5 Coping Techniques I Learned From My Autistic Son

Coping, communication and calm down are incredible skills for many mentally disabled kids to learn. Sometimes it’s real easy to forget that it’s not just them that need these skills. We all do. So I decided to work out a few tips that we can all use in those angry, panicked or dark moments in our lives.

1. Take a break.

To Mister, this means literally. It means move away from where you currently are and what you are currently doing to allow your brain to reset itself out of the anxiety cycle. It’s not take a rest, it’s turn whatever is causing your stress off for just a little bit. Physically moving is a great way to do this. So is closing your eyes.

Count to ten.…Or twenty. Or whatever. Give yourself time to respond so you respond to what was is/has actually happened (or what is being asked) rather than responding to the emotions it spikes in you.

In the extreme early days he used to run out of the classroom to “turn off” the stress. It panicked the teachers until they realized why he was doing it and gave him the means to “turn off the room” while staying in the room.

2. Distract yourself if necessary.

We made glitter bottles one day in group therapy. We took small plastic bottles, filled them with water and glitter glue and sealed them. Give it a few minutes for the glue to break down. Then shake it up and make yourself take a break until all the glitter settles into the bottom.

Don’t have a glitter bottle? Skywatch for a few minutes. Listen to a song. Watch a funny YouTube video. Actively engage in a completely different activity for a short period of time.

3. Build Momentum

There’s this thing we use called momentum learning. You start by reviewing a topic that’s fairly easy, then get progressively harder. That way you build up some confidence before getting into frustration.

Outside of school maybe you can arrange your day to take care of some small things (cleaning off your desk, picking up a room, reading a chapter in a research or how to book) first then move into the progressively harder things (getting a broken computer working, mowing the lawn, writing 5K). Even if it doesn’t feel completely possible, like in my case I walk into work and a giant hairy dog is waiting for me, you can often take a moment to better prepare yourself (like in my case, putting all my tools in order/in the right pockets and reviewing which services the dog is getting). Or outright bathing the chihuahua first and the German Shepherd/Newfoundland mix second.

Sometimes it just helps.

4. Reward Yourself.

While stickers and Youtube breaks might not be big motivators to us, a favorite lunch or a good book on break, or a stop at a drive through for a shake on the way home, can be motivators. And yes, sometimes even the tiniest of accomplishments, like getting that desk cleaned off deserve self-recognition.

5. Don’t be afraid to turn the whole world off, for a little bit.

Sensory issues are common in autism. They’re not so uncommon in the rest of us. We often just train ourselves to ignore them. But yes, feeling uncomfortable because of that chair, or that lighting or you’re in your third month of holiday music, absolutely CAN affect our moral and performance.

It’s okay to sit in the dark and wrap yourself up completely in a blanket until your sense calm down. It’s okay to admit that that bright light, or sensation of “being on” (when maybe you aren’t a true extrovert, but you have to pretend to be one on the clock) wears you out. And it’s okay to indulge in a little of the absolute opposite to recharge.

Bonus: It’s okay to admit you aren’t perfect.

Working in the adult world I feel like I am expected to be perfect. To do my job beyond perfectly, also efficiently with 100% cheer and 0% drain on others.

But I’m not perfect. I get angry. I get discouraged. There are some things I just cannot do.

And yes, it’s okay to admit that. Especially to yourself.