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Why I Need Space After Work as Someone With Asperger's Syndrome

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Imagine you’re working abroad. You have some language skills, but you’re by no means fluent. You can get on with your daily job, but every conversation is fraught with difficulties, misunderstood phrases and confusing body language. By the time you get home, you’re exhausted and quite ready to relax in peace and quiet without confusing conversations.

Now, imagine that no matter how long you stay in the country, your language skills don’t improve. You spend every day as a beginner, grasping enough odd words and phrases to survive, but never fully understanding what is going on around you.

This can be similar to what some people with autism spectrum disorder or Asperger’s syndrome go through every day.

School and work can leave us physically and emotionally exhausted and practically crawling home to relax. We often crave peace and quiet away from busy offices and crowded corridors.

Unfortunately, that’s not what normally happens, in my experience.

It’s questions.

Well-meaning, well-intentioned questions, but questions nonetheless.

I get it. You want to make sure your loved one has had a good day. That there were no disasters. No meltdowns. No mean comments that left your child in tears. No misunderstandings when your partner chatted to a colleague.

I totally understand why you ask questions.

But I also know many parents worry about the meltdowns that appear to happen as soon as their child gets in the car. Or parents may be concerned when their child won’t answer any questions when they’re collected.

As an Aspie woman, I can see why people on the spectrum struggle. The day is finally over, and we can be so excited to get home to indulge in our latest hobby or interest. Where it’s quiet and calm and routine-orientated. With people who love you, just the way you are…

Instead, you get in the car and you’re hit with a whole host of confusing questions.

“How was your day?”

My day? It wasn’t my day; surely, it is everyone’s day? Hang on, the sun’s still out so the day’s not finished, so how can I answer?

“Did you have a good day?”

What’s a good day? I went to Minecraft club and that was good. But then I got sent out of French, so that’s not good. What does “good” mean exactly?

“What did you do today?”

I went to work. She’s just picked me up, so why is she asking what I’ve done? I can’t remember what I’ve done. Did I do something wrong?

I’m not suggesting for a minute that you shouldn’t ask questions. Only that you may get better answers if you try some of these ideas:

Chill-Out Time

Firstly, allow the person some chill-out time. I would say at least an hour in a calm, familiar environment, possibly indulging in their favorite activity. After they’ve relaxed, then ask them about their day. But remember the next tip!

Focused Questions

Make sure your questions are focused and factual. Look at your child’s timetable. If they have P.E., ask what sport they did that day, or if they have history, what era are they studying? Many school websites publish their curriculum themes for each grade and subject. This can be especially useful if your child is in secondary school and you don’t get to speak to a teacher as you may have done when they were in primary school.

Instead of asking your partner, “What did you do at work?” be more specific. “What was the first thing you did in work? What was the last thing that you did in work? Did you speak to X today?”

You could also arrange questions in advance. Prepare in the morning by telling them what you’d like to know about their day. Who did they sit with at lunch? What book did they read in English? For those who may struggle to remember, give them the questions on a card to refer to each day.

Make It Routine

Routine can help most anyone on the spectrum cope with the amount of uncertainty they often encounter in the rest of the world. If you want insight into your loved one’s day, put it in the routine as early as possible. Agree on questions over breakfast, and ask them when you sit down to dinner.

Some Things Will Never Change

Many people seem to forget that children with autism become adults with autism.

I was only diagnosed with Asperger’s as an adult, and it’s only in the past three to four years that I’ve been able to identify some of the reasons why I need to spend time in a quiet, calm environment after work.

Yes, need.

I need to spend time in a quieter environment at the end of each day to recover from the attack on my sensory system. In a place where the lights are dimmer, the temperature warmer and where I can control how loud I want the TV.

Trying to communicate acceptably each day (which I think I manage about 90 percent of the time — go me!) wears me out physically. Not in a “ooh, isn’t it nice to sit down after work” way, but in a “if I don’t sit down soon I’m likely to fall down” way due to exhaustion. Most nights I end up falling asleep as soon as I enter the house.

This can make it hard to socialize. Monday through Thursday are out of the picture for all but the most important of events. Saturday night is good, but if I overdo it, I may find I’m still exhausted Monday morning when I return to work. As I’ve become older, the ways I socialize with friends has changed. More afternoon teas and meals out rather than a night out clubbing. These are easier to manage but still quite tiring.

This is something I don’t think will change any time soon, and so I’ve found the best way is to manage it. Take my time during the day, don’t plan too much socializing at the same time, and remember that once I get home, I can indulge in my latest interest to my hearts content!

Image via Thinkstock.

A version of this post originally appeared on Aspie Miss.

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Originally published: January 14, 2017
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