Food, Shopping & Sensory Overload…

Food would have to be one of the biggest causes of stress for my AS fiance.

When we first moved in together we had completely separate food, shopped separately and didn’t share anything because he would have a meltdown if I ate anything that he perceived to be ‘his’.
Eventually he decided that he wanted us to be more “normal” (what is normal anyway?) and start shopping together. It took us a good  8 months to be able to do this without causing any dramas but it was worth persevering.
We now cook for each other often, share the shopping and plan most of our meals together (at least the ones when we know we will be at home at the same time).
Even now he will still have the odd meltdown if I eat something of ‘his’ even if I paid for it, or have a sip is ‘his drink’ but every so often he will even let me have a bite of his food or even a chip from his packet! This is a big step forward for us 🙂
He still has meltdowns every now and then over ‘sharing’ but I’ve learnt to get used to it and brush it off as I know he doesn’t mean to be that way.

If there’s one thing I dislike doing with my AS fiancé its grocery shopping!
There’s something about the bright lights, crowds and aisles filled with hundreds of potential choices to be made that causes him great stress and sensory overload.
People with AS’s central coherence is affected which means that some take in a lot more information in compared to neuro-typical people. They notice a lot more things compared to us.
E.g. We (NT’s) walk into a room and notice that there is a chair and a table. They (AS) may walk into the same room and notice that there is a chair, a table and that the chair has a scratch on it, what fabric it’s made of, how far it is from the wall, what material the table is made from, how many items are on the table, if it has stains, if anything in the room has been moved since the last time they were in the room and so on.
So it’s easy to see why they can get overloaded in a large grocery store… There’s just so much to take in!!

If we go to a store that we don’t normally go to it can be even worse so we don’t do this often.

These things sound so silly to most people but like I’ve mentioned, it’s the small things that people take for granted that can have big influence on how you do things in an AS/NT relationship.

Today we went food shopping together for the first time in a while – (Unless we need to, we will still do food shopping alone as it’s just far less stressful and that works well for us) J I forgot how stressful for him it can be but I was soon reminded…

A typical food shop (if we go together) can involve many of the following things… and this was just today’s shop… I wonder if any of you will relate?

Taking at least 15-20 minutes to get down the first aisle, because he looks at everything and carefully considers his choices while also asking me about each of these choices and if I agree or think we should pick something else. This is despite us having a very clear and thought out list that was compiled before we left.

Then because he has become so stressed out from the first aisle he will usually walk off from me while he quickly races down the next few aisles trying to get the shopping over and done with as soon as possible. Usually missing things on this list because he’s rushing while I chase behind trying to pick out the things he may have forgotten.

Today (though this hasn’t happened before) he stood in the middle of an aisle, completely oblivious that maybe other people behind him would like to get by? When I walked over there was a little traffic jam of trolleys forming behind him and a lady in front who also couldn’t get past *facepalm. I had to holler over to ask him to get out of peoples way. The people were being so polite, just patiently waiting for him to move, but I knew that might not happen that quick as he was pondering deeply what he needed to get from this particular aisle.

By the time we got to a few aisles before the end of the store I decided that I would go and wait outside for him to finish the shopping. The constant questions and stressed manner that he was acting in was making me feel quite tense. Unfortunately in those situations no matter how I try to help with making choices and moving the shopping process along it doesn’t seem to make much difference so I thought I’d better just leave him to it.
For my fiancé, even the thought of going shopping somewhere different from where we normally go, even if he’s been there before instils fear into him and it can take me many attempts to get him to go shopping for things we need.

Today I finally managed to get him to come shopping for his wedding ring and we managed to find the right one for him fairly easily! (I have been trying to get him to go for months!)
It wasn’t so much shopping for the ring that made him want to avoid it (I took it really personally that he was trying so hard to get out of it, thinking that the wedding didn’t mean as much to him as it did to me, but I was wrong). For him the thought that he would have to go into a place where he knew that there would be lots of people, stores and who knows that else made him feel really stressed out. Once I realised this, it was a lot easier for me to accept that things like that can be really difficult for him. He is overloaded by all of the sensory info so easily and I can’t be mad at him for that.

I still have so much to learn about AS and I find the whole thing very interesting!

Not taking anything personally is so important, and trying to put yourself in their shoes (empathy is something that most NT partners of Aspies are particularly good at apparently, which is a wonderful trait to have – Go us!!) I have learnt that with many things you just have to… ‘let it go’.

Sydney Workshop – ASPERGER’S SYNDROME IN COUPLE RELATIONSHIPS – 7 March 2015

I just wanted to let you know about an upcoming workshop in Sydney run by Professor Tony Attwood (info about who he is below)!

The workshop is being held on Saturday 7 March, runs all day and focuses on the following:

• An Introduction to Asperger’s Syndrome in Adults and Relationships
• Motivating an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome to seek help or a diagnosis, understand Asperger’s Syndrome and modify behaviours to help improve their relationships
• Strategies for communicating effectively within the relationship

Tony is a clinical psychologist who has specialised in autism spectrum disorders since he qualified as a clinical psychologist in England in 1975. He works in his own private practice, and is also adjunct professor at Griffith University, Queensland and senior consultant at the Minds and Hearts clinic in Brisbane. His book Asperger’s Syndrome – A Guide for Parents and Professionals has sold over 350,000 copies and has been translated into over 25 languages. He has worked with over 8,000 individuals of all ages with Asperger’s syndrome or an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Tony presents workshops and runs training courses for parents, professionals and individuals with Asperger’s syndrome all over the world and is a prolific author of scientific papers and books on the subject.

Event details:
http://www.aspia.org.au/events.html

I already have my ticket as I’ve heard amazing things about Prof Attwood and I can’t wait to hear him speak.
Hopefully I’ll see some of you there!

tony 1 tony 2

references:
http://www.aspia.org.au/events.html
file:///D:/Blog/Tony-Attwood-Workshop-Flyer-v2.pdf

Intro… Our lives with Apsergers!

Our lives with Asperger’s!

In exactly 3 months today I will walk down the aisle to marry the one man I love more than I have ever loved anyone in this world… though the difference between our relationship and most others, is that the man I have chosen to marry has Aspergers Syndrome (AS).

For those of you who don’t know what Asperger Sydndrome is, it’s an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) considered to be on the “high functioning” end of the spectrum. Affected children and adults have difficulty with social interactions and exhibit a restricted range of interests and/or repetitive behaviours.

I have lived with my fiancé for over a year and it has been a huge learning curve for both of us as we adjust to how Asperger’s Syndrome affects both our lives as a couple.
From the simplest things like the weekly grocery shop through to intimacy, love and those deep emotional connections that neuro-typical people (NT’s) crave so much… Aspergers rears its head in many ways.

It has only been in recent months that he has accepted his aspergers which makes me very lucky! I know many women who’ s partners never accept that they are affected by it at all.

I truly believe that I am one of the lucky ones because with this acknowledgement we can move forward and work together to maintain a strong, healthy relationship and soon to be marriage.

I know that our relationship will be full of challenges that other couples may never face, but like a lovely woman once said to me when she pulled me aside during one of the Aspergers partner support group meetings I now attend “Some women have husbands who gamble, who drink, who have depression or many other things, you just happen to be with a man who has Asperger’s… every relationship has it’s challenges and yours is no different, just remember that”.  These words have brought so much comfort to me!

While I am using this blog as a form of therapy I suppose, and I am most certainly not a “writer” (I can’t spell to save my life and I think I have already updated this blog 7 times fixing typos I keep finding haha), I hope that sharing my experiences will bring some comfort and hope to other couples in our situation. To know that while things may not always be perfect, the highs of being in an aspergers/neuro-typical (AS/NT as I will refer to it moving forward) will far outweigh any of the lows.

I look forward to sharing our journey with you : )

References:
http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/asperger-syndrome