypical spouse:

1. First of all, if your sexual relationship problems can't be resolved by using the suggestions below, consult a qualified sex therapist that can help you both address and resolve this issue.

2. Flirt with her. Make a habit of sending playful, sexy messages to her throughout the day.

3. Give her some space. It seems counter-intuitive, but letting your wife have some time to herself can help her recharge. Offer to watch the children for a few hours so she can relax in a bubble bath. This "time out" lets her wind down so that later she’ll be ready to heat up.

4. Just kiss. Agree to place a ban on sex for a certain length of time and just kiss and focus on foreplay. Abstaining from sex has the added benefit of charging up your sex-drive.

5. Learn what truly turns your wife on by asking her to come up with a personal "arousal list." You create a list as well. What do each of you truly find sexually exciting? The answers may delight you. Swap the lists and use them to create more “bedroom events” that turn you both on.

6. Make an appointment – but not necessarily at night when the both of you are tired (e.g., during your toddler’s Sunday afternoon nap, a "before-breakfast” quickie, or ask your parents to take your children every other Saturday night for a sleepover). When a sexual encounter is on the calendar, it increases the anticipation.

7. Mixing things up a bit can increase sexual enjoyment. Why not have sex by the fire place? Standing up in the hallway? In the kitchen?

8. Play an adult board game.

9. Set the mood. Don't underestimate the power of lighting a few candles. Make sure your bedroom is sexy and doesn't have toys littering it – and turn off the T.V.

10. Talk and Listen. Spending 15 minutes connecting with your wife and listening to her talk can help her feel appreciated. Avoid stressful topics like the children and work, and stick to larger issues like current events and the world around you. Respond with full sentences, not grunts. If you can remember and repeat something she said 8 hours later, she’ll be impressed—and you’ll be one step closer to intimacy.

11. Try just hugging or kissing her. Hold and squeeze her hand. Unload the dishwasher yourself. Women want to feel connected to their husbands in ways that don’t always involve sex.

12. Watch an erotic film together. It doesn't have to be porn for it to be sexy.

Meltdowns in Adults with Aspergers & High-Functioning Autism

Can an adult with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism have a meltdown just like a child with the same disorder? 

The answer is ‘yes’ – but 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 (just to name a few):
  • 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
  • crying
  • domestic abuse
  • pacing back and forth
  • quitting your job
  • road rage
  • talking to yourself
  • threatening others
  • 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:
  • Chest tightness
  • Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
  • Increased energy
  • Irritability
  • Palpitations
  • Paranoia
  • Rage
  • Tingling
  • Tremors

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.

Aspergers adults 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. 

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Communication Problems: Help for Aspergers Husbands

To all husbands with Asperger's Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism:

O.K. guys …it’s time to wake-up and get your act together in the communication department. You know what I mean! All relationship problems stem from poor communication skills. You can't communicate while you're checking your email, watching a DVD, or flipping through the evening newspaper.

How to fix communication problems with your neurotypical spouse:

1. Avoid being defensive. Defensiveness occurs when you see yourself as the victim, and then attempt to block off a perceived attack. When you are defensive, you are not open to learning and are also not able to access the vulnerable feelings that may lay beneath your defensiveness. Some typical defensive responses include:

  • cross-complaining
  • disagreeing and then cross-complaining
  • making excuses
  • repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying
  • start off agreeing - but end up disagreeing
  • whining

2. If you can't communicate without arguing, go to a public place (e.g., library, park, restaurant, etc.) where you would be embarrassed if anyone saw you arguing.

3. Look her in the eyes without glaring while she talks (and none of this “I have to look at her forehead or the bridge of her nose because I hate eye contact” bullshit either). Just freakin' do it!

4. Make an actual “communication-appointment” with each other. Put the cell phones on vibrate, put the kids to bed, and let voice mail pick up your calls.

5. Don’t stonewall. Stonewalling is withdrawing from the relationship as a way of avoiding conflict. You may think you are trying to be “neutral,” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness. Some typical stonewall responses are:

  • changing the subject
  • monosyllabic mutterings
  • removing yourself physically
  • stony silence

6. Nod so your wife knows you're getting the message.

7. Remember that a large part of communication is listening, so be sure your body language reflects that (e.g., don't doodle, look at your iPhone, pick your nose, etc.).

8. Rephrase what your wife is saying (e.g., "What I hear you saying is that you feel as though you have more work to do around the house because I don’t pick up after myself"). If you're right, she can confirm it. If what she really meant was, “you're one sloppy, lazy bastard,” perhaps she'll say so - but in a nicer way.

9. Set up some “communication-rules” (e.g., not interrupting until the other person is through talking, no bringing up the past, banning phrases such as "You always ..." or "You never ...", etc.).

10. Voice your complaint, but don’t be critical. Criticism refers to you attacking or judging your wife’s personality or character in a negative way. This may result in her choosing to withdraw from the conversation or to become emotionally distant from you. Complaint, on the other hand, is directed to specific behavior. The difference between a complaint and a criticism lays in the opening use of “I” or “you”. A criticism usually begins with the word “you” (e.g., “you always bla bla bla,” …or “you never bla bla bla”). In contrast, complaints will usually begin with the word “I” (e.g., “I need to be able to come home from work and relax in front of the TV for a few minutes before starting a conversation about how your day went”).

The bottom line: Communication with your wife is a function of "emotional connection." When spouses feel connected, they communicate fine. When they feel disconnected, they communicate poorly (regardless of their choice of words or communication techniques).

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Building Your Self-Esteem: Tips for Adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism


In order to build self-esteem, you will need to change two different core beliefs about self-image. The first core belief to change is the notion that you are not good enough (e.g., how you look, how smart you are, how much money you make, etc.). The second core belief to change is the image of success that you feel you "should" have. Here's how to accomplish these two objectives...

Tips for adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism on building self-esteem:

1. Act the part, and you will become the part. If you act a part long enough, you will eventually not be acting any more.

2. Always remember: some people do not have proper etiquette, and their stares or rudeness can be confused with a personal vendetta against you.

3. Be a person people can count on.

4. Do not be influenced by people who may be trying to lower your self-esteem in order to make themselves feel more powerful. Walk away.

5. Do not feel awkward in silence – sometimes silence is a good thing. It means you are observant, and that presents a strong sense of self-confidence.

6. Do something nice for others.

7. Do something you really want to do, and be pleased with the results.

8. Don't define yourself as someone with low self-esteem. Once you stop believing that you have low self-esteem, you don't anymore. It's that simple.

9. Don't look to others to validate you, your choices, your value, your moral, your personality, your ideas, or your path.

10. Don't take anything personally. Nothing people do is because of you. What people say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

11. Find something you do well, and do it repeatedly.

12. If someone tries to deflate your self-esteem, know that they are doing this because they have none themselves and can't bear to see you having any.

13. If you are being bullied by another person, but feel deep inside that you are doing the right thing, then trust yourself. Though it is very hard, and that person will try every tactic to make you doubt yourself (e.g., with guilt trips, emotional blackmail, sarcasm, etc.), remember that anyone who uses those tactics must not be self-assured themselves.

14. If you are in an intimate relationship, do not emotionally blackmail your partner, making him or her feel badly for telling the truth, or just being themselves.

15. If you find yourself listening to what people say about you, and taking it into account, it shows that you are an open-minded, compassionate person because you don't want to hurt anyone. If there is truth in what people say about you, then that is up to you to decipher. Being honest with yourself is paramount.

16. Keep your word.

17. Lose yourself in a hobby.

18. Meet other people through social media or online dating.

19. Most people can keep from feeling negatively about themselves no matter what others say, but if you were exposed to verbal, physical, mental and/or emotional abuse, it may be more difficult to change the perception of yourself. In this case, surrounding yourself with positive people who will support you is vital. Get rid of the negative people in your world.

20. Trust your instincts and judgments from a morally sound point of view.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

The Male Aspie Brain vs. The Female NT Brain

The differences between Aspergers (high functioning autism) men and neurotypical (NT) women (i.e., women without Aspergers) are not only well-documented, but frequently at the heart of troubled relationships. Experts have discovered that there are major differences in the way Aspergers men’s brains and NT women’s brains are structured and in the way they react to events and stimuli. Below are the big differences between “male Aspie” and “female NT” brains. Some of these differences have more to do with male vs. female traits, while others have more to do with Aspergers vs. neurotypical traits.

1. Typically, Aspergers men’s brains are about 12% bigger than NT women’s brains. This size difference has nothing to do with IQ, but is explained by the difference in physical size between Aspergers men and NT women. Aspergers men need more neurons to control their greater muscle mass and larger body size, thus generally have a larger brain.

2. NT women typically have a larger deep limbic system than Aspergers men, which allows them to be more in touch with their feelings and better able to express them, which promotes bonding with others. Because of this ability to connect, more NT women serve as caregivers. In fact, often times the NT wife "takes care" of her Aspergers husband in the same way she does her children. The down side to this larger deep limbic system is that it also opens NT women up to depression, especially during times of hormonal shifts (e.g., after childbirth, during a menstrual cycle, etc.).

3. NT women tend to: (a) utilize non-verbal cues (e.g., tone, emotion, empathy, etc.), (b) talk through relationship issues, (c) intuit emotions and emotional cues, (d) focus on how to create a solution that works for the couple, and (e) communicate more effectively than Aspergers men. On the other hand, Aspergers men tend to: (a) be less talkative, (b) be more isolated, (c) be more task-oriented, and (d) have a more difficult time understanding emotions that are not explicitly verbalized. These differences explain why Aspergers men and NT women often times have difficulty communicating.

4. Two sections of the brain responsible for language are larger in NT women than in Aspergers men, indicating one reason why neurotypicals usually excel in language-based subjects and in language-associated thinking. In addition, Aspergers men typically only process language in their dominant hemisphere, whereas NT women process language in both hemispheres.

5. Aspergers men tend to process better in the left hemisphere of the brain, whereas NT women tend to process equally well between the two hemispheres. This difference explains why Aspergers men are generally stronger with left-brain activities and approach problem-solving from a task-oriented perspective, whereas NT women typically solve problems more creatively and are more aware of feelings while communicating.

6. Researchers hypothesize that Aspergers is associated with abnormalities in fronto‐striatal pathways resulting in defective sensorimotor gating, and consequently characteristic difficulties inhibiting repetitive thoughts, speech and actions. Neurotypicals tend not to experience such abnormalities. This might explain why Aspergers men tend to be more obsessive-compulsive than their NT counterparts.

7. An area of the brain called the inferior-parietal lobule (IPL) is typically larger in Aspergers men (especially on the left side) than in NT women. This section of the brain controls mental mathematical ability, and may explain why Aspergers men frequently perform higher in mathematical tasks than NT women.

8. Aspergers men tend to have a "fight or flight" response to stressful situations, whereas NT women seem to approach times of stress by taking care of themselves and their children and by forming strong group bonds. The reason for these different reactions to stress is rooted in hormones. The hormone oxytocin is released during stress in both males and females; however, estrogen tends to enhance oxytocin resulting in calming and nurturing feelings, whereas testosterone (which men produce in high levels during stress) reduces the effects of oxytocin.

9. Aspergers men typically have stronger spatial abilities (i.e., being able to mentally represent a shape and its dynamics), whereas NT women typically struggle in this area. Medical experts have discovered that females have a thicker parietal region of the brain, which hinders the ability to mentally rotate objects (an aspect of spatial ability).

10. Because of the way Aspergers men and NT women use the two hemispheres of the brain differently, there are some disorders that Aspergers men and NT women are susceptible to in different ways. Aspergers men are more apt to have dyslexia or other language problems, ADHD, and Tourette’s. NT women, on the other hand, are more susceptible to mood disorders (e.g., depression and anxiety).

Given these differences, it is easy to understand why Aspie male-NT female relationships take so many odd twists and turns, and why the divorce rate amongst these couples is disproportionately high.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


 BEST COMMENT:

Anonymous said... As most parents have at this point, I've seen Frozen roughly 1.4 million times. There is one song, "Fixer Upper" that has a line that really annoyed me for a while. "You can't really change him, because people don't really change." As a person who is working at managing my Asperger's and trying to improve my life, that really ticked me off for a while. If people don't really change, than why am I bothering? But in some ways, it is true. Who we are at our core doesn't really ever change. If we are kind, we aren't suddenly going to become cruel. If we are wise (different from smart), we aren't suddenly going to become foolish. At our core, our soul, or whatever you believe, we don't change. It is what we do, our actions based on our core that can change. Really, we all change little by little as we go through life, our experiences causing us to become more and more mature. I have come to believe that what can change is our strength, and that is what allows our behavior to change. Aspies tend to become trapped in familiar patterns and circular thinking. Breaking out of those patterns and thoughts is extremely difficult, and choosing to do so is a harder choice than NTs probably realize. It takes a great deal of strength and commitment to choose to change our aspie behaviors in such a way to improve our lives. I know from my experience, a lot of times it is easier and less anxiety ridden to stay with negative behaviors than to try to make something better, because my aspie brain doesn't like change. But if you can find something to be strong for, some reason to make your life better, you can also find the strength to make those changes. Trust in your self-worth, believe in yourself, know who you are, and you may be surprised at how much strength you really have.

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