Coping on a day to day level

Currently there is no cure for autistic spectrum disorders which means having to live with this condition. If you have autism or are the parent of a child with an autistic spectrum disorder then you have to cope with this on a daily basis.

This is not an easy thing to do and means good and bad days. There are days when you become angry, frustrated or resentful of autism which means taking some time out for yourself.

But then there are better days such as when your child manages to speak a few words to you or is able for the first time to emotionally connect with you.

These are the days you remember.

As an autistic adult it may be the day you managed to use public transport or were offered a job.

Again, these are days that you remember.

This section is aimed at autistic adults and parents of an adult who has autism. It is also useful for anyone who helps to care for someone with a spectrum disorder.

Coping strategies for autistic adults

If you have autism then it is difficult to understand what other people are thinking, why things happen they way they do or why the world appears to be a confusing and at times, scary place.

So what might help is to learn a few coping strategies which will enable you to engage with others and participate in society in the same way other people do.

It means being able to deal with the normal, everyday activities that non-disabled people take for granted. It also means being able to cope with an unexpected event or understanding how something works for the very first time.

Examples of everyday activities include:

  • Visiting the doctor or dentist
  • Visiting a hairdresser
  • Shopping
  • Going away on holiday
  • Going to the cinema
  • Meeting friends for coffee

These are just a few of the many activities people take part in which they do not give much thought to. But for someone who is autistic it means having a series of routines or strategies in place as a way of coping with the situation.

Plus many of these activities such as visiting the doctor or dentist can result in sensory overload. If you have this problem then you may find the bright lights, background music, presence of other people and physical contact too much to handle.

You may feel uncomfortable with the close proximity of others or the doctor/dentist. Another source of discomfort is that of having to communicate with the doctor or receptionist etc. This can be stressful especially if you do not understand what is wrong with you or do not know how to explain it.

Your parents, carer or health worker will be able to suggest ways of dealing with situations such as this which include taking deep breaths and learning to relax. Also see it as a normal part of everyday life and something we have to do on occasion.

Another option is to take someone with you when you undertake any of these activities such as food shopping as they will help to reassure you and explain why we do certain things in certain ways such as making a shopping list, choosing foods from different aisles and then paying for this food.

You will find that your level of tolerance grows as you repeat an activity. The more you do something the easier it gets and you become familiar with it.

Coping strategies for carers

There are ways of coping with your adult child’s autism or if you care for a parent or relative with autism. This can be a stressful situation especially in respect of the future when you naturally worry about how they will manage.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with situations and whilst this is true there is no shame or weakness in asking for help or admitting that you are having a bad day.

What can help is to allocate some time in the day for you. This could include going for a walk or a session at the gym; trip to the cinema or visiting friends. Whatever you choose it is important to realise that you need a break and the chance to relax even if for only a few hours.

But coping isn’t just confined to the autistic person. It also includes their family and friends. Autism is a complex condition which many people do not understand fully and consequently, are unable to appreciate how challenging it can be.

Plus there is the fact that there are people who do not know how to treat someone with autism or respond to them. There is ignorance and misunderstanding associated with autism which sadly, applies to any form of disability.

Try and remember this and realise that very often, people act out of fear and ignorance rather than some malign intention. Once they understand what the condition is they tend to be more tolerant as a result.

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