4 surprising ways to support the people in your life who have Aspergers/Autism

4 surprising ways to support the people in your life who have Aspergers/Autism

by William Schroeder, MA, LPC, NCC

Since it is Autism Awareness month, I wanted to speak to a little of what I have noticed in my work with Autism and Aspergers. Specifically, I wanted to focus on ways to support people in your life who may be on the spectrum. My advice on this would start with something simple. Get to know their world.

  1. What things do they notice are different for them? This could be something like sensory overwhelm from taking a shower or being immersed in water. I once had someone with Autism tell me that they love to go to concerts but the crowds and sensory overwhelm caused them to shut down — possibly to the point of a meltdown. They learned a technique to focus on one person in the crowd and wonder if they were a famous person in history, what would they have done? This technique allowed them to resource and get through what would be impossible previously. If you have social anxiety, you might even learn a thing or two from techniques like this.
  2. What are their special interests – Everyone has unique interests but people on the spectrum tend to have incredibly deep knowledge if you have watched Ellen lately, you may have seen the kid who knows every country’s name, position on a map, and flag. This is a perfect example of something you might find in a special interest surrounding a kid or adult on the spectrum.
     
  3. What is a challenge for them? Change can be difficult for everyone but for people on the spectrum, this can be especially difficult as there is a lot of sensory input from the feeling of clothing. Multiple times I have run into clients where they tend to wear the same style of clothes and t-shirts to work daily. This becomes tricky when a brand or style is discontinued. I have even heard clients describe a grieving process to this change. Changes like this can be very difficult — and yes, they will survive them but they are still challenging. Moving and job changes can easily fall into this same difficult area.
  4. Interpreting and categorizing information can be different. When I ask you, “What kind of car do you have?” You would likely respond with the make and model and maybe the color of your car. For some people on the spectrum, they may categorize that information differently. I was once talking with a client about a new car they had bought. I asked them what kind it was and they replied to me with the plate number. In their mind, they categorized everything by numbers and patterns. The make, model, and color was not a category. Again, this isn’t to say everyone on the spectrum is like this, it’s just a reminder of how minds work differently and the importance of appreciating and getting to know those differences. Often the analogy is made to think about it like a different computer operating system — some things function in slightly different ways.

Having Autism or what was formerly known as Aspergers doesn’t mean that their difficulties are obvious. Yes, sometimes there are social cues you may notice such as a lack of eye contact. I find it important to also point out that some of the greatest innovators are thought to have been on the spectrum like Mozart, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs to name a few. What makes for a good innovator? A person who thinks differently and can hyperfocus on their ideas with obsessive focus. We have talked in the past about why talking about Aspergers is important and how to overcome symptoms of Autism and ADHD. We hope this will be helpful too!


Just Mind Update: Just Mind is growing! In June we will be expanding our offices to have a total of 12 therapy offices and a room for testing and assessment (coming later in 2017). We will be expanding the hours of our clinicians and adding a few more to meet demand. If you have friends who are looking for counseling, please send them our way!

The Benefits of Getting Kinky

The Benefits of Getting Kinky

(The following article talks about about adult topics like sex and sexuality)
By Adam Maurer, LPC, LMFT

“50 Shades Darker” recently hit theaters, rekindling the word’s flirtation with alternative sexuality. The film is the follow up to “50 Shades of Grey,” which brought in over $500 million from the worldwide box office. The success of the first film seems to indicate that the voyeur in movie goers is hungry to see more sexuality that is outside of the commonplace. Kinks and fetishes can be titillating to witness, but alternative sexuality offers much more than orgasms to folks who are willing to dip into the taboo. These gifts are often overlooked because they are overshadowed by the acts that accompany them. Here are some of the benefits of embracing diverse sexuality.

Community

One of the greatest gifts of alternative sexuality is a closeness with other like-minded people. There are countless websites devoted to creating supportive communities for most any kink or fetish imaginable. These online subcultures not only offer a platform to set up erotic rendezvous, but they offer folks a place to trade tips, share experiences, and appreciate each other through the lens of their shared sexual interests. Many folks use these sites to develop relationships beyond sexual connection. Suddenly, people find that they share challenges and success of life with their kinky communities. This not only happens online, but in real life as well. Kinks and fetishes are shared by people from all walks of life and therefore those communities offer all sorts of tangible support. From pet sitting to IT support, you’ll find folks who care for you beyond what you do for their libidos, and that care can create a loving community.

Communication Skills

Great communication is paramount to great sex, especially when exploring alternative sexuality. The world of kinks and fetishes is vast; so participants must be able to clearly state their desires and limits when negotiating an erotic connection with others. This requires assertiveness and radical authenticity, two skills that benefit communication in all sorts of settings. Practicing communication skills in the bedroom only helps you be a better communicator in other areas of your life. You might discover that you become more assertive at work or with your family. When engaging in kinks and fetishes, participants must also be skilled listeners. A full understanding of the boundaries allows for freedom within the fun, so hearing partners is important. This active listening skills come in handy when addressing a conflict within a friendship or at your office. Reading a person’s nonverbal communication during play is part of listening as well. Tracking how a person’s body responds to stimuli helps to make sure that all participants in the play are getting what they want. Engaging in alternative sexuality can help you better pick up on individuals’ nonverbal cues in day to day life, making you more intuitive to the world around you and thus a better communicator.

Confidence in Everyday Life

Pieces of our exiled selves, elements of us that we feel we must hide from the light of day, often surface in our erotic selves. Perhaps you’ve learned to be less controlling in everyday life yet crave to be in total control in the bedroom. Sexuality is a healthy outlet to express ourselves. Being able to explore your darkest edges and have them accepted, even celebrated, with others is empowering. Their appreciation can help you love yourself more deeply, allowing you to walk in the knowledge that every part of you has value. Expressing your kinks or fetishes with others leads to deeper self acceptance which gives you the glow of confidence in everyday life.

These are just a few of the gifts of alternative sexuality. If you are interested in exploring your sexuality then you may want to talk with one of our sex knowledgeable therapists. With a little guidance, you can better understand your own sexuality and start receiving the gifts of a healthy, diverse sexuality today. Below are a few resources to get you started on your journey of sexual self discovery.

Additional resources for you:

Why Sexting Is Good For Your Relationship

Playing Well With Others

Sex Outside The Lines

Dr. Lindsay Doe

 

 

How to Boost Self Esteem in Kids

How to Boost Self Esteem in Kids

By: Loren Lomme, MA, LPC, RPT

There’s been a lot of debate lately about how to praise kids and give them attention and how much is too much….especially in the form of “helicopter parenting” – that horrible name given to the style of parenting that looks a lot like smothering and over involvement in a kid’s life. This often comes up alongside topics such as raising independent kids, building/hindering self-esteem and confidence, and nurturing our kids. I’m going to speak to the topic of self-esteem and confidence, what this means for our kids, and how we as parents can appropriately foster it in our children without discouraging autonomy.

Now, more than ever, our kiddos are having a hard time maintaining self-esteem. The usual fear of judgment by peers and self is still present, but it’s now accompanied by the pressures and prevalence of social media in our environments and relationships. It’s no wonder that our kids are second guessing their every move when it could show up on an Instagram account for their entire grade to see. It’s not only scary for us as parents, but there is often very little we can do to control the choices our kids’ peers make that may affect how our kids feel about themselves. We can, however, build self-esteem at home (and from a young age) so that they can better weather the inevitable storms of middle school, high school, and beyond.

Start with considering that kids behavior is a reflection of their beliefs. So if a child believes they are capable of success, they are more likely to attempt a new or difficult task. You can empower your child to believe the best about themselves by telling your child when you notice something positive that they have done. “You’ve been working really hard on that science project….You put your backpack and shoes away without any reminders today….I saw you getting upset with your friend, but you were able to stop yourself from pushing him….You made your entire lunch by yourself today.” Notice how all of these positive reflections are about behavior. When parents only tell kids things like “great job” or “that’s a really pretty picture,” kids will often dispute or negate those types of generalized statements because they may not believe them or agree with them and they can’t be proven.

Teach your child to be a problem-solver instead of feeling like he or she IS the problem.

One of my kiddos struggled with losing important belongings for quite a while. Her purse would get left at a friend’s house, her wallet would get lost at the mall, etc. She would get really upset after these incidents occurred and blame herself for being “stupid” or “irresponsible.” In my frustration of yet another lost item, I could have followed up with, “You are always setting your stuff down and forgetting it.” First of all, I would have not helped the situation at all, and secondly, I would have contributed to her negative view of herself in the moment and to her feeling of “I can’t do anything right.” Instead we would have conversations with her about how she could help herself keep track of her belongings. We tried to help her problem-solve with questions like, “What could you do or use to remember what you’re supposed to bring home from the sleepover?” In this way, she was empowered to start solving her own problems and we sent the implicit message that we had confidence in her ability to figure this out and get past it. When you try this with your own kids, remember to encourage any progress that they make, even if it’s small!

Next up in building self-esteem, help set your kids up for success and work with them to keep setbacks in perspective.

We all have a tendency toward all or nothing thinking when we are disappointed or discouraged…”I’ll never get it right” or “I’m not smart,” but kids are extra susceptible to these thoughts when something goes wrong. You can increase their confidence by helping them look at a situation through a different lens. “I know you’re frustrated about missing that goal during your soccer game, but that was only one game. You’ll have 6 more games this season.” Then set your kid up for success. Don’t expect that they will magically be better next time without any work or problem-solving. Ask them, “what could we do this week to help you get better at scoring goals?” Encourage their ideas, “What a great idea, let’s make a plan to make it happen!” Then follow through!! If your kid decided to practice kicking 10 goals each day after school this week, remind them of their plan and go outside to help them and cheer them on. When their action pays off, they’ll be more confident to try again when things don’t work out in the future instead of giving up. I always emphasize that perfect is the enemy of better when I work with kids or adults.

Lastly, take advantage of your parent status and the fact that kids tend to believe what their parents say and do.

Find creative ways to show your child how awesome you think they are. Let your child “accidentally” overhear you telling your spouse about the amazing thing they did today or tell grandma about something positive from the week so that she can tell your kiddo how much you were bragging about him the next time she sees him. Hang up a “You did it!” dry erase board in the kitchen and make sure to update it each day with something positive that you noticed your child doing that day. It’s there for everyone to see, including your child, and when he or she has had a rough day and is feeling down on themselves, they will still be able to see the positives that the people they love see in them. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had one of these?! The more often that you can incorporate these and other esteem-building ideas into your relationship with your children, the higher self-worth they will have. With higher self-esteem they will also have increased optimism and commitment, have greater resiliency, and be better able to accept disagreement and uncertainty…all of which are building blocks to more positive relationships with others and themselves. 

Equally important to acknowledging and praising effort is helping your child learn to manage failure. It happens to everyone, and kids that have a hard time dealing with failure will also be less likely to attempt new or challenging activities. It’s not realistic to be the best at everything, so when something goes wrong or not as expected, use this as an opportunity to help your child manage their emotional reaction and realize that they can survive messing up. Non-judgmental parent reactions are key here.

If you would like parenting advice or therapy for your children, let us know and we will be glad to help.