I had a lot of problems growing up because I felt socially awkward and did not fit in with my peers. My challenges mainly were with social issues. Getting along with people, reading facial expressions, and body language all seemed completely foreign to me.
I was finally diagnosed with High Functioning Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome when I was 17 years old. Most people in Texas didn’t know what Asperger’s Syndrome was at that time. I’ll be 32 in December so over ½ my life I didn’t even know I had Asperger’s. Since then I have learned how to function in a world with people.
Here is how I did it.
One of the things I did was to enlist the help from a social skills coach. Learning from a professional how to read body language helped me a lot. It made me feel more comfortable to be around people. Now I coach tennis, and that’s a big part of my life. I even have friends and do things socially, like participating in sports, going to movies and enjoying artwork.
I now live independently (something my parents weren’t sure I ever would be able to do), teach tennis, work the front desk, and work data entry and bookkeeping at an office.
There are three suggestions I have for others on the higher end of the spectrum:
- First: get a pet! Animals are always good to have. I have 2 dogs that are delightful, as they are comforting, playful, and happy. They bring up my mood. I would recommend a pet because they are easier to connect to than people; being loyal, loving, straightforward, and obvious.
- Second: don’t be afraid to find the right support group, and to reach out to other people with your same issues.
- Lastly: think about enlisting the help of a life skills coach to help you navigate social scenarios that are a must.
by Terrilee Tatum
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