Blog for Individuals and Neurodiverse Couples Affected by ASD
Are you an adult with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger's? Are you in a relationship with someone on the autism spectrum? Are you struggling emotionally, socially, spiritually or otherwise? Then you've come to the right place. We are here to help you in any way we can. Kick off your shoes and stay awhile...
“Mark, you say social skills can be taught to people with ASD. As a person on the spectrum, what social skills should I be focusing on, and why?”
It’s true that social skills can be taught. It’s never too soon to start learning how to get along with others - and it’s never too late to sharpen your skills. Start with the most basic ones first, and keep sharpening these skills over time.
The main ones would be as follows:
Asking for help
Beginning a conversation
Conflict management (e.g., the ability to resolve arguments and disagreements effectively)
Cooperation (e.g., sticking to rules and going about activities without disturbing others)
Empathy (e.g., resonating with the feelings of others and trying to make others feel better)
Engagement (e.g., making friends and actively including others in activities)
Giving Constructive Criticism in a Positive manner
Intimacy (e.g., developing emotional closeness with others)
Inviting people to things
Paying attention to tone of voice and speed of talking during conversations
Responding positively to negative feedback rather than viewing it as criticism
Responsibility (e.g., good behavior in the absence of supervision)
Saying ‘no’ (e.g., setting limits with your time and energy without being rude)
Self-control (e.g., regulating emotions in difficult or upsetting social situations)
Small Talk to Build Connection
Social confidence (e.g., asserting yourself in social situations)
Using eye contact
Here are some ways we benefit from having the social skills listed above:
1. Close relationships-- The most important benefit of being socially skilled over time is the development of meaningful relationships, which drives many other positive outcomes.
2. Decrease loneliness-- People who are more likely to take social risks (e.g., introducing themselves to a stranger or initiating conversation with people) report lower levels of loneliness.
3. Job performance-- Social skills positively predict job performance in workplaces where individuals experience low levels of support from their organization. Social skills are believed to be especially useful for people who need to seek cooperation and resources to perform well.
4. Mental well-being-- Socially withdrawn behavior and social skills problems have been linked to symptoms of depression.
5. Physical health-- Having solid social skills increases your chances of having more high-quality relationships, which benefits your physical health in many ways (e.g., reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer).
6. Reduce victimization-- People with social skill deficits are more likely to experience peer victimization (e.g., in the workplace). Conversely, people who are more cooperative and prosocial are more likely to step in and help others who are being mistreated.
Every social situation is different, and there is not just one “right” way to handle any of them. But, when viewed through the lens of these core competencies, most social situations become a lot more adaptable – and enjoyable.
“Is it common for a person with ASD to experience frequent mood swings? My boyfriend will be fine one moment, but if something changes (that I’m unaware of most of the time), he gets instantly upset and somewhat verbally abusive.”
It is common for people with autism spectrum disorder to exhibit mood swings. (i.e., an emotional response that is poorly modulated and does not fall within the conventionally accepted range of emotive response). Overwhelming emotions can take over, and the affected individual will use some type of coping mechanism (at an unconscious level) to deal with them.
The trigger for a mood swing might be the result of a very minor incident (e.g., sensory sensitivity) or something much more upsetting (e.g., an argument with you). Also, many mood swings last until the person is completely drained of his negative emotions (in worst case scenarios, this could last for days in the form of a shutdown).
In my practice, one frequently asked question by NT partners is: “What do I do when my ASD partner can’t control his emotions?” When severe mood swings occur, the first response is to ensure the safety of all concerned.
Of course, mood swings are not planned, but instead are most often caused by elusive and puzzling environmental triggers. When the “shift in mood” happens, everyone in its path feels pain – including the ASD partner.
As a neurotypical girlfriend, you can expect your boyfriend to experience both minor and major mood swings over incidents that are part of daily life. Many NTs have a hard time knowing how their ASD partner is going to react in certain situations. However, there are many ways to help your boyfriend to keep from escalating to an “out-of-control level.
1. Don’t throw gas on the fire: Avoid confronting your boyfriend in the heat of the moment. The moment you attempt to control him with hopes of getting him to calm down quickly, you are raising his anxiety – not lowering it.
2. Give a signal: Ask him if he would be willing to respond to your "signal" (e.g., a hand motion) to stay composed. Give that signal as soon as he starts "fuming " about something.
3. This is not about you (the NT): As difficult as it may be in the heat of the moment, don’t take your boyfriend’s strong feelings personally. You may justifiably feel aggravated and personally attacked when he explodes. But, save discussion about your feelings on the matter for later (when he has calmed down).