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A New Year – A New Start

The New Year is all about a clean start, new opportunities and new beginnings.

Those of us on the Autism Spectrum can find some things in life very challenging and as a result can become disillusioned, isolated and frustrated.

Whether is is school, work or unemployment or socialising, relationships or emotions which had you frustrated in 2013 – 2014 can be different!

New Years Resolutions are generally considered cliche and few people stick with them BUT those of us with Autism are known for being different so why not make a New Years Resolution and make it work!

By definition, making a positive change in our own life is a personal thing, and each person probably needs to go about it in a slightly different way, but to get you thinking below are some possible resolutions in key areas people with Autism traditionally find difficult, after reading share your own resolution with us in the forum thread:

Socialising

So many of us with Autism find day to day social situation and/or the building of friendships difficult. However that is not to say that we don’t WANT to socialise it is simply that we find it a challenge and may even find it makes us anxious or afraid. The fact is though that human beings are social creatures we NEED socialising – here are some ways you can try to mix and make friends in 2014!

Join a club: Everyone has specific interests, in fact, those of us with Autism are specifically known for having particular focuses or areas of interest. What often makes us uncomfortable in social situations is that we don’t know what to talk about or find it hard to relate to others but if you join a club or society you will meet others with similar interests – immediately giving you something in common with others, a basis to start conversation and a reason to hang-out / meet others.

Tackle your social anxiety: Are you the type of person who receives invites out or who really wants to go out with friends or to meet new people but you just find that your are held back by the worry of all the things which may or may not go wrong? This is common for many of us with Autism – the irony being that we might well enjoy the occasion when we actually go out and more times than not none of our worries come to be or if they do we are able to manage much better than we thought.

Social anxiety may be because your feel different or find some social situations very tough or it might also be related to negative social experiences you had in the past. In 2014 why not really push yourself to overcome this anxiety and not allow it to hold you back – why not consider talking to someone you trust or a professional support service if you feel you cannot address it alone.

Make an effort: Sometimes those of us with Autism, for a wide variety of reasons, might almost opt out of socialising. We might never accept invitations or we might never return them, we might only be talk about things we are interested in and not what others have to say or we might sometimes say things without consider how they will impact on others.

In 2014 why not try and make a list of social cues and etiquette, maybe a friend or family member will help you, and try and use this as a blueprint for socialising – people will really appreciate you making an effort to understand what is expected in certain social situations and you will probably feel much more comfortable as you will have a better idea of how to behave and respond.

Education

School and college can present additional challenges for those of us on the Autism Spectrum. Education also however provides us with many opportunities and you need to find a way to make education work for you – this doesn’t mean obtaining 600 points in the Leaving Cert or getting a PhD it means reaching your potential and getting from it what you need to pursue your dreams.

Get routine & structure: Many of us on the Spectrum are dis-organised and lack good concentration – this proves a real barrier to a smooth time in school or college. Missing books, untidy lockers, “hit & miss” study times and missed deadlines can all stop us doing as well as we would hope. Talk to your parents or a good friend or your resource teacher about getting a system in place which can help you be more organised.

Get a Game Plan: Particularly important for exam or final years. Forget about trying to conform to traditional approaches to education, homework, study or exams if they are not working for you. Work out what works for you, plan how you will approach everything from study to exams in this way and stick to it! If your plan involves little adaptations to your day to day life in education talk to your school or college, you will likely be surprised at how keen they are to help.

Don’t be afraid to use the support available to you: Sometimes when you have a condition like Autism you can feel different enough to begin with, and the last thing you might want is to attract additional attention by accessing support available to those with disabilities in education! This is silly though – at the end of the day no one is particularly interested in what supports you receive and, even if they were, you can be proud that you have overcome all that you have already just to be able to cope in school and so should not be embarrassed in receiving any additional supports available to you. Schemes such as the Reasonable Accomodations Scheme (State Exams Commission), DARE (Access to University) and supports in college are there to level the playing field – no team offers to play both halves of a match against the wind – it would be foolish! This is no different!

Employment and Meaningful Use of Time

Those of us with Autism can find it hard to get or hold down a job and as a result can begin to feel isolated and dejected. Equally, if we don’t currently have a job we might not put our time to best use but instead get caught in unhealthy routines or waste our time. Here are some ideas for making 2014 a productive year!

Seek support: If you feel you can’t cope in a traditional employment set-up don’t allow yourself the luxury of giving up hope instead consider approaching one of the many bodies and organisations which work to find appropriate employment (with appropriate supports) for those with Autism and other disabilities. You can see a list of some of these organisations here.

Make the most of free time: So like many others in Ireland you are finding it difficult to get a job? Don’t waste the time you then have available to you! Consider volunteering with an organisation which may be relevant to your profession or areas of interest, here you will gain experience and also, as a volunteer, should be treated with great understanding. Equally, why not consider an internship scheme like JobsBridge or approach a company for an unpaid internship, at least you will stay active, gain experience and also can expect that they will be grateful for your work and understand who you are.

Be open: Much, much easier said than done but if you are feeling very misunderstood in the workplace or are finding things really difficult why not consider speaking to your manager or the HR department where you work. Explain what you are finding difficult and try and work out approaches that will work for you. This is a much better response than doing nothing or loosing the head, if you don’t feel comfortable doing it face to face consider sending a letter or seeking the support of one of the organisations linked above or a loved one.

Behaviour

Life with Autism presents challenges (as well of course as opportunities!) in so many ways. Our inability to communicate or cope with our frustrations can lead to us having melt-downs, being moody, isolating ourselves from others and even engaging in destructive behaviour. This all impacts on family life and also makes life more difficult for ourselves! Here are some coping techniques to think about in 2014!

TALK: We are all like volcanoes, we can only hold everything in for so long, before we get hotter and hotter and ultimately explode! It is a good idea to identify someone you feel comfortable to talk with and identify things which get you frustrated and approaches you can pursue to know when you are feeling very agitated and what will work to stop that from going to the next level.

Build a plan: Have a place or a type of place in your mind which you know you can go to when things get too much. When you feel very agitated consider coming up with a word you can say to loved ones so that they know that you are worked up and need some space, then go to this place to calm down and take some time out. This avoids arguments and melt-downs and gives you a chance to re-collect yourself. Also consider things which will help you calm down while you are having some time out.

NOTE: These are just a small cross-section of ideas we have but please do make a resolution which you need and share it in the Forum Thread linked below!

Continue the Discussion:

Forum Thread: My New Years Resolution

Image courtesy of hin255 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

by - 2 January, 2014

Last updated by - January 2, 2014

in Aspergers Hub, Coping Skills

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