I'm an Aspie.
I have been an absolute nightmare for coaches, to the point of breaking down in tears over really nothing much... yelling, talking back, flat out refusing to do whatever... blaming the coach/group/horse/tack when really the problem was me... the list goes on and on. When things were going my way I was the coach's favourite... but when things were not going my way, well, let's just say I was not nice to be around!
I still struggle with my temper, especially the talking back and bursting into tears over "nothing". But I listen better, now. If you yell at me, I shut down instantly [bar the one instructor who somehow had a way of yelling that didn't irritate me], but if you take the time to patiently explain or even show me what it is you want me to do, I'll happily set to doing it.
I learn best through my eyes. The best thing ever for me to do, and I should do it more, is take video of myself and compare it to a rider I want to ride like. What are THEY doing, that I'm not? What can I change? What do I need to work on? My role models are not all professionals, and in fact my current coach is only a couple of years older than me, a VERY nervous rider, and is far from perfect herself... but she gets me, and she gets my horse. She knows a ton more about dressage than I do, which is awesome because that's what I need to work on more than anything else.
I am incredibly imaginative so I find analogies to be a brilliant way of "showing" me how to do something, without actually getting on the horse and exaggerating the aids so I can see what it is you're doing. Some Aspies are no good at that and live in a world where there is no such thing as fiction. Everything they see, hear or read has to be real. So don't mind the lies, in her mind they may be entirely real.
Not only am I an Aspie, I am also teaching someone atm who shows a lot of traits. Including the pathological lying. Sometimes it's wishful - I used to do it too, and for me that was the case - and other times it's because we truly believe what it is we're saying. I still get called a liar, usually because of how I've perceived something differently to someone else.
Watch out for defensiveness. Aspies are perfectionists. We are our own worst critics. If such and such a detail is not perfect, and we don't know, we do want you to gently enlighten us, but PLEASE don't mention it more than just the once per lesson. Quickest way to shut us down, because we get defensive [I have set many a coach offside by saying "I KNOW THAT" or "I'm not STUPID you know!"]. If we DO know, I can't speak for all/most, but for me, it's wisest to keep your mouth shut.
Aspies are very intelligent. We lack social skills, and a lot of us don't cope well with change. We like to know a change is coming before it happens. It's very difficult for me, at least, to admit a problem, because that then means I have to do something about it - which means the dreaded change. But we don't want to be treated like we can't learn, because we CAN. If an Aspie is incapable of learning, then they are either so distressed by their own imperfections that they can't handle the idea of not knowing everything already, or they have something else inhibiting the learning process.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that meltdowns are NOT voluntary. We don't have a choice. Most Aspies don't acknowledge their emotions easily and bottle it all up until all that pressure, all that emotion, has to go somewhere. I will admit, with much reluctance and trepidation, that I have been quite cruel to my mounts on more than one occasion. I hate that about me, and I'm working towards changing it, but please don't get angry at your student if she loses her temper at you or her horse. Put her on a horse or pony that can handle it, before she explodes at you or her mount, and put in place a consequence for inappropriate actions such as this.
I have to get off the horse and go cool down if I get too frustrated. That's the rules. If I lose my temper, I can't get back on.
I now realize an instant before I snap that I'm about to, but unfortunately don't have time to do anything about it. I will continue to grow and learn, and hopefully will learn enough self-control and self-recognition to be able to walk away from a situation before it blows up.
Many Aspies have anxiety and depression secondary to the syndrome, and some have/seem to have bipolar disorder. I am currently on a slippery slope and trying not to let myself fall farther down it into physical self-harm... as opposed to emotional self-harm which is where I'm at now. We need a LOT of emotional support, even if we don't realize/admit it. That's where the horses come in. They give us a warm neck to cry into, and a listening ear that will never judge or try to talk back.
Equine Assisted Therapy is WONDERFUL for people on the spectrum. I will never forget the good EAT has done for the autistic boy who comes now and then to ride my gelding... no professional therapy/intervention, just the horse and us constantly talking to him, asking him questions etc. He has gone from full on non-verbal [he would answer with one word, but volunteered nothing] to conversational, not always appropriate but he tries, and he sings whole songs. He has gone from a boy who had no hope of ever being independent, to a boy who, with continuing support, just might one day.
And me? I would be dead by now without my horses. For me they are a necessity, not a choice. It is a choice to have two [I can get by with one quite happily]... but my GP and psych have told me that no matter what, no matter how much I'm struggling financially, I must never EVER give up horses. I have dogs as well, but it's the horses that I think of when I slide down the slope again... it's the horses that have kept me from ending it all on more than one occasion.
The cruellest thing it is possible to say to an Aspie who has horses is that they should give them up and either not have pets at all, or get a goldfish. Never say that, no matter how angry you are at them, no matter how badly they have just treated their mount. Some Aspies can't come back from that.
We don't EXPRESS emotions very well but by god do we FEEL them. As before, I can't speak for EVERY Aspie, because there is such a huge range of traits and any given individual can display a trait to any degree... including always and not at all... but for me, it's actually a case of feeling TOO much, and not being able to cope with or process that level of emotion.
EDIT; whoops! Apologies for the novel... and I doubt it's going to be an easy or even very organised read, my mind is kind of chaotic at the moment.
A CLEAN SLATE FOR THE FUTURE