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Volume 129

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Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…

Asperger’s Syndrome – How to
Reframe that Frustrating Situation

Frustration. That all-encompassing, in your face, have to vent it right NOW feeling that is so common with Asperger’s Syndrome.

We all experience frustration, but people with Asperger’s Syndrome and high functioning autism are perhaps more susceptible to it than most. Because they are more susceptible to it, it is important that they know ways to deal with it before it takes them over for good.

Asperger’s Syndrome – What can Cause Frustration?

There are many situations that can cause frustration for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Perhaps the biggest one, though, is when they have a plan in their head of how something is going to go, and it doesn’t go that way.

Most people, in the course of a day, have lots of things that don’t go the way they plan them. But people with Asperger’s Syndrome and high functioning autism are more attached to their plans than most.

Plans are the way they structure their world, the way that they make everything make sense. When something happens in a way they didn’t plan on, they panic, because the world no longer makes sense.

When there is too much sensory information coming in at once, frustration can occur because they can’t function in the way they would like. They can’t think properly.

When someone treats them in a way they don’t like, or when something is too difficult ( reasons frustration can occur for anyone), people with Asperger’s Syndrome and high functioning autism will feel this more intensely and in a more visible way.

Asperger’s Syndrome – Spot Signs of Increasing Frustration

Watch the person with Asperger’s Syndrome or high functioning autism closely.

Are they moving around more, maybe pacing, maybe playing with the rim of a sleeve? Do they seem more agitated? Are they talking faster, looking at you more intensely?

Everyone shows frustration different, but physical agitation is a big sign with Asperger’s Syndrome.

When you see mounting frustration intervene to address it before it gets to meltdown stage.

Asperger’s Syndrome – Cope with Frustration

When you see mounting frustration intervene to address it before it gets to meltdown stage.

First, ask the person why they are frustrated (if you are not already sure why).

If you don’t get an answer, you might have to take your best guess.

Say, for example, the person had planned to do three things in an outing with you, and you only got to the first two. This will usually cause an impending meltdown for a lot of people with Asperger’s Syndrome and high functioning autism.

Asperger’s Syndrome – Frame the Situation Differently

Help the person with Asperger’s Syndrome or high functioning autism to frame or think about this situation in a different way.

The following is taken from a post on an online Asperger’s Syndrome message board. We will tell you the whole story as a guide for what to do:

Asperger’s Syndrome – Case Study “Frustration at Running Out of Time”

A young woman with Asperger’s Syndrome, let’s call her Kathy, looks agitated, pacing, not making eye contact, wringing hands.

“I know we didn’t have much time to start with, but I still have to get my groceries, and I wanted to show you the rest of the store, and I thought we’d sit in the cafe and talk, and I don’t know what to do!” Her voice rises in anguish on the last note.

Her friend says to her, “You are frustrated because we do not have time for the rest of the things you wanted to do, but look at how much we got done. We went to the fish market and the chocolate store, we went to see the lighthouse and you are showing me part of Whole Foods now. We got to do a lot of things, and had fun. We can do more things next time.”

*Kathy, still frustrated, still agitated* “I wanted to show you the rest of the store!”

*Friend* “That’s okay.”

*Kathy* “No, it’s not okay.”

*Friend* “It’s okay.”

*Kathy* “No, it’s NOT okay. Why does everyone keep saying it is okay?”

*Friend* “Is there one quick thing you would like to do before we leave, even if we cannot see the whole store?”

*Kathy thinks to herself, still pacing back and forth and looking agitated* “I want to show you the bakery section with the sweets. And then I have to get two things. Then we can go.”

*Friend* “Okay, if we leave in 15 minutes, we can do that.”

They go to the bakery section, and Kathy looks more relaxed after a couple minutes.

*Kathy* “Okay, now we can go.”

What happened here? Let’s break the situation down and examine it.

1. The friend recognized and acknowledged Kathy’s frustration instead of dismissing it.

2. Listing the positive things and placing the situation in time

She helped Kathy see the positive things about the situation. She listed the fun things they had already done, and reminding her that all was not lost. This also helps the person with Asperger’s Syndrome see where they are in time.

When a schedule gets disrupted, everything gets fuzzy mentally, which creates anxiety. If you calmly list the last few activities done and where you are now, it helps things spring into place mentally for the person with Asperger’s Syndrome and high functioning autism.

3. Reframe the situation, sometimes by choosing just one small thing to do instead of all the things you were going to.

The friend helped Kathy reframe the situation in her head by offering to let her choose one last small thing to do instead of letting her remain agitated about the oodles and oodles of other things she didn’t get to do.

This gives Kathy a sense of control over the situation and lets her shift focus to something desired instead of the anxiety and frustration of not getting to do everything.

Asperger’s Syndrome – More tips for Frustration Management

Kathy’s story was one specific example of how to try to teach your loved one to reframe their thinking when they get into a frustrating situation. Here are some other, more general ways:

Asperger’s Syndrome – Focus on what is Good in Your Environment

What makes you happy? Is something colorful, musical, enticing in some way? Think about that instead.

Asperger’s Syndrome – Focus on what You are Grateful for

“This store might be really busy and noisy, but I am glad that we have this store here. I really like the things they carry.”


“I am so frustrated that I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do, but I am so glad I got to do the things I did.”

Always be on the lookout for things to be grateful for. Try to have your loved one come up with things on their own.

Asperger’s Syndrome – Focus on Something to Look Forward to

“Man, I’m so frustrated. It’s so noisy in here, I can’t think. At least when I get home, I can relax and watch TV.”

We are always making little bargains with ourselves – “do this, and then we get to do this later”.

Teach your loved one how to try to tolerate unpleasant things with the reward of positive things later.

We all deal with frustration, but with Asperger’s Syndrome frustration can become all-consuming and easily lead to a meltdown. If you use these simple tips, Asperger’s Syndrome related frustration and meltdowns will be few and far between.

And for more information on Asperger’s Syndrome read the Craig Kendall books, Asperger’s Syndrome Guide for Teens and Young Adults and Thriving In Adulthood with Asperger’s Syndrome.

4 Responses to Asperger’s Syndrome-Reframe that Frustrating Situation-129

  1. Jessie says:

    Great peeice of advise that I’m able to share with classroom teacher and myself, as my son is always upset with his school work that he is unable to complete and many othe tiny problems. It makes so much sense when you can see someone else struggling with the same problems, but it is not that easy to see for yourself!

  2. Jonathan Garson, LCSW says:

    This is an extremely valuable piece, perhaps the most of all the newsletter articles yet! Thanks. Parents I work with the easily agitated/activated, easy to aggression, easy to verbal abuse type of ASD teenager constantly ask/demand from me ways to be more effective in their parenting. We role play, with and w/o the kid, I give them articles, homework assignments. This article echos my efforts and I am sending it to all my clients.

  3. Maria WEstworth says:

    Thanks for that , my 17 year old son , gets frustrated iif things dont go his away , which result in massive meltdown, so the advise is really helpfull.

  4. Jane TOTH says:

    I have been receiving this newsletter for a long time and never made time to open it!! I totally regret it!!! I have at times been at wits end with Zane 16 high functioning.
    Thank you for this newsletter I forwarded it to 3 people to us all out!! And will be purchasing your books.
    Thanks God Bless you Craig

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