A Note on Downloads

The content in this entire Coping With Autism page can be downloaded as part of a single document below.

Also, downloadable from this page is 'Matt's Daily Health Guide', my attempt to summarize general health related behaviors that I think everyone should consider. There are many recommendations therein that can be used to guide your care of your child, and yourself.

Anticipatory Coping

There are many stressors in modern American society that need to be avoided by most people, but especially someone on the spectrum. Most people don't perceive these stressors as problematic, because they alone don't elevate a person's reservoir to a problematic level. However, in concert, they can exert an influence on one's reservoir level that causes a dramatically enhanced risk of overtopping. One of the best ways to manage this situation is to simply avoid the stressors - I call this anticipatory coping.

If you avoid stressors, then you no longer have to react to them. This takes great load off the nervous system. Don’t watch much TV. Stay out of the car as best you can. Avoid video games. Stay out of unnecessary fights and emotional confrontations. Don’t allow yourself or your child to be sucked into constantly high levels of activity and psychosocial stress. Manage your stress environment properly.

Much of this management can be taken care of if you simply spend a lot of time outside. If the weather is decent (and even when it is not), you should go hang out outside and take your autistic child with you. Find a park. Get some exercise while you are there. Talk with some people. Exchange a hug or two. Admire the beauty around you. Enjoy yourself.

While outside, you are unknowingly engaged in avoiding many stressors. You are not sitting in a car. Cars are horrible sensory environments. Passengers are bombarded by road noise, wind noise, and engine noise. Vibration is everywhere. Visual stimulation is intense, with cars approaching at combined speeds of 150 miles per hour on some roads. Your sense of control is often low, particularly when the roads are crowded or when it is dark The recent proliferation of overly bright headlights on tall SUV’s shining in my rear window isn’t helping things either. Worst of all, there is little you can do about it. As a driver, you are required to keep your legs and arms still and under control. People try to cope by fiddling with the radio, twirling hair, singing loudly, and recently talking on cell phones everywhere they go.

When you are outside, you are not subjected to fluorescent lights. Fluorescent lights are a sensory nightmare for many people with autism, and probably for the rest of us as well, we just don’t notice them as much. Not only do they cast a light that is lacking in most normal colors and temperatures, such that the brain’s experience of being in a room with fluorescents is like being in complete darkness, but they hum and buzz and flicker at 60 cycles per second, which is visible and even painful to many people with autism.

Outside, vibration is usually limited. There are no dishwashers, washing machines, air handlers, vacuum cleaners, telephones and many other modern devices that hum and vibrate all day long. Also, there are no walls to cause the vibration to reverberate. Noise and vibration can dissipate, and are masked by natural sounds of the wind and water. There are also many fewer of the electrical devices that we have all become addicted to: computers, TV’s, video games, stereos etc… that cause a constant stream of exciting sensory information that we do not need into our brains. Also, there is much less ability for the mass media to bombard your brain with stimulation and demand your attention as they market their products to you.

Outside is the place we spent most of our time when we evolved. We need outside. I noticed this in my nephew one day when I was babysitting. He was about 3 months old and was a pretty fussy baby. After a crying bout or two, I discovered that the moment I crossed the threshold of the house, from the living room to the front porch, my nephew stopped crying. It was a windy and beautiful night. He was captivated by the wind rustling through the swaying trees. He loved the sound. It calmed him. Inside, his cries would reverberate off the walls; inside, his uncle became hot, and this upset him. Outside, we cooled down with the wind. The wonderful background noises of crickets, and birds, and wind were friendly to his nervous system. He is not alone.


Your Contact Information

Your Feedback