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...

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"Relationship-Strengthening" Tips for Guys on the Autism Spectrum

Tired of being in the dog house? Here are some simple, yet crucial interpersonal skills for husbands (partners) with ASD:

1. Be thoughtful. Do something thoughtful for your wife or partner every day. Whether it's making her a cup of coffee in the morning, sticking a surprise note in her bag, or leaving her a chocolate "kiss" on her pillow before bedtime, everyone loves a romantic surprise.

2. Create a photo album. Take pictures often; don't save the camera for holidays and special occasions. Create a visual scrapbook of your everyday life together. Better still, set the timer and pose together. You will both appreciate the warmth of the moment when you see these snapshots in an album down the road.
 
NOTE: JUST PICK 3 - 4 OF THE IDEAS ON THIS PAGE.  YOU NEED NOT DO ALL OF THEM.

3. Do the unexpected. If you are a homebody who loves to just sit on the couch watching ESPN or if you spend most weekends working out in the garage, surprise your wife by going against your nature and planning a night out with her. Or, on the flip side, if you and your wife spend most weekends going out and partying with friends, plan a romantic night in with just the two of you. The most important part of this is that you actually PLAN the entire night. Don’t simply say you are going out and then hit her with, “So, what do you want to do?”

4. Do what she asks you to do. Little things she asks you do like taking out the trash means so much to her. It’s not hard and it’s the least you can do. If she always has to remind you to do these things it can anger her. You may think these things are not a big thing to her, but they mean so much. It also proves to make her feel appreciated. Doing these things she asks lets her know you really do care. If you know something means a lot to her – then do it.

5. Honor and respect your partner. Be honoring all the time. That means no "my old lady" stories. And it also means a wife shouldn't be flirting with male co-workers or other men. You can have respect without love, but you cannot have love without respect. Respect means not undermining your partner in front of the children. And don't go outside the marriage when you are having a problem. Discuss it with your partner. Respect also means not criticizing your mate in front of others.



6. If your wife has to work late or if you know she will be working through lunch and eating a bland frozen entrée from home, bring her some take-out food. Most women love when their husband remembers small things like that.

7. If your wife loves to cook, book a cooking class that you two can take together. If she is into dancing, commit to learning her favorite dance with her.
 

8. If you're the wife, lower your expectations a bit – and if you're the husband, step up to the plate.

9. It’s Friday night and you are going to watch a movie. Think of all the times she has sat and watched the latest action-adventure movie with you (even though she didn’t necessarily want to). Watch the movie she wants to, even if it IS the latest tearjerker.

10. Keep up your appearance. Let her see you at your best. It's ironic that we dress up to meet total strangers but let ourselves go around our nearest and dearest. Most women love to see their men clean-shaven, in great clothes and perhaps wearing a hint of her favorite cologne.

11. Lavish her with gifts. Women feel loved when you prove she is worth something to you. There is a reason behind the cliché of flowers and chocolates: It makes women feel special and valued. It is important to lavish your significant other with gifts even when it is not necessary. You should send her flowers because you love her, not because it's Valentine's Day or her birthday. Buy her a piece of jewelry for no other reason than to help her get over a severe case of "the Monday blues."

12. Let her initiate sex sometimes. When she feels loved and respected, she will be the one to initiate sex. She will respond in love as she feels loved. It’s very natural for her to be that way. Just as it is natural for you to be the way you are. Just keep this in mind that she shows her love in responding sexually. So if you make her feel loved, you will not have a problem.

13. Listen to your wife and talk to her. Communication is the first thing to go when a marriage starts to breakdown. ASD men need to listen to their wives. Lots of times they just want to talk about anything and for you to listen to them. If she knows your listening this goes a long way. Listening is one of the most important aspects of communication.
 
NOTE: JUST PICK 3 - 4 OF THE IDEAS ON THIS PAGE.  YOU NEED NOT DO ALL OF THEM.

14. Make a list. Make a list of the special days on the calendar that you celebrate together, such as the day you met, your yearly anniversary, or even the anniversary of your first kiss. On these days make a point to spend some quality time together. Cook a special meal (or pick one up on the way home from work). Buy her a card or write her a short letter, and let her know that you didn't forget.

15. Maybe you don’t necessarily LIKE to play tennis or ride bikes, but she does. Without complaining, do one of her favorite activities with her.

16. Men may laugh about it and think it’s silly, but, yes, sometimes women really do like to just cuddle. Kiss and cuddle her to her heart’s content.

17. No woman can resist being catered to, so send your wife out for some quality time with her friends while you cook her favorite meal. Make sure you serve her meal and make sure to do the dishes afterward.

18. Reach out and touch her. Use the power of touch to make a lasting impression throughout the day. There is no such thing as not having time for a kiss goodbye in the morning or again upon reuniting at the end of the day. And an inviting warm hug or back rub at the end of a stressful day is always appreciated.

19. Stop trying to control your partner. It’s another one of those easier-said-than done relationship tips, of course. But trying to control each other — using a technique psychologists call "external control" — is the main source of marital unhappiness. In a happy marriage, partners know they cannot control each other. You have practiced this "external control" if you have ever told your partner they need to behave the way you want them to or that you know what is right. Learning not to control a partner can be a long process. Ask yourself: "If I can only control my own behavior, what can I do to help the marriage?" Then think of what you can change to make the problem better.

20. Take care of yourself. Take care of yourself physically and spiritually. That way, your stress will be down and your tolerance will be up. You'll be less likely to get on each others nerves — and to squabble. You're more likely to have a happy marriage.

21. Take note of significant things. Set something aside for her every day. It might be a newspaper article you read during your commute, a link to a website you came across, or even a story you heard by the office water cooler. She will appreciate that you took a moment to think of her during the course of your day.
 
NOTE: JUST PICK 3 - 4 OF THE IDEAS ON THIS PAGE.  YOU NEED NOT DO ALL OF THEM.

22. Tell her about your moods. Be honest if you are feeling stressed or under the weather. Your woman will appreciate your honesty and will know not to take it personally when you come home in a bad mood.

23. Never underestimate the “Little Things.” Women notice the little things much more often than men, and it's the "little things" that can lead to arguments and breakups. Be intentional about your actions; don't do things for her simply because she expects it or asks you to. Hold her hand. It sounds simple enough, but many men forget this one, simple action. Even though you might not think it is a big deal, she will notice and be thankful later. Be a gentleman, and open the door for her. On date night, her hands should not touch a door handle. Rush ahead to open the car door and restaurant door. Finally, touch her. Touching can be a very sensual experience for a woman. As you're walking together, wrap your arm around her. As you're standing next to her, rest your hand on the small of her back. These simple gestures will go a long way in making her know she is attractive to you.
 

24. There are fewer things better than a weekend away from it all. Plan an entire weekend for just you and her. This entails booking hotel or bed and breakfast reservations, deciding on a babysitter for the children and picking out activities for you and her to enjoy.

25. Don't forget those “Three Magic Words.” Say "I love you" every day. It seems simple enough, but men forget to say it. Many men simply assume that women realize how much they are loved because of the gifts, the touching and the gentlemanly acts, but women need to have vocal reinforcement. Say it, and say it often.

26. Toast to her. Toast each other when you sit down to dinner. It doesn't need to be over bubbly or wine, but even a glass of water or iced tea. Tell her something you love about her and then drink to it!

27. Volunteer to help her. Sometimes she would like to hear you say, “I’ll put the kids to bed tonight” … or “I will do the dishes.” It’s the small things that get her attention. If you never help her, she will feel you don't care. She would like to know you are in her corner.

28. Wake up early one weekend morning and make her favorite breakfast to serve her in bed. Pair this with her favorite magazine or book she is reading and give her some time to just relax. 
 
NOTE: JUST PICK 3 - 4 OF THE IDEAS ON THIS PAGE.  YOU NEED NOT DO ALL OF THEM.

29. When your wife gets out of work and wants to tell you about her day, actually turn away from the television, give her your full attention and really listen to what she has to say. Ask her questions about herself and how her day was. This is not the time to offer manly advice. Rather, act as her sounding board.

30. Wives must feel loved and appreciated. ASD men often take for granted the relationship they have with their wives. We sometimes fail to meet their needs. They must feel loved and appreciated. It’s not enough to just show them you love them, nor is it enough to say it. You must do both. Tell your wife that all the things she does is very much appreciated as well as show her. Don't wait for birthdays and Valentine’s Day to show her.

More resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

 


 

Q & A with Mark: Your Audio Messages + My Answer Posted on YouTube


 

Got a question? Simply do the following:

  1. Create a Skype account, if you haven't done so already - it's free! 
  2. Then click on this link ==> Mark's Q & A 
  3. Then click on Start Meeting 
  4. Then hang up because I probably won't be available at that exact time
  5. At that point, you will see the microphone icon to leave me a message (i.e., your question)

 

Need help? Email me: mbhutten@gmail.com

Understanding Thinking Errors in ASD



More resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Why People on the Autism Spectrum Are So Anxious

“Mark: You say that anxiety is a prominent feature of ASD. What is the biological reason for this?”

*** Click on image to enlarge. ***

 

Biology is just one contributor. People with ASD are particularly vulnerable to anxiety due to a breakdown in circuitry related to extinguishing fear responses, specific neurotransmitter system defects, and the inability to make good social judgments throughout the lifespan.

People with certain personality traits are more likely to have anxiety – with or without ASD. For example, those who are perfectionists, easily frustrated, shy, lack self-esteem, or need to control everything often develop anxiety during childhood and adolescence, which progresses into adulthood.

Anxiety, in general, is more prominent today than a generation ago, for people on - and off - the autism spectrum. The newly recognized increase in anxiety disorders may be the result of poor diet (due to the abundance of fast food/junk food), social media, poor sleep habits, lowered stigma, and under-reporting in the past.

Also, there are a multitude of other sources that can be triggering one’s anxiety (e.g., traumatic past experience, medical conditions, job or personal relationship problems, genetics, environmental factors such as pollution, etc.).

Furthermore, some people worry more than others because they are more emotionally sensitive. Emotionally sensitive people tend to label a moderately bad situation as “devastating,” or may take neutral comments made by others as acute criticism.

Other reasons for anxiety in people with ASD include:

  • being rejected or teased by others, but not having the ability to mount an effective socially adaptive response
  • recognizing that others “get it” when they do not 
  • few - or no - coping strategies for soothing themselves and containing difficult emotions 
  • lack of empathy, which severely limits skills for autonomous social problem-solving 
  • limitations in their ability to grasp social cues and a highly rigid style of thinking, which act in concert to create repeated social errors
  • limitations in generalizing from one situation to another, which often contributes to repeating the same mistakes


More resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Will Your ASD Partner's Anger-Control Issues Be a Life-Long Problem?

 “Are people on the autism spectrum usually prone to angry outbursts? I recently discovered that my boyfriend has traits of ASD and need to know if his ‘anger control’ issue is going to be an ongoing problem for us.”

 


People with ASD are prone to anger, which can be made worse by difficulty in communicating feelings of anxiety. Anger is often a common reaction experienced when coming to terms with problems in relationships (i.e., things that occur that raise the ASD individual’s stress level).

There can be an ‘on-off’ quality to this anger where the individual is calm minutes later after an angry outburst (e.g., meltdown), while those around are stunned and may feel hurt or shocked for hours, if not days, afterward.

The NT partner often struggles to understand these angry outbursts, with resentment and bitterness building up over time. Once the NT understands that her ASD partner has trouble controlling his anger - or understanding its effects on others - she can learn ways to respond that will help to manage these outbursts (i.e., to keep them from escalating).

In some cases, the person on the spectrum may not acknowledge that he has trouble with his anger - and will blame his NT partner for provoking him. Again, this can create enormous conflict within the relationship. It will take carefully phrased feedback and plenty of time for the ASD partner to gradually realize he has a problem with how he expresses his anger and frustration.

A good place to start is identifying a pattern in how the outbursts are related to specific frustrations. Such triggers may originate from the environment, specific individuals, or internal thoughts. Common causes of anger in people with ASD include: other people’s behavior (e.g., critical comments); intolerance of imperfections in others; having routines and order disrupted; anxiety; being swamped by multiple tasks or sensory stimulation.

Identifying the cause of anger can be a challenge.  It is important to consider all possible influences relating to one’s physical state (e.g., pain, tiredness), mental state (e.g., existing frustration, confusion), the environment (e.g., too much stimulation, lack of structure, change of routine), and how well the ASD individual can regulate difficult emotions. Life-coaching and Neurodiverse Couples Counseling can help in this area.

 

 


More resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Self-Help Tips for ASD-Related Anxiety: Tips for Spouses on the Autism Spectrum

“Mark: You state in your videos that ‘autism-related anxiety’ is possibly the #1 contributor to relationship problems. What can I do as a husband with ASD to reduce my own anxiety?”


You are correct. Anxiety is a common problem in ASD. In fact, in some cases it is the MAIN emotion for people on the spectrum. Some studies reveal that up to approximately 85% of people with ASD met the full criteria of at least one anxiety disorder.

Many people on the spectrum report intense feelings of anxiety that may reach a level where treatment is required. For some, it is the treatment of their anxiety disorder that leads to a diagnosis of ASD. People with ASD are particularly prone to anxiety as a consequence of the social demands made on them. Also, changes to daily routine can exacerbate the anxiety, as can sensory sensitivities.

One way these individuals cope with their anxiety is to retreat into their special interest. Their level of preoccupation with the special interest can be used as a measure of their degree of anxiety. The more anxious you are, the more intense your interest. Anxiety can also increase your rigidity in thought processes and insistence on set routines.

One of the best ways to treat anxiety in ASD is through the use of behavioral techniques. This may involve your NT spouse (and others) looking out for recognized symptoms (e.g., meltdowns, shutdowns, the need to isolate, etc.) as an indication that you are anxious. You will need to learn how to recognize these symptoms yourself (although you might need prompting from others).

Specific events may also trigger anxiety. When certain events (internal or external) are recognized as a sign of imminent anxiety, action can be taken (e.g., relaxation, distraction, physical activity, etc.). The choice of relaxation method depends very much on your unique needs.

Some techniques include: meditation; using positive thoughts; the use of photographs, postcards or pictures of a pleasant or familiar scene (these need to be small enough to be carried around and should be laminated in order to protect them); physical activities (e.g., going for a long walk perhaps with your dog, doing physical chores around the house, etc.); massage; deep breathing; and aromatherapy. It’s best to practice whatever method of relaxation is chosen at frequent and regular intervals in order for it to be of any practical use when your anxiety occurs.

Whatever method is chosen to reduce anxiety, it is crucial to identify the cause. This should be done by careful monitoring of the “antecedents” (i.e., the thing(s) that happens before the anxiety manifests itself) to an increase in anxiety. The key issues to address when considering this strategy are: What can be done to eliminate the problem (i.e., the antecedent)? What can be done to modify the anxiety-producing situation if it can’t be eliminated entirely? Will the antecedent strategy need to be permanent, or is it a temporary "fix" which allows me to increase skills needed to manage the anxiety in the future?

The importance of using antecedent strategies should not be underestimated. People on the autism spectrum often have to manage a great amount of personal stress. Striking a balance of short and long-term accommodations through manipulating antecedents to anxiety - and the subsequent relationship problems - is often crucial in setting the stage for later skill development.

 


==> https://aspergers-anxiety.blogspot.com <==

 

More resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism




How Alexithymia Affects Relationships: Tips for People with ASD

“Could you please go into greater detail regarding Alexithymia? I’m diagnosed with ASD and believe that I also have this comorbid condition.”

Alexithymia can be described as a deficit in understanding, processing, or describing emotions - and is defined by: (a) difficulty identifying emotions and distinguishing between emotions and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal; (b) difficulty describing emotions to other people; (c) constricted imaginal processes: and (d) a stimulus-bound, externally oriented cognitive style.

There are two kinds of alexithymia: (a) primary alexithymia, which is an enduring psychological trait that does not alter over time; and (b) secondary alexithymia, which is state-dependent and disappears after the evoking stressful situation has changed.


Typical aspects that result from Alexithymia can include:

  • very logical and realistic dreams
  • problems identifying, describing, and working with one's own emotions
  • oriented toward things rather than people
  • may treat themselves as robots
  • few dreams or fantasies due to restricted imagination
  • difficulty distinguishing between emotions and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal
  • confusion of physical sensations often associated with emotions
  • concrete, realistic, logical thinking, often to the exclusion of emotional responses to problems
  • lack of understanding of the emotions of others
  • lack intuition and empathy


Alexithymia creates interpersonal problems because the affected individual avoids emotionally close relationships, or if he does form relationships with others, he tends to position himself as either dependent, dominant, or “impersonal” (i.e., the relationship remains superficial).

Another issue related to Alexithymia involves the inability to identify and control strong emotions (e.g., sadness or anger), which leaves people with ASD prone to sudden emotional outbursts (e.g., rage, meltdowns). The inability to express emotions using a “feelings vocabulary” predisposes them to use physical acts to articulate the mood and release negative pent-up emotional energy.

Many people on the autism spectrum report a feeling of being unwillingly detached from the world around them. The affected individual may have difficulty finding a life partner or getting married due to low emotional intelligence and weak social skills. The complexity and inconsistency of the social world poses an extreme challenge, but the good news is that emotional competencies can be increased - and social skills can be learned. Finding a therapist who specializes in ASD can be helpful.

 



Resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

 


 

Is Your Partner or Spouse on the Autism Spectrum? - Comprehensive List of Traits Associated with ASD


You think your partner or spouse may have autism? This comprehensive list will give you a better clue. Here you will find the majority of symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – level 1. The individual will not usually have ALL of these traits, however:


1.    An awkward gait when walking or running
2.    Anxiety
3.    Averts eye contact, or keeps it fleeting or limited
4.    Avoids eye contact altogether
5.    Benefits from schedules, signs, cue cards
6.    Can only focus on one way to solve a problem, though this solution may be ineffective
7.    Can recognize smells before others
8.    Can’t allow foods to touch each other on the plate
9.    Can't extend the allotted time for an activity; activities must start and end at the times specified
10.    Carries a specific object
11.    Complains of a small amount of wetness (e.g., from the water fountain, a small spill)
12.    Complains of clothing feeling like sandpaper
13.    Compromises interactions by rigidity, inability to shift attention or “go with the flow,” being rule bound
14.    Confronts another person without changing her face or voice
15.    Continues to engage in an ineffective behavior rather than thinking of alternatives

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

16.    Covers ears when certain sounds are made
17.    Creates jokes that make no sense
18.    Creates own words, using them with great pleasure in social situations
19.    Difficulties with fine motor skills
20.    Difficulties with gross motor skills
21.    Difficulty accepting new clothing (including for change of seasons)
22.    Difficulty applying sufficient pressure when writing, drawing
23.    Difficulty coordinating different extremities, motor planning
24.    Difficulty discriminating between fact and fantasy
25.    Difficulty in auditory areas

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

26.    Difficulty in gustatory areas
27.    Difficulty in olfactory areas
28.    Difficulty in tactile areas
29.    Difficulty in visual areas
30.    Difficulty incorporating new information with previously acquired information (i.e., information processing, concept formation, analyzing/ synthesizing information), is unable to generalize learning from one situation to another, may behave quite differently in different settings and with different individuals
31.    Difficulty initiating, maintaining, and ending conversations with others
32.    Difficulty maintaining the conversation topic
33.    Difficulty understanding the meaning conveyed by others when they vary their pitch, rhythm, or tone
34.    Difficulty using particular materials (e.g., glue, paint, clay)
35.    Difficulty when novel material is presented without visual support
36.    Difficulty when throwing or catching a ball
37.    Difficulty when touched by others, even lightly (especially shoulders and head)
38.    Difficulty with any changes in the established routine
39.    Difficulty with clothing seams or tags

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


40.    Difficulty with direction following
41.    Difficulty with handwriting
42.    Difficulty with independently seeing sequential steps to complete finished product
43.    Difficulty with motor imitation skills
44.    Difficulty with organizational skills (e.g., What do I need to do, and how do I go about implementing it?)
45.    Difficulty with Reciprocal Social Interactions
46.    Difficulty with rhythm copying
47.    Difficulty with sequencing (e.g., What is the order used to complete a particular task?)
48.    Difficulty with task completion
49.    Difficulty with task initiation
50.    Difficulty with transitions

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

51.    Displays a delay when answering questions
52.    Displays a lack of desire to interact
53.    Displays a lack of empathy for others and their emotions (e.g., takes another person’s belongings)
54.    Displays a limited awareness of current fashion, slang, topics, activities, and accessories
55.    Displays a limited awareness of the emotions of others and/or how to respond to them
56.    Displays a strong need for perfection, wants to complete activities/assignments perfectly (e.g., his standards are very high and noncompliance may stem from avoidance of a task he feels he can't complete perfectly)
57.    Displays a strong olfactory memory
58.    Displays abnormal gestures/facial expressions/body posture when communicating
59.    Displays an inability to focus when surrounded by multiple sounds (e.g., shopping mall, airport, party)
60.    Displays anxiety when touched unexpectedly
61.    Displays average or above average intellectual ability
62.    Displays average or above average receptive and expressive language skills
63.    Displays difficulty analyzing and synthesizing information presented
64.    Displays difficulty as language moves from a literal to a more abstract level
65.    Displays difficulty monitoring own behavior
66.    Displays difficulty sustaining attention and is easily distracted 

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder

 
67.    Displays difficulty understanding not only individual words, but conversations
68.    Displays difficulty with inferential thinking and problem solving (e.g., completing a multi-step task that is novel)
69.    Displays difficulty with problem solving
70.    Displays difficulty with volume control (i.e., too loud or too soft)
71.    Displays discomfort/anxiety when looking at certain pictures (e.g., the person feels as if the visual experience is closing in on him)
72.    Displays extreme fear when unexpected noises occur
73.    Displays high moral standard
74.    Displays rigid behavior
75.    Displays rigidity in thoughts and actions
76.    Displays strong letter recognition skills
77.    Displays strong number recognition skills
78.    Displays strong oral reading skills, though expression and comprehension are limited
79.    Displays strong spelling skills
80.    Displays strong word recognition skills
81.    Displays unusual chewing and swallowing behaviors
82.    Distractable and has difficulty sustaining attention
83.    Does not appear to comprehend the facial expressions of others
84.    Does not appear to comprehend the gestures/body language of others
85.    Does not ask for help with a problem
86.    Does not ask for the meaning of an unknown word

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

 
87.    Does not inquire about others when conversing
88.    Does not make conversations reciprocal (i.e., has great difficulty with the back-and-forth aspect), attempts to control the language exchange, may leave a conversation before it is concluded
89.    Does not observe personal space (is too close or too far)
90.    Does not respond to temperature appropriately
91.    Does not turn to face the person he is talking to
92.    Does not use gestures/body language when communicating
93.    Easily activated gag/vomit reflex
94.    Emotional responses out of proportion to the situation, emotional responses that are more intense and tend to be negative (e.g., glass half-empty)
95.    Engages in competing behaviors (e.g., vocalizations, noises, plays with an object, sits incorrectly, looks in wrong direction)
96.    Engages in intense staring
97.    Engages in obsessive questioning or talking in one area, lacks interest in the topics of others
98.    Engages in repetitive/stereotypical behaviors
99.    Engages in self-stimulatory behaviors (e.g., hand movements, facial grimaces)
100.    Engages in self-stimulatory or odd behaviors (rocking, tics, finger posturing, eye blinking, noises — humming/clicking/talking to self)

 

 

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

101.    Excellent rote memory
102.    Fails to assist someone with an obvious need for help (not holding a door for someone carrying many items or assisting someone who falls or drops their belongings)
103.    Fails to inquire regarding others
104.    Failure to follow rules and routines results in behavioral difficulties

105.    Fearful of the sounds particular objects make (e.g., vacuum, blender)
106.    Feels need to complete projects in one sitting, has difficulty with projects completed over time
107.    Few interests, but those present are unusual and treated as obsessions
108.    Finds some smells so overpowering or unpleasant that he becomes nauseated
109.    Focuses conversations on one narrow topic, with too many details given, or moves from one seemingly unrelated topic to the next
110.    Focuses on special interests
111.    Frustration if writing samples are not perfectly identical to the presented model
112.    Has a large vocabulary consisting mainly of nouns and verbs
113.    Has a set routine for how activities are to be done
114.    Has a voice pattern that is often described as robotic
115.    Has an extensive fund of factual information
116.    Has an unusual pencil/pen grasp
117.    Has developed narrow and specific interests; the interests tend to be atypical (note: this gives a feeling of competence and order; involvement with the area of special interest becomes all-consuming)
118.    Has difficulty shifting from one channel to another; processing is slow and easily interrupted by any environmental stimulation (i.e., seen as difficulty with topic maintenance). This will appear as distractibility or inattentiveness

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder


119.    Has difficulty with feelings of empathy for others. Interactions with others remain on one level, with one message
120.    Has rules for most activities, which must be followed (this can be extended to all involved)
121.    Has specific strengths in cognitive areas
122.    Has tics or facial grimaces
123.    Has unusual fears
124.    Ignores an individual’s appearance of sadness, anger, boredom, etc.
125.    Impaired reading comprehension; word recognition is more advanced (e.g., difficulty understanding characters in stories, why they do or do not do something)
126.    Impairment in prosody
127.    Impairment in the pragmatic use of language
128.    Impairment in the processing of language
129.    Impairment in the semantic use of language
130.    Inability to prevent or lessen extreme behavioral reactions, inability to use coping or calming techniques
131.    Increase in perseverative/obsessive/rigid/ritualistic behaviors or preoccupation with area of special interest, engaging in nonsense talk
132.    Inflexible thinking, not learning from past mistakes (note: this is why consequences often appear ineffective)
133.    Insistence on Set Routines
134.    Interprets known words on a literal level (i.e., concrete thinking)
135.    Interrupts others
136.    Is not aware of the consequences of his “hurtful” behavior
137.    Is oversensitive to environmental stimulation (e.g., changes in light, sound, smell, location of objects)
138.    Is unable to accept environmental changes (e.g., must always go to the same restaurant, same vacation spot)
139.    Is unable to change the way he has been taught to complete a task

140.    Is unable to focus on group goals when he is a member of the group
141.    Is unable to make or understand jokes/teasing
142.    Is unable to select activities that are of interest to others (unaware or unconcerned that others do not share the same interest or level of interest, unable to compromise)
143.    Is unaware he can say something that will hurt someone's feelings or that an apology would make the person "feel better" (e.g., tells another person their story is boring)
144.    Is unaware of unspoken or “hidden” rules — may “tell” on peers, breaking the “code of silence” that exists. He will then be unaware why others are angry with him
145.    Is unaware that others have intentions or viewpoints different from his own; when engaging in off-topic conversation, does not realize the listener is having great difficulty following the conversation
146.    Is unaware that others have thoughts, beliefs, and desires that influence their behavior
147.    Is under-sensitive to environmental stimulation (e.g., changes in light, sound, smell, location of objects)
148.    Knows how to make a greeting, but has no idea how to continue the conversation; the next comment may be one that is totally irrelevant
149.    Lack of appreciation of social cues
150.    Lack of cognitive flexibility
 

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151.    Lacks awareness if someone appears bored, upset, angry, scared, and so forth. Therefore, she does not comment in a socially appropriate manner or respond by modifying the interaction
152.    Lacks awareness of the facial expressions and body language of others, so these conversational cues are missed. He is also unable to use gestures or facial expressions to convey meaning when conversing. You will see fleeting, averted, or a lack of eye contact. He will fail to gain another person's attention before conversing with her. He may stand too far away from or too close to the person he is conversing with. His body posture may appear unusual
153.    Lacks conversational language for a social purpose, does not know what to say — this could be no conversation, monopolizing the conversation, lack of ability to initiate conversation, obsessive conversation in one area, conversation not on topic or conversation that is not of interest to others
154.    Lacks facial expressions when communicating

155.    Lacks the ability to understand, attend to, maintain, or repair a conversational flow or exchange — this causes miscommunication and inappropriate responses (unable to use the back-and-forth aspect of communication)
156.    Laughs at something that is sad, asks questions that are too personal
157.    Limited or abnormal use of nonverbal communication
158.    Looks to the left or right of the person she is talking to
159.    Makes comments that may embarrass others
160.    Makes limited food choices
161.    Makes rude comments (tells someone they are fat, bald, old, have yellow teeth)
162.    Meltdowns (e.g., crying, aggression, property destruction, screaming)
163.    Must eat each individual food in its entirety before the next
164.    Narrow clothing preferences
165.    Narrow food preferences
166.    Narrow Range of Interests

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167.    Needs to smell foods before eating them
168.    Needs to smell materials before using them
169.    Needs to touch foods before eating them
170.    Non-compliant behaviors
171.    Observes or stays on the periphery of a group rather than joining in
172.    Once a discussion begins, it is as if there is no “stop” button; must complete a predetermined dialogue
173.    Only sits in one specific chair or one specific location
174.    Overreacts to pain
175.    Patterns, routines, and rituals are evident and interfere with daily functioning
176.    Plays games or completes activities in a repetitive manner or makes own rules for them
177.    Poor balance
178.    Poor impulse control
179.    Prefers factual reading materials rather than fiction
180.    Prefers structured over non-structured activities
181.    Purposely withdraws to avoid noises

182.    Rarely varies the pitch, stress, rhythm, or melody of his speech. Does not realize this can convey meaning
183.    Responds with anger when he feels others are not following the rules, will discipline others or reprimand them for their actions
184.    Rigidity issues tied in with limited food preferences (e.g., this is the food he always has, it is always this brand, and it is always prepared and presented in this way)
185.    Rules are very important as the world is seen as black or white
186.    Rushes through fine motor tasks
187.    Shows a strong desire to control the environment
188.    Sits apart from others, avoids situations where involvement with others is expected
189.    Smiles when someone shares sad news
190.     Socially and emotionally inappropriate behaviors
191.    Stands too close or too far away from another person
192.    Stands too close to objects or people
193.    Stares intensely at people or objects
194.    Takes perfectionism to an extreme
195.    Talks on and on about a special interest while unaware that the other person is no longer paying attention, talks to someone who is obviously engaged in another activity, talks to someone who isn’t even there
196.    Touches, hugs, or kisses others without realizing that it is inappropriate
197.    Under-reacts to pain
198.    Unsure how to ask for help, make requests, or make comments
199.    Uses conversation to convey facts and information about special interests, rather than to convey thoughts, emotions, or feelings
200.    Uses facial expressions that do not match the emotion being expressed

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201.    Uses gestures/body language, but in an unusual manner
202.    Uses language scripts or verbal rituals in conversation, often described as “nonsense talk” by others (scripts may be made up or taken from movies/books/TV)
203.    Uses the voice of a movie or cartoon character conversationally and is unaware that this is inappropriate
204.    Uses visual information as a “backup” (e.g., I have something to look at when I forget), especially when new information is presented
205.    Uses visual information as a prompt
206.    Uses visual information to help focus attention (e.g., I know what to look at)
207.    Uses visual information to make concepts more concrete
208.    Uses visual information to provide external organization and structure, replacing the person’s lack of internal structure (e.g., I know how it is done, I know the sequence)
209.    Uses words in a peculiar manner
210.    Views the world in black and white (e.g., admits to breaking a rule even when there is no chance of getting caught)
211.    Visual learning strength
212.    When processing language (which requires multiple channels working together), has difficulty regulating just one channel, difficulty discriminating between relevant and irrelevant information
213.    When questioned regarding what could be learned from another person's facial expression, says, “Nothing.” Faces do not provide him with information. Unable to read these “messages,” he is unable to respond to them
214.    Will only tolerate foods of a particular texture or color



Resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

"Tone of Voice" Matters: Tips for Neurotypical Spouses

“When I’m frustrated with my spouse [with ASD], I usually make a concerted effort to not show it. That is, I try to stay calm. But even when I make a neutral comment - something non-threatening - he still says I’m being critical… so that’s when he just leaves the room and does his version of a shutdown. What am I doing wrong here!? Again, I think I’m being (actually pretending) to be calm when I try to discuss our issues with him. We can’t discuss anything anymore!”

What I find most often is that the NT’s tone of voice changes even though she is “trying” to remain calm when approaching her ASD spouse. But unless you are a VERY GOOD actor, your true attitude will “leak out” in your tone (i.e., inflection that seems a bit “off” to the listener).

A MAJOR source of sensory-overload for a person with ASD is voice – especially tone of voice! The individual often analyzes voice-tone first, and then decodes the words used by the speaker later. Any voice inflection by the speaker that remotely conveys a negative attitude (e.g., sarcasm, irritation, criticism, etc.) may be detected - and taken personally.

A negative tone can be offensive to an ASD spouse, particularly if he is not sure why the speaker is using a particular inflection (e.g., “Is she upset with me?” “Did I do something wrong?” “Why does she sound mad?”). A loop effect can occur in his thinking process (i.e., mulls over the comment made by the speaker long after the conversation has ended). Anxiety and agitation can increase as he attempts to analyze the motives of the speaker.

What we’re really referring to here is your spouse’s obsessive way of thinking. One of the most troublesome traits of the disorder may be the tendency toward repetitive thoughts (i.e., ruminations).

While the ability toward extreme focus can be a strong point for a person on the autism spectrum, it’s a problem when he can’t shift away from thinking about things that are not of his choosing. Often, the individual gets caught up in worries, dwells on past slights from his NT spouse, ponders his own mistakes, and has problems letting go of past hurts.

 

Resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism




How to Tell the Difference Between a Meltdown and an Adult Tantrum: Tips for NT Spouses

“I know that people with autism spectrum disorder have their meltdowns, but I’m having a hard time distinguishing the difference between my ASD husband’s meltdowns versus the adult version of a tantrum. These two look the same to me, but I don’t want to confront him if he is legitimately having a ‘meltdown’ because I know that he’s not able to control some of that.”


A key difference to remember is that tantrums usually have a purpose. The person who is "acting out" in the moment is looking for a certain reaction from you (e.g., to push YOUR anger button in order to piss you off). On the other hand, a meltdown is a reaction to something that short circuits the reasoning part of the brain (e.g., sensory overload, anxiety overload, unexpected and troubling change in the person's routine or structure, feeling overwhelmed by one's emotions, etc.), and has nothing to do with your response to it.

ASD is often referred to as the "invisible disorder" because of the internal struggles these individuals have without outwardly demonstrating any real noticeable symptoms (when they are calm anyway). People with this disorder struggle with a stressful problem, but “internalize” their feelings until their emotions boil over, leading to a complete meltdown. These outbursts are not a typical tantrum.

Some meltdowns are worse than others, but all leave both spouses exhausted. Unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over a day – or more. When it ends, both partners are emotionally drained. But, don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day, and sometimes into the next, the meltdown can return full force.

Meltdowns are overwhelming emotions and quite common in people on the spectrum. They can be caused by a very minor incident to something more traumatic. They last until the individual with ASD is either completely exhausted, or he gains control of his emotions (which is not easy for him to do). Most autistics have “emotional-regulation” difficulties!

Your spouse with ASD may experience both minor and major meltdowns over incidents that are part of daily life. He may have a major meltdown over something that you view as a very small incident, or he may have absolutely NO REACTION to something that you view as a very troubling incident.

When your husband is calm and relaxed, talk to him about his meltdowns. Then, tell him that sometimes he “reacts” to (i.e., is startled by) certain problems in a way that is disproportionate to the actual severity of the problem. Have him talk to you about a sign you can give him to let him know when he is starting to get revved-up.  Overwhelming emotions are part of the traits associated with the disorder, but if you work with your spouse, he will eventually learn to control them somewhat (try to catch them in the “escalation phase” rather than after that bomb has already ignited).

People with ASD usually like to be left alone to cope with negative emotions. If your husband says something like, “I just want to be left alone,” respect his wishes for at least a while. You can always go back in 30 minutes and ask if you can help. Do not be hurt if he refuses.

Resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

 


 

Problems Processing Information: The Main Reason ASD Partners Don’t Follow Through with NTs’ Requests

"Does the autistic brain have problems processing sensory and emotional information? My husband [on the autism spectrum] rarely follows through with what he originally agrees to do [or later, states he did not understand what I said, or simply does not remember the conversation at all]."

People on the spectrum often have problems processing information from one or more of their 7 sensory systems. These processes take place at an unconscious level and work together to help with attention and learning. Each system has specific receptors that pickup information that is relayed to the brain. The sensory traits of people with ASD are often responsible for their processing difficulties, negative behaviors, and unpleasant emotions.

The sensory systems are also involved in “emotional processing.” People with autism spectrum disorder vary in their ability to process information emotionally, in part because at least one other sense often doesn't work well (e.g., it would be difficult for spouse with an auditory-processing issue to figure out whether his wife’s voice suggests composure or irritation). Also, many of these individuals have a hard time using their emotions or desires to process information and act appropriately in interpersonal settings.

Processing is a system that helps people select, prepare, and begin to interpret incoming information. People with ASD who have difficulty with processing may have a range of problems related to regulating the use of incoming information.

There are five processing skills:

1. Cognitive activation is a form of “active processing” that connects new information to what has already been learned through prior knowledge and experience. People who are “inactive processors” are unable to connect to prior knowledge to assist their understanding of new information. In contrast, “overactive processors” are reminded of too much prior knowledge, making it difficult for them to maintain focus.

2. Depth and detail of processing controls how intensely people can concentrate on highly specific data. It enables them to focus deeply enough to recognize and remember necessary details. People with ASD tend to remember a lot of details that relate to their area of special interest, but may not remember much outside of that interest.

3. Focal maintenance allows the person to focus on important information for the appropriate period of time. Individuals on the spectrum may not concentrate long enough on some things, and may concentrate too long on others.

4. Saliency determination involves selecting which incoming information is the most important. People who have difficulty with this control may be distracted by things that are not relevant and miss important information being presented.

5. Satisfaction control involves a person’s ability to allocate enough attention to activities or topics of moderate or low levels of interest. People with ASD with poor satisfaction control have difficulty concentrating on activities that are outside of their special interest.

Here are some signs that your ASD husband has difficulty processing information:  

  • tries to understand the meaning of each word you are saying rather than being able to automatically understand the whole gist and general meaning of your sentence
  • processes too little or too much information
  • processes one word that you say, but then thinks of something completely unrelated to what you are saying
  • only pays attention to exciting information or highly stimulating activities
  • misses a lot of things that are obvious to you
  • may have to repeat himself several times before you understand what he is saying
  • has trouble picking up the main ideas in conversations with you
  • has problems shifting focus from one subject or activity to another
  • has difficulty connecting new information with information already known
  • has an idea of what he wants to say in his mind, but when he attempts to share the idea, it doesn’t come out right
  • focuses too superficially or too deeply on information you present
  • focuses too long on just one detail
  • focuses too briefly on important aspects of the conversation
  • can't distinguish between what is important to you - and what isn't

 

Resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

 


Signs That Your ASD Partner is Approaching “Meltdown”

“My partner [with ASD] will periodically ‘meltdown’. And I would like to know what to look for ahead of time to possibly prevent these from happening, because once he starts ‘losing it’, it’s hard to put that Genie back in the bottle.”

 

A true meltdown is an intense emotional and behavioral response to “over-stimulation” (a form of distress for the individual). Meltdowns are triggered by a fight-or-flight response, which releases adrenaline into the blood stream, creating heightened anxiety and causing the person with autism spectrum disorder to switch to an instinctual survival mode.
 

Common Features of Meltdowns—

  • transitions may trigger a meltdown
  • novel situations or sudden change can elicit a meltdown
  • meltdowns are time-limited
  • meltdowns are due to overwhelming stimulation
  • meltdowns are caused by sensory or mental overload, sometime in conjunction with each other
  • meltdowns are a reaction to severe stress, although the stress may not be readily apparent to an observer
  • cognitive dysfunction, perceptual distortion, and narrowing of sensory experience are associated with meltdowns
  • people in the middle of a meltdown will likely become hypo-sensitive or hyper-sensitive to pain
  • after the meltdown, there may be intense feelings of shame, remorse or humiliation, and a fear that relationships have been harmed beyond repair


Causes of Meltdown—

  • the individual does not receive understandable answers to questions
  • he or she is taken by surprise
  • is given too many choices
  • is given open-ended or vaguely defined tasks
  • has a sensory overload
  • does not understand the reason for sudden change


Warning Signs of Meltdowns—

  • stuttering or showing pressured speech
  • repeating words or phrases over and over
  • perseverating on one topic
  • pacing back in forth or in circles
  • increasing self-stimulatory behaviors (e.g., wringing of hands)
  • extreme resistance to disengaging from a ritual or routine
  • experiencing difficulty answering questions (cognitive breakdown)
  • becoming mute
  • becoming very quiet and shutting down
  • becoming defensive, argumentative, blaming, critical, etc.
  • yelling, cussing



It's important for NT partners to realize that the level of stress in the ASD individual is directly correlated with the amount of data that needs to be processed – and the amount of data that needs to be processed is directly correlated to how much sensory data is picked up and the complexity of the person's personal planning. A logical and consistent structure often helps these individuals.

 

Resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

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