Dealing With Busy Places as a Person on the Autism Spectrum

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Busy places can bring about a lot of different issues for me. In a lot of ways, they can bring a lot of stress and can also be quite tiring. It is also yet another thing that has to be dealt with, and although I will never be able to deal with busy areas perfectly, there are a lot of different things I can do to make things easier.

The main things that can bother me when in a busy place are the numbers of people around, a lot of noise, a lot of different things to look at and also a lack of places to go that are out of the way for a break. If I find myself in a situation like this, the chances are I cannot cope for too long until I have to go home, or at least leave the busy area in search of somewhere quieter. This really only applies to any time I am attending a big event, and I do not go to many of these. A busy event is an extreme example; stress can also appear in every day situations as well. The ones I find most difficult are busy streets, corridors and stairs that echo, large open plan rooms such as libraries or cafeterias, traffic and anywhere playing loud music. It may appear, then, that I am quite limited in all the different things I can do throughout the day. This is not the case.

 

There are a lot of different things that can be done to make everyday situations a lot easier.

One thing I like to do is go for a short walk. This is something I do both when I am out for work purposes to break up the day, and also on any days off I may have. This is one of the ways I can take some time to process all the different things that have gone on thorough the day or even though the week. When I go for a walk, a lot of the time it is to the same places over and over again. The first time I tried it was quite difficult, but eventually I establish these newly discovered quiet areas as places to relax. It is quite rare for me to go off-track and actually walk anywhere different, but every now and then I may challenge myself to go somewhere else, or even go to a shop and buy a snack or something like that. It all depends on how difficult the day has been. If it has been quite an easy day, it may be possible to challenge myself. Going for a walk is not only something I do to get away for a short while, but also something I do to improve my ability to do everyday tasks.

The main way I cope with all the different things I find difficult is to moderate how often I have to deal with them. I can only manage so much, so I like to have different things in place to make sure I have an escape route. It is still something that imposes a lot of limitations on the way I live. When I do go out, it is often to do nothing in particular, and it is only within an area I am familiar with. One thing that helps sometimes is having a real purpose. I find that I endure going out for work quite well. This is both because of the routine I have built up, and also because I have a good reason to be out and that I would be letting myself and others down if I didn’t. That can act as a good motivator that can override any anxiety I may have about what is going on. It does not mean it goes away, though, because there are still times when I need to get away and this is where I would go off for a walk to find somewhere quiet.

This is never really going to go away. As much as I may try an number of different things to improve my ability to get out and do things, there is always going to be an issue. The main aim of all this is to get used to a more independent way of living. It is really quite basic and straightforward, but it is necessary. One other thing I also do to deal with busy situations is take time off at home. This is something I usually do after a particularly busy day. It usually involves spending time on my own, listening to the radio, reading or perhaps trying to cook. In a lot of ways it could seem antisocial; on a day like that I will not usually speak to anyone very much, even if there are other people in the house. But sometimes it is necessary just to go though what has happened the day before. If I have had a busy day, one thing I have learned is that I need some time to go through it all. This is especially the case if I have tried talking to people through the day, particularly if it was someone I would not typically talk to.

So there are a lot of different issues that appear when going out, either for leisure, or to work and shop, and there are a lot of different things I do to deal with these things. This is really just an overview of what is necessary sometimes. I like to have ways out when things are difficult to process.

I think I have made some good progress in that I now go out for walks on my own quite often, even if it is to the same places every time. I also thought it was worth explaining some of the importance of time off. I like to cut myself off from everything sometimes and focus completely on clearing my mind. The hope of sharing is that perhaps people relate to this in some way.

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'Atypical,' Netflix’s New Comedy Series About Autism, Premieres This Summer

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Netflix’s new original series about a boy with autism spectrum disorder, “Atypical,” will be streaming this summer, the video streaming service announced on Friday.

The eight-episode series follows a high school senior named Sam (Keir Gilchrist), who navigates dating, school and family as a teenager on the autism spectrum. The show also follows Sam’s parents Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Doug (Michael Rapaport) as they try to determine how to parent their son now that he is a young adult. So far, no one in the cast is confirmed to be on the autism spectrum.

The show’s creator, Robia Roshid told USA Today that while they cannot exactly reflect the life of every person with autism, they hope that they can unify under a common idea and broader story about family and coming of age.

While creating the show, Rashid said she consulted with a California State University professor who worked at UCLA’s Center for Autism Research and Treatment. Leigh, who plays Sam’s mother, added to Rashid’s statement about authenticly representing autism, telling USA Today, “Keir is really perfect. He never gets cute with it. … You feel like he’s very much in Sam’s shoes.”

“Atypical” joins the growing number of shows representing disability on major networks and streaming services. ABC’s “Speechless” follows J.J. DiMeo, a young man with cerebral palsy who uses a letter board to communicate. It stars Micah Fowler, who lives with cerebral palsy in real life. Last month, ABC announced it will renew “Speechless” for a second season.

Also joining ABC’s line-up is “The Good Doctor,” which features Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), a doctor on the autism spectrum. Similarly to “Atypical,” it does not appear as if any cast members are on the autism spectrum.

All episodes of “Atypical” will be available to stream on August 11.

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How Routines Involving Medicine Impact My Son on the Autism Spectrum

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This past winter was especially hard on my 7-year-old son. Subzero temperatures combined with coughing and sneezing classmates proved to be too much for his young immune system to handle, and more than once we found ourselves in the waiting room of the neighborhood clinic or, even worse, in the emergency room dealing with asthma related issues.

Each upper respiratory infection, bout of vomiting and nausea or asthma flare-up came with its own set of routine procedures that needed to be done to manage symptoms and alleviate discomfort. After so many times of having the same illness, my son quickly came to know what to expect.

“Yellow medicine, inhaler and apple juice please,” he’d say just before bedtime every night in anticipation of what was to come.

As his troubling symptoms subsided and his strength and playfulness began to return, his medication schedule changed. When it was apparent he had gotten over what was ailing him, I stopped giving him medicine altogether. But, like clockwork, he’d make the same requests for medicine he had made each night he was sick.

Sometimes, he’d ask with such determination that it seemed he indeed needed his medicine but when he asked with a big grin on his face or while jumping up and down on the bed and appeared to have no symptoms of illness at all, it became clear I needed more information about what he was feeling physically.

After asking him if his belly, throat and just about every other part of his body hurt with the help of pictures and feelings chart and getting a solid “no” from him every time, I knew he wasn’t sick but stuck in a routine that was no longer serving him.

My thoughts were confirmed by his special education teacher. She said children on the autism spectrum can often become attached to routines because they bring them comfort and can help them make sense of their world.

Instead of giving my son medicine when he asks for it, I’ve learned to pay attention to his body language to understand what’s happening to him.

If he is laying down more than usual, appears tired or doesn’t want to play with his favorite toys, these are strong signals he may not be feeling well. If he’s coughing, wheezing or has a runny nose, he may be at the beginning stages of a cold. I also listen to what he has to say. If he says “my belly hurts” I know he’s not feeling well.

Routines that involve giving my child medications are necessary but require me to use a great deal of caution so I don’t give my son the wrong medications or over-medicate him accidentally. Thanks to the guidance of experienced professionals, I’ve learned how to assess my son’s condition so he can get the treatment he needs when he needs it.

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My Boy Is Not Naughty, He Is On the Autism Spectrum

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To the elderly man at the supermarket last week who took it upon himself to growl at my son and then tell him he was a very naughty boy, do you realize how sacred you made him feel?

To the mother who openly ignored my child as he was trying to say hello to you and your child, and who then said to a mutual friend, “he doesn’t have autism, he is naughty and his mother can’t control him. Period.” Do you know how much you deflated his self-confidence by ignoring him?

To the mother who glared at me when my son was having a moment and then told her own son, “I don’t want you to play with that boy, he is very naughty.” Please, do not call my boy naughty.

Do not judge my son’s behavior based on your one chance encounter with us. You saw my son when he was at his most vulnerable, and you have judged him on that.

My son is not a naughty boy, he has autism.

You just happened to notice his  behavior when he was overwhelmed by his surroundings and had entered into sensory overload.

Did you know autism is called autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? Did you know ASD encompasses many different attributes but not all individuals diagnosed will present with the same traits?

Did you know that my heart breaks every time either of my children are so over stimulated from their surroundings that they enter into a sensory meltdown? Do you know how mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting a meltdown is?

Do you know the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown?

Do you know what sensory overload is?

Many individuals on the spectrum also have sensory issues and these can affect how they process the environment around them. Sensory issues can make noise, lights and sounds seem much more intense to an individual on the spectrum. And at times, the only way that they can communicate how they are feeling is through a meltdown.

Every time they leave their home, their “safe haven,” they are entering an unfamiliar, ever changing territory where they can no longer control what happens.

We have learned how to minimize the impact of such environments for my son, but at times, he still struggles. The one thing I can’t protect him from is ignorant comments from individuals.

So on behalf of my son and others like him, please don’t make a comment or pass judgment on their behavior.

We need support, not your negativity.

A smile or nod that you understand means more than you can imagine.

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Teen on the Autism Spectrum Excluded From Her High School Yearbook

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Getting your high school yearbook is a time-honored tradition among graduating seniors across the country, but for Amanda Paeth, receiving her senior yearbook was not the highlight she expected it to be.

According to Connecticut news channel WTNH, Paeth, a senior on the autism spectrum at Mark T. Sheehan High School in Wallingford, Connecticut, was omitted from her yearbook.

“This is not right. You guys got every other kid but me. I basically gave the teacher my book and I walked out of school. You guys could keep it,” Paeth told the news network. Neither her senior photo nor her baby pictures were included in the senior yearbook.

The school’s yearbook is put together by students and then checked by faculty, Paeth’s mom, Jeanine Kremzar, told WTNH, questioning whether or not her daughter’s exclusion was intentional. “She was singled out of a lot of things and she missed out on a lot of things because of it because people just did not understand, administration didn’t understand, peers didn’t understand. Nobody took the time to get to know her.”

After repeated calls from Kremzar and WTNH, the school told the family Paeth’s omission from the yearbook was just an unfortunate oversight and that faculty members were more concerned about spell checking and making sure the quotes submitted were acceptable.

In response to her missing picture, the school has made stickers of Paeth’s photo which students can stick in their yearbooks. Since the yearbooks have already been distributed, Paeth’s is the only one with the fix so far.

“[People on the autism spectrum] still function like you guys,” Paeth said. “We still do clubs. We still do sports. We still go to classes like you. We still learn. That’s really it, it’s just that one small thing.”

Thinkstock image via LightFieldStudios. 

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The Difficulty of Working in Places That Don’t Consider Autistic Employees’ Needs

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One of the many aspects of me being on the autism spectrum is often a difficulty in holding down long-term employment. Some employers are biased in favor of those who are not on the spectrum and have a general lack of understanding of autistic individuals in the workplace.

Some employers like people who fit within the corporate box, often just like themselves. Have you ever tried to squeeze yourself into someone else’s box? They are restrictive, uncomfortable and generally fit someone else better than you. This is what it feels like working in a place that does not take into account an autistic person’s needs.

 

Maybe they think they do and then treat you like the rest of the staff, forgetting; not caring the badge on their corporate material and the shop door claims their positive attitude to disabled people. It would be nice to see compulsory training on how to treat and speak to autistic employees; maybe employ a few autistics and let them do the job. That would probably work far better.

It would be nice to have a complete CV/resume done some time. I did put one together once for the Disability Employment Advisor at the local job center. I had so many past employers that it surprised the person at the job center.

I do not claim to be an expert on employment law. It would probably be safer to say I do not know very much at all. However, I can claim to be something of an expert on employment, especially from the perspective of an Aspergian. (I like that word.) It would be nice to point out now that finally after many years of not knowing, I finally received my official diagnosis of Asperger’s and possible ADHD. Having official recognition of this does not mean I now have a job, but I have had a couple of employers offer me a job dependent on background checks. Waiting is tiresome, but at least things are going somewhere now.

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