Below I have listed some of the things which I find helpful and unhelpful!
Things I find helpful...
- It is useful if friends and family tell me how they are feeling rather than expecting me to read them.
- If I must change any of my routine I prefer to be in control!
- I try to have a daily routine that is just about rigid enough for me to keep track of time but try to avoid it being so rigid that it causes stress if something does not happen at the right time. For instance I hope to eat lunch at about 13:15 but a small change either side (e.g. 20mins) is not a problem.
- It is useful when I am going to a place where I am not comfortable if there is someone there that I trust; this reduces stress. I may cope whether a 'trusted' person is present or not but keeping the stress level down is ideal.
- In some social situations I do not know which words to use when speaking to people who I am unfamiliar with. In this instance, when possible, I would ask advice from a friend on what to say. I would then communicate using their suggested words/phrases.
- My parents brought me up to be very polite which is very useful in social situations and at work.
- It was helpful when I was a teenager that my parents never really commented much on my lack of friends. I knew 'everyone' else had lots of friends but did not appreciate this being pointed out as I did not know how to 'acquire' friends.
- I need my friends and family to accept me for who I am.
- I find that compensating for my autism is often very stressful and/or exhausting particularly in social situations. Consequently I need plenty of recovery time after activities such as work.
Things which do not help...
- I am so stretched at work that when I come home I try and avoid anything stressful. When I am exhausted (e.g. after finishing work) a stressful task could be anything from going to a crowded place (e.g. shopping) or something apparently trivial such as laying the dinner table.
- Sudden changes in plans can cause a great deal of anxiety. If a change is needed it would be best if it was discussed with me first, unfortunately this is not always possible. I can be left very stressed and having no sense of what the time of day is.
- People who do not know me very well often make assumptions about me based on the own personal experiences. This can lead them to give ridiculous advice or make unreasonable judgements about what I can or cannot do. For example, school teachers and friends of my family often assumed that if I worked/tried harder I would be fine. They did not realise I was trying/working extremely hard but still making little or no progress.
- It is very difficult for me to understand and interpret other people. At work I simply treat everyone very politely and this seems to work well. When I am with family and close friends there is often the expectation (from them and me) that I will fully understand a situation - maybe empathise with someone. I can hear the change in the tone of a person's voice but inferring what this means is often very difficult.
- I do not like being trapped by people. I find it hard to extract myself from situations where someone is talking at me. I strongly dislike someone trying to force a handshake with me.
- Many environments are overwhelming to the point I feel like running away screaming! This can be anything from a busy environment (social occasion, shopping centre) to something as simple as a person wearing a strong perfume or talking loudly. Self preservation takes over leading me to avoid such situations. Why should I make my life more difficult that it needs to be?!