Monthly Archives: February 2014

Decision makeing for people with autism part one .

 Making the right decision can be a difficult process for anyone; weighing up your options and working out the consequences if you get it wrong.  Decision making can be a stressful, painful, drawn-out process. But what if that decision is something as simple as whether to go out or not?  Or what film to put on?  For some people with autism this can be very much the case.  Autism can often make it difficult for people to be able to make even the most basic of decisions.  My decision making is much better now than it was when I was younger.  When it comes to professional decisions, for example my books or my blog, I don’t struggle at all.  But I still find decisions around the house very difficult.  For example, tonight, even though I have had a swollen and painful stomach for two days now, I still couldn’t decide whether I should force myself to go to the gym tonight, even though I would get no real benefit, or go tomorrow morning when it had calmed down.  When you think about it, it is a very simple decision.  And in the end I did decide to go tomorrow morning, when I would get the benefit. Even though I made this decision, it wasn’t easy.  I still had to think about it a lot and talk to my Mum about it.  Even though it’s not a right or wrong decision, and there weren’t any real consequences, whatever I decided – the simple act of decision making is difficult in itself.  But in the past, I probably wouldn’t even have been able to make that decision.  When I was young, even a question such as `which piece of fruit do you want? ` Would have got me worrying, and trying to puzzle out a right or wrong answer.  I know it might sound silly, but even those simple, everyday decisions, can seem like an incredibly complicated problem to somebody with autism. And even if they don’t, they can be difficult decisions for other reasons; when I was younger, and even to a point still today, I would genuinely have no particular feeling one way or the other when making a decision, so often I felt that it should be down to somebody else to make that decision as they probably leaned in one direction or another, whereas I was one hundred percent neutral.  A lot of people find it difficult to understand; that for me two things could be completely the same.  But it is for the same reason that I don’t get disappointed if I can’t go to something I was planning to go to.  Even though I enjoy doing things, I don’t have the same emotional reaction to them that other people do.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy it when I’m there, it just means I don’t feel the disappointment when I don’t go – in the same way that with some decisions, even though I would enjoy either option, I would have no strong feelings either way which one I do.

I think that one of the major contributing factors to not being able to make a decision is stress; I don’t believe that anybody truly performs well under stress.  When I was in college I never became stressed by the amount of work I had to do.  It was simply work that needed doing and handing in.  The work and the deadlines never stressed me out.  But sometimes when it comes to making decisions, I do feel stressed.  For me, and I think for a lot of other people, to put it in the simplest term possible – when I become stressed my brain doesn’t work as it does now – I can’t seem to put together a process to decide which option I want to go for.  Nothing springs forward and says `this is the right option, choose this. ` And I can’t figure out how to process the options to decide what I want to do.  My brain becomes mixed up and my thoughts jumbled; imagine you are walking down a corridor, and at the end it forks in to two separate corridors. Then when you get there you are put in a blind fold and spun round multiple times.  You have no way of telling which way you are meant to go, or how you are meant to work it out.  It is not that there will be any dire consequences if you make a wrong decision – it is that you physically can’t make the decision in the first place.

 

Part two of this blog coming soon, where I will discuss the impact that struggling with decision- making can have on your life, and some techniques to help improve your decision-making.

 

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Is it normal to not socialise?

One of the things I have noticed over the years is how much importance is put on socialising, and consequently, how bad people think it is if you don’t particularly enjoy going out and socialising.  I think everybody knows that a lot of people with autism aren’t particularly keen on socialising.  Often this will cause worry in the parents, who feel that if their child isn’t out there doing everything that neur-typical children are doing, then they must be missing something from their lives.  Of course this is only borne out of wanting to do the best for their children, but ultimately it can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and tension.  Some people with autism want to socialise, but just don’t know how, and there are all sorts of ways to help them to do this, which I might cover in a later blog  But for now what I would like to talk about is people who don’t socialise simply because they don’t want to – because they don’t enjoy it.  I am probably one of these people.  At the moment I socialise as much as want to; I talk to friends on-line or by text, and so keep my friendships going, but I only meet up with people once every couple of weeks or so.  This might sound excessive, but for me time alone is important; most people need time to themselves, whether they are autistic or not, but for me personally, and a lot of other autistic people I know, time alone is essential.  It goes back to the point I make time and time again in everything I write – put yourself in the autistic person`s shoes – imagine you are living in a world where the majority of people you spend time with are autistic.  However diplomatic you try to be you will definitely need a break after a while.  I don’t have many good friends who are autistic – not for any particular reason, I just don’t. So when I go out and socialise, I am going out with neuro-typical people, and after a while I do need a break from this.  If I don’t have some time alone I find myself getting very stressed.  Of course seeing your friends is good, but for me it`s not the most important thing in life.  I have a lot of work to get on with each day, and it is hard enough to manage my time without being out for several hours seeing other people.  It is not that I have a problem meeting up with friends – I have some very good friends who I enjoy spending time with.  But because they are good friends they don’t mind that I don’t go out and about that often.  Now, as I said, it is completely understandable for parents to panic if their child prefers spending time alone than with other people, but investigate – find out if it’s what your child wants or not.  If it is, and they are comfortable with their existing social life, then keep your nose out and let them get on with things.

 It is very hard for anybody, autistic or not, to see something from someone else’s point of view.  I am somebody who loves films.  I can’t imagine what your life would be like it you went for weeks or months on end without watching new films.  To be honest I think you would have a fairly boring life if you didn’t watch a film every couple of days, but that`s because I am looking at it from my point of view.  In my life I need to watch films regularly.  In your life maybe you need to go out, and hang out with your friends every day.  For me, it would drive me mad.  There is probably only a handful of people who I could put up with seeing every day; I`m not going to say who that handful are, in case it causes offense.

I don’t think you should ever push your children to go out and socialise if they don’t want to, but I think you should always give them the opportunity.  But do it in a respectful way; explain what something is, why they might enjoy it and what benefits they may get out of it.  Help them to try to understand why they might not want to do it.  Once they understand, if they still don’t want to do it then that`s fine.  People who are quiet or reclusive get a very bad press in today’s society – but don’t be convinced by that.  Keeping to yourself is fine if it’s what you want to do – as long as you don’t let it become damaging to your mental health or well-being – then spend as much time alone as you want to.  But at the same time don’t completely discount any benefits of social interaction – keep an open mind.