Learn from Autistics is a great blog, which among other resources, features an interview series giving a voice to those on the spectrum. You can check out the first half of my 2-part interview in which I provide insight about my experiences on the spectrum, and the importance of motivation.
You’re at work, frustrated beyond a point you can process. You can feel it coming on like a volcano. Your breathing hastens, your stomach clenches, and you want to scream. You’re trying to hold it in badly, and failing. “Not now, not here,” you think. It’s a meltdown, but it could have been avoided.
When was the last time you went to the gym and went HARD? I’m talking about breathing hard, soaked in sweat and legs that feel like they’ve been turned to jello. Many people on the autism spectrum struggle with getting enough physical activity, and if you want to learn how to become physically active on your own it can be tough. Gyms may be far away, expensive, or intimidating. This was certainly my experience and I did not begin my physical fitness journey until my mid-20’s. This is why I can confidently tell you about the difference regular intense activity makes and how to combat these issues.
You have probably heard about the benefits of regular physical activity, often described in terms of “light to moderate exercise”. If you enjoy that type of exercise I certainly wouldn’t discourage it, but the truth is that autism requires a little more. We have a huge amount of energy, and it builds over time. Without intervention it can release destructively in the form of physical aggression or meltdowns. But this doesn’t have to be the case! You can find positive outlets to release this energy and cut off this destructive cycle.
While I can dump quite a lot of energy into my lab work, it’s still not enough. What I’ve found is that the only foolproof way to dump this excess energy is through tough workouts. It makes sense though, right? If you exercise at a similar intensity to a meltdown then you are effectively releasing the energy the same way, except positively. Think about the last meltdown you had: how much energy did you expend? If I can have an intense workout and feel that same sense of release afterward, I know I’ve done well and I can’t have a meltdown, even if I’m upset, because I just don’t physically have the energy to do so.
In future articles under the tagline “Energy Management” I’ll talk about some of my preferred energy management techniques, and some of the other reasons why physical fitness is mandatory for achieving more with autism.
We’ve all heard the old saying: do you see the glass half empty or half full?
As a chemist, I always preferred the analytical chemist’s answer:
The point being: Optimists see only the good and choose to ignore the bad. Pessimists see only the bad and ignore the good. And if you are an analytical chemist, you have to measure and record the data as it exists, without filter.
So what does ANY of this have to do with autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a mixed bag which comes with both difficulties and enhanced capabilities. An optimist sees being on the autism spectrum as an evolution of humanity. A pessimist sees autism as a burden, or the source of their life’s problems.
But at Autism Achiever I argue that attitude is everything, and that we must examine the data as it is: celebrate our unique powers and openly acknowledge our difficulties. Because when we acknowledge our difficulties it gives us power: specifically, the power to do something about them! Many on the spectrum value complete honesty toward others, but are you honest with yourself? Be honest with yourself first… what do you struggle with? How could you better interact with other people?
Decide that autism is not your limitation, and then do something about it. Stop accepting excuses and limitations. Decide to pick that glass of water up and own all 100% of it, whatever is contained within.
What is Autism Achiever?
Welcome to Autism Achiever! My name is Courtney and I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 3 when I was nonverbal. I was diagnosed at a time when information about autism was nonexistent and success was considered impossible. Everything I learned was through painful trial and error but today I am a Ph.D. Candidate Scientist who has learned how to turn autism from my disability into my superpower!
My goal is to share the information I have learned along the way to help those on the spectrum reach their full potential. Whether you are learning what autism is for the first time, are a parent, teacher professional or are on the spectrum, you will find information here which is insightful and accessible. As a scientist, especially one who grew up in a time of sparse autism knowledge I recognize the value of peer-reviewed research and will cite and summarize relevant research where appropriate, though I will also be drawing most heavily from my own anecdotal experiences.
If you are on the spectrum, this site will help YOU be successful no matter what challenges you face. You will learn to face your fears, smash limitations, defy expectations and show the world that autism succeeds!
So what can you look forward to seeing at Autism Achiever?
In the future, I’ll be making posts with practical, actionable advice on topics like:
- Academic success
- How to create structure and organization in your life
- How to be more effective socially
- How to prevent and manage meltdowns
- How to manage sleep issues
- How to manage sensory issues
- The elements of success
- How to build a winning mindset
- How to stay motivated
- Coping with anxiety and depression
- …and much more!
In addition to these practical spectrum-survival topics I will answer questions on our new Q&A page, bust autism myths, break down interesting peer-reviewed literature about autism, provide spectrum-perspectives on autism-related news stories, and encourage everyone to go out and achieve more!