An Autistic Adult’s Life Challenge: Coping With Stress From Work

Anxiety and stress are a constant for most of us. But this is also inevitable for adults with autism, especially if they desire to work, or need to earn to thrive and live with their condition. Although we may be more capable of handling ourselves when we are face to face with problems, we can only imagine how these autistic adults struggle to keep up with their fellow employees, or perhaps excel and become the employee of the month – or year. 

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I have experienced this first-hand, when Allison became my workmate and friend in the editing company that I am currently working in. Ally has what we know as Asperger Syndrome, a component of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), which is considered to be at the high-functioning end of the spectrum. She is usually happy, carefree and comfortable, but definitely not a year ago when she was new. 

 

Common Behaviors Seen in Adults with Asperger Syndrome

 

Ally, on her first months of work, used to act really awkward around us. She would prefer eating by herself and I would find her discussing a project by herself as well. It took her about two months to try to see me eye to eye, and she’d be shy one minute then be hyperactive the next. She also used to be very shy and I could see how difficult it was for her to socialize with us, as she had limited verbal skills and spoke repetitively most of the time. These are among the most common symptoms one can witness in an adult with Asperger Syndrome.

 

Support And Services Available For People With Asperger Syndrome

 

After a few months, management decided to provide support for Ally through various types of therapy. She proved to be capable and efficient but just needed help in coping with her emotional and mental health issues, including stress and anxiety. 

 

 

  • Social Support From Co-Employees and Management

 

 

I am proud to say that I belong to a supportive and sympathetic management. They made it easier for Ally to work efficiently by modifying her workplace, e.g. placing her in a more quiet office where she has somewhere to relax and be herself. She was also given a more precise set of instructions and a list of her assignments for the week, which was displayed on her table where she can see it every time she forgets or loses focus.

As for me, as a co-employee, I assist her with some of her reports and provide positive feedback by complimenting her work, which is mostly excellent. One time, our photocopy machine didn’t function and she just got so worried and panicked. So I helped her relax and led her to the next floor to use the working machine there. She sometimes gets confused and less sure of her performance so I always make time to comfort her in her ‘chaotic’ moments.

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  • Talk Therapy

 

 

This type of therapy has various forms, one of which is cognitive behavioral therapy, apopular and effective treatment for people with Asperger Syndrome. It works by regulating the individual’s feelings and impulses, which is done through changing her negative thoughts into more positive and healthy ones. Many experts testify the effectiveness of utilizing CBT in coping with autistic adults’ stress and anxiety. 

 

 

  • Speech Therapy and Social Skills Training

 

 

Because Ally was exceptional at her editing job but had trouble communicating with her workmates and heads, we encouraged her to try speech therapy. It helped her a great deal in learning how to improve the way she speaks and the way she verbalizes her thoughts. Individuals with Asperger Syndrome usually have trouble understanding certain gestures and figures of speech, and this is also one of the many goals of social skills training.

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Bottom Line

 

People like Ally not only learn from those who don’t have Asperger Syndrome, but undoubtedly I have learned much from her too. We both have recognized the fact that autistic or not, we need each other under the same or different circumstances in life – because they have much to teach us as well. 

 

Taking The Lid Off Anxiety And Autism

Anxiety is a prominent feature of autism although hard to determine at first.  It is hard to distinguish what upsets a kid with autism.  With the few words that sometimes come out of his mouth, he cannot explain precisely what happened to his days.  He can’t even tell what he is feeling exactly, whether he is bored or wants something that he will suddenly act out.  Did something happen out of the ordinary that he suddenly felt anxious and afraid?  It is indeed a tough job to care for a child with autism.  However, a parent will do anything to make things better although she is left in wonder.

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Meltdowns With No Routine Change

My daughter, Raj, will suddenly have an outburst even when she is doing her regular activities. She will suddenly scream at the top of her lungs, hit whoever or whatever is near her, and would jump around and clutch on things.  Sometimes, I wonder why is that so when it has been her routine for a long time.  It is hard to deal with her sudden tantrums especially when we are out.  With the big girl she is now, it sometimes feels awkward and worrying that other people who do not know might misunderstand her.  

 

Sometimes, I will give her gum which is useful in appeasing her and then hand her the Pooh stuffed toy which is her fav carry-around toy.  It takes much effort to calm her down after longdrawn-out meltdowns.  

 

Undiagnosed Anxiety In Autism 

Feeling the wrath of a child with autism who suddenly feels anxious is unbearable.  It leaves a scar in the hearts of the parents and caregivers, especially when it is too much that they sometimes need to be institutionalized.  Seeing your kid locked away for weeks to months is the darkest moments in a parent’s life.  

 

Autism and anxiety are a terrible combination.  Children may be given antipsychotic medications which effectively treat their aggression (which is symptoms of autism), but not to address the anxiety.  The anxiety in autistic children is often overlooked that it is left untreated.

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Doctors find it hard to suspect anxiety as the culprit to their aggressive behaviors and sudden outbursts as it, too, are part of his being autistic.   Social deficits, restricted interests, stereotyped movements can mask or mimic the symptoms of anxiety.  

 

One doctor gave an example of a patient who is a non-verbal autistic.  He will repetitively trace patterns in the air with his hands.  At first, it may seem like a “stimming” (repetitive behaviors are often seen in children with autism).  However, what is very distinct is that he is doing it at specific times, so the doctor suggested a ritual-related to OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) which is a form of anxiety.  

 

With the complex issues of symptoms in children and adults in the spectrum, doctors and caregivers find it hard to understand what they are feeling or thinking, and even the autistic themselves cannot articulate what it is to the people around them (parents or caregivers).  

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People in the autism spectrum disorder genuinely have unique, distinct ways of viewing the world and also have different experiences, that is the reason why caregivers should be oriented or learn things about social phobia and generalized anxiety.  

 

Researching online to understand the connection between anxiety and autism better.

 

Know your child’s autism-related manifestations and have an understanding of what is going on with him.  Working hand in hand with your doctor to better detect the anxiety that could be hiding in your child’s autism could help give him better treatment and a better life.