Anxiety, Shutdown & Consequences:More Of Your Questions Answered
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 In this case, we call shut down "Defense Mode", the state in which someone with Asperger's is withdrawn, avoidant and reclusive.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.
When in Defense Mode, it can feel like your entire body is on fire and on high alert all the time. Turning down that metaphorical heat by allowing your body to process sensations without resistance is also a great way.
How do I help them with their anxiety?
There are a few things that will help with anxiety issues.
#1) Involve a competent therapist or psychiatrist. You'll want to find one who is skilled at getting to the root of the anxiety issues. This means not just talking about what makes them anxious. Anxiety isn't something that is cognitive, so CBT therapy isn't your best bet.
We recommend going the route of a more body based approach, such as a Somatic Experiencing practitioner.
On the topic of meds: Medication isn't necessarily a bad thing, it can be a great benefit to people with Asperger's. Consider talking to your therapist or psychiatrist about it.
#2) Understand the root of anxiety. Anxiety at its core is just lack of trust in one's self, circumstances & environment. Specifically lack of trust in ones own ability to "handle it". Once you understand that, all you need to do is work on building that trust back up.
The way you build trust is through a series of risk-mitigated assumption tests. For example, If I have anxiety about what will happen if I try a cucumber, I might buy one and smell it. If I am really anxious about it, I may have a pleasant scent near by to mitigate any risk that I take by smelling the cucumber.
Anxiety also has to do with the feelings in your body, and lack of trust in those. (See the first question for more on that)
#3) Use short term solutions that work for you. Things that have worked for us include Bach Flower Essences, meditation, thinking of things we are grateful for and making sure to have a healthy diet. (If you'd like the complete list of everything that has worked for us, get our "Here's What Works" book.)
What can I do to reduce fighting & arguments in the house?
Anger & frustration usually generates when what "should be" does not equal what is. For example: The computer "should be" loading... but it isn't. Or your child "should be" doing their homework... but they aren't.
Add in Defense Mode and a lack of a shared language (two people have different definitions for the same word), and you often get a lack of understanding that contributes to a sense of frustration over what "should" happen.
#2) Don't escalate. Remember that having an argument takes 2 people. If one person is yelling, it is your job to decide to take a calm approach. Don't yell back. Maintain your ground and help the other person feel safe. They are in an emotionally vulnerable place. Remember, it isn't personal.
#3) Create a shared language. This is a bit deeper than most people usually go. If fighting is a result of anger, and anger is a result of frustration, and frustration is a result of a breakdown in what "should be", then having a shared understanding of the expected result is the best place to start.
Pick a list of words that you think need definitions, and CO-CREATE those definitions with all other people that you usually have fights with. Come up with a shared understanding of what those words mean. This alone will reduce fighting at least 50%.
What is the best consequence for punishing someone with Aspergers?
Essentially, do you want your child to be motivated to clean their room, do their chores, and be a generally decent human being because they get a reward or fear a punishment? Or do you want them to do all of those things because it is the right thing to do?
Instead of basing your parenting off of the reward/punishment paradigm, start with love, trust & belief. Then add in a little bit of natural consequences (and make sure to align your Influence Circles too!)
Kid eats the cake you have set out even though you told them not to? The reward/punishment paradigm would say to take away their computer games or something equally not connected at all.
Instead, explain to them WHY you told them that, and then have them help you in baking a new cake (and cleaning the dishes created from that process!).
Not only do they learn that there are real, actual consequences for their actions, but you don't put them deeper into Defense Mode while doing it.
Barbara Coloroso has a great book called "Kids are worth it" that touches a lot more on this subject.
How do I help my child if they don’t want to succeed?
Let's make a distinction between not wanting to succeed and being so utterly terrified of the world and success that you avoid anything to do with success. People with Asperger's do the latter. It's important to remember that they DO want to succeed, they are just scared. (Here are 9 more important things to remember)
Nobody wakes up in the morning and says "I sure would love to fail today!".
Is homeschooling or online school a good option for people with Aspergers?
It depends. It can be a good option for some kids, and a horrible option for others. We've had thousands of customers & clients that have seen great results from homeschooling, and thousands more that have said it didn't work due to the family dynamic.
The best thing to do would be to join AE+ and ask our group-mind of thousands of parents & people with Asperger's about your specific situation. They'll be able to share their unique experiences.
What do I do if my kid is a picky eater?
Cook with them. I was one of the pickiest eaters in the world until I started to learn to cook. Picky eating usually comes as a result of not feeling in control when it comes to food. So the way that you usually regain control is by being extremely selective about what you eat.
When you begin to cook the food you eat from beginning to end, you have more control over the entire process and begin to trust food more.
I learned to cook from watching Cutthroat Kitchen on the Food Network. It is a great way to learn more about food in a VERY entertaining format, and I highly suggest watching it.
Parents: Raising someone with Asperger's alone sucks. It can feel extremely alienating to have everyone tell you what is best for your child, that you are doing it wrong, and that your kid is broken.
Therapy & Meds are wonderful, but what happens during your every day life? Do you have support for the times that you aren't visiting a doctor, talking to a teacher or reading a book?
With our AE+ support group, you get 24/7/365 support from a worldwide network of caring individuals who get it because they are going through similar struggles. We can all get through this easier together. Will you join us?
You can join AE+ for only $1 here, and when you do you'll get access to our support group, minecraft server, helpline calls & more.
We all want to be comfortable, and we want our loved ones to be comfortable as well, minimizing suffering and maximizing growth and learning. As Parents, we come to the job without an instruction manual or even much cultural training.
Parenting is a tough job, and we do it with all our hearts. We sometimes just do not know how to proceed and do our best.
What we've found through working with thousands of families is that there are 10 big mistakes that a lot of parents unintentionally make that hinder their Asperger's child's growth & development. And once you understand what these 10 mistakes are, it is really easy to shift your behaviors and thought patterns to avoid them, and thus help your children lead better lives.
About Asperger Experts
Asperger Experts is a transformational media company based out of Seattle, Washington that enlivens, empowers and educates people with Asperger's, their families, and the communities in which they live.
It was created in 2012 and is staffed by parents, people with Asperger's, and professionals dedicated to serving and assisting others through sharing knowledge and building communities.
Our courses are all created by us, drawing from our first hand experience having either lived with Asperger’s, or raised someone on the spectrum.
Our communities are filled with parents, people with Asperger’s, teachers, therapists and others who have had direct and personal experience with life on the spectrum.
We believe in taking our own life experiences and sharing them with the world, and are fortunate to reach over a quarter million people each day with our live videos, courses, workshops, articles and videos.
Thank you for supporting us and our work. We literally couldn't do this without you.
Disclaimer: We are not Psychological or Therapy Professionals. You should always seek the advice of a Professional before deciding the right treatment option for you or your child. Any advice we give is for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical, legal or financial advice. Consult with a medical doctor before making any changes to you or your child's lifestyle. This website is for information only, and not a replacement for professional diagnosis, medication, or therapy.