Setting boundaries for yourself as an autistic person
Everyone’s boundaries are different and what one person might find is ‘overstepping the boundaries’ may be okay for someone else. Boundaries can be different depending on the environment you are in or the people you are with. For example, the professional boundaries between a student and a teacher will be different from the boundaries between two work colleagues.
Boundaries help to define what you are comfortable with, what you aren’t and how you would like to be treated by others. They can be physical, emotional, or even digital and it is important that you not only have boundaries for yourself, but you respect other people’s boundaries and are not judgemental towards them – even if you disagree or find it hard to understand why they have that rule or boundary in place.
Setting my boundaries
I think setting boundaries is hard as sometimes you worry about being rude or coming across as dismissive. I set boundaries in my work life by ensuring that the students I work alongside have clear rules and expectations around my role as a classroom assistant. They know the things that I am not allowed to do and I’m very clear on this if they challenge the boundary. I also set boundaries at work by ensuring that I’m aware of what my role description entails and make sure that if colleagues or managers are pushing the boundaries then I can refer to this and raise concerns.
I ensure that my friends and family members are aware of what my boundaries are and explain to them calmly and clearly if there are any problems and how I may react if they overstep my boundaries.
The positive impact of setting boundaries
Setting boundaries has a positive impact on me as it allows me to feel safe and in control of situations. I feel a lot better knowing that I am doing the right thing, not only to protect myself but also potentially protect the person I am setting the boundaries for. I think communicating your boundaries with people is extremely important as it helps with understanding. It also helps to alleviate my stress around certain scenarios and ensures clarity for those around me.
Setting boundaries as an autistic person
It’s important to set boundaries as an autistic person as it can help to alleviate any worries and can help with those in your personal and professional life understand your needs.
Saying no can be hard for anyone, but with practice, this becomes easier. It is about prioritising your own mental health and well-being and ensuring that you feel comfortable in certain situations.
Sometimes, as an autistic person, it can be even harder to recognise healthy or unhealthy boundaries but allowing some time to make a list and think: ‘Is this scenario making me feel uncomfortable?’ or: ‘How am I feeling after the conversation with X?’ is important when maintaining and establishing boundaries. Sometimes, expectations change and that’s ok. Just allow for that to be communicated with others to allow them the opportunity to understand.
Talking to others about your boundaries
I talk to others about the boundaries I have set for myself early in the relationship and ensure that they are understanding and clear on what my limits and boundaries are. I think the most important thing is to be calm and if these boundaries are crossed allow for that open conversation, and hopefully, those you talk to are supportive and understanding, and will have accidentally overstepped the boundary.
Don’t be afraid to let others know how you are feeling and don’t be afraid to say no. Something might happen that makes you feel uncomfortable and it’s ok to say so. Challenge authority no matter how hard it might be and prioritise yourself and your well-being.
About the author
Eden is a member of the Ambitious Youth Network and is from Northern Ireland. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering, reading, playing guitar and teaching taekwondo.