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How to Curb Insomnia: 20 Tips for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Anxiety is a prominent trait of Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism. As a result, many adults with the disorder struggle to get to sleep no matter how tired they are, or they wake up in the middle of the night and lie awake for an hour or more.

Symptoms of insomnia include: (a) daytime drowsiness, fatigue, or irritability; (b) difficulty concentrating during the day; (c) difficulty falling asleep despite being tired; (d) relying on sleeping pills or alcohol to fall asleep; (e) trouble getting back to sleep when awakened; (f) non-refreshing sleep; and (g) waking up frequently during the night or waking up too early in the morning.

Here is a sort of checklist to help you determine the cause of insomnia:
  • Is your sleep environment quiet and relaxing?
  • Have you recently gone through a disturbing experience?
  • Do you try to go to bed and get up around the same time every day?
  • Do you struggle with ongoing feelings of stress or worry?
  • Do you have any health problems that may be affecting your sleep?
  • Are you anxious most of the time?
  • Are you taking any medications that may be disturbing your sleep?
  • Are you sad or depressed? 
  • Do you feel hopeless or helpless on occasion?

Here are 20 quick ideas to curb insomnia:

1.    As odd as it sounds, rub your ears and roll your eyes before trying to fall asleep. This will promote calmness and relaxation.

2.    Avoid stimulating activities before bedtime (e.g., video games, the news, violent movies, etc.).

3.    Close your eyes and take deep, slow breaths, making each breath even deeper than the last.

4.    Consider using Melatonin and/or Valerian. These supplements help regulate your sleep-wake cycle.

5.    Do a quiet, relaxing activity (e.g., reading a book).

6.    Don’t take naps.

7.    If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something constructive rather than staying in bed and fighting to get back to sleep.

8.    Lie quietly and focus on your natural breathing and how your body feels in the moment.

9.    Make relaxation your goal – not sleep.

10.    Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool.

11.    Move your bedroom clock out of view. 

12.    Postpone brainstorming and worrying. If you must worry, do it tomorrow after a full night’s rest.

13.    Starting with your feet, tense the muscles as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10, then relax. Continue this for every muscle in your body, working your way up from your feet to your head.

14.    Stay out of your head (i.e., don’t ruminate about what happened earlier in the day or what’s going to happen tomorrow).

15.    Stick to a consistent sleep schedule.

16.    Turn off the TV and cell phone at least an hour before bed.

17.    Use the bedroom only for sleeping – not as an entertainment room with a computer, TV, etc.).

18.    At least two hours before going to bed, be sure to avoid alcohol, a big evening meal, caffeine, and drinking too many liquids.

19.    For those of you who believe in God and who acknowledge your spiritual-being, prayer before bedtime can have a calming effect as well.

20.    Lastly, spend just a couple minutes each night reflecting on your blessings.

Insomnia is a very common problem for people on the autism spectrum. It takes a toll on one’s energy, mood, and ability to function. Don’t resign yourself to sleepless nights. By addressing the primary causes and making simple changes to your sleep environment and daily habits, you can put an end to the frustration of insomnia.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

How to Handle Put-Downs: The DO’s and DON’Ts

So, what is the best way of dealing with put-downs (i.e., insults)? Here are the things to do – and the things to avoid:

DO REFLECT ON THE PERSON’S MOTIVES: Was the insult even intended to be a put-down, or was it a tongue-in-cheek comment meant to be taken lightly? The context can often help us determine whether an insulting statement is mean-spirited or just candid. Figuring out the person’s reasoning behind the comment will help guide our response.

DO REFLECT TO SEE IF THERE IS SOME TRUTH TO THE INSULT: Sometimes you may feel insulted by someone’s remark because there is some truth to it. When we feel a slight sting because of a person’s criticism, rather than taking it personally, we can choose to use the statement as constructive criticism. If the issue is something that we truly want to get better at, then we can pull the person aside and ask for ideas on how to improve.

DO TALK TO THE PERSON ONE-ON-ONE, IF NEEDED: If our feelings are truly hurt and we want to address the put-down, we can ask the individual (immediately or sometime later) if we could speak with him or her in private. Pulling the person aside shows some consideration (as opposed to calling him or her out in public). We can calmly tell the individual that we found his or her remarks to be insulting and that we would like them show some respect – and that we will return that respect.

____________________


DON’T SHOW ANGER: Getting angry shows that you take the insult, and therefore the insulter, seriously. It also suggests that there may be some truth to the put-down.

DON’T RETURN THE PUT-DOWN: Returning the insult, no matter how clever or well-timed, tends to equalize you with your insulter, raising him or her up to your level and bringing you down to his/hers. This gives the insulter too much believability.

DON’T BE CRITICAL OF YOURSELF AFTER BEING HURT BY A PUT-DOWN: Examples include “I shouldn’t let her get under my skin” or “Why can’t I stand up for myself better” or “Why am I being such a pussy about this?”

You need never take offense at a put-down. Put-downs exist not in the actual remarks made by the insulter, but in your reaction to it – and your reactions are completely within your control. It’s unreasonable to expect a rude loudmouth to be anything but a rude loudmouth. If you take offense at his or her boorish behavior, you have only yourself to blame.

Don’t give that person any of your energy. When you mostly ignore his or her comment – or better yet, laugh at it – you send the message that you don’t take that person seriously, and you’re not remotely affected by his or her opinion of you.


==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

The Gender Bias in the Diagnosis of Females with HFA and AS

High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by difficulties with social reciprocity, flexibility, sensory processing, and social communication. People with HFA and Asperger’s (AS) are at risk of a range of emotional, occupational, economic, behavioral, and social problems.

The timely identification of the disorder can lessen some of these risks and improve quality of life (e.g., by reducing self-criticism, making others less judgmental of the person with the disorder, increasing access to services, helping to foster a positive sense of identity, and by identifying needs and appropriate interventions).

Compared to men, women are at considerably elevated risk of their HFA or AS going un-diagnosed, and in some cases, their problems are mislabeled or missed entirely. Many women who, if expertly assessed, would meet the full diagnostic criteria for the disorder, never receive a diagnosis and the help that can comes with it.

Even when women with HFA or AS are identified, they receive their diagnosis - and the associated support - later than men with the disorder. Also, compared to men, women require more severe symptoms and greater cognitive and behavioral difficulties to meet the criteria for the disorder. This gender bias has critical consequences for the health and well-being of these females – both young and old.

One explanation of the bias against women on the autism spectrum is that there is a female “phenotype” (i.e., a set of observable traits of an individual, or a female-specific presentation of strengths and deficits associated with the disorder) that fits poorly with the current, male-based ideas of HFA and AS.

There is emerging evidence to support the existence of this female phenotype. For example:
  • compared to males, females on the autism spectrum are more vulnerable to problems such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders
  • compared to males, females are less likely to have hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and behavioral problems
  • females on the spectrum consistently score lower on measures of repetitive and stereotyped behavior 
  • there is evidence that females with HFA and AS show higher social motivation and a greater ability to maintain friendships than do males with the disorder
  • unlike most males with the disorder, females have a capacity to “camouflage” social difficulties in social situations

Further research is greatly needed so that we can fully understand: (a) the nature of the female phenotype; (b) how it impacts upon the risk of females with HFA or AS going unrecognized; (c) how the female phenotype influences their experiences of diagnosis, misdiagnosis, and missed diagnosis; and (d) how late-diagnosed females adapt in response to the challenges they must contend with.


==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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