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Problems with motor and executive functions, social problems and learning difficulties


I have devoted three articles to a holistic approach to the problems faced by people with autism.The first partfocuses on the metaphysical aspects. This second part focuses on the ‘brain thing’ of autism and deals with motor and executive problems, social problems and learning difficulties. The third article deals with existentialist and metaphysical problems and deals with the psychological obstacles such as coping with emotions, anger, depression and loneliness.

Approaching clinical problems of people with autism holistically – part 2

Disclaimer: All of these tips and information are based for the most part on my personal experience and anecdotes from others. It mostly depends on the person themselves what will work and what will not. I emphasize the personal responsibility of parents, teachers, therapists, counselors and people on the spectrum itself. I have collected tips that have worked for someone and where the principle ‘if it doesn’t help, then it doesn’t harm’ also applies. I assume that the people who get started with this can assess for themselves where their limits lie or those of their and where professional help should be sought if necessary. These tips are tools and do not guarantee happiness or ‘cure’ from autism. They are free to try.

I am unable or unwilling to guide other people in their grounding process. Sharing stories is of course always allowed. (via [email protected] )

Engine and executive problems

The motor problems of people with autism are directly related to their weak grounding. There are two aspects to the engine problems. On the one hand, the poor motor skills, on the other hand their difficulty in taking action or problem-solving ability. The ‘doing function’ is limited in people on the autism spectrum.

They can ‘not like’ their body. Or else: their body is not an obvious extension of their will. There is a gap between wanting something and doing something. These people are often considered lazy, lax, unreliable or careless. But they want to, but can’t get themselves over the bump to actually do it.

The deficient motor skills are easiest to guide: practice as much as possible in a safe environment. Keep it fun, it’s complicated enough. Try not to present it too much as ‘sport’ but as play:

playing a game in the park, throwing your full weight against a cupboard to move it, carrying groceries, running with the dog,Nordic walkingto improve coordination between arms and legs. train. Try to avoid ‘attachments’ as much as possible: ball games, skis, skates, etc. make it complicated. Just using the body is hard enough. Just having fun in the great outdoors. It also helps to de-stress and de-excite.

Being outside has a positive influence on people with stimulus processing problems. ADHD symptoms decrease as a person spends more time outdoors and less with electronic gadgets. This has not been studied for autism, but it might work just as well.

At least it does for me personally. In this context I can especially recommend the book ‘The last child in the forest’ by Richard Louv. It is true that the author describes a society-wide undesirable development, which may turn out to be even more unfavorable in the case of children with autism (and ADHD, etc.?).

It is more difficult to train the executive capacity of people on the autism spectrum. A simple assignment is not so simple for people with autism. An example: The kindergarten teacher asks the autistic Robert to take a red box from the cupboard and points towards the cupboard.

Robert walks over to the closet, looks at it glassy, ​​does nothing for a while, sits on the floor and grabs the nearest toy and goes to play. This is a textbook example of behavior that is labeled as ‘problem behavior’, but which has a much deeper meaning. There are two cupboards and several red boxes in each cupboard and Robert does not know which one to take. The cabinet has several shelves and there are all kinds of things mixed up.

Because of his problems with his central coherence, it is very difficult for Robert to get a clear idea of ​​​​what is in the closet on its own. He does want to look for a box, but in his head everything tumbles together. He cannot see clearly what a box, bag or basket is. Robert panics. He wants to do it right, but he just can’t. He does not want to disappoint the teacher and does not dare to walk to the teacher to ask for more directions. He doesn’t know what to do now and does nothing.

His head goes black, Robert doesn’t think about anything anymore and his thoughts are in a vacuum. Then he sees a toy. He no longer thinks about what the teacher asked and starts playing from an impulse. He is started when the teacher taps him on the shoulder. “You would get me a box. Why don’t you just do that?” Oops…forgot. Robert feels sad and awkward. The teacher notes in his report that Robert is not listening carefully.

You can get away with this behavior in kindergarten, but definitely not in a job. Poor performance of tasks is all too often translated into an intellectual disability or authority problem, when it has nothing to do with it. This problem is literally at the interface between body and mind.

A lot of skills come together in such a simple assignment:

  1. Listen what is being said. That’s difficult with autism.
  2. Visual orientation. The difficulties with central coherence make it literally difficult to ‘see what you are actually seeing’, especially in a busy environment. People with autism most likely live visually in a completely different world than neurotypical ones. For them, looking is a task in itself, without there being any eye abnormalities. Distinguishing objects and estimating depth, speed and motion are more complex tasks for them than for others.
  3. There are many boxes in different colors. It is already a challenge to see which is red, what shade of red, pink and orange also count, there are bags and baskets in between, etc. These are the moments when someone with autism starts to take assignments very literally to ensure peace and quiet. to keep their heads! You shouldn’t laugh at that, that’s pure survival.
  4. Remember the command. The more incentives there are around Robert, the more difficult it is to hold on to his task.

quoteFour skills are asked: auditory, visual, cognitive and mental. What appears to be ‘not listening’ is in fact a jumble of spatial, visual, neurological and motor problems. That’s what makes autism pervasive. This total ability to carry out assignments, solve problems and turn ideas into action must gradually grow, with small steps, small assignments that are made bigger and bigger, many compliments, patiently and lovingly asking why it doesn’t work (“I see it just doesn’t.” “Why can’t you see it?” “Because it’s so messy.” “What can we do about that?”). Children, especially if they are highly sensitive, are often surprisingly good at pointing out the problem.

What’s happening? The children eat their sandwiches while the teacher tells a story. Her answer: “Yeah, but I just can’t eat a sandwich and listen to the teacher at the same time! That won’t work!” Six years! You can also ask yourself whether it is necessary to hear a story while eating. Can we really no longer focus on one task at a time?

By developing their executive functions, people with autism also develop their problem-solving skills. Learning to spot when it doesn’t work and then ask for help is an important skill. Learning that it’s okay to make mistakes, that it doesn’t have to be right the first time and that other people can help you, makes it safe to learn and make mistakes. This can happen at all ages, I am still learning and growing in this.

A safe learning and working environment is of the utmost importance. As parents, be critical in the choice of schools and crèches. As an adult, when you start working, you can make a conscious choice whether you want to work for this group of people. A safe environment is perhaps more important than your actual work. Confidence gives you wings.

Learning disabilities in autism

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Since I am not a pedagogue, for learning difficulties I would like to refer to the people who know more about it than I do. Sometimes a child with autism can stay in a regular school, sometimes a cluster 2 school is a solution, sometimes Montessori education can be an option. Special Education does not always work well, partly because the teaching material is often below their level and the other children often have serious behavioral problems, which pushes the sensitive autistic children even further into their shell. Everyone is different, but I suspect that Waldorf education is too unstructured for children on the autism spectrum.I can read the book ‘ Asperkids ‘ by Jennifer Cook-O’Toolerecommend.. A mother with Asperger describes how she takes up the education of her three children with Asperger herself. Her children are more intelligent than Einstein, but they kept dropping out of various schools. Her own twist on Montessori education appears to work well for her children.

She makes full use of her children’s passions (in mainstream education these are often discouraged or at least dosed), responds to their need for visually conveyed information and lets them experience instead of pounding knowledge. She builds setups to convey laws of physics, goes outside for biology class, and uses digital tools to get around her children’s writing and listening difficulties.

It reads wonderfully and you immediately feel like undertaking all kinds of projects, for your own child or your inner child. The power of this book is that it reminds you of what it means to… To be Aspie : to spread the wings of your mind by doing what you love. One of the few autism books that makes you happy. It could also only have been written by someone on the spectrum.

One of the biggest bottlenecks in teaching children and adults with autism is their difficulty in generalizing: It is difficult for them to translate knowledge acquired in one setting to another. They can perfectly recite a lesson, but in practice they often do not know what to do. Experiential practical education without too many disturbing stimuli that simultaneously feeds their intellectual hunger works best for them. And that’s exactly where it’s hard to come by today.

Contact difficulties. It’s not what it seems!

Contact difficulties in autism have several sides: avoiding contact with people, being completely withdrawn into oneself and a mismatched contact that is experienced as strange or even disturbing.

Contact avoidance is caused by the incredibly high-frequency aura of people with autism; they pick up everything! And when I say ‘everything’, I really mean everything. Everything can irritate: movement, visual information, sound (can also hurt physically!), emotions, solar flares and moon phases (these affect more than they disturb).

Stimuli have an effect not only sensory but also energetically. Someone once pointed their finger at me without touching me when I was over stimulated and he was irritated. It hurt physically . I thought, “It can’t get any crazier!” The aura of people with autism is physically-tactile very sensitive, almost even more sensitive than the skin. And on top of all this there are the ‘usual’ five-sense jammers such as itchy clothes and so on.

They also often avoid contact because they simply find their own activities more interesting than other people. As they grow up, they may come to realize that other people are often not open to the individuality of people on the autism spectrum.

Their own company is enough for them because social contacts with ‘ordinary’ people are a frustrating succession of misunderstanding, struggles and conflicts.

Avoiding contact is something you have little control over as a parent of your child, it just happens. These children sense their needs very well and act accordingly. If getting in touch isn’t an option for your child, you should respect that. Make sure that the social interaction the child does engage in is safe so that it learns that the world can be trusted: one person at a time, not for too long and avoid nasty ‘stimulus surprises’.

Autism researcher Uta Frith   concludes on the basis of her research that children with autism are unable to distinguish persons from things. I don’t believe that; I think they don’t really understand the difference between people and things, but they deliberately ignore people. They ‘keep themselves dead’ until the ‘danger’ has passed.

They don’t see a person as a potential friend, but as a mountain of unbearable stimuli. They really understand what people are. And understandably choose things. Is it allowed, when you are three and enter the world as a wire brush?

wire brush

When making contact with someone with autism, it is important to observe some ’emotional-energetic hygiene’. Also in front of everyone else. Are you angry or upset? Do some breathing or grounding exercises until you are yourself again.

Did you argue? That’s human. But clean up the remains by burning some incense. You don’t leave your material waste lying around either. Are you sad? That can happen. Don’t suppress it, don’t deny it. You can be sad. But, for example, ventilate the room or work with palo santo or sandalwood to neutralize the influence.

Are you very ‘high’ in your energy?Very nice in itself, but that can be just a little too stimulating for someone with autism. If you are good ‘on the roll’, try to ground your energy. It may happen that old soreness has been triggered in you and you are somewhat worked up. Observe that consciously and channel those intense emotions.

Consciously keep your aura with you when you know your emotions are intense. It is very important that you do not deny your emotions. Saying Mom isn’t angry when you are creates a kind of “noise” that really confuses sensitive kids. They can also start to doubt their own perception and thereby crush a beautiful talent and then we are much further from home.

This is difficult! You really don’t have to be a Buddhist initiate. It’s about becoming aware of your emotions instead of being a plaything for them and taking responsibility for what’s going on inside you. The result? People with autism will dare to open up to you and you will experience a contact with an authenticity that you will not often experience.

While this ability to feel emotions is mostly attributed to empaths, people on the autism spectrum might as well! I myself do not immediately feel what emotion is going on, but I do feel a kind of ‘noise in the line’ or ‘hitch in the cable’ in the communication. Unlike an empath, I don’t feel exactly what ‘s happening, but I do feel that something happens, and that unfailingly.

I feel someone’s mind games just by looking at their face. I suspect this is why people with autism avoid eye contact: they are started by the mess they perceive in a person’s soul. Eye contact should never be forced! Certainly not with a child who does not yet understand that this is socially desirable. Being forced to look into ‘the mirrors of the soul’ can be a traumatic experience if what they see there isn’t pretty!

The unattainable withdrawal into oneself   is the consequence of that hypersensitivity. In doing so, their attention is not only turned away from the world, they are even in the border area between trance and out-of-body experience .

This is something almost no one knows. When someone with autism is in the well-known bubble, he is in an altered state of consciousness . Vision and listening ability are limited. This is similar to someone who is in a state of hypnosis or on a trance journey. You are then not sensitive to everyday sounds and events, but a loud noise immediately brings you back to your waking consciousness.

People with autism are in this condition unable to see a bus 5 meters away. But they really haven’t seen or heard it! They were completely disconnected from their environment due to overstimulation. Don’t put the dragon on this one. They do know that their functioning is shaky, and making jokes only increases their insecurity – and the likelihood of this kind of withdrawal.

The state of consciousness of people with autism in the closed-off mode is an altered, non-wake consciousness that they involuntarily enter when the environment is too stimulating for them. Find out the cause and do something about it, where possible. Leave the person with autism alone in this state as much as possible, they really can’t do it anymore.

If you must contact that person, do so as gently as possible: Keep your own emotions calm, do not touch the person, speak softly and in the same pitch and do not expect an immediate response, give them time to ‘ countries’ on Earth . Compassion is the magic word.

people with autismThe autistic withdrawal also has a positive side. People with autism get into a state of hyper-concentrated flow quite easily. They are not overstimulated, but hyper-open, the information absorption and processing are very high. This is when they are at their most creative and most difficult to approach.

I don’t think I need to emphasize that it is particularly annoying to be disturbed in this mode. Don’t do that if you don’t really have to. Peers or narrow-minded adults often cannot resist bursting the ‘concentration bubble’. That is really a form of bullying and as a parent or teacher you should simply not allow that.

Be tolerant of it; do you have to ask that question right now? Can’t someone else set the table?

After such a concentrated session, people with autism are often tired. There is then a risk of overstimulation. This can lead to tension in a relationship. ‘You are only concerned with yourself and you are not paying attention to me!’. This is often a reason to be single, the security of a relationship sometimes does not outweigh the overstimulation and irritations, and the fact that you cannot let your gift flow completely freely because you also have to spend time and energy on maintaining your relationship.

Difficulty with empathy. It’s not social, it’s neurological!

Reacting without empathy is often not what it seems. I once went to an autism cafe where a woman told me her husband responded with, “Do you know where my pants are?” when she told me that a relative had died.

The man in question had a huge knot in his brain at the time because he couldn’t find something and chances are he didn’t even hear his wife say someone was dead. The whole room was laughing at the anecdote and the poor man was sitting there.

I was ashamed of myself as a substitute. Who has a problem empathizing with who’s situation? The man in question was really not a blunt jerk, the announcement came at a difficult time for him and the woman’s resilience must not have been too great because of the bad news. These kinds of incidents make marriages hang by a thread.

I admit, it’s difficult. Many people with autism indicate that they cannot read a person’s facial expression and body language. They also often find it difficult to understand how bad or wonderful something is if they have never experienced that situation themselves.people with autismGaining life experience then helps them to put themselves in the shoes of other people, because as they get older they have a larger repertoire of situations that they know from their own experience. As a teenager I never understood that it was such a ´major life event ´ is to get a new job that everyone will congratulate and send cards.Until I entered the labor market myself:

how important your payslip is for your livelihood and how great the stress is when your job is on the line and the hot breath in your neck from the end point of your unemployment benefit when you are looking for a Job. My (then) undifferentiated brain could not translate to the importance of a source of income for a human life. Was I a jerk? No, there was a bit of understanding missing.

Many cases of ‘disempathy’, to give it a name, are also caused by stress in the person with autism, who often does not even notice the environment. Because of a ‘knot in their brains’ they often do not understand or understand what is really happening. Or they need so much time for the information about the seriousness of the situation to seep into their understanding that they are unable to respond adequately in time.

Trust and empathize.

In an article inPsychology Magazineabout a couple whose husband has Asperger’s, there was a sentence that really intrigued me: ‘My husband is very compassionate. But he doesn’t empathize’. It implies that there is a difference between ’empathize’ and ’empathize’? When you empathize , you care about someone’s emotions and take them seriously. If you empathize… do you understand what is going on inside someone? It may be my deviation, but I don’t see any difference. It seemed quite demanding to me.

I myself am inclined to think that the need for empathy of neurotypicals is a need from the ego for confirmation of your mind games. ‘ I feel sad when I have PMS, so my husband has to comfort me without me asking’ is a need for empathy. ‘I have PMS and I like it when my husband cleans up the groceries and visits his mother alone so that I have the afternoon to myself’ is a need to sympathize. But maybe I’m wrong.

People with autism are rather no-nonsense when it comes to emotions. They understand an honest emotion, genuine sadness, justified anger, real joy and they can meet that perfectly. Mind games, on the other hand, are a different story: Going to yell because your authority is being undermined, or taking someone’s cloak to show you’re in control,

faked ‘ Oh my God !’ happiness, the emotional manipulation of the scorned loved one who tries to put her partner in front of her cart: it bounces off. We are immune to it. What people with autism need is to communicate needs in an adult way without being blamed for not meeting unspoken expectations.

Sometimes people with autism feel sorry for someone, but they don’t know how to comfort them. Because of their more intellectual way of reacting, they often have less emotion (or: ego?!?) in a situation where a neurotypical does and it is indeed difficult for them to understand why it is so much more emotional for someone else than for themselves.

People with autism are also less often comforted, either because they show their emotions less or because they apparently do not invite comfort due to their autonomous attitude. But we learn these kinds of empathic skills by receiving it ourselves.

They are naturally less good at it, but they are often not really taught. Sometimes they have become afraid to show their compassion because their clumsy efforts were not appreciated. Then they keep aloof when something is wrong.

It is important for someone with autism to know that a fumble is also appreciated. But just when a neurotypical needs comfort, his battery is empty or his fuse is short and it is also very difficult for them to understand our way of responding. And nothing is more insufferable to a neurotypical with an emotionally triggered rational mind blackout than someone with autism who explains the emotional side of things.

Neurotypicals have the reflex to seek support from others when something bad happens. But someone with autism will instinctively withdraw and solve their problem on their own. In the case of severe pain, shock, injury or emotional hurt, they are so messed up neurologically, psychologically and energetically that someone else’s help only adds to the chaos.

The aura is then one great swirling mass of discordant energy so that any interference from another does more harm than good. They need to relax for a while and ease the pain. They are opposing needs and ways of responding to stress that neurotypicals and people with autism cannot mutually anticipate.

Problems with social alignment: a clash between two worlds

Uncoordinated contact also has several sides. It may be that someone with autism simply does not know the social codes well yet or does not know how to react empathically in a certain situation. In that case, it’s tempting to act angry or hurt, but explaining how to do it is a better strategy. People without autism tend to use exaggerated emotional behavior to extract the desired response from people with autism, but it just doesn’t work that way.

It’s just frustrating for both parties and it causes people to become unnecessarily separated from each other. Saying how, why and when you should react like that really works best. And with the help of grounding exercises and gradually building ‘ heartstrings’and empathy will continue to improve.

If people with autism are over-stimulated, they may also react in an out-of-the-ordinary manner. If someone with autism is overstimulated, it can easily take 2 seconds before environmental stimuli are processed (think about how that goes in the brain with neurons and such).

Actually, you should be talking and moving in slow motion so he can keep up. When overstimulated, motor skills also deteriorate: fine motor skills become less accurate, it is more difficult to consciously control your movements. They involuntarily and God-bless-the-hand do things, or do nothing at all.

It can be very difficult to get to grips with social situations. Most don’t learn that until they are adults. They often develop an invisible attitude in groups to stay below ground level and above all not to say anything wrong. That is a safe option, but it also comes at the expense of your authenticity.

Trying to be ‘loose’ and join in often results in someone going nuts and in the worst case becoming a victim of bullying. I think self-confidence is the most important key in social interaction. And by that I don’t mean being the biggest joker. Self-confidence means knowing who you are and recognizing your good and bad sides. You can choose when to be silent because you find it safer or more comfortable at that moment.

You can indicate that you prefer a one-on-one situation than a busy group. You may say that you do not come into your own in groups. You may stutter and find things difficult. You can go home earlier to a party because you’ve had enough. And if other people don’t accept that, then you shouldn’t be doubting yourself but wondering if you’re right between them.

Due to the apparent lack of empathy, people with autism are unfairly portrayed as unfeeling monsters and human robots. This stigma is wrong and hurts ourselves a lot too. It depends on the person whether an autism diagnosis feels like a mark or is worn as a nickname.

But what is certain is that an autism diagnosis is suddenly no longer self-evident: access to school, work, love and social acceptance. People with autism don’t always dare to say they have autism because it can really crush your social acceptance within a group of people .

Pretending that you have autism is similar to coming out as gay: the more open-minded people will accept it, but sometimes people react ‘differently’ to you as soon as they know it. I myself avoid the ‘A-word’ as much as possible. Instead of coming up with that label, I say what I need and that usually works well. In a few cases, a situation demands so much of me that it is better to say that I have autism.

Because of the ‘arrogance of the majority’ it is very difficult for people with autism to ‘get in between’. Our problem is not that there is a problem, but that we are outnumbered. The integration of people with autism is in many cases hindered by a persistent us/them thinking and an incorrect perception of neurotypicals that creates the image that autism is catastrophic.

Witness the cringe-inducing slogans of well-meaning autism advocacy associations such as ´Piet fights against his autism every day´ and ´A lifelong different.´ Piet does not fight autism at all, Piet fights against prejudice and incomprehension. If you reduce someone’s totality of being to ‘different’, you will not be able to treat them any other way than as ‘different’.

Some tips for neurotypicals

  • Train motor functions with fun games and exercises
  • Train the executive ability with a lot of patience and small steps. Always raise the bar a little bit higher, celebrate successes and learn to put adversity into perspective
  • Respect it when people with autism are unable to connect. If you have to, do it as mildly as possible
  • Make sure your own emotions are ‘in order’ when dealing with people with autism
  • Be compassionate with people with autism who are in the withdrawn mode due to overstimulation
  • Let them have their way when they are at their most creative. You could just ruin an important discovery J
  • Recognize that there are fundamental differences in the way people with autism and neurotypicals respond to events
  • Do your best to remove behavior that is perceived as unempathetic from your emotionally tinted perception and to find out where ‘the knot’ is (this takes a lot!)
  • In a friendly way, teach someone with autism what the social codes are. Regular tools can help with this. In doing so, be so sincere as to hold up to the light what you take for granted. The world of people with autism is often much purer and more artless.
  • If a really painful incident occurs that damages relationships, talk it out. Give both insight into your experience at that moment, why you reacted that way. And forgive. Accept that you and the other are both people with shortcomings. people with autism

Some tips for people with autism

  • Do your best to push boundaries. Do it at your own pace
  • Be kind to yourself when something doesn’t work out. You will come a long way, but some things will always remain difficult. That’s allowed
  • Do your best to communicate in a friendly way that you are really too tired to interact and that you want to be on your own
  • Compare the more emotionally tinted way of reacting neurotypicals. Do not demand that they react your way, any more than they can demand that you react their way.
  • You may respond assertively if you feel they are venting their emotions on you. You’re not a punching bag.
  • If you have hurt someone with unempathetic behavior, apologize for it. If the person in question is no longer angry and is open to it, you can try to explain why you were unable to respond empathically. They can then understand you better.
  • Be open to feedback from others about what is and is not possible in social situations.
  • Think critically about when it is and is not wise to talk about your autism. If people start to act rude to you or ‘disable’ you, you can stand up for yourself. If people really can no longer act normal or you, discriminate or underestimate bully you, ask for help (confidant, mentor) or you have to ask yourself whether you are in the right place.


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