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The Basics: The Core Principles & Lessons That Form The AE Process

There are a TON of different paths you could take when helping someone with Asperger’s. Where do you start? What will be most effective? What should you avoid?

If you are confused about how to actually get started, this article is for you.

Everything we do at Asperger Experts is based on personal, real-world experience living with Asperger’s every single day. Unlike the doctors, we don’t get to turn it off at the end of the day. So that means finding real solutions that work for our lives, as well as the lives of our customers and clients.

Over the years, we’ve developed the AE Process which guides people with Asperger’s and their families on how to improve life with Asperger’s.

It looks like this:

aeprocess

(If you’d like a breakdown of how the AE Process works, click here)

For most though, the AE Process can still seem overwhelming. Where do you start? What do you focus on?

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Environments cause tendencies. Write that down and stick it somewhere that you can see it often, because it is a golden rule of life that isn’t often talked about.

What I mean by tendencies is that certain environments have a better chance of causing certain things to happen. A school causes tendencies of learning. A prison, not so much.

Sure, you can work on changing yourself, getting out of Defense Mode, aligning your Influence Circles, Holding The Space, and everything else we teach, but if you aren’t in a proper environment, everything will be much harder, take much longer, and be a lot more frustrating.

So what is an environment exactly? In our world, it’s just a distinction that creates a frame around a set of relationships.

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Since 2012, we've been helping people with Asperger's & their families through our courses, communities and workshops. Through this work we often get asked MANY questions.

Here are the answers to more of your burning questions.

As always, we'll be answering this from our own personal experiences of living with Asperger's, helping thousands of families, and understanding the latest science.

Why do they shut down so much?

First let's define what "shut down" means in this case. In this case, we call shut down "Defense Mode", the state in which someone with Asperger's is withdrawn, avoidant and reclusive. They want to spend time in their room doing nothing but, as an example, playing video games all day, only coming out to go to the bathroom or eat.

So here's the short version of why they are doing that:  Everything seems like a threat to them. And until they learn how to feel safe & secure in their body and the world, nothing will change.

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Well…. #$@&%*.

You screwed up again, didn’t you? And you know what that means. It means you’re a failure. Well my friend, let me be the first to congratulate you! I’m a failure too, and I couldn’t be prouder. Oh man, I’ve failed loads of times. More than I could ever possibly count. Some of my mistakes, both conscious and accidental, have been small and mostly inconsequential. Others have been so monumentally, unfathomably stupid that they are still impacting my life today. And of course there’s everything else in between.

But you know what? If I could go back in time I wouldn’t change a thing, and I’ll tell you why.

Before we go any further let’s define failure so we’re all on the same page. For our purposes today we’re going to define failure as “being unsuccessful in accomplishing a purpose”. In other words, I’m not talking about things that happened to you that were outside of your control, such as that time you got fired because the company was downsizing and for no other reason. That’s a conversation for another time. Today, I’m only talking about the things you actually did that created an unintended result you didn’t necessarily want.

Okay, so here’s why I love failure. Failure gives you feedback.

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This is part 1 of a 3 part series (read part 2 here and part 3 here) on how to completely and utterly destroy the spirit of someone with Asperger’s, ensure they are in Defense Mode for a large portion of their life, and make sure there is nothing but tragic suffering for everyone in their life.

If you don’t want that, use this as a guide for what NOT to do.

The majority of the text from this article series comes from the wonderfully amazing book “The Ascent of Humanity” by Charles Eisenstein. Reprinted here under a creative commons license. You can read the entire book and see a list of citations here.

This series is meant to fundamentally challenge some deeply help beliefs about the world. It may help you to be with any feelings that come up as you read.

Each part of this series deals with a specific subject. This part focuses on holding back, saying no, and denying the full humanity of someone. Enjoy!

“Economics, Darwinian biology, and dualistic religion all agree that the only hope for a livable world is if we all try really hard to be nice. Such a view sees civilization as a fundamental good, for it overlays the bestial inclinations of nature with conditioned behaviors that run counter to nature—counter to its win-at-all-costs, eat-or-be-eaten truths. Since the newborn child is wholly natural, wholly uncultured, education and child-rearing aim to destroy, or at least to suppress, the child’s original nature in favor of civilized morals, values, and behavior. Hence the enormous emphasis placed on obedience and discipline.

The alternative to “trying harder” is play, which is spontaneous, improvisational, and easy (play only begins when we are at ease). If we try to play, we do not play. Fear and anxiety, compulsion and coercion, obedience and discipline are inimical to play. Many childhood activities that today go by the name of play, such as gymnastics classes and Little League, are actually closer to “skills development” or obedience training. But sad to say, our society begins to deny play at an earlier age than that.

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This is part 2 of a 3 part series (read part 1 here and part 3 here) on how to completely and utterly destroy the spirit of someone with Asperger’s, ensure they are in Defense Mode for a large portion of their life, and make sure there is nothing but tragic suffering for everyone in their life.

If you don’t want that, use this as a guide for what NOT to do.

The majority of the text from this article series comes from the wonderfully amazing book “The Ascent of Humanity” by Charles Eisenstein. Reprinted here under a creative commons license. You can read the entire book and see a list of citations here.

This series is meant to fundamentally challenge some deeply help beliefs about the world. It may help you to be with any feelings that come up as you read.

Each part of this series deals with a specific subject. This part focuses on the traditional education system, control, and destroying creativity. Enjoy!

“No discussion of control would be complete without some attention to modern schooling, the linchpin of the program to subjugate the inner wilderness—human nature—just as we use technology to dominate the outer.

Why do we go to school? The universal response is, “To learn”, and here we encounter the primary contradiction of modern schooling that leads us to all the others. For if the purpose of school is that children may learn, then school is quite evidently not working.

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This is part 3 of a 3 part series (read part 1 here and part 2 here) on how to completely and utterly destroy the spirit of someone with Asperger’s, ensure they are in Defense Mode for a large portion of their life, and make sure there is nothing but tragic suffering for everyone in their life.

If you don’t want that, use this as a guide for what NOT to do.

The majority of the text from this article series comes from the wonderfully amazing book “The Ascent of Humanity” by Charles Eisenstein. Reprinted here under a creative commons license. You can read the entire book and see a list of citations here.

This series is meant to fundamentally challenge some deeply help beliefs about the world. It may help you to be with any feelings that come up as you read.

Each part of this series deals with a specific subject. This part focuses on the pain people feel, and the dismissal of that pain. Enjoy!

“If pain, like the rest of life’s events, has no larger purpose or meaning, then why not avoid it? The logic parallels that regarding colds and flus. If we are discrete and separate beings in a fundamentally competitive world, then any confluence of interests must be accidental, any larger purpose must be our own projection, and our well-being must come from gaining as much control as possible over that at-best indifferent but often hostile universe. Remember the logical conclusion of the Technological Program: the elimination of all suffering. That this is a feasible goal is fundamental to the assumption that the world is in essence controllable, and medicine is a key technology in implementing that control.

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I spent many years very ill, going from doctor to doctor and being the “perfect patient”.  I did everything they suggested and took EVERY medication that was prescribed up until my kidneys gave out as I was taking upwards of 20 medications a day.  I realized I was spending a fortune and repeating the same treatments over and over without relief.

It was at that point I chose to start taking responsibility for this body I am in and realized I needed to advocate for myself.  That no one could remember what it was that I needed from appointment to appointment. I came to understand that each specialist would do what they saw fit but that it was up to me to not only tune in to what was right for me, but to track what had been done and keep detailed notes of what I needed.  Upon this realization I started to pay attention to my behavior and mindset within these appointments. I observed that I felt much like a victim at my appointments and blindly trusted each physician to know what was right for me.  This was the point in the appointments that I would then shut down, having no confidence that I knew what was right for myself or how to ask for the things I came to know I needed.  

So I changed some things:

I started to just be with my body, listen to it and keep clear notes of what I needed.  I recognized that I did shut down during my doctors appointments and learned to ask for help.  I sat with someone that I really trusted and who was willing to take the time to help me and I explained what I had experienced and what I needed and then I would take them with me to doctors appointments. This is where I transitioned from being a victim to being in control of myself and my outcomes.  I am happy to say that I am now healthy and thriving.  This wouldn’t have happened had I not stopped and clearly looked at the situation directly in front of me and chosen to take control and ask for help.

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We're fortunate enough to make a living helping people with Asperger's and their families. We've been doing this since 2012, and have gotten a LOT of questions.

(Over 43,000 questions so far... but who's counting?)

So here are the answers to the most common questions we get. Figured I would save you some time googling and looking through our materials.

Without further ado, lets get started!

Where do I start? What do I focus on?

Not social skills. Seriously. Everyone (including a lot of therapists and doctors) thinks that Asperger's just means lack of social skills. You and I know better. For someone with Asperger's, learning social skills is a SIDE EFFECT of getting out of Defense Mode.

Once they are out, they will start to pick up social skills on their own.

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Life isn’t about luck. A lot of people would like to think it is, because it makes them feel better, but it isn’t. The mechanics of life are not about luck, they are about finding the right recipe and then following it.

There are recipes for everything. We all know that there are recipes for food and music. But there are also recipes for pretty much everything else in life.

In today’s highly connected world, learning how to do something is never the hard part. And then once you do learn how, if you follow the instructions you should get a similar result.

The problem lies in “following the recipe” part. In order to properly follow the recipe, you need 2 things: 1) Willingness and 2) Emotional capacity.

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You have never felt more powerful than you do in this moment. You are conscious of your muscles warming up as blood flows into them preparing to handle whatever is about to happen next. You feel the familiar tightening in your chest and neck. The tingle of sweat beginning to form on your skin. Your focus sharpens. You feel awake and alive.

What is this amazing feeling? The answer may surprise you: stress.

For those of you that have somehow avoided feeling stress this far into your life, allow me to define it for you. (Congrats, by the way, but you should probably call your neurologist now to get that looked at.)

The clinical definition of stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Yikes. Sounds pretty intense, doesn’t it?

When most of us think of stress it immediately conjures to our mind’s eye some of the most painful and unpleasant experiences of our lives. That 4 hour exam that would make or break your college career; your father yelling at you; being told you have a life-altering medical condition; staring down a rather sharply dressed man at that one job interview. In fact, I’ll bet you started to feel a little stressed right now just thinking about it.

Now, as we define this I do want to clarify something up front. There is a difference between the kind of stress one might experience, say, in the jungles of Vietnam or through Asperger’s sensory issues vs. the everyday kind of stress one experiences in the waiting room of a job interview.

The difference is this: with the first kind, the kind that has a tendency to cause Defense Mode (and in the case of the soldier, PTSD), it’s something that is happening to you and that you are powerless to stop or control. The second kind, the kind we’re talking about in this article, usually has more in common with anxiety. It’s based largely in your perception of the stressful event, and you usually have at least some choices. (i.e. You are choosing to be in that job interview. You’re not trapped there and unable to escape.) In fact, in these sorts of situations there is one choice in particular that can completely negate the negative effects of that stressful experience. More on that in a minute.

The Secret of Stress

Today I would like to offer a different perspective on stress. There might be more to stress than you realize. In fact, some of your previously held notions about it might be dead wrong.

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My name is Heather, and I’m the Office Manager of Asperger Experts. I work, I am married to a person who has Asperger’s tendencies (no diagnosis, but we’re pretty sure…), I am a Mom to a wonderful 10 year old who was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s and I am renovating a house we bought recently - a fixer upper. Lots of potential, lots of sweat equity. We moved the weekend after Christmas. No stress, right?

Enter Asperger Experts, A Most Awesome Company To Work For.

Last week I was feeling the stress. I was trying to nurture my son back into a routine after being sick on and off for several weeks, trying to help my husband get used to his new situation, and trying to settle into a new position myself. Tuesday Danny called me to check on my Thursday availability for something, so I got my stuff together and went in to the office. I knew the all-too-familiar refrain of “we need to have you invested, we have to have you here, you have to be here to do the work”, etc. etc.

I walked into the office. Danny turned around and gestured to the computer screen. It was a lovely picture. Eleia spa, at Olive 8. I waited. He said something to the effect of “Here. Pick a package. What do you like? I’ll pay for it, but you have to book it.” I could have been more shocked, but it would have been difficult. I usually feel much safer taking care of others; it was difficult to let someone take care of me. It was especially difficult since I felt I had been dropping the ball, juggling all the responsibilities.

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I have been through years of therapy, and that long journey came with the exhausting act of digging through my childhood, and looking more closely at the massive life changes that I had been through in my 30’s. Though I did make some headway on resolving said issues, I found more often than not, that I left my sessions more confused and anxious than when I went in.

That’s when the shift started. Though I felt it was important to deal with issues from my childhood and to release them, I also desired to get closer to the issues that I was currently struggling with. Talking through old situations and how they made me feel was great, but I wanted more. I wanted the tools to be able to connect to who I was today, and to learn how to change the stagnant patterns that had followed me for decades.

It was at this point I started to research different types of therapy, and that’s when I started to find information on Life Coaching. It sparked my interest and surprisingly, also created some anxiety. I had to ask myself several questions, could I do things differently than the deep dive I was so used to? Were these people that were calling themselves coaches as qualified as the individuals that had gone through school to get their doctorate degrees?

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When you are stuck, frustrated, and want to change, most people turn to the “how”. As in “How do I get motivated?” or “How do I stop feeling so anxious?” The how is VERY important, however most people don’t realize there are actually 4 stages to change. And ‘the how’ is stage 4.

Here they are:

Stage 1: Wanting It

This is the most basic state of change. You’ve got to want the change you are seeking. In other words: It is impossible to create change in yourself (or someone else like your child) unless there is a genuine desire. If you don’t want it… then why would you change?

And if you are trying to change someone else, especially if they don’t want the change you are thrusting upon them… then good luck. You might as well just try to break a brick wall with a toothpick. It’s not going to happen.

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Asperger's is a neurological condition that causes one to become overwhelmed by sensation, be unable to connect socially with their peers, and withdraw into a world of their creation. Now if you look and ask a doctor, the term Asperger's has actually been phased out, it's now been replaced with Autism Spectrum Disorder. And you can look in the new DSM, the DSM V, to find that.

But it essentially means the same thing, it's just a different label for the same thing. Nothing has really changed at all. Autism Spectrum Disorder is just now diagnosed either as mild or severe (mild meaning Asperger's, or severe meaning full-blown autism). But it's just a different name for the same exact thing.

We still use the word Asperger's because it still holds a lot of meaning to people. They still identify with it and they still know what it means and they're familiar with it.

It's like Mac or PC, it's just a different operating system. The icons may be slightly moved, things may work slightly differently, there may be different workflow steps to get to the same thing or do the same thing, but it's all still there and it all still works. It's just for different types of people.

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So I want you to imagine something. Imagine it's 8:00 PM and you've just run out of milk and you don't have time to go to the store in the morning. So you send someone from your household to go get the milk at the grocery store and they say, "OK, I'll be back at 9:00. It's just it's going to take me a while to get the milk, but I'll be back soon."

And now it's 9:30, and they still aren't back. And so you try calling them, and you try texting them.

No answer.

You can't find their location because they disabled that on their phone, and you don't know what's going on.

And now it's 10:00 PM and they still aren't back. And your mind is now racing, going what happened? What does this mean? You have no idea what happened... so you start making up stories.

Maybe they got in a car accident. Maybe they were kidnapped. Maybe they have a flat tire. Or maybe they won the lottery.

You have literally no idea.

Let's take another example: You go to take a math test and you study, study, study really, really, really, really hard, and then when you get the paper back, it says C and you just feel so disappointed. And you say, "I'm just not good at math and I suck. I studied as hard as I could and I just suck at math."

These are examples of assigning meanings, and this is an essential part of everyday life. Can you imagine how it would be if you had no idea what happened to anyone at any time and you couldn't just make up stories and have a best guess? We wouldn't be able to function. Like, meanings are essential to our lives and they drive our everyday functions, everything from the alarm beeping means that it's time to get up to the green light means it's time to go, to my stomach gurgling means that it is time to be hungry.

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So your child has just gotten their very own Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis, or at very least, you strongly suspect that they’re on the spectrum somewhere. Congratulations! As a proud Aspie myself it is my honor and pleasure to welcome you and your family to our little community. I really think you’re going to love it here.

Many times when I’m speaking to parents who are just getting introduced to this new world I’m often asked the same question. Whether the child is 4 or 44, parents all want to know: “Should I talk to my son/daughter about their diagnosis? If so, how? When? What if they’re already pretty turned off to or angry about the “label”?

All great questions. I totally get why this might be weighing on your mind. On one hand, it is really nice to know what is actually going on, but on the other hand, there are completely valid worries about Asperger’s becoming a label and an identity. So let’s answer them one at a time.

Should I talk to my child about their diagnosis?

First, and foremost, I want to say that ultimately this is a decision that only YOU can make. At the end of the day, I’m just the invisible, mysterious guy writing to you through the magic of the internet. I’ve never met you or your child personally, and I don’t know your life story. Therefore I cannot tell you exactly what you should do in your specific situation. I can only offer guidelines that tend to apply 95% of the time.

Generally speaking, there are 3 signs to look for in determining whether or not to have “the talk”.

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