Autism and Emotional Intelligence Growth to Build Strong Mental Resilience

from a Personal Perspective

Having Autism is tough as it is already because you may come across many people who do not understand or care about you. You may often be made fun of because of the way you look, walk or anything you do or say. It’s a continuous battle that I deal with every day and unfortunately there exists people who will talk and make fun of you no matter what. Know that you are not alone. I have 2 simple idea on how to enhance your emotional intelligence (or Emotional Quotient, EQ) to counteract this negative feedback and restore your mind with positive thoughts.

As has previously been discussed on Aspergers101, emotional intelligence is a crucial skill to learn and practice that can greatly benefit you in many areas of your life. But how exactly do we get there? The steps below should help guide you towards building your emotional intelligence and self-awareness.

How can we enhance our emotional intelligence (EQ)?

  • Listen to your body:

A gut feeling you have about a particular situation such as quitting your job is a sign that something is not right either about the situation, or something is not right about quitting your job. If your body gives you an alert signal about a certain situation, pay heed because it may save you from a dangerous outcome. Listening to these signals and the root feelings of the sensations in your body will process your power of reason.

  • Always ask yourself, how do you feel?:

From a score of 0-10, with 10 being the best and most positive and 0 being the lowest and least confident, write it down in a journal to record how you feel each day overall. If you’re having a bad day, examine how or what caused you to feel this. Explore what transpired that day that made you feel down and how it connects with your overall feelings.

  • Write down your feelings and thoughts:

Sensory Processing Difficulties: Smell with ASD

Remember in our previous blog on taste differences that smell makes up a large part of our sense of taste. Therefore, an individual with an Autism Spectrum Disorder might have an extremely fine sense of smell, which can be enough to make them avoid certain foods or even lose their appetite. So, there might be overlap in this very complicated topic of sensory differences as they co-exist in each person.

“Our sense of smell is so deeply ingrained in our psychology that many times we don’t even realize how scents are affecting what we do and how we think. Smell, more so than any other sense, is also intimately linked to the parts of the brain that process emotion and associative learning. Meaning that our sense of smell influences our feelings and perceptions neurologically. Our brains are hardwired to perceive certain smells and have an emotional reaction to those smells.”

Excerpt from: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/smell.htm

Smell might be a hidden source of discomfort and even anxiety for some persons with ASD. “Hidden” in that a neuro-typical individual might not perceive a particular smell that registers heavily for the person with ASD.

I am reminded of a few instances where smell was a critical factor in the daily happenings of certain individuals with an ASD.

One young man with limited verbal capabilities would protest behaviorally when it was time to go to the restroom. Mind you, this was a boy’s restroom at a high school. After some careful analysis and problem solving, the staff decided to try changing the restroom from the boy’s restroom to the teacher’s restroom.

Behind the Wheel with Autism: A Personal Perspective

Having lived in several different cities, I can attest that it most certainly is not a regional thing: you’ll run into idiot drivers no matter where you live. It isn’t profound at all; many casual conversations begin with a gripe about traffic on the way to someplace or another, or end up there eventually. Driving is a serious source of stress for many, even under the best circumstances. And for people diagnosed with Autism, they are already functioning under decidedly less than the best of circumstances, and the idea of getting behind the wheel can cause anxiety.

I found that I did not have a great deal of difficulty behind the wheel. Having a nice, large, rarely-traveled stretch of land to practice on, and taking as many opportunities to practice, is the first thing I recommend for those who are diagnosed and want to drive. It certainly helped me. After enough practice, it became second-nature.

Contrary to the assumption that driving is the natural enemy of the Autistic because it demands multi-tasking, it really isn’t so difficult as all that. It has a nice and structured set of regulations, and your task is simple: start at one location, and control the vehicle in order to safely reach the next.

Anyone who has ever played a game, whether analog or digital, can tell you that while rules and setup are intimidating at first, once you see how it’s done and try it for yourself, it isn’t as hard as all that.

To the Autistic person who wants to learn to drive but feels rather intimidated, just think of it as a video game.

Is Higher Education Ready to Support Students with Asperger’s? Part 3

Independent Living

In 2013 I surveyed disability service professionals at 578 degree-granting, four-year public institutions of higher education. The survey was designed to determine the current readiness of higher education to support the academic, social and communication, and independent living needs of college students diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder.

230 colleges participated in the survey. The survey was designed around the Benchmarks of Effective Supports for College Students with Asperger’s Disorder , a checklist of efforts determined by experts as integral to effective college supports for this student population.

The 2013 study demonstrated college students with Asperger’s Disorder required specialized supports, and that disability services available traditionally on campus to this population were generally ineffective. It explored, in part, whether or not colleges had specialized supports for this student population outside of traditional disability services.

This article is the third in a three-part series that reports the outcomes of that research. Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

What Causes of Depression for Those with Asperger’s Syndrome?

Aspergers and Depression: Part 2

Why are there higher rates of depression in those with AS? There may be some genetic predisposition to depression for some, but this doesn’t explain most cases of depression. One reason for depression is isolation and loneliness. Despite the misconception that people with AS prefer being alone, research shows that many with AS want friends.

Children and teens with AS are often lonely and feel their friendships aren’t “quality.” They’re looking for company, safety and acceptance to give them a sense of confidence. Those who have friends may have a lower tendency towards depression. However, many with AS who experience social anxiety or lack social skills in joining, starting, and maintaining friendships don’t have the tools to have the friends they want.

Another reason for depression is the experience of being bullied.

Studies have suggested that a majority of those with AS experience bullying. This isn’t surprising given the drive towards conformity and the emphasis on social status among middle school children in particular, but also among high school students and even older individuals.

There isn’t a cultural norm of tolerance of neurodiversity, or even of most kinds of diversity.

Respecting Neurological Differences and Decreasing Stress for the ASD Student in Class

Writing the Day's Schedule Can Help

studentPerhaps most relevant to a student in the classroom: when you are stressed you are less likely to embrace difficult tasks. On your most stressful day, you will probably put the complex tax form in the “to do” box and leave it for a better day.

For our students, neurological stress can be the major underlying factor contributing to difficulties in communication, socialization, and academic performance.

Because of this, it is our essential job as parents and educators to respect the neurological differences and decrease that stress in creative and varied ways.

From breathing techniques to visual strategies and beyond, we will strive to decrease neurological stress so that our students and children can present their best self each and every day.

A schedule is a core strategy that creates an anchor for students who struggle to make sense of their day and their environment.

This is true of any classroom for any type of student. It has been well documented that learners benefit from having a daily agenda. Except, the difference is that while all students benefit from a daily agenda or schedule, students with Asperger’s Syndrome and other special needs have a greater need for this simple, yet fundamental strategy.

For a younger student, this might be a simple posting of the daily activities on the board. For an older student that transitions from classroom to classroom, the daily schedule might be best in a notebook. However, each class period or subject should post the specific activities for that day.

For example, a high school teacher can help to decrease the many stressors of high school life by posting something as simple as:

Aspergers is Not the Same as ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)!

People with Asperger’s usually collect labels like ADHD, anxiety disorders, or bipolar disorder before they’re diagnosed with AS. The label that annoys me is Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Is there a difference between people whose Asperger’s-related behavior is misunderstood and ODD? I find that ODD is sometimes simply a description of behavior without a cause.

Insurers ask for diagnoses based on ICD 10, the “handbook” of diagnoses. One of the official ICD 10 descriptions of AS is that it’s a “neuropsychiatric disorder whose major manifestations is an inability to interact socially; other features include poor verbal and motor skills, single mindedness, and social withdrawal.”

ICD 10 describes ODD as a behavior disorder and a psychopathological disorder. It’s described as a “recurrent pattern of negativistic, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behavior toward authority figures.”  The criteria include “frequent occurrence of at least four of the following behaviors: losing temper, arguing with adults, actively defying or refusing to comply with requests or rules of adults, deliberately annoying others, blaming others for own mistakes, and being easily annoyed, angry or resentful.”

ICD 10 is right in my experience in describing those with Asperger’s Syndrome as “single minded.” This is a real strength when doing tasks, following rules and being honest. However, single mindedness can also include inflexibility or even severe rigidity in sticking to a point of view.

When an inflexible demand is made of an inflexible person, you have rigidity meeting rigidity. That’s not going to work. For people with AS, what’s being perceived as oppositional, hostile or rule breaking is actually more about having a fixed way of viewing the world.

Especially when rules or demands seem illogical or unfair, those with AS can dig in and stand their ground. Many with AS and NLD also have concrete or literal thinking, which adds to the mix of misunderstanding and “rule breaking.”

Mentorship and Role Models are Crucial for Those with ASD

With my decades of direct support with individuals who have Autism I have noticed a few commonalities with social skills modeling and maintaining positive healthy friendships. Mentorship and role models are incredibly important for adults with ASD. There are many ways that you can make sure that this invaluable resource is available to your adult children, and it is never too early to start.

As we all know society is ever-changing. What we, as educators and parents have feared for our adult children years ago is pretty much the same now but with even more dangers. We live in constant fear of bullying online and making positive friendships both at work and volunteering in the community. Even the city bus is a fear of uneasiness. “What if’s” are in our minds constantly.

The goals I have tried to teach families are to have a buddy system and to gradually fade out.

I work and have always worked with Youths in Transition. As a support team we search out an appropriate buddy for each individual long term and then begin to fade out. Most times we have to pay individuals to be a friend or advocate for our children. It’s just a fact of life. Your adult child is like anyone else. For a friendship to develop we need consistency, time, and a sense of safety.

Are You an Aspie and Depressed? That’s Not Unusual

Asperger’s Syndrome and Depression: Part 1

As most teens and adults with Asperger syndrome know, people with Asperger syndrome can be significantly depressed. The rates of diagnoses of depression vary among studies, from 18% to 22%. The most commonly quoted rate of a depression in the general population of the US  is 6.7%. Most of the research shows both genders have these high rates of depression.

Studies focused on males and females and not those who are transgender. There are more people who identify as transgender in the AS population than in the general population and transgender people have a higher rate of depression. One would guess that someone who is both AS and transgender might have a high tendency towards depression.

Interestingly, non-autistic full siblings and half-siblings of individuals with ASD (not just Asperger syndrome) also had higher rates of depression than the general population, although at half the rate of those with ASD. Studies of suicide attempts are also very troubling. In studies of suicide, the rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts are prevalent, especially in adolescence and young adulthood.

It’s critical to identify depression, since it can be treated.

It’s obviously important to understand why rates of depression and suicidal thoughts are so high. One factor, given the findings in siblings, is that there is an increased genetic vulnerability to depression, although large studies haven’t supported a common genetic overlap. We have to look to other factors to account for these high rates of depression.

It’s important to diagnose clinical depression for anyone for a simple reason – depression is treatable with a variety of modalities:

Using the High IQ of ASD to Foster Emotional Intelligence

Using a Break Down to Avoid Breakdowns

As many people in the Asperger’s Community understand, aspies often have trouble dealing with emotions. The emotional intelligence of a child’s mind is not much different from an aspie’s mind. Unfortunately, without useful tools, this emotional thinking carries into adulthood and can lead to poor decision making.

Emotional Intelligence

If an adult aspie has a low EQ (Emotional Quotient), then impulse control, critical thinking, voice control, behavior self-modification, and problem solving fail to appropriately play their roles. In school, this means a bad reputation for the aspie with ramifications that make it worse for everybody. A low EQ could affect the relationship of the aspie student with the school faculty and also result in peer bullying. In the workplace, this usually means a write-up or an immediate layoff. At home, it means family tension.

Indeed, negative emotions and behaviors are contagious. They always create toxic environments and habits in the aspie’s life.

Ideally, everybody would like to get on top of this important issue in order to establish a solid foundation of peace. What sort of step-by-step process is necessary to do this? The answers vary depending on the aspie’s age, personal dilemmas, comorbidities, learning schema and environments, mentalities, and general life satisfaction.

In adulthood, the amount of contributing factors significantly increases. The main reason for this is that many professional life aspects are added to personal life aspects.

The good news is that even with a low EQ, aspies have a high IQ (Intelligence Quotient). Aspies can use their IQ to discipline their own minds and to break down each complex and difficult situation.

A 9 step process for the aspie to break down difficult emotions and avoid all definitions of a breakdown