Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD
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Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:
More resources for Neurodiverse Couples:
==> Parenting System that Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder
==> Launching Adult Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance
==> Teaching Social-Skills and Emotion-Management to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Parents' Comprehensive Handbook
==> Unraveling the Mystery Behind High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book
==> Crucial Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism
Below are THE TOP 10 most important things I do – or have done – that have helped me to lead a relatively ‘normal’ life. I trust that you will find something here that will help you, too.
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
• Unknown …Hi Carlos, I am 53 years old, and want to thankyou for your tips and coping strategies. I concur with all but one, you may have guessed already that it is number 10. I would love to discuss/debate my most favourite of subjects with you. I understand if you are unable to do so though. When it comes to that particular subject it is like everything else in my life, subject to logic and reason, and evidence. I learn as I grow, and grow as I learn. I heard it said, "Life is for learning and learning is for Life." I believe it is my Autism that has caused me to be able to see the Truth amongst many lies. A good friend said "If you throw a straight stick in amongst a pile of twigs, it will be very easy to spot. (I don't normally do this by the way Carlos,) but I am intrigued by your being a man of mature years, Autistic, and 'Religious' Finally Carlos, did you know . . . . "Many say the etymology of religion lies with the Latin word religare which means “to tie, to bind.” This seems to be favoured on the assumption that it helps explain the power religion has. The Oxford English Dictionary points out, though, that the etymology of the word is doubtful." I think this is quite interesting for various different reasons, that I would explain in detail should we correspond in the future. Regards, Hendrow.
• CyndiL PhillyGirl…Dear Carlos, My name is Cyndi. I was diagnosed with Aspergers and anxiety disorder with mild OCD when I was in my 4os. I feel that the diagnosis has been a revelation to me. I now know why my mother, siblings, and were atypical but burdoned with other maladies like addiction disorders.
• Unknown… Dear Carlos, thank you for sharing this deep and thought provoking discussion. I have been learning more about the condition seeing that I work with so many people on the spectrum. Their brilliance and individually is extraordinary. A late diagnosis would certainly have been a great relief with so many things suddenly explained at last. kind regards and ongoing brilliance to you and your life.
• UKRonnie …Thank you for the tips. Number 2 is especially useful for me, not only in not offending others but also not constantly being used to fix things for others, to the point that I don't sort my own stuff, which I find hard enough. Also number 7 is intriguing. I suppose it is about who to trust although I am happy to tell people to jog on if they try using my difficulties against me and start spouting ableist claptrap.
• Jake … Wow! This helped me son much! I’m printing it out so I can memorize it. The social challenges have held me back so much! I’m a musician and people love my music. However, dealing with me is hard for people and I get shelved a lot because of it. Thank you for helping so many! I felt so alone and now I see I am not!
• ADIV123 …this was very helpful thank you i am an 11 year old boy named Aditya Vij and i too have Autism.
Here's a good synopsis of what you can expect to witness in your spouse who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD):
Reasons for Rigidity in ASD—
- the violation of a rule or ritual (i.e., you, the NT, changing something from the way it is “supposed to be” … you violating a rule, and this is unacceptable to him)
- anxiety about a current or upcoming event (no matter how trivial it might appear to you)
- the need for immediate gratification of a need
- lack of knowledge about how something with social/emotional components is done (by not knowing how the world works with regard to specific social situations and events, he will become anxious and try to reduce his anxiety, which often results in shutdowns or meltdowns)
- sensory sensitivities
- the need to avoid or escape from a non-preferred activity (often something difficult or undesirable)
- OCD tendencies
- the need to control people for anxiety-reduction reasons
- the need to engage in - or continue - a preferred activity (usually an obsessive action or fantasy)
- transitioning from one activity to another (this is usually a problem because it may mean ending an activity before he is finished with it)
Black-and-White Thinking and Mind-blindness—
- an obsessive-compulsive approach to life that results in the narrow range of interests and insistence on set routines
- the inability to take your perspective (i.e., mind-blindness)
- the lack of cognitive flexibility (i.e., black-and-white thinking)
- there is always some distress, anxiety, or obsession manifested in every “inappropriate” behavior that you, the NT, may witness
- cognitive difficulties that lead to inaccurate interpretations and understanding of the emotional world (how he interprets a situation determines how he will respond to it, but many times the interpretation of an event is not an accurate one)
Behavioral Manifestations of Anxiety—
- wanting things to go his way, when he wants them to, no matter what you may want (he may argue, ignore you, refuse to yield, etc.)
- tending to conserve energy and put forth the least effort he can, except with highly preferred activities
- remaining in a fantasy world a good deal of the time
- appearing unaware of events around him
- reacting poorly to new events, transitions, or changes
- preferring to do the same things over and over
- lecturing or scolding you rather than having a reciprocal conversation
- intensely disliking loud noises and crowds
- insisting on having things and/or events occur in a certain way
- having trouble socializing well with you, or avoiding you altogether (he prefers to be alone, because you do not do things exactly as he does)
- having a narrow range of interests
- becoming fixated on certain topics and/or routines
- eating a narrow range of foods
- demonstrating unusual worries
- showing resistance to directions from you, the NT
- creating his own set of rules for doing something
- becoming easily overwhelmed
- having difficulty calming down
Questions NTs Should Ask Themselves Regarding Their ASD Spouse’s Behavior—
To help you determine the reasons why your ASD spouse acts the way he does, you should ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is he misunderstanding what is happening and assuming something that isn't true? (Misinterpretation)
2. Is he expecting perfection in himself? (Black-and-white thinking)
3. Is he blaming me for something that is beyond my control? (He feels that you must solve the problem for him even when it involves issues you have no control over.)
4. Is he stuck on an idea and can't let it go? (He does not know how to let go and move on when there is a problem.)
5. Is he exaggerating the importance of an event? There are no small events, everything that goes wrong is a catastrophe. (Black-and-white thinking)
6. Has he made a rule that can't be followed? (He sees only one way to solve a problem. He can’t see alternatives.)
7. Does he see only two choices to a situation rather than many options? (Black-and-white thinking)
8. Does he need to be shown a better way to deal with a problem? (He does not understand the way the social world works.)
9. Because a situation was one way the first time, does he feel it has to be that way always? (Being rule bound)
Once a meltdown is underway, it's hard to put that bullet back in the gun.
==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder
Since the symptoms of an autistic individual who is “high-functioning” can be so subtle, multiple, and difficult to pinpoint - it’s hard for an NT spouse to know whether things are normal or not. For example:
- Are my expectations for my ASD spouse unreasonable?
- What is the difference between a person who doesn’t understand emotions, and one who is narcissistic?
- What are the indications of a person being off course in his ability to listen and follow directions?
- What is the difference between a healthy, very active individual versus a hyperactive one with ASD?
- What is the difference between the person who is a little clumsy and one who is having significant motor skills problems?
It will take some time for the NT to recognize and articulate concerns about such issues.
Even after a diagnosis, the NT spouse will face a multitude of feelings before she can grasp effectively with the glaring truth that her husband has a “developmental disorder.” The NT may even mourn over this new reality:
- bargaining (e.g., thinking that seeing a typical marriage and family therapist will make the situation better)
- blaming others for the difficult situation
- dealing with the fear, anger and guilt of having a spouse who experiences many problems
- denying there is a problem, as well as rationalizing why it’s not a problem
- grieving for “what might have been”
- perhaps eventually coming to acceptance regarding the spouse’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as trying to figure out an effective plan of action
One of the biggest challenges NT spouses may face is the big gap between what their ASD husband can do – and what he can’t do. Oftentimes, the ASD spouse is very smart, can reason well, knows a great deal about his favorite subject, yet can’t follow through with the NT’s simple requests.
You may be telling your autistic spouse to “try harder.” But in many cases, he is trying his heart out. These individuals often have to work 10 times harder than their typical peers, but are still labelled as uncaring, selfish, insensitive and narcissistic.
Another piece of the puzzle for the NT spouse lies in how difficult it can be to differentiate between a spouse who “can’t” do something versus one who “won’t” do something. For example:
• “How far should I ‘push’ my husband?”
• “How much should I reduce my expectations?”
• “How much ‘spousal control’ should I exert?”
In this uncertainty, the NT may even ask herself “what is wrong with me?” – instead of asking “what trials and tribulations is my husband having to face?” Shifting this focus can be beneficial for both spouses.
While a formal diagnosis can help, the task of sorting-out these problems on a day-to-day basis is quite a challenge. On a planning level, uncertainty can occur because friends and other family members may disagree not only on the diagnosis – but on the optimal coping strategies that “should be used” by the NT spouse.
This can be aggravating and stress-provoking for the NT who has to pull all the information together and decide what to do – right or wrong. In addition, she has to anticipate problems and sense when her husband is frustrated, tired, or about to explode. The NT has to trust her gut as to how long her spouse can last at a family get-together, be pleasant with visitors, or sit in a busy/noisy restaurant.
- come up with plans for dealing with his meltdowns and shutdowns
- problem-solve to recognize her ASD spouse’s strengths, interests, and areas of difficulty
- reflect on activities of each day
- think carefully
- …and analyze everything!
All of this takes time and energy that is exhausting!
Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD
People with ASD tend to “act out” their uncomfortable emotions. This is how they communicate their discomfort. The message of a meltdown is: “I’m frustrated and upset, and I don’t know what lead up to it - or what to do about it.”
If you are prone to the periodic meltdown, know that it is very possible to find a way to understand your frustrations – and change the inappropriate expression of them!
1. Transitional experiences: When you move from a “desired” activity to one that is NOT desired – especially when the transition is unexpected (e.g., from playing a computer game to running an unexpected errand for your spouse), it’s a prime opportunity for a meltdown. Many transitional experiences can erupt into meltdowns, because you probably don’t like change. You find the transition difficult. It may not be that you don’t want to run an errand for your spouse, rather it could be that you are protesting at having to “switch gears”!
So, when possible, give yourself time to adjust when change occurs. Of course, this is easier said than done when we live in a rush. But you do need more time than “neurotypicals” (e.g., in the morning, you may need to stay in his pajamas for a little while before getting dressed). Also, ask your spouse to “prepare” you for transitions as often as possible. For example, she could say, “I may need you to run an errand for me later today around 3 PM.”
2. Tiredness, hunger and sickness: When you are tired, hungry or sick, you are running on lower emotional resources to cope with normal expectations. This means that if tired or hungry or sick, where you would normally be happy to meet your spouse’s requests, you will likely be short-tempered. Thus, do what you can to deal with the primary issue – get some sleep, eat a meal, see the doctor etc. Try not to get hooked into power struggles when you are low on emotional resources.
3. Implement self-observation: When you are calm, ask your spouse to let you know what she observes regarding the connection between your triggers and your meltdowns. For example, she might say, “I’ve noticed that when you think something is unfair, you get upset and start yelling”). By using your spouse to help you to “connect the dots,” you are learning to identify your triggers. This technique should be part of a problem-solving discussion (that includes you and your spouse) for coming up with a plan for what you will do differently the next time you are in this dilemma.
4. Signaling: Signaling is a common behavior modification strategy for people on the autism spectrum. Choose one specific trigger to work on, and then come up with a phrase or hand signal that your spouse can use as an alert to you that the trigger is present. This allows your spouse to make you aware of the trigger subtly in social situations. Once she has alerted you, you will have the chance to self-correct.
5. Reliance on routine: People with ASD tend to rely heavily on routines to keep them comfortable and content. In fact, most are dependent on routines, because too much activity and change can overwhelm them. A change in routine is a major meltdown trigger that can easily set you off.
Thus, try sticking to daily routines as precisely as possible. If you do have to change the routine, make sure you are well-rested and content. If you notice you are starting to exhibit signs of a meltdown, try to find a quiet place to calm down.
6. Over-stimulation: Although many people on the spectrum enjoy going out to eat, going to malls, attending parties, etc. – it can get quite overwhelming for them to the point they start reacting to these unfamiliar surroundings and faces. Many will exhibit frustration simply because “the unfamiliar” gets to them, especially if there are a lot of foreign noises and smells. Thus, if the environment seems too “sensory-unfriendly,” you may simply want to “bail out” and return home for a time out.
7. Internal frustration: Some people with autism tend to be perfectionistic and obsessive. The inability to do something right after several attempts, or the lack of conversational skills to get your point across can get the “meltdown engine” revving.
Observations from your spouse is the best tool for identifying “low frustration-tolerance” in yourself. Ask your spouse to pay attention and be aware of the warning signs. She can keep her eyes and ears open, and can help you to look for patterns and connections.
8. Identifying physical symptoms: Often there are physical symptoms that go along with impending meltdowns. Your nervous system kicks into high gear when a trigger is present - and can cause several identifiable sensations (e.g., rapid heartbeat, flushed cheeks, rapid breathing, cold hands, muscle tension, etc.).
What do you feel in your body when the trigger you are experiencing is present? When you are aware of the warning signs your body gives you, it can serve as a natural cue to put the new plan you came up with during your problem-solving discussions into action.
9. Dealing with anger: Since “meltdown triggers” and “angry feelings” are directly related, having discussions with your spouse about anger (during those times when you are calm) can help you establish a foundation to build on when identifying your triggers. Ask yourself some important questions about emotions (e.g., what makes me angry, happy, sad, etc.).
The purpose of this is to learn how to identify various feelings, to learn what it means to feel angry, happy, sad, disappointed, etc. - but not to give you an excuse for “acting-out” behavior. This also helps you to communicate your feelings to your spouse clearly so that she is in the best position to help you cope in high-anxiety situations.
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.
More resources for couples affected by ASD:
“Could you please go into greater detail regarding Alexithymia? I’m diagnosed with ASD and believe that I also have this comorbid condition.”
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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:
Resources for ASD-NT Couples
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