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Source: How to talk to someone who’s struggling or expressing anxiety

People on the Autism Spectrum such as those with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism often struggle with many different things. Oftentimes, this causes them to feel emotional and even anxious. When they feel this way it is often because of two main reasons. First, they are struggling with something they feel they can’t resolve or work through and it’s causing anxiety as a result. Secondly, they are struggling to communicate the issue with others so they can help them with their struggle. Oftentimes, their struggle with communicating the issue may cause them to overly communicate the wrong ideas, under communicate, make them lie and say there’s nothing wrong at all, not communicate at all, or make them spontaneously get upset in a ways that seem to have no basis or reasoning. When a person on the spectrum is upset, they are ALWAYS upset because of a struggle they want to work through and get out of. People on the spectrum hate feeling confused. Even worse, they hate not being able to communicate when they are. Furthermore, confusion by not seeing the bigger picture and communication are both something they struggle with; this makes it even harder. Every problem has a source. Fortunately every problem can be resolved by dealing with the source. This can be done by talking with the individual. There are specific ways in which you can help talk to a person when they are struggling.

The first way you can talk to someone who is struggling is to let them know your noticing them feeling upset and that you’re here to listen and help if they want. Nothing helps a person on the spectrum who is struggling and in an anxious state more then to let them know you care and want to help them. Doing this lets them know they feel supported. Many may not accept the offer for many reasons, including the fact that it is too much to deal with at the moment, but letting them know will mean a lot to them! If they do want someone to listen, this will quickly start the process of making things better, and having the individual learn some valuable wisdom as a solution to what they are struggling.
The second way you can talk to someone who is struggling is to not tell them they are wrong or bad for feeling the way they are. Telling a person they are wrong or bad for what they are feeling will only make them feel worse. They will feel ashamed, angry at you, and more hopeless about the situation. There might be times you may feel they are, it may seem like it sometimes, but resist the urge. Instead, understand they are struggling for a reason. They are not in a comfortable situation and they would do anything to get out of it if they can.

The third way you can talk to someone who is struggling is to use the parroting technique to help them express more of what their feeling. The parroting technique is when you paraphrase what someone says to you. For example, if the individual says they feel “hopeless about life and express that they don’t care about anything anymore”, paraphrase that statement in your own words. When you do this, the individual will then explain further details about the situation such as “I’m feeling hopeless about my education.” Paraphrase what he said this time and he/she will then say something with even more detail like: “Yes, I feel hopeless because I hate my professors and I hate learning.” You can keep paraphrasing until the person provides details that you can then help the person out with. When doing this, do not repeat exactly what he says, but make it sound like your listening to what he/she’s saying and that you’re trying to further understand his situation.

The forth way you can talk to someone who is struggling is to ask them “why” and “how come” after they mention what’s making them upset. This can be done once the individual provides enough details that you can help him/her with. For example, the upset individual finally mentions that he hates his professors and hates learning. It’s now narrowed down enough to start finding the source of the problem. You can then asking “why” or “how come.” When you do this, this gives the individual a one-way ticket to letting you know the source of the struggle, why such and such is causing the problem. He could then say “its because I never understand my professors” and “their intimidating to talk to after class.” Now you understand the source of the problem. There might be deeper source problems but this key source is deep enough to help resolve the current situation.
The fifth way you can talk to someone who is struggling is to ask them what they “wish” or “want” to happen. This can be used after he mentions the source problem, “I never understand my professor” and “he’s intimidating to talk to.” You can then ask him what he “wishes” or “wants” to happen. He/she could then say “I wish I could ask question to my professor without being intimidated by him.” Now you know how he can be helped- in fact he/she said what you can do probably without even realizing it. He could be accommodated; have a tutor, or maybe have an appointment with the professor via a social worker to help organize time to meet up with the professor for questions in a none-intimidating manner.

The sixth way you can talk to someone who is struggling is to talk in a calm, gentle, and none critical way but also provide constructive feedback. It is always important to talk in a way that helps an individual who’s struggling to calm down. Try to talk in a soothing tone and use slow, gentle, and caring body movements. Be genuine and caring and try not to sound or act fake; a fake soothing tone can be VERY noticeable to an individual and upset them more. If you want to be genuine but feel you might appear fake, try to tap into his emotions; what he’s feeling, and reflect on that. Doing those fallowing things will be huge in regards to calming an individual down and making him feel like someone cares for what he’s struggling with.

As individuals on the spectrum struggle with different things in their lives, it can be overwhelming sometimes. This can make them feel stuck and anxious. It is hard for individuals to commutate these issues and ask for help. In this article, I have mentioned six different ways in which you can help communicate with an individual struggling. If you know any other techniques that you feel works as well, please share your thoughts and incite. I feel like the more techniques we bring out into the communities, the better. I strongly feel compassionate for all individuals that struggle because I know from experience it is not easy. I also feel like whenever an individual struggles there is always a simple solution; it’s just sometimes hard to find it and it can be frustrating. However a little help goes a long way. I hope you find this blog inspiring. Thanks for reading!

James Edwin Hackett IV

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