Ways to help you manage your AS

Whenever I run into people that know I have Asperger’s and I have a lengthy conversation with them, they tend to ask me if I’m sure I have it.  I’ll admit that I’ve had doubt of my own diagnosis – some things about me don’t seem very “Aspie”:

  • I grew up with constant change in my life, thus change is part of my structure.
  • I do understand and at times use sarcasm within conversation.
  • I have no problem being social with others, as long as I’m invited into groups and other social scenarios.
  • I have made friends over time, even if I don’t hear from them for months on end.
  • I can read basic social cues and understand the more common of nuances.
  • While unproductive conversation bothers me, I can engage in limited small-talk, as long as the conversation takes a productive turn.
  • While I have a hard time expressing my emotions, I can relate to some people on a logic level, such as providing moral support for someone going through a hard time.

On the other hand, I suppose what people don’t notice about my Aspie tendencies are among the following:

  • I have a sensitivity to noises at the level of a concert or large crowds.  In many cases, I can manage the noise for a short time before having to relocate.
  • I don’t make a ton of eye-contact when talking to people.  When others are talking, I will try and look at them, to appear interested, but eye-contact is still very uncomfortable.
  • For someone who can partially modulate their voice for jocular effect, I do maintain a very dry and sharp voice when I converse with others.
  • Whether chatting on an instant or text message, I still do take things very literally when not required.
  • I am apprehensive about touching certain surfaces or textures with my fingertips.
  • Many of the attachments that the neurotypical population attach to their friends, family, coworkers, etc… I fail to understand.
  • While I have dated in my past, some of the ‘closeness’ and intimate acts and social cues still elude me.
  • I am actually more comfortable being in a space by myself, than around others.  While the presence of others does not completely bother me, I would prefer to not be around others.

I wrote this entry to give our group some idea or suggestions that might help them with managing some of their symptoms.

  1. When you talk to people, don’t immediately tell them that you have AS; depending on your symptoms, they may pick up on it before you mention it.  Neurotypicals tend to notice many more social ‘anomalies’ about the people they interact with than we give them credit for.
  2. If you find that you’re going to be in a noisy room, bring ear plugs (not headphones).  You will still be able to hear conversations, but you may have to focus on a specific person in order to take everything in.
    1. One way that I’ve been able to manage my symptoms is controlled exposure: Expose yourself in bursts to different levels of noise in moderation.  If you enjoy music, make it a point to listen to the music at louder levels, as times goes on.
    2. If you’re in a building or other enclosed space, look for exits or locations of calmest sound.
    3. When you are making plans to be in a social venue, be sure to ask about the environment that you will be entering; whether you ask the host of the venue, or asking a friend who has attended.
    4. Those three bullet points can also be modified for those with visual sensitivities.
  3. While you may not be able to offer moral support on an emotional level, some incidents of tragedy can be universally and logically understood.  If you are not comfortable receiving or giving hugs, you may have to alert the person beforehand that you’re not comfortable, and resort to another cue, such as a handshake.
  4. Many of us on the spectrum have no filter on what we say, or we have a hard time choosing our words appropriately.  Consider entering social scenes with a friend or somebody you know that understands you; ask them to brief you on who you are about to meet.  Sometimes being prepared for a situation can make all the difference.
  5. When it comes down to reaching out to people, ask those people to specify a block of time when calling or contacting is acceptable.  Try to learn quickly that if someone gives you their business card or phone number that it is most likely acceptable to contact them.  Whenever I receive either one, I ask the person when it is good to initiate contact.
  6. If you are someone that has a hard time with change, understand that the neurotypical world we live in, is always changing.  Sometimes change has to occur in an ordered sequence, often on paper.
    1. Remember that often in life, change is a necessity, and sometimes it is needed for legal reasons.
    2. We as people are changing regularly: We get older, we change appearances, we experience life moments that are new and different, and as you get older, your personality and way of thinking also tends to change.
  7. If you see a counselor for your AS symptoms, considering asking them what steps you can take or what methods of treatment could help you live a more productive life.  Nobody is realistically a better judge of what can help you, than your counselor; they know your background, history (both medical and otherwise), and assuming they ask the right questions, they can tailor treatment to you as an individual.
  8. Learn from a mistake I made over six months ago: Avoid the temptation to avoid  partake in something because you have AS – mind-over-matter goes a long way.  Now, along with an earlier suggestion, don’t expose yourself to too much stimulus or discomfort when it’s not necessary, but realize that you still have to live.
  9. I have found that writing things down; be it my feelings or just information in general, can help a situation.  Realize that what you’re reading is part of a blog; sites like WordPress allow you to setup free blogs for the sake of expression.
  10. Everyone on the spectrum has a different form, type, and degree of Asperger’s.  No two are alike and no two show the same symptoms.

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