LifeMAP coaches are keenly aware of the impact the ongoing pandemic has had on their clients and other individuals with Asperger/autism profiles. As they continue to find creative ways to support their clients, a few LifeMAP coaches would like to share their ideas and strategies with other professionals who help support the autism community.
1. Responding to Anxiety and Depression
Many LifeMAP coaches have noted the increased stress their clients are experiencing. One LifeMAP coach suggested several ideas to help. “With the incidence of increased anxiety and depression, we’re using various techniques such as mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, more frequent contact, and other practices to help with these concerning issues,” the coach explained.
Now more than ever, it is important for coaches and other professionals working with the Asperger/autism community to look out for signs of distress, and help individuals find the mental health support they need. It is critical to take immediate action if there is a concern the client may harm themselves or others. Sometimes mental health issues reach a point where hospitalization is necessary, but continued contact from coaches is vital. “It is important to let clients know we are here to support them, as well as reaching out should they become hospitalized,” a coach added.
2. Combating Isolation
The pandemic has restricted social activities, which has many clients feeling increased loneliness. Maintaining communication with people who are important is one way to avoid becoming socially isolated. “Focusing on exploring and brainstorming various virtual social events are other goals to explore,” explained another coach.
One of our LifeMAP coaches talked about ways to do traditional in-person activities online. “We go on ‘virtual tours’ of museums and examine art and the characters painted with the moods of the people pictured to enhance understanding of facial cues.” Additionally, there are computer games where clients can feel a sense of empowerment.
3. Keeping Busy and Exploring New Interests
Although clients miss activities such as AANE pizza and game night, many have turned to alternative games on the computer or word-find types of books. Streaming services are providing exposure to new content. Programs and documentaries such as “Love on the Spectrum” have offered clients a chance to explore the elements of relationships.
Many clients have kept themselves busy in the kitchen, with some either cooking entire meals several times a week or baking regularly to help alleviate boredom and anxiety. Others have undertaken major craft projects such as knitting complicated multi-patterned, multicolor afghans.
4. Getting Used to a Changed World
While all of us are experiencing dramatic lifestyle changes, LifeMAP clients can often find the most basic activities such as taking a walk outdoors intimidating and very stressful. Some clients have shown concern over passing someone outdoors, for fear of picking up COVID. One coach said, “We all need fresh air and a change of scenery. It’s a big mood booster. It’s important to encourage clients to get outdoors daily, beginning with short intervals and gradually increasing the time.”
5. Establishing Good Daily Habits and Modifying Sessions
Many clients have disrupted sleep schedules, making coping during the day difficult. “Establishing a consistent sleep schedule is an important factor in ensuring the client gets enough rest,” explained a coach. LifeMAP coaches have also suggested ideas such as online exercise videos that are free. This can help reestablish a better daily routine.
LifeMAP coaches continue to give creative and practical support to clients to ensure they continue to reach goals and help adapt to our changed world, and sometimes that means finding better ways to work with their clients. Most use Zoom, FaceTime, or Google Meet to continue the client/coach relationship, but some have found modifications are necessary. As one of the coaches stated, “Meeting remotely for an hour feels too intense for some because we sit close to our cameras, and we see each other’s faces pretty close up. That feels a bit overwhelming for some people. One change that I’ve implemented for some of my clients is shifting to shorter sessions by Zoom.”
Commitment, empathy, support, and creativity have always been the hallmarks of LifeMAP coaching. Now more than ever, LifeMAP coaches are letting their clients know they have their support and guidance as they continue to persevere in what is now one of the most challenging times in history.
If you are a professional who works with older teens and adults with Asperger/autism profiles, learn about AANE’s Asperger/Autism Professional Coaching Association.