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Saturday, 16 October 2021
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Talkback UK: Autism – Struggle with change and how you can help

NICOLA Martin was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 15 and Hyperacusis about 3 years ago. At the age of 16, she left school having passed all her GCSE’s, which was a great achievement, having had a hard time at school with bullying. After that, she put most of her time into writing her first novel, Harmony’s Big Decision.

Nicola Martin writes:

One of the struggles people with autism face in everyday life is change. These changes can be minor or major, a one-off or permanent. The thing to remember is a minor change for most people can be a distressing nightmare, or even a catastrophe, to someone with autism.

For most of us, small things like someone arriving a couple of minutes late to meet us can be annoying, however for someone with autism, this can start an avalanche of thoughts which can lead to panic and/or distress. They might start to question – have they got the right day, the right time, or even the right place? These could then become things like – what if they aren’t coming, or something bad has happened to them? I myself have had these kinds of thoughts when it has happened to me in the past.

I am quite lucky with my autism that change doesn’t bother me too much; in fact, I can get bored if things stay the same for too long. There are people I know with autism who are massively affected by change, so everything they do has to be carefully planned out and hope there are no nasty surprises along the way.

Talkback UK: Autism - Struggle with change and how you can helpChange can also affect people with autism because they can have great memories and remember things a lot better over longer periods of time. Whereas most people forget what they did quite quickly so can’t remember exactly how a task was done, it doesn’t matter so much if it is different. People with autism are a lot more likely to remember and notice if something has changed, therefore finding it harder to understand why it would change.

For example, taking the same route to school every day only to find one day the road is closed, so you have to take a diversion. We know the diversion will bring us to our destination, but for the person with autism, they only know and understand one route to get to their destination. Going into the unknown is scary at the best of times, but fear of not knowing why you are going what would be considered the wrong way, or even to the wrong destination, can be very distressful for someone with autism, so a clear explanation of what’s going on would probably help them to understand a bit better.

Why are changes difficult for people with autism?

There are many reasons why change is hard, and it can sometimes be as annoying for the person who doesn’t like change as it is for the people around them.

Some of the reasons might be:

  • a good memory
  • hyper or hypo senses
  • fear of the unknown 
  • lack of understanding

So, what can people do to help with the changes?

  • Don’t panic if a change occurs, try to remain calm and logical
  • Warn someone of a change as far in advance as possible
  • Don’t be embarrassed by comfort blankets
  • Give lots of reassurance
  • Answer any questions, even if it’s the same one multiple times
  • Where possible, use visual aids to help them understand
  • Remember, they don’t think or understand like you, so be patient

With the help of this article, we can hopefully start making life just that bit easier and less stressful for people with autism.

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