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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.

Post your comment below…

Skype Counseling for Adults with Asperger Syndrome and HFA

Are you an adult with Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism [18 years of age or older]?  And do you need to talk to a professional about some issues that may be troubling you?  

If so, then this is your opportunity to receive counseling via Skype. 

Click here for more information...

How To Avoid Driving Women Away After The First Date: Tips For Asperger's Men

“I’m a 29 year-old male with Asperger syndrome. Every time I get a date with a girl, I end up saying or doing something that drives her away. I keep getting told that I am “a geek” – but that “it’s a good thing.” Are girls just telling me this because they are trying to nicely tell me that I am just boring, or are they being sincere. I always thought that “geek” is just another word for ugly and boring? I would like to think that I am an interesting person. I am an accountant that works full-time and also go to school full-time to get some initials behind my professional name. So I definitely see where I am getting my geekiness from. But at the same time, I race motorcycles because I love it. I also have a lot of cool hobbies, and when I'm not working, I'm always outside doing something active and fun. So please ladies, tell me that this geeky aura that I must carry with me is something that compliments me rather than hurts me. I smile and laugh when I hear this, but on the inside it kills me. How can I keep from driving women away after the first date?!”


You sound really defeated here. Stop beating up on yourself!  Here are some ways even an Asperger's geek can get a date with – and keep – a girlfriend:

1. “Act” confident. You don’t have to “be” confident, but you do have to “act” confident. This will make the ladies take you seriously. Ladies think confidence is very attractive. Why would she want to like you if you don’t like yourself?

2. As a geek, you may be tempted to strut your intellectual prowess by lording it over the lady you’re flirting with. Don’t do it! This is an irritating strategy that will backfire.

3. At parties, don't be everywhere your lady is, and don't track her movements. Move around and mingle with some of the other people there.

4. Be a dude who is fun to be around, knows things, and makes the world and the people around him better. You don’t have to be the smartest man on the planet, but be knowledgeable about the world around you.

5. Build your self-esteem if you really want to be less shy. With good self-esteem, you will feel like you are a wonderful person who can have all of the awesome things you deserve. There are lots of ways to do this (e.g., learning a new skill, volunteering for a good cause, etc.).

6. Do NOT stalk your lady’s house, her Facebook page, or any other “personal” space. That is not cool. It will totally freak her out and kill your chances with her.

7. Don’t ask a lady to go out with you if you have nothing to suggest. That’s poor planning and will make you look a bit nerdy. You don’t need some brilliant plan for a first date, just something simple (e.g., go to a movie).

8. Don’t be that man that thinks he can do no wrong and that every word out of his mouth is a revelation.

9. Don’t compare yourself to others. You are unique and cool – and only you can offer the world the amazing things you have to offer.

10.  Don’t forget to find enjoyment in the things that your lady likes, not just show her all the things that you enjoy. If she’s a lady worth dating, she’ll have good taste. Just trust her and let her be your guide on the road to new and fun activities.

11.  Don’t worry about getting rejected. Everyone gets rejected. If someone rejects you, don’t take it personally. It just means that she’s not the right lady for you.

12.  Don't present yourself as Mr. Genius. You probably are very intelligent, and you probably are more knowledgeable than most people about your “special interest.” But, she's probably just as smart - if not smarter - than you in a few areas. If she was really so stupid, you wouldn't want to be with her. Appreciate the things that she knows about, and give her the opportunity to show you those things.

13.  Don't use “pick-up lines.” Just be honest with your lady and say what you're really feeling.

14.  Even though you may be a geek, be a manly caveman between the sheets – ladies like that.

15.  Find female geeks. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. They do, in fact, exist! You can meet female geeks in many of the places you usually go (e.g., the comics shop, local conventions, video game tournaments, etc.). Take a dance class or a yoga class. This will help you make female friends, but it will also get you used to spending time with them very quickly. You can also get online to have an even easier time meeting female geeks.

16.  Find things the two of you have in common. If your lady is geeky, explore your geekiness together to find activities you have in common. If she’s not a geek, find ways that you can introduce her to geeky things she might enjoy. Minecraft or the Sims are easy ways to introduce her to video games. She probably already likes Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. So introduce her to other good fantasy books and movies.

17.  Get to know your lady. Ask her about religion, politics, what she likes to do for fun, her family, where she grew up, etc. However, don’t be demeaning about her answers! Respect her opinion and ideas. She’ll love that.

18.  Go places and do social things that make you feel uncomfortable. With time, you’ll learn that you get through the awkwardness and the discomfort of “risky” social situations.

19.  If you want a lady friend, you’re going to have to know some ladies first. Unless you are a master of asking ladies out, you’re probably going to need to befriend them before asking them out. There aren’t very many women that want to date someone they don’t know at least a little. Meet them at school, while out doing activities (e.g., going to the gym), or even at the supermarket.

20.  If your new lady friend is not a geek, don't ruin it by trying to convert her. Never assume that, deep down, she really must be "one of us" and simply needs to come out of the closet.

21.  Once you’ve met a lady that you think might be nice, hang out in groups first. This will make both of you more comfortable, since you’ll be able to get to know each other and interact without feeling like you’re on a date.

22.  Smile, laugh, and tell jokes! Ladies want to be around men who are fun. They love to laugh.

23.  Take care of yourself and your appearance. Don’t feed the stereotype of geeks not taking care of their bodies. Wash your body and hair regularly, wear clean clothes, and brush your teeth.

24.  The most important thing is to just ask a lady out. Don’t try to get around it or make it seem like something other than what it is. You may feel like you’re about to have a heart attack, but if you ask her straight and act confident, she’ll be much more likely to say, “Sure, l would like to go out with you.”

25.  Want to really hit a home run with your lady friend? Then be a good friend by being supportive when she's having a hard day, helping her take her mind off of her problems, being available for her if she needs help, and listening when she needs to talk.

26.  When asking a lady for a date, don’t do it in public. Asking her out somewhere private will make both of you feel more comfortable. You won’t be so afraid of being rejected, and she won’t feel pressured into saying “yes.”

27.  Work on overcoming shyness. One trick to overcoming shyness is to imagine the worst thing that could possibly happen, and then ask yourself: “Would it really be the end of the world?” It feels bad to experience things that go wrong, but you won’t die. In a few weeks, you probably won’t even remember it. So, try to let go in situations where you’re shy and just enjoy yourself.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


COMMENTS:

Ashley said...   It just means that you haven't found a geeky girl to go with. I know my husband dated a few "popular" and "social" girls in high school before meeting me in college. While I am definitely more social than him (he's the Aspie), I'm the one who got the Dr Who art for the living room and painted an 8-bit Mario theme in his office (around his dragon collection). Being a geek IS a good thing, so find someone who appreciates it. I love my husband and wouldn't trade him for someone who could work on cars or someone who would go to more dances with me instead. Not in a million years.

Adrian said...   I disagree with this. I think that being yourself is really important in any relationship, and that includes people with Asperger's. Remember that for everyone out there is someone else just like them, or someone who is compatible with them. They just need to find that person. The key is to be like an antenna for them, to be open for them to come along, but not to actively seek them. If you look for a relationship, then it will never come, or not a good one at least. But if you are simply open to the idea of one, and looking for the clues that one is coming, then you can be happy.


Anonymous said...  I was informally diagnosed when I was 8 years old, back when they didn't have a proper formal structure and for reasons that I have never been told, I was never actually told about it, until I figured it out for myself when I was 18. At a guess, they were trying to stop me from facing discrimination. I was treated for it, but wasn't told what they were treating me for! As such, when I was 18, and first knew about it, I didn't see the need to have it formally diagnosed, and was happy with an informal diagnosis. It was validated by, at a guess, 13 psychiatrists and 15 psychologists, but it was still informal. I did get a full formal assessment eventually, last year, but only because I needed it for a court case. It doesn't actually make any difference to my life to have a formal diagnosis. The only reason to do it was because I was fighting a discrimination lawsuit and their excuse was that I wasn't really autistic and they didn't recognise an informal diagnosis, no matter how many people agreed with it or how long it had been for. So I got a formal diagnosis and won the court case.

I have a lot of trouble making friends. I always have. I have never had more than 4 or 5 friends at a time and I have never kept them for long. It used to bother me and even make me depressed but I have become more accepting of it as I have got older (I am now 39) and I just know that I am never going to make too many friends. I also found that worrying about it made it worse, so, since I have stopped worrying so much about it it has been a lot better. I don't have any more friends than I had before and they don't last for any longer but at least it makes me happier with them. I appreciate them more than I used to.

You might be surprised to learn that I have never had any trouble with romantic relationships. As an autistic, I am supposed to have problems, but I never really have really. Compared to most people I know, I have been a lot happier in relationships than most neurotypicals even. I had my first girlfriend when I was 4, long before I was diagnosed, and we were together for 2 whole years before our parents split us up. The next one wasn't until I was 13, but I have had many since then. The reason, at least partially, is because my older sister gave me some really good advice about it, which I checked very thoroughly over a period of several years, and I found it is actually true. I stop trying to be perfect and instead I am just me. You might be surprised how many women out there really love autistic men - they find it attractive. Not all of them do, of course. So I stick to the ones that like it. My current girlfriend, who I am going to marry in a month, is dyslexic, and she has some of the same issues as me. I previously went out with a girl with ADHD, and I have gone out with neurotypicals too. To date I have never gone out with a girl with autism, strange as it might seem. I went on a date with one once but we weren't compatible. That is not a part of what makes a girl compatible with me! It is more their beliefs that attract me - the kinds of things that are important to them.

On the school front, I was doing badly at school for the first few years before I got diagnosed but since then I have done very well, until university when various political situations arose to stuff me up. It had nothing to do with my schoolwork but everything to do with pressure from family and people at university, to do with them changing the system. Other people went through that problem too, where they couldn't do the degree that they wanted, and some waited, but I just ploughed through and ultimately politics cost me, so I never got a degree, and then at TAFE (like community college for Americans) I had more politics.

Oh I should add here that school wasn't great for me as I was constantly bullied the whole way through. But, rather than get depressed about it, I tried to work out how to fix it. After watching Karate Kid it inspired me to learn karate, but when that didn't work, I started reading up about martial arts, and learned the theory behind it. I have been in several fights since then and won all of them. I don't know a single move but I know what frame of mind you are supposed to be in when someone attacks you. It works every single time. I have had a whole street gang attack me and come out on top. I could go over how I was able to win in difficult conditions but suffice to say that it is similar to the romantic thing. I never look for a fight, and try to avoid them if I can, but if I have no choice, then I prepare myself for it. I haven't had any fight at all for about 10 years, and the last one was against 10 guys, which I won. The last time I had a fight against just 1 person was when I was 13. I still get picked on and everything but it never leads to physical violence anymore. I think they just kind of know that they wouldn't beat me. I never initiate violence though, nor do I encourage it.

If I thought that work would be politics free, I was dead wrong, though at least the politics I dealt with at school built me up for it. I finally got a job when I was 26, when I moved to a remote area where it is a lot easier to get jobs. The jobs I had there were full of politics. It was different every time. The most common one was having a girl I worked with like me and me say no to her advances. This was silly of me, as it turns out, as, while people say that "mixing business with pleasure is bad", what they don't say is that saying no to a co-worker gets them wanting to seek revenge. I have also had problems with people feeling jealous of how well I have gone and have tried to sabotage my work. Oh and people who think I am lying when I say that someone is trying to sabotage my work or is upset that I rejected them, and then cause problems for me because they think I am lying! But there have been a myriad of other problems too. Three times I was fired for being autistic. The first time I filed with the Ombudsman and got paid for 6 months for doing nothing before a weird manipulation meant that I won but got $0 and no job out of it, even though everyone else got it, because I got incorrectly added to a group complaint that ultimately didn't apply to me. The second time I filed with unfair dismissal and got a $10,000 payout. The third time I filed with unfair dismissal and got my job back plus a $15,000 payout - though I later quit that job after they just escalated the level of discrimination I was subjected to to inhuman levels and the courts weren't quick enough to deal with it. But it isn't always so obvious either. Last week I was told that I had an "illness" and that I had to be seen by a doctor to prove that I wasn't contagious. After seeing them, I was told that I wouldn't be paid for a month because of it. When I told them that they had to pay me and quoted various laws, they told me I had to work for free for 3 months and then come back part time for another 3 months and promise to take back my requests to be paid or they would fire me. So I told them to pay me by tomorrow or I quit. So they paid me, and "accepted my resignation", even though I hadn't resigned. Everywhere I go I get this discrimination.

Mind you, I don't get it from everyone. Most people are fine. It is just that the people that do it somehow have a green light to do it and once someone does it they somehow find this way to convince a lot of normal people to discriminate against me by accident. Somehow I come across as dishonest or something. I mean I don't if I am not around a bigot, but when one is around they just convince everyone.

It can be hard but I guess that it is just as hard for everyone else too, not just for other autistics, but for everyone. I find it is bad to feel sorry for yourself. Or to think that I am worse off than anyone else. It is just different. We each have our own problems. The key, I find, is to have the right perspective. 

15 Tips for Adult "Aspies" Who Live Alone

A lot of adults with Asperger's (high functioning autism) live alone. Many seem to prefer it that way. Living alone can be boring or enjoyable. It all comes down to the decisions you make and the way you run your single-person household. Below are some ways to maximize your solitary lifestyle.  The important factors you will discover involve quality, quantity, cleanliness, indulgence, and socialization.

Tips for adult “Aspies” who live alone:

1. Start journaling. Take a few moments each day to record that day’s experiences. Start with those little things in your life for which you are most grateful. Focus on what you have and what’s going right – not on what you don’t have and what’s going wrong.

2. Don’t become a hermit. When you live alone, it can be easy to hibernate in your home. Make it a priority to plan a couple of nights out each week to keep a healthy balance of staying social and having your “alone time.”

3. Express your style. Have some fun with your home or apartment and paint the walls in your favorite colors and arrange the furniture how you see fit. You don't have to worry about compromising your style by living alone, so embrace your sense of design.

4. Get a pet. If you miss having some company in your apartment, look into adopting a pet.

5. Get in shape. Go to the gym or play tennis or golf. Be an avid walker or hiker. Enjoy yoga or dancing.

6. Get to know your neighbors. Establish a sense of community with your neighborhood. Whether you need a cup of sugar, or have an emergency, it's nice to know who's next door.

7. Invite friends for dinner. If you’re inclined to cooking, share your culinary delights with a few close friends.

8. Keep your house or apartment clean. It's easy to keep dishes piled up in the sink or leave your shoes in front of the door when you don't live with anyone else. Try to establish good habits and set aside time to clean up and make your environment a space you're proud of.

9. Learn a new skill. Many colleges and universities offer courses as “audits.” You don’t even have to pay for the course because there are no credits earned, just information and new knowledge. These courses are offered in a variety of disciplines from science to photography.

10. Read. If you want to grow and change into an even better individual than you already are, consider reading biographies of successful people or self-improvement books which teach you skills for living better and with more purpose.

11. Revisit the hobby you gave up long ago. Did you used to sing in a band, go to concerts or plays, work in stained glass, or paint?  Did you used to have a green thumb? Then, plant a garden.

12. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy, fresh, and delicious foods.

13. Take full advantage of your solitary lifestyle. One of the best parts about living alone is that you don't have to answer to anybody …you get to make all of the decisions. You can decorate the place the way that you want, cook your favorite foods for dinner, or simply do something that you wouldn't necessarily be able to do if you had a partner or spouse that you had to compromise with.

14. Turn off the TV. The television really doesn’t “keep you company” – it keeps you stagnant. An occasional show with half decent content can be enjoyable, but there are too many people who watch fictional characters every week as these characters attempt to unscrew their screwed-up lives. Instead of watching someone else “having a life” – create a life for YOU!

15. Turn your house or apartment into a retreat. Single-person households have a particular advantage as retreats because they are always places where you can get away from it all.  When returning home every night, you don’t have to worry about being hindered by roomies or significant others; therefore, you can turn your place into a super, indulgent retreat.

If you are going solo, you’re not alone! Recently released census data shows that 31 million people live by their lonesome—that’s a jump of 4 million since 2000. That means that over a quarter of people live on their own. However, a growing body of research shows that people who live by themselves may be at a higher risk for depression and alcoholism. So, you will definitely want to follow some – or all – of the tips above in order to stay upbeat and positive about your living situation!

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

The Truth About Asperger’s and HFA in Adults

Most individuals with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism (HFA) are able to work successfully in mainstream jobs, although frequently far below their actual level of skills and qualification. They are most successful in careers that require focus on details, but have limited social interaction with colleagues (e.g., computer sciences). They also do remarkably well in “supported employment,” which is a system of support that allows people to have paid employment within the community, sometimes as part of a mobile crew, or in a job specifically developed for the person on the autism spectrum.

Compared to the general population, fewer individuals with Asperger’s or HFA marry or have children or live in a metropolitan area. This trend is changing as more diagnosed men and women are forming relationships with others on the autism spectrum. This “autistic culture” is based on an accepting belief that autism is a “unique way of thinking” and not a disorder that needs to be “fixed.” People with Asperger’s and HFA are often attracted to others with the disorder because they share interests or obsessions and the compatibility of personality types.

Diagnosis as an adult can lead to a variety of benefits. One can gain a better understanding of himself or herself. Many people on the spectrum have suffered from mental health problems or have been misdiagnosed as having mental health problems (e.g., schizophrenia). A firm diagnosis can be a relief, because it allows these individuals to learn about their disorder and to understand where and why they have difficulties for the first time. It is also helpful to meet others within the autism community by learning about their experiences and sharing your own. Support is a good step in seeking treatment and relieving anxieties, helping to maintain a healthier lifestyle while dealing with the disorder.

Most individuals with Asperger’s and HFA are capable of independent living, either entirely on their own, or semi-independently in their own home or apartment with assistance in solving major problems. This assistance can be provided by parents, a professional agency, or another type of provider. For parents who choose to have their adult child live at home, government funds are available (e.g., Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicaid waivers). Information about these programs can be found through the Social Security Administration.

Getting a diagnosis for Asperger’s or HFA as a grown-up is not easy. It can be hard to convince a physician that a diagnosis is relevant or even necessary. The typical route for seeking a diagnosis is to visit a physician and ask for a referral to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. When bringing up the topic with a primary care physician, make sure that the appointment is set only for this specific reason, because this is an issue that needs everyone’s full attention. Begin by explaining why Asperger’s or HFA is a concern.

The spectrum is broad, and no two people with the disorder exhibit the same traits or challenges. Also, no one individual will have ALL the traits – but will be affected in some way within three areas: (1) social communication, (2) social understanding, and (3) flexibility of thought. Specific traits may include the following:
  • An obsession with rigid routines
  • Difficulty in group situations
  • Difficulty understanding gestures, body language and facial expressions
  • Finding small talk and chatting very difficult
  • Having difficulties organizing their life
  • Having difficulty choosing topics to talk about
  • May choose not to socialize very much
  • May not be socially motivated because they find communication difficult
  • May not have many friends
  • Not choosing appropriate topic to talk about
  • Problems making plans for the future
  • Problems understanding double meanings
  • Problems with sequencing tasks
  • Severe distress if routines are disrupted
  • Taking what people say very literally
  • Unaware of what is socially appropriate

In spite of these challenges, many individuals with Asperger’s and HFA work effectively in mainstream jobs, live independently, and enjoy successful marriages while raising their children.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Asperger's and Problems with Executive Function


People with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism (HFA) often face challenges related to their ability to interpret certain social cues and skills. They may have difficulty processing large amounts of information and relating to others. One core term relating to these challenges is “executive functioning.” Executive function refers to a set of mental skills that are coordinated in the brain's frontal lobe. It includes the ability to curb inappropriate speech or behavior, integrate past experience with present action, manage time and attention, plan and organize, remember details, and switch focus. 

When executive function breaks down, behavior becomes poorly controlled. This can affect the individual's ability to function independently, maintain appropriate social relationships, work, and academic pursuits.

Executive function can be divided into two categories: (1) regulation, which involves taking stock of the environment and changing behavior in response to it, and (2) organization, which involves gathering information and structuring it for evaluation.

Research has identified a number of specific executive functions, which include the following:
  • ABSTRACT THINKING: Being able to understand non-literal language (e.g., sarcasm, jokes, and metaphors) and non-verbal communication (e.g., the way we get our message across apart from the words we use, tone of voice, body language, facial gestures, etc.).
  • EMOTIONAL CONTROL: The ability to control escalating emotions in order to complete a task and keep emotions to a level that is appropriate.
  • INHIBITION: The ability to “contain” the desire to do something in order to stay on task until it is finished (e.g., staying focused long enough to complete a task, thinking through problem solving, staying on a topic and avoiding going off on tangents when telling a story, etc.).
  • INITIATING: Getting started on a task (e.g., knowing where to start and what to do next, writing tasks, etc.).
  • MULTITASKING: The ability to carry out more than one cognitive process at a time (e.g., being able to perform a task while talking).
  • PLANNING AND ORGANIZING: The ability to plan and organize time, information and procedures efficiently (e.g., carrying out instructions accurately, completing tasks on time and correctly, etc.).
  • SELF-MONITORING: Being mindful, recognizing when a change is needed, and noticing when an error occurs (e.g., staying on a topic when talking, noticing changes of topics in groups, answering questions accurately, noticing when you have made a mistake, being relatively accurate in your judgment of your own and others’ behavior).
  • SHIFTING FOCUS: The ability to shift attention if something changes (e.g., being able to change how something is being done when asked, being able to see multiple possible solutions to a problem, etc.).
  • WORKING MEMORY: The ability to hold onto information in order to process it (e.g., being able to identify the main point, take all information into account, tell a cohesive story in a logical sequence, reading comprehension, and following instructions).

Warning signs that you may be having difficulty with executive function include: (a) trouble in estimating how much time a project will take to complete, (b) initiating activities or tasks, (c) memorizing information, (d) planning projects, (e) retaining information while doing something with it (e.g., remembering a phone number while dialing), and (f) telling stories (verbally or in writing).

Executive function involves a set of interrelated skills. Thus, there's no single test to identify a problem. Instead, therapists rely on different tests to measure specific skills. Problems identified by individual tests can't predict how well people will function in complex, real-world situations. Sometimes, careful observation and trial teaching are more valuable ways of identifying and improving weak executive function.

Adults with Asperger’s and HFA often show impairment in three main areas of executive functioning:
  1. Flexibility: Poor mental flexibility is characterized by perseverative, stereotyped behavior, and deficits in both the regulation and modulation of motor acts. Some research has suggested that people with Asperger’s experience a sort of “stuck-in-set” perseveration that is specific to the disorder, rather than a more global perseveration tendency. These deficits have been exhibited in cross-cultural samples and have been shown to persist over time.
  2. Fluency: Fluency refers to the ability to generate novel ideas and responses. Although grown-ups on the autism spectrum are largely under-represented in this area of research, findings have suggested that kids on the spectrum generate fewer novel words and ideas and produce less complex responses than matched controls.
  3. Planning: Planning refers to a complex, dynamic process in which a sequence of planned actions must be developed, monitored, re-evaluated and updated. Adults on the spectrum demonstrate impairment on tasks requiring planning abilities relative to typically functioning controls, with this impairment maintained over time.

Generally speaking, adults with Asperger’s and HFA show relatively enhanced performance on tasks that do not require “mentalizing” (e.g., use of desire and emotion words, sequencing behavioral pictures, the recognition of basic facial emotional expressions, etc.). In contrast, these adults typically demonstrate impaired performance on tasks that do require mentalizing (e.g., false beliefs, use of belief and idea words, sequencing mentalistic pictures, recognizing complex emotions, etc.).

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Fighting the Spring Blues: Tips for Adults with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism

Woo hoo! It’s springtime!!! You should be excited, right? Maybe you're somewhat disappointed because people around you seem to be so enthusiastic about the shift in seasons, but for whatever reason, you can’t seem to get out of your winter funk.

We often hear in the media talk about seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which tends to affect individuals during the fall and winter months. But, believe it or not, seasonal changes and effects on mood are actually quite normal all year-round, especially for people on the autism spectrum.

If you feel worse during the winter - and you clear up later - you may have the winter blues. However, spring or summer too can cause SAD. Check if there is a seasonal pattern year after year that affects your basic functioning (e.g., sleeping, eating, mating, social behavior, weight, mood, energy level, etc.).

How to overcome a negative mood that occurs during spring: 
  1. Avoid excessive use of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, or any other substance to overcome sluggishness and lethargy.
  2. Depressed mood makes one sluggish and sleepy. Sleeping excessively may actually increase depression. Therefore, force yourself to wake up in the morning (e.g., 6:00 AM rather than 9:00 AM – even on weekends). The sun comes up earlier in the spring, and so can you!
  3. To warm up in the morning, engage in a brisk and pleasurable activity (e.g., laughter with a comedy or slapstick humor DVD, walking the dog around the neighborhood, etc.).
  4. Plant some flowers, or cultivate a backyard garden.
  5. Exercise regularly, preferably outdoors (if the weather is stormy, go to the gym).
  6. Find a few friends and have a backyard barbeque on the grill. The important thing here to is stay social - the activity itself doesn't matter that much.
  7. Go to a park where there are other people and where you can move about freely. While you're there, get on the swing and relive your childhood for a moment.
  8. Hunger and craving for sweets and starches is common in SAD. People eat to beat the blues, and many of them become "carbohydrate addicts." Upset by the weight gain, they start dieting, which makes them a "yo-yo dieter." To avoid that, eat balanced meals that are high in complex carbohydrates and protein. Consult a meal chart and plan a 7-day program that is replete with the favor of vegetables, fruits, and grains.
  9. Try to take a summer vacation (preferably for at least 3-4 days), or plan frequent weekend “get-aways” throughout the summer months.
  10. Lastly, get an evaluation to check if you need counseling or medication for depression.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

How To Stop Condemning Yourself

Self-condemnation is when an individual has an extreme dislike of - or terrible rage against - oneself. This can occur at either a conscious or unconscious level. Self-condemnation is typically caused by the notion of “not being worthy of” something desired.

This phenomenon may grow from other roots as well, for example:
  • Shame is an emotion where you hate yourself instead of your mistakes. When you feel shame, you feel as if your every move is wrong, and soon you feel self-condemnation for feeling that way. With shame, you believe that you are a mistake. Shame keeps you immobilized because of your fear of being wrong.
  • Perfectionism is where people want things to be better than are. However, they soon reach a point where nothing is good enough. When they get criticized, or when something they have done is criticized, they feel like they have failed. They hate themselves for not being “perfect.”
  • People can easily begin thinking bad things about themselves if they notice they don’t fit the mold of society or their family’s expectations. And society usually won’t tell them anything different about themselves.
  • An individual might be “different,” or they might have some bad circumstances in their life that causes them to not be able to develop quality relationships. Others notice this strangeness, and insensitively point it out to the person or mock them.

How To Stop Condemning Yourself—

If you had someone in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have told them to “go to hell” a long time ago. Self-condemnation is the polar opposite of self-love and high self-esteem. How can you heal yourself from hating yourself? Here are some important tips:

1. Be patient with your “self” as you learn to love yourself in the same way that God loves you. This change in perspective will not happen overnight.

2. If there is something about yourself that you don’t like, change it. But never change for others.

3. Think happy thoughts. This takes work, but you can - and must - change your own stream of consciousness if you hate yourself. Easier said than done, but re-program your mind to have a constant stream of positive self-talk.

4. Identify guilt-inducing thoughts and beliefs. Notice any thoughts that tend to recur. Listen to your self-talk. Note if these thoughts are legitimate guilt (e.g., "I shouldn't have yelled at my wife like that") or false guilt (e.g., "If I hadn't yelled at her, she wouldn't have gotten hurt. It's my fault she is hurt").

5. Jot down recurring themes like, "I'm dumb" or "I can't do anything right." Does it sound like a critical parent or a loving friend? You may be carrying the voice of a condemning mother or father with you long after he or she is gone, and replacing it with your own critical voice.

6. Learn to accept feeling love for yourself. The only way to be able to receive and accept love from others is by loving yourself first.

7. Make note cards with self-affirmations about your inherent worth. Repeat them to yourself often. Make cards that deal with specific situations (e.g., "I’m worth being loved" or "I’m valuable enough to be in quality relationships").

8. Release past pain. If can’t find a way to let go of the pains of the past, of rejection by others, of hurt and injustice, of loss and sorrow, you will inevitably not want to live your life as you are – filled with pain. This is only normal and natural.

9. Tell yourself the truth about you. Are you basically kind, courageous, honest, intelligent, etc.? Speak words such as, "I may make mistakes from time-to-time, but I’m a kind and loving person who deserves good things in life."

10. Talk to yourself in the same way you would a good friend. Give yourself grace and forgiveness. Say things such as, "Most people would get upset in that situation" or "Anyone could make a mistake like that."

11. Overcome perfectionism. The trick is to know when to be “all or nothing” and when to relax and see the shades of gray so you can give yourself and others credits for the effort and the attempt.

12. Don't punish yourself any longer. Whenever you think or say a negative thought about yourself (e.g., “I’m not good enough”), know that you are attempting to “punish” yourself. You may have come to the point where you’re not speaking negative things about yourself, but you are still thinking them, which continues to have negative effects in your life. So, stop punishing yourself with thoughts of self-condemnation. You don’t deserve that kind of treatment – regardless of any hurts you may have inflicted on others in the past.

The only thing wrong with you is your self-condemnation. It’s wrong for you to hate yourself!  Change your thoughts about yourself!!  Start now!!!

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Empathy 101: Tips for Husband’s on the Autism Spectrum

Empathy is the ability to understand others to the point that you can experience their feelings and internal drives. Most men with Asperger’s (high functioning autism) have difficulty in this area. So in your honor, below is a quick course in how to be more empathic (or less non-empathic).

Let’s first look at the things to avoid…

Don’t:
  • be contemptuous
  • correct the plot line
  • correct what you view to be a misperception
  • counter critique
  • explain why you did what you did 
  • get defensive
  • play the guessing game (in other words, don’t set your wife up to fail by requiring her to guess what you are feeling or what you need)
  • respond to your wife’s constructive criticism with your own criticisms
  • try to attach permanent negative labels on your wife
  • try to prove that your wife is inherently flawed
  • tune your wife out or put up a figurative wall
  • use justifications for what you said
  • use over-generalizations (they tend to not have solutions)
  • use your logic and reason to attempt to disprove the validity of your wife’s emotional reaction or narrative (it doesn’t matter if you believe your wife misperceived a particular event – her emotional reactions are related to her perceptions)

Now let’s look at the things you should be doing…

Do:
  • allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you feel (if you experience strong authentic feelings of your own – rather than feelings related to avoidance, denial or defensiveness – then simply let them flow as long as they are not disruptive, such as in the form of anger)
  • ask for what you want (if you want your wife to just listen and to not “fix” the issue in question – tell her that)
  • be curious and open-minded
  • be interested in your wife’s experience rather than being fixated on making her perception consistent with yours
  • be vulnerable and accepting of your body’s natural responses to conflict
  • free yourself from trying to create consistency between your perceptions and your wife’s perceptions
  • listen as if your only job is to understand
  • listen as though the narrative is not about you (when your wife makes a complaint about something you said or did – or something you were supposed to say or do, but didn’t – listen as if she was referring to a third party, which will help you control your defensiveness or guardedness)
  • listen without using your preconceptions
  • notice your bias and choose to not let it control your actions
  • stay emotionally available, tracking your wife’s narrative and the emotions being displayed
  • take a break when needed (if you are overwhelmed during an argument, ask for a break and take some time to cool down, but tell your wife what you are doing and when you will be able to return)

Practice these ideas, then practice some more. Eventually, you’ll get it. I have faith in you! We, as men on the spectrum, aren't stupid. We just need a little extra help in understanding other people's emotions.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Dealing with a Complaining Partner: Tips for Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA

As couples get down to the business of life after a few years of living together, they often realize that two people may not see eye-to-eye on how things are to be done around the house or in the relationship – especially when one partner has Asperger’s (high functioning autism), and the other does not. Very often, one partner (usually the “Aspie”) draws back while the other (usually the neurotypical spouse) goes overboard.

In any event, if you find yourself in a relationship with a chronic complainer, use the following tips and learn how to deal with her or him:

1. Always create a space for yourself (e.g., a shed, a study room, etc.) …somewhere to retreat from the complaining when it erupts. Your best hobby is done in this safe haven from the chronic complainer. Everybody should have a hobby to counteract the grumbling of a partner.

2. Be patient with your complaining partner. Most people have a good reason for blowing their top. They can only be pushed so far before they explode. Sometimes a good dinner and a good night’s sleep makes things much better the next day.

3. If your partner frequently complains about how you don’t contribute to the household daily tasks – and you really DO help out as much as possible – explain how you prioritize your time and defend your reasoning. Jot down what you do in an average day (on work days and on non-work days). Post these two lists (including time frames) on the refrigerator door, but do not point them out to your partner in a condescending way. When your partner wants to talk to you about how she or he does all the work around the house, stop her or him and redirect the attention to your lists. If your partner criticizes your lists, point out that while she/he may feel her/his demands are more worthy, you will decide how you prioritize tasks and periods of rest in your day based on your own good judgment.

4. Include periods of relaxation and entertainment – and defend them. Just because your partner may feel overwhelmed by all the things she or he noticed needing attention doesn't mean it would be wise of you to indulge your partner the misconception that her or his priorities are reasonable and shared by you.

5. Listen to what your partner has to say. People like to express themselves when they’re feeling hurt. If you don't understand what your partner is talking about, tell her or him to calm down, take a deep breath, and explain what she or he is really trying to convey.

6. Make your partner feel special (e.g., buy your lady some flowers, order pizza delivery and watch a ballgame with your man). Let your partner know that she or he is still important to you.

7. Support your partner. People who complain a lot are usually in a state of discouragement. They need the support and love of their spouse or partner – even when they don't agree with her or him. A hug or a kiss can go a long way.

8. If your partner is being insulting and hostile, call her or him out. There’s no good excuse for one partner to speak scornfully to the other. You are both grown-ups and should always treat each other with respect. If your partner shows contempt for you and treats you rudely, speak up and let your partner know what impact her or his behavior is having on you. A simple, "Well that was hurtful" in response to a demand made in a nasty tone should be adequate. If it's not, take a moment and tell your partner that she or he is hurting you and the relationship, and ask your partner to find another way to deal with personal frustrations.

9. When you feel that a complaint is about to happen, just go for a walk. The key here is to be consistent so that every time a complaint is about to occur, you just get out of the way. This saves wasted energy all around. And if you are out of the way, then you will not hear it.

10. Be patient with your partner as she or he adjusts to your new way of responding (not reacting) to frequent complaints.

Living With Aspergers and HFA: Help for Couples

Body Language 101: Tips for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

As most of us know, people with Aspergers (high functioning autism) often have difficulty with social skills. A BIG part of this is due to the fact that they have trouble reading body language, which makes it increasing difficult for them to interact with others. The good news is that it’s possible to learn how to read body language through practice and role playing.

Noticing the signals that people send out with their body language is a crucial social skill. A few of us “Aspies” can read it naturally, but most of us are notoriously oblivious. Fortunately, with a little extra attentiveness, you can learn to read body language, and with enough practice it can become second nature.

Body language often encompasses (a) how our bodies connect with material things (e.g., pens, cigarettes, spectacles and clothing), (b) how we position our bodies, (c) how we touch ourselves and others, (d) our breathing, (e) our closeness to - and the space between - us and other people and how this changes, (f) our eyes – especially how our eyes move and focus, and (g) our facial expressions. Being able to “read” body language therefore helps us greatly to understand ourselves better, understand better how people might be perceiving our own non-verbal signals, and know how people feel and what they mean.

40 Tips for Reading Body Language:
  1. A clenched fist can indicate anger or solidarity.
  2. A thumbs up and thumbs down are often used as gestures of approval and disapproval.
  3. Blinking is natural, but you should also pay attention to whether a person is blinking too much or too little. People often blink more rapidly when they are feeling distressed or uncomfortable. Infrequent blinking may indicate that a person is intentionally trying to control his or her eye movements. For example, a poker player might blink less frequently, because he is purposely trying to appear unexcited about the hand he was dealt.
  4. Clasping the hands behind the back might indicate that a person is feeling bored, anxious, or even angry.
  5. Closed posture involves keeping the obscured or hidden often by hunching forward and keeping the arms and legs crossed. This type of posture can be an indicator of hostility, unfriendliness, and anxiety.
  6. Crossed arms might indicate that a person is feel defensive, self-protective, or closed-off.
  7. Crossed legs can indicate that a person is feeling closed off or in need of privacy.
  8. Dilated pupils mean that the person is interested. Keep in mind, however, that many substances cause pupils to dilate, including alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, MDMA, LSD and others. Don't mistake having a few drinks for attraction.
  9. If people purposely touch their feet to yours, they are flirting!
  10. If someone mimics your body language, this is a very genuine sign that they are trying to establish rapport with you. Try changing your body position here and there. If you find that they change theirs similarly, they are mirroring.
  11. If someone’s eyes seem focused far away, that usually indicates that he or she is in deep thought or not listening.
  12. Lowered eyebrows and squinted eyes illustrate an attempt at understanding what is being said or going on. It's usually skeptical. This is presuming they are not trying to observe something that's far away.
  13. Lowered heads indicate a reason to hide something. Take note if someone lowers their head. If it is when he is complimented, he may be shy, ashamed, timid, keeping distance from the other person, in disbelief, or thinking to himself or herself. If it is after an explanation, then he may be unsure if what he said was correct, or could be reflecting. 
  14. One of the most subtle cues that eyes provide is through the size of the pupils. While light levels in the environment control pupil dilation, sometimes emotions can also cause small changes in pupil size. For example, you may have heard the phase "bedroom eyes" used to describe the look someone gives when they are attracted to another person.
  15. Open posture involves keeping the trunk of the body open and exposed. This type of posture indicates friendliness, openness, and willingness.
  16. Overly tilted heads are either a potential sign of sympathy, or if a person smiles while tilting their head, they are being playful and maybe even flirting.
  17. Pay attention to how physically close someone is to you. The closer they are, the warmer they are thinking of you. If you move slightly closer to them and they move even closer to you, they probably really like you or are very comfortable around/by you. But this could also mean that they have a special comfort with you, a strong friendship, or they consider you a member of their family. 
  18. People sometimes bite their lips when they are worried, anxious, or stressed. 
  19. People who are rubbing their hands together or somehow touching their own body might be comforting themselves (which means they aren't enjoying the current situation).
  20. People who look to the sides a lot are nervous, lying, or distracted. However, if a person looks away from the speaker, it very well could be a comfort display or indicate submissiveness. Looking askance generally means the person is distrustful or unconvinced.
  21. People with crossed arms are closing themselves to social influence. Though some people just cross their arms as a habit, it may indicate that the person is slightly reserved, uncomfortable with their appearance (i.e., self-conscious and trying to cover it), or just trying to hide something on their shirt. If their arms are crossed while their feet are shoulder width or wider apart, this is a position of toughness or authority.
  22. Personal space is culturally fluid; keep in mind that what is considered close in one country is far away in another.
  23. Pursed lips might be an indicator of distaste, disapproval, or distrust. 
  24. Rapidly tapping fingers or fidgeting can be a sign that a person is bored, impatient, or frustrated.
  25. Slight changes in the mouth can also be subtle indicators of what a person is feeling. When the mouth is slightly turned up, it might mean that the person is feeling happy or optimistic. On the other hand, a slightly down-turned mouth can be an indicator of sadness, disapproval, or even an outright grimace. 
  26. Some cultures believe that looking at someone in the eyes is a sign of disrespect, or is only done with intimate friends or family, so this could explain why someone is avoiding eye contact with you.
  27. Some people may point their feet to the direction of where they want to go or sometimes their interest. So if it's pointing at you, he/she may be interested in you.
  28. Someone that looks down at the floor a lot is probably shy or timid. People also tend to look down when they are upset, or trying to hide something emotional. People are often thinking and feeling unpleasant emotions when they are in the process of staring at the ground.
  29. Someone who brushes their hair back with their fingers may be preening, a common gesture if the person likes you, or their thoughts about something conflict with yours. They might not voice this. If you see raised eyebrows during this time, you can be pretty sure that they disagree with you.
  30. Standing with hands placed on the hips can be an indication that a person is ready and in control, or it can also possibly be a sign of aggressiveness.
  31. The "Okay" gesture, made by touching together the thumb and index finger in a circle while extending the other three fingers can be used to mean okay. In some parts of Europe, however, the same signal is used to imply you are nothing. In some South American countries, the symbol is actually a vulgar gesture.
  32. The V sign, created by lifting the index and middle finger and separating them to create a V-shape, means peace or victory in some countries. In the United Kingdom and Australia, the symbol takes on an offensive meaning when the back of the hand is facing outward.
  33. Tilted heads mean that they are confused or challenging you, depending on their eye, eyebrow, and mouth gestures. Think of how a dog slightly tilts its head when you make a funny noise.
  34. When a person is sitting, feet crossed at the ankles, this means they're generally at ease.
  35. When a person looks directly into your eyes when having a conversion, it indicates that they are interested and paying attention. However, prolonged eye contact can feel threatening. On the other hand, breaking eye contact and frequently looking away may indicate that the person is distracted, uncomfortable, or trying to conceal his or her real feelings.
  36. When a person who wears glasses is constantly pushing them up onto their nose again with a slight frown, this may indicate they disagree with what you are saying. 
  37. When people want to hide an emotional reaction, they might cover their mouths in order to avoid displaying a smile or smirk. 
  38. When someone rests their arms behind their neck or head, they are open to what is being discussed or just laid back in general.
  39. When we meet someone for the first time, their body language, on conscious and unconscious levels, largely determines our initial impression of them. In turn, when someone meets us for the first time, they form their initial impression of us largely from our body language and non-verbal signals. 
  40. While standing, if a person seems to always keep their feet very close together, it probably means they are trying to be "proper" in some way. Sometimes feet together means that they are feeling more submissive or passive.

 Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Asperger's plus ADD: 50 Tips for Adults on the Autism Spectrum


If you have Asperger’s (high functioning autism) and ADD, everything from paying the bills on time to keeping up with family and work can be super stressful. Your symptoms may lead to trouble making deadlines, extreme procrastination, and impulsive behavior. Also, you may feel that family and friends don’t understand how difficult you have it.

Luckily, there are strategies you can learn to help get your symptoms of Asperger’s (AS) and ADD under control. You can develop techniques that help you work more efficiently, improve your daily habits, increase organization, interact better with others, and learn to recognize and use your strengths. Change won’t happen in one day, though.

The following self-help techniques require practice, patience, and a positive attitude:

  1. After someone gives verbal instructions, say them aloud to be sure you got it right.
  2. All those great concepts that keep popping into your head – jot them down on paper for later consideration. 
  3. Allot yourself limited amounts of time for each task and use a timer or alarm to alert you when your time is up. For longer tasks, consider setting an alarm to go off at regular intervals to keep you productive and aware of how much time is going by.
  4. Ask yourself what is the most important task you need to accomplish, and then order your other tasks after that one. 
  5. Ask yourself what you need on a daily basis, and find storage bins or closets for things you don’t. Designate specific areas for things like keys, bills, and other items that can be easily misplaced. Throw away things you don’t need. 
  6. Avoid caffeine late in the day.
  7. Avoid getting sidetracked by sticking to your schedule, using a timer to enforce it if necessary.
  8. Avoid sugar as much as possible.
  9. Break down large projects or tasks into smaller, manageable steps.
  10. Choose something vigorous and fun that you can stick with, like a team sport or working out with a friend.
  11. Color-coding can be very useful to people with AS and ADD. Manage forgetfulness by writing everything down. 
  12. Create a predictable and quiet “bedtime” routine.
  13. Cut up all but one credit card. When you shop, make a list of what you need and stick to it.
  14. Eat fewer carbohydrates, while increasing your protein intake.
  15. Eat small meals throughout day.
  16. Effective use of a day planner or a calendar on your smartphone or computer can help you remember appointments and deadlines. With electronic calendars, you can also set up automatic reminders so scheduled events don’t slip your mind. 
  17. Exercise by lifting weights several times a week.
  18. Exercise in the form of cardio is great, too – but not within an hour of bedtime.
  19. Face your desk towards a wall and keep your workplace free of clutter. To discourage interruptions, you could even hang a "Do Not Disturb" sign. If possible, let voicemail pick up your phone calls and return them later. If noise distracts you, consider noise-canceling headphones or a sound machine.
  20. Free services (e.g., Mint and Manilla) can help you keep track of your finances and accounts. Both services take some time to set up, but once you’ve linked your accounts they automatically update. Manilla consolidates your statements and bills from all of your accounts into one place. Mint tracks all of your bank account and credit card transactions, and also offers budgeting and other financial analysis tools. 
  21. Health professionals can help you manage symptoms of AS and ADD, but they can only do so much. You’re the one living with the problems, so you’re the one who can make the most difference in overcoming them. 
  22. If you don’t have your own office, you may be able to take your work to an empty office or conference room. If you are in a lecture hall or conference, try sitting close to the speaker and away from people who chat mid-meeting. 
  23. If you prefer not to set up automatic payments, you can still make the process of bill paying easier with electronic reminders. You may be able to set up text or email reminders through online banking or you can schedule them in your calendar app. 
  24. If you're attending a meeting, lecture, workshop, or another gathering that requires close attention, ask for an advance copy of the relevant materials (e.g., a meeting agenda or lecture outline). At the meeting, use the written notes to guide your active listening and note taking. Writing as you listen will help you stay focused on the speaker’s words. 
  25. Impulsiveness can lead men and women with AS and ADD to agree to too many projects at work or make too many social engagements. However, a packed schedule can leave you feeling overwhelmed and affect the quality of your work. Turning things down may improve your ability to accomplish tasks, keep social dates, and live a healthier lifestyle. Check your schedule first before committing to something new.
  26. Increase stress relief by walking outdoors—people with AS and ADD often benefit from sunshine and green surroundings.
  27. Make use of lists and notes to keep track of regularly scheduled tasks, projects, deadlines, and appointments. If you decide to use a daily planner, keep all lists and notes inside it. You also have many options for use on your smartphone or computer. Search for “to do” apps or task managers.
  28. Men and women with AS and ADD are notoriously bad at estimating how long it will take to do something. For every thirty minutes of time you think it will take you to get someplace or complete a task, give yourself a cushion by AS and adding ten minutes. 
  29. Minimize the amount of paper you have to deal with. Request electronic statements and bills instead of paper copies. You can also reduce junk mail by opting out of the Direct Marketing Association's (DMA) Mail Preference Service.
  30. Money management requires budgeting, planning, and organization. However, most common systems of money management don’t tend to work for people with AS and ADD because they require too much time, too much paper, and too much attention to detail. But if you create your own system that is both simple and consistent, you can get on top of your finances and put a stop to overspending, overdue bills, and penalties for missed deadlines.
  31. More important tasks should be done first. Set deadlines for everything, even if they are self-imposed. 
  32. Relaxation exercise (e.g., meditation, yoga, tai chi) can teach you to better control your attention and impulses.
  33. Set aside 5 to 10 minutes a day to clear your desk and organize your paperwork. Experiment with storing things inside your desk or in bins so that they don’t clutter your workspace as unnecessary distractions. 
  34. Set aside a few minutes each day to deal with the mail, preferably as soon as you bring it inside. It helps to have a designated spot where you can sort the mail and either trash it, file it, or act on it.
  35. Shop with cash only—leave your checkbook and credit cards at home.
  36. Signing up for online banking can turn the hit-or-miss process of balancing your budget into a thing of the past. Your online account will list all deposits and payments, tracking your balance automatically, to the penny, every day. You can also set up automatic payments for your regular monthly bills and log on as needed to pay irregular and occasional ones. The best part: no misplaced envelopes or late fees.
  37. Stay away from places where you’re likely to spend too much money.
  38. Stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends.
  39. Take a hot shower or bath just before bed.
  40. The effects of AS and ADD may have led to you and others labeling you this way, but the truth is that you are not unmotivated or unintelligent—you have a disorder that gets in the way of certain normal functions. In fact, men and women with AS and ADD often have to find very smart ways to compensate for their disorder. 
  41. The hallmark traits of ADD—inattention and distractibility—make organization perhaps the biggest challenge men and women with the disorder face. If you have AS and ADD, the prospect of getting organized, whether it be at work or home, may leave you feeling overwhelmed. However, you can learn to break tasks down into smaller steps and follow a systematic approach to organization. By implementing various structures and routines, and taking advantage of tools (e.g., daily planners and reminders), you can maintain organization and control clutter.
  42. Throw away catalogs as they arrive.
  43. To prevent restlessness and fidgeting, go ahead and move around—at the appropriate times in the right places. As long as you are not disturbing others, taking a walk or even jumping up and down during a meeting break, for example, can help you pay attention later on.
  44. Use a calculator to keep a running total when shopping (hint: there’s one on your cell phone).
  45. Use a wristwatch or highly visible wall or desk clock to help you keep track of time. When you start a task, make a note of the time by saying it out loud or writing it down.
  46. Use dividers or separate file folders for different types of documents (e.g., medical records, receipts, income statements, etc.). Label and color-code your files so that you can find what you need quickly.
  47. While it is true that there is no cure for AS or ADD, there is a lot you can do to reduce the problems it causes. Once you become accustomed to using strategies to help yourself, you may find that managing your symptoms becomes second nature.
  48. While medication can help some people manage the symptoms AS and ADD, it is not a cure, nor the only solution. If used at all, it should be taken alongside other treatments or self-help strategies.
  49. Write down appointments for fifteen minutes earlier than they really are. Set up reminders to ensure you leave on time and make sure you have everything you need ahead of time so you’re not frantically looking for your keys or phone when it’s time to go.
  50. You can avoid forgetfulness, clutter, and procrastination by filing papers, cleaning up messes, or returning phone calls immediately, not sometime in the future. If a task can be done in two minutes or less, do it on the spot, rather than putting it off for later.

Here’s to a better life with AS and ADD!

Living with Aspergers: Help for Couples

Asperger's Men and Midlife Crisis

“All of a sudden my husband (who has Asperger syndrome) is telling me he is happier being alone. He is trying to find "HIMSELF" and says he loves me and is physically attracted to me but doesn't love me the way i love him. He says he needs space. He is very stressed about his current job and is looking for a new one. His father who he was extremely close to died a little over a yr ago, and he did tell me since his dad died his life has fell apart. He said he has lost enjoyment in things he used to do. We used to hang out and go everywhere together and had fun, but that hasn't happened for a quite a while and now says he needs to keep his distance from me to figure out what he wants. He suffers depression and anxiety. He is 42 yrs old and we have been married almost 23 yrs. Can you please help me …give me some insight …tell me how i should and should not approach this? Does this sound like a midlife crisis?”

Many men – with Asperger’s or not – go through a phase when they take a hard look at the life they're living. They think they could be happier, and if they need to make a big change, they feel the urge to do it soon. These thoughts can trigger a midlife crisis.

Below are some of the symptoms of the “man-version” of a midlife crisis:
  • has little interest in spending time (or having sex) with his wife
  • displays the classic signs of depression (e.g., sleeping more, loss of appetite) 
  • drinks too much or abuses other substances
  • is overly nostalgic and constantly reminiscing about his youth or his first love
  • suddenly makes hasty decisions about money and/or his career
  • thinks about having an affair (or already has)
  • makes a dramatic change in his personal appearance
  • says life has become boring

If you believe your Asperger’s husband is indeed going through a midlife crisis, here are 20 crucial tips for helping him through it (however, keep in mind that it will probably get worse before it gets better):

1. Find support for yourself (e.g., through a trusted friend or colleague, therapist, clergy, support group, etc.). Taking care of yourself through these times will help you to stay physically and mentally healthy. Only then can you truly help your husband. Take care of you FIRST!

2. A physical checkup may be in order. For both men and women, the physical changes which occur in mid-life have a definite effect on behavior.

3. Don't start off with questions when trying to engage your husband in a conversation. Instead, share with him what you are seeing, that you understand he must be struggling, and that you want to support him.

4. Play some upbeat music that encourages your husband to dance, sing and laugh. Choose anything that reminds him of being young again.

5. Seek counseling if necessary, and be sure that your husband isn't turning to drugs or alcohol to deal with his problems.

6. Even if you think your husband is crazy, muster the desire to offer reassurance and validation.

7. Focus on conveying that you are not demanding answers from your husband, but that you want to understand what he is experiencing. Join him in being mystified and even curious about his dilemma.

8. It will always be helpful to stay positive and compliment your husband when possible. This may bolster his self-confidence and let him know that he is loved despite what he is going through.

9. Don't ask the "why" questions (e.g., “Why do you need so much time alone these days?” …or “What has happened between the two of us?”). These questions demand explanations and accountings. Your husband probably doesn't know the answers anyway. Probing questions only add fear and angst to the existing issue.

10. Be open to learning more about yourself, your husband – and how Asperger’s affects relationships. This information will improve your relationship after the crisis has passed (yes, it will pass).

11. In those rare moments when your husband wants to “open up,” listen – not just for what he is saying – but for what he is NOT saying. Listen to what is underneath what he is saying (e.g., feelings, values, fears, etc.).

12. Pay close attention to your husband's mood and behavior. Make sure he is not overloading himself with work or other things. Make sure he is taking breaks so he doesn’t feel stressed-out. Stress exacerbates a midlife crisis.

13. Sometimes a midlife crisis makes men very self-conscious of their bodies. Depending on the physical health of the both of you, you and your husband should consider adopting an exercise or health regimen. This will allow you to participate in activities together while giving your husband a boost of confidence.

14. Your husband might be feeling self-conscious or worried about growing old without having accomplished important goals. If you make an effort to understand these feelings, you can both go through this together.

15. While there are many positive features associated with a midlife crisis, your husband is most likely experiencing the negative features more strongly. Mood swings are common and may range from mild to severe. Watch for signs of depression, rage, resentment or despondency in your husband, and try to talk about it if you feel that things are going too far.

16. Spend time with others who look at the lighter side of life. Look for every opportunity to laugh with them and embrace it.

17. Men in a midlife crisis feel the need to be young again and may develop new interests. Support your husband as best as you can in his new interests – and if possible, participate. Even if you don't have an interest, you should know that new activities will bring the two of you closer together.

18. When your husband initiates conversations with you, be sure to listen without passing judgment. He is probably experiencing doubt and confusion about what he is going through. Giving an opinion or judging how he is feeling or thinking should be kept to yourself.  Yes, your husband may say things that you feel are crazy, and a conversation with him may leave you dizzy in the head. Nonetheless, don't try to explain the error of his thinking no matter how irrational. Don't try to get him to see it from your perspective. He will have to figure it out on his own.

19. Your husband wants to feel validated in his efforts to recapture his youth, so focus on the positive parts of a midlife crisis (e.g., an increased fervor for life). If your husband wants to start going to the gym six times a week, look at it as a healthy endeavor rather than an attempt to stay away from family.

20. Lastly, know that as your Asperger's husband goes through this period of change in his life, you can count on him doing things that will make you pissed as hell. Lashing out at your husband may help you feel better for the moment, but it won't change his thinking or behavior and will only lead to more conflict in the relationship. Get rid of your anger and avoid engaging in conflict. No amount of “reasoning with,” yelling, cursing or crying is going to make any difference if your husband is truly going through a midlife crisis. This thing will simply have to run its course. So, “go with the flow” rather than trying to stop it.

 
 
COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Sounds like he needs anti depressants.
•    Anonymous said... Ok...might not be what you want to hear but this sounds very familiar to me as my ex husband said the same...then went in to blame me for everything wrong in his life from getting migraines to losing his job due to his aspergers...we tried mediation, it was a nightmare, he went to see a counsellor whom he refused to talk to....he needed time to think, etc etc. Turned out he had met an old friend thru facebook and obviously it was far easier to talk to her online than to me face to face! Advice...try and be completely unemotional when talking to him, remember the world is black and white for him, try communicating thru email if he has left the house as he will find this easier as more distanced but be very very careful what and how you write things, applys to talking too! Try talking whilst going for a walk. Be careful how u give him space, expect everything u have said that he has taken badly but not shared to be regurgiated now... long memories! And good luck...deep breath. You will survive what ever happens by the way....you will find u have far more strength than u ever felt possible. Feel free to pm me...
•    Anonymous said... Don't be afraid to get him the help he needs. It sounds like the time to be alone more is a coping strategy of his. To some extent, it's definitely OK. But to some extent, that's a quality of life issue if he is in solitude so much. In my opinion, start exploring the possibility of psychologists, occupational therapist, or even an autism life coach. Psychologist is probably the best bet in terms of the type of person he should be talking to. OT is not so far behind, and in some cases better, if he/she specializes in mental health (I know it because I studied it.). Autism life coach can be hit or miss. You want to check the coach's educational background to see if he/she is equipped for the task.
•    Anonymous said... Be patient. Give him space. Be understanding. Listen when he talks (no need to try and "fix" anything....because you are already helping just by listening!). Know that his confusion right now is nothing to do with you. He needs to figure stuff out. He will respect you for allowing him to do these things....affairs NOT INCLUDED!!!! I highly recommend having him talk to a psychologist ....scary title ...for someone with great listening skills and therapeutic advice!! The brain is such a complex organ and needs to be taken care of when in turmoil. Talking to anyone (but preferably a medical person) is the best medicine. Good luck to both of you.

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