The 5 Needs: Staying Alive | Organization for Autism Research

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Staying alive sounds easy, but is it really?

The 5 Needs explores everything related to Staying Alive – from health and nutrition, exercise, hygiene, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, suicide prevention, and everything in between. Paying bills, budgeting, and managing time is included too.

Staying Alive can be complicated! At times it can be a simple joy, yet other times might be a struggle. When it is a delight, we want to acknowledge that, too. Journaling about the good times is a good way to create positive memories for ourselves and our families. When things are tough, we will have something to look at that can encourage us, inspire hope when needed, and create joy anytime we read it again.

Some points to ponder:

We have to be alive to do anything! However, sometimes we are merely existing and far from being fully alive. Let being “fully alive” be the goal. What do we need to be fully alive?

  • Be real about where you are and where you want to be. Be realistic about your child’s abilities and disabilities. Things that are difficult are not necessarily a disability. Disabilities also carry many abilities, sometimes hidden. Be aware, be alert, and discover the truth that belongs to you and your child. Know that it changes, too. That makes the journey fun and interesting. Physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as our personal spiritual wellbeing, help us become fully alive.
  • We are always in a state of “Being and Becoming”, so be a lifetime learner. Utilize the library, the internet, classes, and groups. Keep learning. Knowledge is power.
  • No topic is “off limits” when it comes to being fully alive. Find the correct people to talk with about what your needs and goals are. This way, you can be clear and act in your best interest and in the best interest of those you love.
  • Sleep matters.
  • Exercise, even in small doses is important.
  • Focus on eating more of the good stuff instead of “dieting” so often.
  • Friendships and family relationships are extremely important. Protect them. Build them. Seek them if you need new ones. Love and belonging is what happens in relationships. This is more than just a feeling or the act of having fun. Relationships can create stress too, so choose carefully.
  • Boundaries are set by YOU. Teach your children by example. Learning when to say yes, when to say no, and when to wait is an ongoing process in this journey. Letting help come to us is part of setting boundaries as well.
  • Meditating and yoga have proven health benefits. It is more than just for other people or for “weirdos”. You do not need to be a pretzel to do yoga!
  • Consider exploring the many options in life for exercise and healthy choices. Try something new this month (a new food, a new exercise, meet a new person who may become a friend). We have the freedom to explore opportunities, options, and possibilities in our lives. Go for it!
  • Suicide is real. Never battle that alone! Seek help if those ideas roll around in your head or in your heart. Listen to others. If they sound like this is an option they are considering, get help.
  • We have more power than we realize. What we think about ourselves, our lives, others, and even life itself matters. Our thoughts impact our existence. Learning to identify what we think takes time, but it is important. Thoughts can be changed. Be aware and alert about what is going on inside.
  • Fun is essential to living fully. Discover what is fun for you and for those you love. Make time for fun.

As you can see, The 5 Needs are relevant and practical. I hope you are living fully and if you need a hand, please find one – because you are worth the effort. A professor once told me in graduate school, “You cannot give away what you do not have.” That has stuck with me through all these years. Taking care of ourselves is essential to living fully. If your child needs a hand, help is here! Reach out to this organization and let them guide you.

Being and Becoming,


About the author: Hello, my name is Wendy Swenson. I am a mother of three grown children and a grandmother, too. One of my children came to me by way of adoption. He is currently 32 years of age and has high-functioning autism. His life has been a miracle. I will tell you more about him in time. I work full-time as a school social worker and am a licensed clinical social worker. I have also authored six books on The 5 Needs we all share in life. I earned my Masters in Social Work from Southern University at New Orleans, where I grew up. My son and I moved to Virginia in order to receive better services for him in 2001. He is working part time now and has a wonderful job coach.

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