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Planet Rachael: Be grateful for what you’ve got

People with autism cannot always show subtle emotions, explains Wendy Johnson
Wendy_Johnson

Summer is well and truly behind us, and schools are back in full swing. Not such great news if you are a teacher, a lollipop lady or anyone under 16 years of age.

As you look back on your annual vacation on the south coast that was spent donning the rain mac rather than bikini, you may be left pondering: Why did I turn down that lastminute deal to Spain?

Reflecting on summer days, and realising that opportunities to go for leisurely walks in the sun along the coast or in the park are long gone, how grateful do you feel?

Subtle emotions

The dictionary defines being grateful as warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received but its not something that Rachael does well.

Rachael has much to be grateful for.

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Summer is well and truly behind us, and schools are back in full swing. Not such great news if you are a teacher, a lollipop lady or anyone under 16 years of age. 

Autism
People with autism cannot always show subtle emotions. Picture: iStock

As you look back on your annual vacation on the south coast that was spent donning the rain mac rather than bikini, you may be left pondering: ‘Why did I turn down that last‑minute deal to Spain?’

Reflecting on summer days, and realising that opportunities to go for leisurely walks in the sun along the coast or in the park are long gone, how grateful do you feel? 

Subtle emotions

The dictionary defines being grateful as ‘warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received’ but it’s not something that Rachael does well. 

Rachael has much to be grateful for. She is healthy, lives in a lovely flat paid for by others (including you) and has a mum who doesn’t bat an eyelid when she returns from holiday with her auntie sporting a shock of electric blue hair.

What she does have of course is autism and, although it is known that there are no major superficial differences between autistic and non-autistic brains, studies suggest that people with autism may have greater difficulty with subtle or socially oriented emotions, such as shame, pride and gratitude. 

Processing

In addition to identifying and understanding the emotions of others, autistic people may also have a harder time processing and understanding their own. 

Certainly Rachael can struggle to express the emotions she experiences. This explains why she can be treated to her favourite activity and not show any pleasure in, or gratitude for, it, which quite frankly can be annoying. 

But let’s face it, we all need reminding sometimes that we should be brave, gracious and grateful for all the opportunities we have – even if we can’t show it.

About the author

Wendy_Johnson Wendy Johnson is a matron in a general hospital. She writes about life with her grown up daughter Rachael, who has autism

 

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