Hypnotherapy and Life Coaching can help women with all of these issues:

Women and autism

Sex, Love & Dating for Women with Autism Spectrum Disorder

My partner and I met in quite an unusual way. He had temporarily been living at home with his parents, who were my next-door neighbours. At the time, I was 35 and a single mum to an 8-year-old and he was 31. 

One very hot summer night, he turned up at 3 a.m. and told me that some drunk guys had been hanging about around my car. I thanked him and went to put my car round the back. Half an hour later he turned up again, knocked on the door and told me he fancied me. I invited him in for what ended up being the first in an illicit string of meetings in the middle of the night. No phone calls or meals out. No dates or meeting parents. It was the perfect start to a relationship for me (13 years on and we have a fairly standard relationship). 

At the time, though, my friends wondered what on earth I was getting out of it. Some were shocked that I’d let a (slightly drunk) man into my house in the middle of the night, on the basis that “he fancied me.” 

What they didn’t realise was that this was the ideal way for me to start a relationship, doing away with the need for small talk, dates, or the subtlety of courtship. When you have ASD, it’s incredibly hard to read other people’s signals, including the signals of people who might find you attractive. I’ve had male friends who I’ve been desperately in love with who I discovered, years later, really liked me but felt as if they received no positive response from me. After a conference once, where I hooked up with someone who made his intentions very obvious, a few weeks later the man who I really liked told me he’d spent all evening trying to get my attention by chatting to me and buying me drinks. “I didn’t know what else to do except drop my trousers,” he told me. This lack of ability to read signals of attraction, which makes it hard for a relationship to even get off the ground, is characteristic of many women with ASD (1).

As well as the extreme bluntness of my next-door neighbour (the story he made up about the drunk guys hanging around my car was a complete fabrication providing an excuse to come to my door—I don’t pick up on lies and manipulation), I loved the fact that we didn’t have to go out together. The anxiety of getting ready for a date, the excruciating agony of making small talk, and the discomfort of wearing anything other than a dressing gown after 6 p.m. were horrors I’d experienced often enough. Being able to have deep conversation, a glass of wine, and sex with someone I liked without the hassle of leaving the house was, in my mind, fantastic. 

As well as making it harder to recognise potentially attracted partners, women with ASD tend to experience other relationship problems including becoming obsessed with their romantic interest to the exclusivity of everything else. Unlike men with ASD, who often become intensely focused on objects, women’s attention is often focused on people. My crushes well into adulthood would become all-consuming for me. I never understood how my friends could be in a room and find a few men attractive as I would hone in on one and become obsessed instantaneously. The first time I was dumped by a boyfriend (who I’d only been with for a few months) it took me three years to recover, during which time I regularly sobbed over the “Dear John” letter he’d written me. 

Another common relationship problem faced by women with ASD is in the expectation of being able to fulfill socially-expected gendered roles of being nurturing, caring, and available, given the need for women with ASD to have time for interests, hobbies, work, and time alone. My own clients, and those interviewed by Sarah Hendrickx, often report settling for anyone who was willing to be with them, partly due to the negativity they had experienced in previous relationships as a result of communication issues, sensory issues, intense behaviour, and low self-esteem stemming from problems due to ASD. 

My previous relationships have felt “wrong” and have been plagued with problems from the start. One of the things which is different about my current relationship is recognising that I can’t do things in a particular way just because that’s the “normal” way of doing things. As well as our middle-of-the-night escapades, my partner and I spent the first seven years of our relationship living mainly apart (despite having a baby). If we’d forced ourselves to continue living together, we wouldn’t be together now. Our current living arrangement consists of separate bedrooms. We have as close a relationship as you can imagine, but I need complete silence and space at night, as do many of my clients. I sometimes need to eat alone to recharge and can’t always manage family parties and my partner is accepting and understanding of my needs. 

It’s easy to put yourself down when you have ASD and are in a relationship because your needs don’t conform to the norms, but it’s vital to recognise your needs as completely valid and ensure that these are met within your personal relationships. Finding a supportive partner and constantly working on healthy communication is vital for women with ASD within personal relationships.

If you would like to connect with other women with autism for support and information please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/womenwithautismauthentically

Dealing with the Aftermath of Autistic Meltdowns

“Meltdowns” are something which many people with autism experience and which they may have experienced since childhood. Meltdowns can be distinguished from “tantrums” on the basis of having no end-goal in sight. You don’t have a meltdown because you want to achieve something from it (and the same goes for kids and adults). You have a meltdown because you have absolutely no other way of responding to a situation. In terms of emotional regulation, you’ve completely lost your ability to maintain control. 

Meltdowns may result in you screaming, crying, throwing things, shaking and yelling hurtful comments. They can be scary and damaging to people around you and, when you’ve had a meltdown, chances are you feel pretty bad about the fallout.

So how can you deal with the fallout?

Accept that you did not want to act in this way

If you have autism, your brain is wired in a way which makes it more likely to have meltdowns. Meltdowns can be a response to sensory overload, responsibility overwhelm and even being asked too many questions by someone who is trying to be helpful. Your reaction may have seemed extreme, to you and others, but it didn’t come from a point of purposefully trying to react in an extreme way. You may not like the way you acted and might resolve to work on strategies to help yourself in future situations, but hanging onto guilt and shame about something which you had little control over in the moment can affect your self-esteem and coping strategies.

Have a safe place for the immediate aftermath

Research has shown that people with autism tend to take longer to calm down and gain control after a stressful episode1. It’s important to have a strategy in place which is going to help you during the “calming down” phase and certainly to have a strategy in place which is going to help avoid escalating things again. Do you need to have a room to go to which is free from kids and partners? Do you need to listen to music or a guided meditation? Do you need to be held by someone close to you? Identify what works for you and ensure you go to this point as soon as you can following the meltdown.

Working with those people close to you

Meltdowns have an impact on people close to you and witnessing someone who is having a meltdown can be a disturbing experience. When you are ready to, it is important to discuss your meltdown with those people close, who may have been affected by it. It could also be useful to show them some autistic resources which explain the experiences of other people with autism who experience meltdowns as it can be a very difficult concept for other people to understand. It’s also important to discuss how people can support you in the aftermath of a meltdown. What do you need from your partner/ parent/ friend/ child? They may think that talking things through after your meltdown is helpful whilst you need complete silence for a while. Or perhaps they completely avoid you, whilst it would help you if they came to check on you. Some people might need to talk through the meltdown in order to process it. Whatever works for you, discuss this in advance with those close to you so that they know how they can support you. 

Recognise when a meltdown is coming

Sometimes, we find ourselves plunged straight into a meltdown situation with little or no warning but often we can experience the pre-meltdown signs. Are you starting to feel drained and worn out? Are you in an environment which is causing sensory overload? Are you starting to feel confused, frustrated and unable to express yourself? There is often a build up to a meltdown and, with hindsight, you might be able to recognise those early signs. Take a note of what those signs were for you. What triggered the meltdown? What was the point where things were beginning to feel out of control? How would you have handled the situation differently with the benefit of hindsight? Realising the types of situations which can trigger meltdowns, securing support in the build up period and taking action, such as removing yourself from a situation, can all help to prevent the meltdown from happening. Although hindsight is of no use when it comes to the situation which has passed, it can be useful to take learnings from this situation into future situations which might arise. 

Taking ownership of meltdowns

Nobody likes losing control and many people express feelings of shame about their meltdowns. It can be tempting, following the meltdown, to put it on the backburner and hope it won’t happen again, to ignore it and move on. However, if you have a history of meltdowns, they’re not just going to disappear simply because you’re not happy with the way you acted or because you want to move on from it. It’s important for you to take ownership of the fact that this is something which happens for you and to explore what you can do to help yourself, using all of the strategies listed above. Allowing yourself to engage in “stimming” behaviours, such as rocking, rubbing feet and hand-flapping can also have a calming effect on people in the pre-meltdown phase. Thinking about the meltdown as a peak in terms of a timeline which starts from having self-care strategies, such as ensuring you’ve had enough sleep and are finding ways to manage stress, to the immediate build-up, to the calming down phase can help you regain control. This is in stark contrast to simply hoping that it won’t happen again. 

Although meltdowns and autism tend to go hand in hand for many people, it is possible, with the right strategies in place, to reduce their intensity and frequency.