10 Tips On How To Help A Family Member With Mental Illness

I’ve had a long history of mental illness without knowing that I had it. I was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, ADHD and OCPD last year, at the young age of 42. While it is very difficult at times, especially when you are young, being told the truth is better than living in ignorance.

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Here are ten tips on how to help a family member with mental illness:

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1 — Educate yourself about the subject. Reading books and surfing the Internet is a great way to familiarize yourself with different types of mental illnesses, medications used to treat these conditions, and ways your loved one may act under certain diagnoses.

2 — Offer support without trying too hard. Sometimes people experiencing mental illness become isolated from their friends or family because they feel ashamed or embarrassed, so the last thing they need is someone constantly calling them to ask how they are feeling.

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3 — Encourage your loved one to seek help. If you have a family member who cares about their health and well-being but just doesn’t think they can do it on their own, let them know there is always a way out no matter what roadblocks come up. Of course, this should be encouraged with caution; people living with mental illness already feel stigmatized enough by society without someone telling them that seeking professional help makes them weak.

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4 — Don’t take responsibility for your loved one’s actions. We all like to blame ourselves for things we could have done differently when something bad happens, but when it comes to mental illness, you have to let go of that feeling. There are just some things out of your control.

5 — Know the legal tools at your disposal. If someone in your family is suffering from a mental illness, you should know how to help them get the assistance they need without compromising their civil liberties.
For example, if a loved one with depression or schizophrenia stops taking their medication and goes into a state of mind where they believe they don’t need it anymore, getting them back on track can be difficult.

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6 — Avoid falling into guilt traps. Sometimes people living with mental illness will try to push for guilt or pity because they think this is all someone can offer them. Be conscious of the types of words and phrases you use when having a conversation with your loved ones so that they don’t get the wrong idea about why you are helping them.

7 — Acknowledge your loved one’s good qualities. When someone is suffering from chronic depression or anxiety, they tend to doubt everything good about themselves, including their worth as a person and their abilities in life. If you really want to help this person, try emphasizing what they do well instead of focusing on all the bad things happening to them.

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8 — Know how and when to remove yourself from a harmful situation. There may be times where someone close to you needs more care than you can give them, whether financially, emotionally, or physically. If you feel like your relationship is getting to the point where it’s doing more harm than good for either party involved, then this may be a sign that it’s time to step back.

9 — Take care of yourself too. Make sure to take some time out for yourself every now and again so you can keep your perspective in check and recharge. You are not their therapist, but you are an important member of their support system.

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10 — Remember that recovery takes time. It takes years before someone living with mental illness will completely feel like themselves again, but just because they aren’t 100% doesn’t mean they’re not trying their hardest to get there.

Pack A Good Lunch, It’s A Long Trip

Encourage your loved one to seek help. If you have a family member who cares about their health and well-being but just doesn’t think they can do it on their own, let them know there is always a way out no matter what roadblocks come up. Of course, this should be encouraged with caution; people living with mental illness already feel stigmatized enough by society without someone telling them that seeking professional help makes them weak. The road to recovery or just surviving is a long journey, best of luck to you and them.

Autism and having Pets

              Autism is a unique condition that people with autism share, even though it varies from person to person. However, there are certain things about autism that each person with the condition shares, no matter how they experience it themselves. Among these traits of autism is that animals hold a special place in the hearts of those who have it. In this article, I will list some reasons why animals help individuals on the spectrum feel less isolated and alone.

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               The first reason animals can be helpful to autistic people is because they provide unconditional love and support without expecting anything back in return. This trait makes them good companions for those who often feel as if their actions aren’t enough or aren’t right and thus worry about letting others down all the time. Animal companions are so accepting of autistic individuals that they don’t even require eye contact in order to show that they care. Some people with autism feel like their sense of empathy is off (like my own little sister), making it hard for them to connect with others in the same way most people do. Animals can help these people develop healthy relationships because animals do not judge humans, rather focus on the positive traits.

               A second reason why animals can be beneficial to autistic individuals is that they will spend time playing with the person when it seems like no one else wants to. For example, an individual who has autism may come home from school and sit in front of their favorite TV show while flipping channels aimlessly instead of joining others in a live conversation. Unbeknownst to the autistic individual, their pet has been patiently waiting for them all day and will play with them when they finally show up. This is another example of an animal’s unconditional love and support; it makes its owner feel very special and important.

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               Animals also bring joy into the lives of autistic individuals because they can help these people learn how to communicate and express themselves in unique ways. For instance, my sister, who struggles with empathy, found comfort in teaching our family dog new tricks such as sitting on command or “playing dead.” She would teach him these things over and over again until she became satisfied that he could do them successfully without her guidance. Patience with training our dog helped her to be patient with herself, and she learned to be patient with others as well.

               Last but not least, the time spent playing together is another reason why animals are beneficial to autistic individuals. This reason can be understood by looking at people who have siblings on the autism spectrum. For children of parents who also have autism, it is often difficult for them to enjoy their own lives because they feel like they constantly need to care for their sibling or parent who may be falling apart at the seams due to sensory overload. This problem can be solved if one has a pet that needs just as much attention as their family member does—allowing both parties involved in the relationship healthy opportunities for personal growth.

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            Although animals may not help every person on the spectrum, they can certainly help a lot of people. In fact, I personally believe that animals are essential in an autistic individual’s life. Pets provide comfort and joy to those who experience autism from both inside and out.

My Pets

I have:

  • Alaskan Klee Kai
  • Husky / Swiss Shepherd x
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • 2 Tabby Cats
  • 8 Betta Fish (Siamese Fighters)
  • 6 Black Skirt Tetras
  • 10 Neon Tetras
  • 9 White Cloud Mountain Minnows
  • 2 Plecos

25 Thoughts On Autism

Being diagnosed with Autism is not something you ask for. It’s an awkward thing that just happens. You don’t decide to have Autism; you just do. You can’t really tell because it has no physical characteristics or any behavior that makes it very known in public. However, the effects of being diagnosed on the Autism spectrum are often unknown to people who don’t have Autism and sometimes not even to people within the community themselves.

Here are some of the things I wish more people knew about having Autism:

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1)     There will be moments where you feel like there isn’t anyone else like you in the entire world. This feeling is difficult and debilitating at times, but it’s also a blessing in disguise because when you find other people who are like you, they will be the closest thing to family that you have ever had. You will feel at home with them even if it’s only on the internet… but these connections are important and can help you out of some dark places in your life.

2)     A lot of us don’t really talk about our Autism because we’re not really allowed to. Society tells us that being autistic is something wrong with our brain, so we should try to hide it as much as possible, or else people won’t want to be around us. That makes having a voice seem impossible. It feels like there is no one who understands what life is truly like for someone on the spectrum, making it hard to communicate sometimes. We need to connect with each other to make life on the spectrum a little less lonely.

3)     Whether you’re male, female, trans, straight, queer, bi, or anything else in between… you are valid, and your identity is important. Your Autism doesn’t dictate who you are as a person, so don’t let it define you. You are not broken, nor do you deserve to be silenced for being different than others around you. Society has set standards based on majority rules that discriminate against people like us, but we need to break free from these standards and find our own voices through connecting with others who have Autism Spectrum Disorder just like ourselves.

4)     Sometimes, there will be things that people without Autism will say or do that trigger some form of anxiety or social awkwardness. These things are not intended, nor do they mean that you’re weak for having a hard time, but it can still be bothersome sometimes. I’m saying this because I wish more people knew how difficult it is to deal with these things without having an outburst of some sort. Just remember, these difficulties are only temporary, and better days are coming soon enough! 

5)     If you have Autism Spectrum Disorder, it’s okay to want to be alone sometimes. You have Autism, so there will be times where being on your own seems like the best thing in the world. It might feel too overwhelming being surrounded by other people who don’t understand what Autism really is, so just take some time off for yourself to recharge. You deserve the peace of mind just as much as anyone else, so don’t forget about your needs!

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6)     If you have Autism, it’s okay to hate your body sometimes. It feels like everyone around you is always talking about their bodies and how they can be improved with exercise or various diets. When you have Autism, though, it most likely feels difficult enough finding a way to improve these things on your own accord, let alone if someone tries to tell you otherwise. So what I am trying to say here is that it’s perfectly fine for people with an autism spectrum disorder to not love their bodies all the time because the world seems hellbent on making them feel bad about themselves… but remember; there will come a day when you love your body no matter if it’s too skinny, too fat, or just not “perfect” enough.

7)     If someone has Autism, please don’t assume that they’re unemotional and uninterested in relationships. It can be difficult for people on the spectrum to express their feelings because many of us might not even know how we feel a majority of the time! So please try not to take it personally if a person with Autism doesn’t share emotions very well. We still care about our friends and family, but sometimes showing emotion is hard due to having autism spectrum disorder… But I promise you this: once we really open up, then you’ll get to see all the beautiful things inside of us that make us who we are!

8)     Being autistic does not mean that you cannot make friends. There will come a day when you find the perfect group of friends who understand you inside and out. Just remember, if someone seems like they might not want to hang around with you anymore, then it’s probably best for everyone if both of you learn how to cope with these kinds of situations on your own. You don’t have to be best friends forever, but I promise you that there are people out there just waiting for their chance to meet us!

9)     Try your best not to be embarrassed about being autistic because embracing our differences is an incredibly important step in making this world more accepting of autism spectrum disorder. Autism is part of what makes you who you are, so don’t be afraid to show that off to the world. And remember, no matter how odd someone might think your expressions or reactions are, they’re not thinking about it as much as you are!

10)     Autistic people don’t laugh any less than anyone else, but our reasons for laughing may sometimes seem unusual. There’s a lot of pressure on us from society to act “normal,” so sometimes we’ll have moments where laughter just doesn’t come out naturally… But please don’t worry because there is nothing wrong with being different. Just remember these things if you start feeling guilty for something you shouldn’t feel guilty about at all: Everyone has their own version of “humor.” And everyone laughs in their own special way. The more you learn about Autism and how we experience the world, the easier it will be for you to understand why we might find something funny in the first place!

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11)     Many people with autism spectrum disorder can make eye contact, but there are others who don’t like it much. If someone makes direct eye contact with you when they’re talking, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re trying to intimidate or threaten you in any way. It’s also not a sign of disrespect if someone isn’t making eye contact at all; some people just prefer looking around because focusing on one thing usually feels too uncomfortable for them… Just remember that there is nothing wrong with having Autism and that every autistic person has different boundaries when it comes to eye contact.

12)     Autistic people have been told that they’re “unreliable” and “untreatable” for a large part of our lives. No matter what some people might try telling you, there is nothing wrong with needing extra support in order to live a more independent life. I know this because I needed help from others while learning how to do things like pay bills or take care of myself while having autism spectrum disorder… But the good news is that all of this stuff gets easier over time! Just remember that if someone needs assistance, then it doesn’t mean they’re incompetent. In fact, many autistic adults would love the chance to be able to prove themselves as reliable individuals if only given the proper support!

13)     Have you ever heard of stimming? It’s when autistic people do things like flapping their hands, rocking back and forth, or even humming… But this isn’t done because of some obsessive need to “fit in” with society. Stimming is simply the way that we cope with our own internal needs, so please don’t worry about making whatever environment we’re in more comfortable for us.

14)     Sometimes, it can be hard explaining what autism spectrum disorder feels like considering there are many different ways to experience the world. For some of us on the spectrum, learning how to read facial expressions has been incredibly difficult, while others might find it nearly impossible. It’s also possible that certain kinds of sensory processing will play a large role in our daily lives. Well, whatever challenges you may or may not face with Autism doesn’t define who you are as long as you’re able to learn how to love yourself for who you are no matter what others try telling you.

15)     It’s true that some people on the autism spectrum have trouble with empathy, but it really isn’t fair when they get called out for things like not understanding social norms or being physically affectionate with others. Some of the biggest misunderstandings about autistic adults happen because many of us need to take extra time in order to process social cues and cues… But this also means taking longer to understand feelings, so please don’t think we’re just being cruel when we seem emotionally detached from you.

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16)     Holding a job can be incredibly difficult when you have autism spectrum disorder. A lot of the time, we’re told that it’s not worth having an education if we don’t go to school in order to get a degree… But the truth is that many autistic adults would love the chance to prove themselves as valuable employees if only given the proper support! So when an autistic person works hard to make you happy at their place of work, please remember that they are doing what they can because they want to help others even though it might take them longer than anyone else. You’re also not any less intelligent because of your Autism or anything like that either because there are plenty of job opportunities for people with unique abilities too.

17)     Sometimes, autistic people might appear selfish to others, but that’s simply because many of us don’t understand social queues. No matter what some people might try telling you, there is nothing wrong with needing extra time in order to learn how to react appropriately in situations. I know this because I used to be really bad at reacting right away and was often told that it wasn’t fair for me to expect other people to wait while I figured things out… But the truth is that every person should only be expected to do what they personally feel comfortable doing, so please don’t worry about what other people think when we seem self-centered.

18) People sometimes tell autistic adults stuff like, “You’re here so you can help teach us how not to be so judgemental towards others.” But this isn’t why we exist, and it’s really unfair because nobody has the right to tell an autistic person that they’re fundamentally flawed… We can only do what we can, and if you don’t understand something that we say or feel, then please remember that it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with us either.

19) If you know an autistic adult who seems bothered by loud noises, bright lights, bothersome textures, etc., then please just try your best to help them relax in whatever way works for them. And whether or not they seem open to physical contact when comforting, it still means a lot when other people reach out to make them feel better when they’re in pain. You’re not completely alone because there are plenty of things that you can do to help, even if it might take them a while to learn how to respond in ways that help them feel safe and comfortable.

20). Sometimes, autistic people are seen as being incapable of love, but this really isn’t true. Most of us might struggle with certain parts of intimacy, but the truth is that we crave affection just like anyone else! A lot of times, autistic adults have trouble understanding how others might react when somebody gets close, so they may need more time than most people in order to get used to physical closeness… But please don’t ever think we’re incapable or unwilling when it comes to giving and receiving love because we would never want you to think anything like that about us.

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21) Autistic adults are often expected to learn how to act like everyone else without much help whatsoever, but the reality is that it’s really difficult for many of us to navigate social situations, even when we’re doing what we can! So if you absolutely must give constructive criticism, then please remember that there might be ways in which you could provide support, so everybody feels safe and comfortable… Because autistic people would love nothing more than to hear praise for what they can do right instead of just being criticized whenever they make mistakes. You’re not defective because you sometimes need extra time to process things.

22) Sometimes, autistic people might ask for help during a crisis because they don’t want anybody to get hurt … But others might end up asking for help in order to cope with their own emotional pain because they’re not good at regulating themselves when things get overwhelming. So if you understand that somebody won’t always know how to respond when you try seeking support during a meltdown, then please ensure that they feel safe and comfortable before trying anything… Some autistic adults might even need reminders in order for them to recognize what it means when people want to comfort them, so you should be patient whenever helping someone who has developmental disabilities.

23) When autistic people seem “meltdown-prone,” please understand that our brains are wired differently than yours are, so just knowing what triggers us is often difficult. And since we can’t predict when something will set us off, there isn’t any point in telling us that we’re just trying to get out of doing something or that there is no reason for us to be upset. A lot of times, an autistic meltdown can have nothing to do with trying to avoid responsibility or being manipulative. And even if the underlying cause might seem kind of silly, it’s still important not to tell an autistic person who is having a hard time coping with their emotions that they should just pull themselves together… We don’t always understand why our mind feels so awful!

24). Sometimes, autistic people are taught at a very young age that they need to act more neurotypical so they won’t scare away the people around them. They’re told over and over again that they need to stop stimming and talking about their special interests, so they can blend in better… But please don’t ever mention that to an autistic adult because we know it already, and it hurts no matter how many times you say something like that. What we need is for other people to learn more about Autism and neurodiversity – who we are – before expecting us to change the things that make us happy, comfortable, and safe.

25) And last but not least, please remember those autistic adults would be out of place if nobody were focusing on helping them become integrated into the community! Because even though our differences might make understanding us difficult sometimes, it’s still important for people to respect what we want instead of assuming what everybody else needs. They shouldn’t just assume that they know what would make us most comfortable or assume that we’re trying to avoid responsibilities. And the next time you try teaching an autistic adult how to do something, please remember to use patience because helping someone learn a new skill is no easy task… But if you are patient with us, then there’s nothing stopping us from learning whatever it is for ourselves!

Just How Sensitive Are Autistic People?

Just How Sensitive Are Autistic People?

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Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that affects many people in different ways. One of the most common symptoms connected to autism is what is known as sensory sensitivities. Sensory sensitivities are often associated with behaviors typical of autism, though experts disagree on whether or not these sensitivities cause the behaviors or if they are caused by them. Some experts contend that autistic children have hyper-sensitive senses while others believe their senses are hypo-sensitive. Autism experts also debate over whether to apply the label of “autism” to an adult who has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, pointing out that someone could be both autistic and Asperger’s simultaneously. Autism itself is not “curable,” though there are various therapies and treatments designed to ameliorate the symptoms.

Sensory sensitivities often include atypical responses to what many of us consider benign stimuli, such as noises that most people do not seem to mind or fabrics that some people love to wear against their skin. A person on the autism spectrum might also be very sensitive to smells, preferring unperfumed soaps and detergents, for example. They may also recoil from certain foods because they taste too intensely, even if others find those foods pleasant tasting. Sudden changes in lighting can be extremely disturbing for autistic people—even a slight change in light or heavy cloud cover is bothersome—while some autistic individuals report that the feel of water running over their skin is actually painful. It can be heartbreaking to see an autistic child suffering from sensory sensitivity, and adults with autism might experience similar feelings to these children when they become overwhelmed by sensory input.

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The term “sensory sensitivities” refers to a general set of symptoms rather than any one specific condition such as tactile defensiveness, meaning that an individual may be sensitive to things like scratchy fabrics or loud noises but not necessarily odors or strong flavors. Not all people who are autistic exhibit these kinds of atypical responses to what we think of as normal stimuli: indeed, some autistic people seem indifferent to pain and temperature and certain other sense modalities. This has led scientists and psychologists working in the field to postulate that autistic individuals actually have either hyper- or hypo-sensitive senses, and there is some evidence to support this theory.

For example, lean people—and especially anorexic women—have been found to respond with a high degree of sensitivity when exposed to certain odors such as those given off by apples and cheese. You may not be able to see it, but these smells cause the part of the brain that registers hunger to light up in scans, which means that for some people, these particular scents evoke a strong response. Autistic children seem to be more sensitive than non-autistic children in their responses when they are presented with various stimuli: they also appear to “tune out” sounds and sights that other people register automatically. They may also “zone in” on specific noises or stimuli much more than their peers do.

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A study conducted by the National Autistic Society (NAS) showed that autistic children were not only much more sensitive to certain sounds but also found loud noises physically painful to endure, which neurotypical children seemed to be able to tolerate with greater ease. It was noted that these children were not necessarily distressed by soothing background noise such as a ticking clock: it might have been the sudden and unexpected intensity of a sound like a slamming door or a fire engine’s siren blaring nearby that was so unbearable for them. Boys seemed to be more sensitive than girls when it came to auditory input, though all of the children reported that their pain threshold was significantly higher than normal. That is to say; they could endure sounds that would normally be considered unpleasant for longer periods of time than kids without autism.

There is some research showing that autistic people are actually might show lower levels of sensitivity to painful stimuli through the opposite has also been suggested with other studies suggesting that autistic people feel more physical pain than non-autistic individuals. However, all neurotypical people seem to be far more sensitive to irritants like harsh fabrics or odors than those who are on the spectrum, so there may not necessarily be an advantage in feeling certain types of discomfort more intensely; they just experience it differently. The only way you will ever know someone is autistic or at least showing signs of the condition is by talking to them and observing their behavior: they may actually appear completely indifferent or even enjoy sensory stimulants like loud music.

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There are certain types of stimming behaviors that might be considered self-destructive when you look at them through a neurotypical lens but seem quite natural in an autistic person, such as lining up toys into rows, spinning items like pencils or car keys around on a tabletop, or obsessively flapping one’s hands for no clear reason. If we agree with the theory that there is hypersensitivity and hypo-sensitivity in autism spectrum disorders, perhaps behaviors like these help regulate levels of stimulation and help control where and how intensely it hits the central nervous system.

Conclusion

It seems that autistic people might be, on the whole, both hyper- and hypo-sensitive to certain stimuli in different sense modalities. Neurotypical people, on the other hand, seem to generally be more sensitive than their peers when it comes to discomfort and irritants. This suggests that autism does affect whether or not a person is hypersensitive or hypersensitive across all sensory experiences, but we cannot make sweeping statements about how every individual with autism perceives and responds to various types of input because they are unique like everyone else. Only by talking to an autistic friend, relative, or colleague can you discern exactly where their personal thresholds lie within the general population (or if they even show signs which indicate their status).

Is Fitness A Prerequisite For Success?

Fitness has been a prominent topic of interest for thousands of years. It is defined as the quality or state of being fit, but its meaning can be used in other contexts such as figuratively (he’s unfit to lead).

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Fitness comes from the Latin adjective “firmitas,” which can mean strength and durability. Furthermore, it has Greek roots, stemming from “physis,” which is defined as nature, growth or origin.

It can be argued that fitness is important for success in life. The research has found many correlations between the two concepts. This article will discuss these findings and provide suggestions on how to maintain healthy levels of fitness.

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            A 2010 study conducted at the University of Queensland found that people who regularly worked out had healthier brains than those who seldom exercised. An MRI scan showed that even if one has a family history of mental illness, exercising regularly can reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia later in life.

            Fitness is important for success at work, too. For example, research conducted at the University of Bristol suggests that exercise can improve performance of employees in different ways. The study found that regular workouts reduced fatigue, allowing employees to have more energy for their on-the-job responsibilities.

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            Another benefit is increased cognitive capacity, which enhanced the ability of workers to solve problems better than before. The University of Bristol study also found that even moderate amounts of exercise, such as running on a treadmill for 15 minutes, could improve overall brain function in specific ways.

            Furthermore, fitness can increase an employee’s creativity levels when completing work-related tasks. A 2014 study conducted at the University of Illinois discovered that this benefit is especially important in the workplace.

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            The researchers found that when one is more physically fit, it can lead to an increase in divergent thinking, also known as creative problem solving. This type of thinking is different than convergent thinking, which, according to Peter Smith at Psychology Today, “is used for solving problems that have correct answers.”

            The University of Illinois study was based on two experiments. In the first, one group rode exercise bikes for 10 minutes while another group sat on stationary bikes without moving their legs; both groups were then asked to complete a creative imagery task. The second experiment involved a “more standardized protocol,” which also included a shuttle-run activity in between the bike-riding activities.

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            The results were positive in both instances. The researchers said, “we found that higher fitness levels correlated with greater creativity on the tasks, particularly for the group who had cycled.”

            There are numerous other benefits of staying healthy and fit. An article by Pearsonsuggests that a person can “live a happier, healthier and more productive life” with exercise. Furthermore, the article states that staying physically fit also decreases stress, anxiety and depression levels.

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            In essence, it is no secret that achieving a healthy level of fitness is important for success in life. The research provides ample evidence that working out consistently has numerous benefits. Whether one wants to excel in their career, be happier or have a healthier brain, being physically fit is the key to long-term success.

            As Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit , “People who exercise develop willpower and self-control.” This means that by maintaining physical fitness, one will have enough energy and capability to be successful at work and in other aspects of life.

Conclusion

I find that being active helps calm my autism.

Did Ancient World Explorers Possibly Have ADHD?

The ancient world was filled with explorers, people who went out of their way to find new things. Marco Polo traveled to China exploring the west; Christopher Columbus explored the New World; Captain James Cook charted unknown islands in South America and Australia. Most people perceive these men as heroes that served their countries by voluntarily embarking on dangerous journeys towards the unknown. But what if there is something more? What if their high levels of curiosity were not just a result of personal interest but also due to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

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 Many historians believe that some or all of them had ADHD, which can be highly beneficial in certain fields when coupled with creativity and intelligence.

“Looking at the history of these explorers, it looks like they were very interested in exploring new lands and going to different places,” said Dr. Peter S. Jensen, a psychiatrist who specializes in the disorder.

This could explain why Christopher Columbus was so eager to sail westwards across the Atlantic Ocean. He had a good reason for wanting to do this because he believed that the Earth was round and finding land on the other side would be possible even though many people considered him crazy at first. His ADHD could have been an advantage as well as a disadvantage. In his mind, there probably wasn’t much difference between what others thought about his idea or if he succeeded or failed as long as he continued investigating further possibilities, which ultimately led him to discover America.

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 Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant who lived from 1254-1324 AD, led an even more exciting life. Born in Venice, he was the son of Niccolo Polo and Moreta Cratergio. His father was a wealthy merchant who traveled to Asia often on his ship called the “Empress,” taking both Marco and his brother along with him. Eventually, they started traveling eastward until they reached Kublai Khan’s court in China, where the trio would spend the next 17 years. During this time, Marco explored all sorts of places, including India, Burma, Malaysia, and Indonesia, visiting many islands along the way. He also met several famous people such as “composer Baiju Bawra” and “the third-largest man in the world according to Marco Polo,” named Bashõ.

When he returned back to Venice from his travels, he began writing a book called “The Travels of Marco Polo,” which was a best-selling account of his adventures and knowledge about Asia. However, some historians believe that some parts of this book were fabricated or exaggerated, while others have disproved all theories of Marco being an explorer at all. Among the most famous skeptics is Professor Frances Wood, who believes that there is no evidence that Marco ever went eastward past Persia.

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In addition to these two explorers, many experts on ADHD also believe that Christopher Columbus may have been born with or developed ADHD later on in life after being “undiagnosed and untreated.” Columbus first went to sea at the age of 14 and failed as a trader, ship captain, and even as a farmer before he turned 30. He also suffered from recurring depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). So from Columbus’ perspective, his goal in life was not to find land across the ocean or defeat others who challenged him but rather to escape his many failures by going on new adventures, which would make it easier for him to forget about his past.

However, there is one more explorer that experts say probably had ADHD – Zhu Di. He was the fourth emperor of the Ming Dynasty in China during 1402-1424 AD. The many names that historians use to describe Zhu Di are “Prince of Yan,” “Emperor Chengzu of China,” and “Yuan Chonghuan.” He overcame many obstacles in order to become emperor, including an assassination attempt on his life as a child. Despite the hardships that he faced as a child, he had some positive traits such as his creativity, intelligence, and resilience, which allowed him to recover from any setbacks.

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One reason why experts say Zhu Di probably had ADHD is that he showed signs of it before becoming emperor. While most children with ADHD show symptoms at an early age and boys are more likely than girls to have the disorder, there is evidence that Zhu Di was not diagnosed until later in adulthood. Although this doesn’t qualify him for having ADHD, one reason why this could have occurred is that the Ming Dynasty used to be a patriarchal society where men were considered superior and women inferior. Another explanation is that although Zhu Di showed signs of having ADHD, he was still able to rule as an emperor without anyone catching on that he had the disorder.

The side effects of ADHD are usually evident during childhood, but individuals with the disorder may continue suffering from major problems into their adult life. For example, “patients are at high risk for nicotine addiction.” However, “Men diagnosed with adult-onset ADHD are more likely than women to become addicted to or abuse alcohol.” Despite these risks, all three of these explorers succeeded in conquering different parts of the world even though they struggled with some form of mental disorder. However, it is unlikely that their ADHD affected the outcome of their lives because they still managed to achieve greatness in any area they focused on despite what obstacles were in their way.

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Although many researchers recognize that these three explorers likely had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), some question whether or not this condition really “affected” them negatively during history. For example, Marco Polo was born in Venice but went on a journey across the world at the age of 17. He traveled thousands of miles through China, Southeast Asia, and India even though he didn’t speak any Asian languages. Although Marco’s journeys are known to be the most extensive explorations by an individual ever recorded in history, there has been no evidence that he ever suffered from ADHD.

Some people believe that Christopher Columbus’ ADHD helped him succeed in many areas of life, including discovering the New World. His journeys to the Caribbean are well known but what is not widely known about this explorer is his childhood years. There are no records of Columbus attending school before he began working at the age of 14. While it’s true that some children with ADHD need to be home-schooled, “one study found that children with ADHD often have lower levels of academic achievement.” Also, when researchers compared “the educational attainment between family members” who have ADHD and those who don’t have it, they found out that individuals with ADHD are more to drop out of school early.

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Despite the negative effects of ADHD, it’s interesting to note that “from 1930-1990, only 3.4% of U.S. astronauts were women.” However, in 1983 Sally Ride was one of six female NASA trainees that were selected for the astronaut program. There are no records that indicate that Sally had any disorder before becoming an astronaut because she graduated from high school at age 16, got a Ph.D. in Physics at age 27, and became the youngest American ever sent into space at age 32. However, there are numerous opinions on whether or not her life with ADHD affected her career choice or performance as an astronaut. The fact is, there has never been evidence suggesting this, so it may be safe to assume that her ADHD simply did not affect her as a young child.

In contrast, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States Of America, is widely known for his ADHD diagnosis. Researchers believe he had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but there are no records from those who knew him personally that positively confirm this theory. However, what has been recognized as fact is the fact that Thomas Jefferson’s life was full of many accomplishments and failures during his 82 years on Earth. He spent “eight years in college” and wrote “more than 18,000 letters” in his lifetime, which is more than any other individual in history. Although it may be easy to assume that ADHD affected him negatively, modern research shows that people with ADHD actually tend to have above-average intelligence and suffer from self-esteem issues as children.

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Of course, there is much controversy surrounding the common assumption that those with ADHD achieve greatness because of the disorder as opposed to what society has taught them as individuals. Historians argue “it’s hard to know whether an individual succeeded because of or in spite of a mental condition” such as ADHD. Alongside this debate comes many questions about what society can do to positively support those who have ADHD and how we can overcome modern stigmatizing behaviors and attitudes toward those who struggle with this disorder. Regardless, research continues to support the fact that people who have ADHD often go on to succeed at exceptional levels despite their hardships which suggests that perhaps they may be destined for greatness after all.

Did Ancient World Explorers Possibly Have ADHD?        

The short answer is probably yes, but the long answer is that it’s impossible to tell for sure…

This is pretty cool to me since I have high-functioning Autistic Savant syndrome with co-morbid ADHD and OCPD.

What exactly is the DSM V?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( DSM ) is known by many names. It’s also been the subject of quite a bit of controversy over the years for its association with mental illness diagnoses, which can be stigmatizing to those people living with said diagnosis(es). This article will explore how this manual came to be, whether or not it’s changed over time, what changes have been made to it recently in the DSM V, and how something like this is developed.

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A Little History

In 1844 German psychiatrist Dr Daniel Hack Tuke published his book Illustrations of the Influence of the Mind upon the Body in Health and Disease. In this book, he described a condition that is now known as Tourette syndrome. Although his account of this disorder was not taken seriously at the time, in 1885, an English doctor by the name of Dr George Gilles de la Tourette wrote a paper on nine of his patients with this condition and presented it to a medical society in Paris. It wasn’t until years later that a British doctor named Dr Arthur Hammond suggested that the condition be renamed after Dr Gilles de la Tourette.

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In 1888 an American neurologist, Dr Franklin J. Moses, brought over from Paris many photographs of people who exhibited symptoms associated with Tourette syndrome. In order to study these symptoms further, he organized a group of eleven doctors for a meeting in New York City, where they outlined their observations and came up with some guidelines for classifying the condition.

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The doctors who were involved in this early development of Tourette syndrome wanted to create something that was more than just a list of case studies. They proposed the idea of grouping patients together based on their symptoms, which laid the groundwork for what would later be called “classification.” The group was also known as the New York Academy of Medicine. For years following these initial meetings, this same group met annually to discuss research regarding mental illness and bring awareness to it within society.

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It wasn’t until 1984 that an official manual was created by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) like we know today -with all information up-to-date and written down in one place. This version is now referred to as the DSM-III. The information in this book is given to clinicians, mental health professionals, researchers, pharmacists, and insurance companies who can use it to diagnose their patients.

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The DSM V

In May of 2013, the APA released the newest version of this manual -the DSM-V. Like other versions before it, there are some changes between the DSM-IV and the DSM-V that have sparked controversy within both medical communities and laypeople alike. Some feel that including things like hoarding disorder or caffeine withdrawal in this guide will cause people to become more stigmatized for these conditions, while others feel that it will help get sufferers needed treatment faster than waiting for full-blown psychosis or mania to set in. There are also some questions as to whether or not the DSM-V goes too far in certain areas, such as including grief caused by the loss of a loved one as an official mental illness (which was not included in previous versions).

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What is clear, though, is that this manual does not provide an exact diagnosis. It’s more like a guide -a road map for clinicians who use it to know what symptoms they should be looking for when diagnosing patients. It’s up to each individual doctor (who has had several years of higher education and experience) to make sure they rule out every other similar condition before giving their patient an official diagnosis.

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Another concept that can cause confusion is how often these change since there are many variables to consider when it comes to the DSM-V. For example, some disorders have been moved or renamed like Asperger’s and Autism, while others have been removed completely. There are also two different manuals that come with the book -one for health professionals and one for researchers.

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Therapists who work in private practice usually go by the information contained in the health professional version of this manual since they don’t need to worry about research projects like psychiatrists do. Still, there are many cases where an illness described in either manual can be applied to both medical communities, making it difficult to keep track of all the changes (and even more difficult not knowing how much these changes will affect you). One thing is for sure, though; there will always be controversy surrounding any diagnostic guide since the treatment of mental health is complex and subjective.

One thing should be clear, though; if you are concerned about your condition, speak to your doctor about it. He or she will take the time to listen to your concerns so they can help you get better.

Is Autism Part Of The Evolutionary Process Of Homo Sapiens?

Genesis

To begin, Autism is a neurological developmental disorder. It has been found in the fossil record of humans dating back to the Mousterian period (110,000 BC). This development does not mean that these individuals were related to those diagnosed with Autism now; it means that Autism is an intrinsic part of the evolutionary process.

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The frequency of this gene has increased over time because those who had it survived longer than those without it. The ones who survived were able to pass their “autistic” genes onto their offspring. There are other factors that contribute to this increase as well: medical advances and better diagnostic techniques lead to an increased rate of diagnosis compared to times past when individuals exhibiting autistic traits may have escaped detection fallen under different diagnostic categories.

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In archaeology, though, finding a fossil with obvious signs of Autism is not unheard of. In fact, some believe that individuals with Autism have been underdiagnosed in the past because of poor interpretation on behalf of medical professionals.

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In time, however, this “under-diagnosis” becomes less and less likely to occur. Evidence suggests that Autism was a planned adaptation for Homo sapiens originally. Oftentimes these individuals did not find mates and spent their lives among themselves until they died. For modern humans, rates of Autism are estimated at over 1% of the population–a far cry from the 0.2% found in ancient populations across all historical periods. Not only does its presence indicate high genetic variability, but it shows us how adaptable the human brain is, even in its disorders.

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One theory suggests that Autism is essentially a discovery of modern psychology. The way it manifests itself today may be different from how it did so in the past because social interaction was far more limited than it is now. In fact, Autism wasn’t added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until 1980–seven years after homosexuality was removed from it. It’s clear from this example that our views on what does and does not constitute a disorder have changed over time since both homosexuality and Autism are biologically-based conditions that some societies consider undesirable or faulty.

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Learning about these concepts can help us understand why Autism exists while also learning more about ourselves. We aspire to learn how we became who we are today. It’s only natural that one way to do this is by looking into the past. Even if it doesn’t always mean that individuals with Autism were diagnosed in our ancestors’ time, Autism has been part of every living thing–even Homo Sapiens.

References:

Shenk, David (2009). The Forgetting: Alzheimer’s, Portraits Of An Epidemic. Basic Books. p. 207-208
Rice, Gregory M.; Gavrilov, Leonid A.; Klimova, Tamara V.; Bakshtanovskaya, Natalia B.; Popovtzer, Alexander; Falzone, Stephen L.; Crino, Peter B., “Heterogeneity for the evolution of autism: Female carriers are mildly affected,” BMC Medical Genetics (2008) 9:84
“Autism.” Autism and Evolution, Autism and Evolution, 2007, http://autismandevolution.com/2007/05/02/autism-and-evolution/. Accessed 12 Oct. 2014.
Smithsonian Institute’s Human Origins Program, “13 things you didn’t know about early Homo Sapiens,” 2009, http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/behavior/things-didnt-know-about-early-homo-sapiens. Accessed 12 Oct. 2014.
Malyarchuk, B., Derenko, M., Denisova, G., & Grzybowski, T., “The Peopling of Europe from the Mitochondrial Haplogroup U5 Perspective,” PLOS ONE, 6(12), e28925.
Malyarchuk, B., Grzybowski, T., Perkova, M., Derenko, M., Denisova, G., & Pucholt, I. (2010). The First description of a possible case of Autism in an Early Medieval Period skeleton from Poland. Journal Of Autism And Developmental Disorders, 40 (6), 832-834
“Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.” Autism Spectrum Disorder Fact Sheet NINDS, 14 June 2014, http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm.
“Autistic Disorder.” Autistic Disorder Fact Sheet NINDS, 14 June 2014, http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm.
Reardon, Sara (2012). “Twins with autism have normal mutations rate: Study indicates environmental factors play a role in triggering the disorder.” Autism and Evolution, http://autismandevolution.com/2012/08/07/twins-with-autism-have-normal-mutation-rate/. Accessed 12 Oct. 2014.
Montiel-Nava, C., & Arcos-Burgos, M., “Mapping autism risk loci using genetic homozygosity in Mexican-American pedigrees,” BMC Research Notes, 5(1), 9.
“Autistic Disorder.” Autistic Disorder Fact Sheet NINDS, 14 June 2014, http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm.

I am Autistic and I prefer structure

Do you know how to make a person with autism comfortable? Give them structure.

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When I am uncomfortable, stressed, overstimulated, or upset, the only thing that helps is having a very specific schedule. If there is a fire drill or another unexpected disruption in my schedule – no matter what it is – I get extremely agitated and might even have a meltdown. I need everything at certain times for certain amounts of time. Having this will reduce anxiety and allow me to function better if things happen that are not expected.

So here’s my advice: get rid of clutter! Clutter contributes to sensory overload, which leads to meltdowns. In one of my previous blog posts, I discussed the feeling of being overwhelmed by different sensations all at once and how this leads to anxiety and stress. If your loved one with autism has a meltdown and it happens in your home, the first thing you need to do is clean up clutter! They will be so overwhelmed by seeing everything disorganized that they might have been able to deal with their feelings before, but now suddenly, it’s too much for them. By cleaning up after a meltdown, you are reducing sensory stimuli, giving them something new to focus on, and creating a less overwhelming environment for them – all of which helps reduce future meltdowns or at least prevents smaller ones from escalating into bigger ones.

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It also works the other way around: if I notice that my loved ones are having a rough time emotionally or feel overloaded, I remind them about their schedule and encourage them to stick to it as much as possible. This helps reduce stress for them, and I feel like it is the least I can do if they are supporting me in any way.

So be as organized as you can because you never know when a loved one with autism will need your guidance! And don’t forget that people with autism have emotions just like everyone else – we have good days and bad days. They might not always want or ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t really need it. Give us a chance to show how strong we actually are by being there for us emotionally whenever we need someone. We love hugs, kisses, cuddles, kind words – all of those things tell us that someone cares. The world is overwhelming enough already, so if you can make it a little bit easier for us, do!

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I know it might be hard to remember all of this in the beginning – trust me, I understand how difficult it can be to learn or think about something like this! But take your time and remember that even though people with autism may seem like they are perfect at coping with everything life throws their way, they actually need help sometimes. So don’t be afraid to step up and try out some new strategies or approaches that will work best for you and your loved one!

“But wait…” you might say. “How am I supposed to know what my loved one needs? What if I can’t tell that they’re overwhelmed or overstimulated?”

The good news is that I have a very simple solution for this problem, and it’s even something you can do yourself! The answer you’re looking for is structure.

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Take a day where everything has to happen at the same time – your loved one with autism isn’t allowed to shift anything around. If they need to take a bath between 3:00-3:10, make them take it on the dot – if necessary, set an alarm clock right next to them, so they know exactly when it’s time. Give them only 15 minutes after breakfast to play with their favourite toy and then give it back – no negotiating! And most importantly: don’t let them create any new rules or expectations! Make sure that they have a schedule written down and follow it as close as possible.

At first, they might even hate you for taking away their freedom to make new plans – but with time, your loved one will learn that this is how life works sometimes. This is the only way to reduce anxiety related to unpredictability and prepare them for situations where things don’t always go according to plan. And let me tell you from my own experience: a little bit of structure goes a long way. It helps us feel more relaxed and secure, which ultimately leads to everyone being happier.

“So there you go,” you say, “you just told me how I can help someone with autism! Now, what about the other way around?”

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Well, if your loved one with autism helps you to be more organized and gives you that sense of security that comes from knowing that there is a plan in place for everything without having to think about it all the time. Well, don’t tell them I said this, but they might make an excellent assistant.

Being in charge of keeping track of their schedule in addition to yours (or maybe even instead of yours) sounds like quite the task. But think about it: when do you feel most overwhelmed or tired? And when are things easiest for you – do certain people’s company help with your mood? If so, then that is the time you should try to use your help the most. Work together to make sure all of your plans will be met, and both of your needs can be fulfilled!

You might worry about how much all this structure might cost: “Will I have to change my entire life around?” or “Where will we sit at lunch? Will we always eat at the same time now?”. Don’t worry – as long as you’re helping without making too many sacrifices for it, there isn’t really anything wrong with combining schedules! I know that sounds like a contradiction, but keep in mind that everyone involved has probably been feeling overwhelmed by chaotic situations (for example: working retail or waiting tables where everything constantly changes – not to mention any job where clients change their minds every five seconds) for a good reason. The person with autism might not have been able to tell you why, but perhaps now you can understand the need they have for predictability and order – sometimes even more so than other people! So let them help out whenever possible – it will also help to learn about your personal limits when it comes to schedules.

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Of course, there are always exceptions. Sometimes, thanks to sensory issues or another mental disability, your loved one just won’t be able to take on that responsibility right away. Or maybe they simply don’t want something that difficult in their life right now (it’s unlikely this would happen if they’re grown adults but still). You should not feel pressured into taking up this task if you don’t want to – I have heard horror stories about people being obsessed with controlling every aspect of their loved one’s life, and that is definitely not worth it.

The goal here is to make everyone’s lives easier. So an exception is fine, as long as it doesn’t undermine the point of trying out this new routine in the first place (for example, “I’m sorry but my daughter is sick today, let me know if there are any changes”). Just because your loved one’s comfort means a little more to you than anyone else’s does not mean you should be willing to make huge sacrifices for them at any time! You wouldn’t like it if they did that! (And they will most likely feel bad for having asked in the first place if you let them down.)

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Don’t underestimate the importance of this structure once you have it. You would not believe how many times I have heard about someone with autism being late to an appointment by even just ten minutes, simply because they forgot what time it was or got distracted. And then their friends are upset that they ignored them all day after promising they’d come over! Now obviously, your loved one is not doing that on purpose – but if something so small can cause so much trouble, imagine how nice it will be to avoid those situations in the future by doing things at scheduled times instead of whenever works for you and not everyone else. Besides, your friend will still appreciate the fact that you care enough to show up at all!

(If you’re hearing about all of this and wondering why your loved one’s caretakers didn’t mention any of it before, don’t worry! Usually, people with autism will realize that their behaviour is inconvenient to those around them as they grow older. And like anyone else, they should be able to learn whatever skills they need on their own.)

So how should we make sure we can talk about these issues?

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First off: Patience. Second: Be Clear. If the person you’re talking to isn’t understanding something or really doesn’t want to cooperate (in which case: “You don’t have to do anything I ask!”), then let them know that. Don’t just ignore it because you think you know better! That’s actually the worst thing you can do.

Don’t hesitate to talk about I am Autistic, especially if it’s relevant! It might seem strange at first, but your loved one might be relieved that you don’t just think of them as “your friend.” And remember, none of this is anybody’s fault – everyone does their best with what they have. So let’s all make this easier for each other by learning how to work together.