Contributing writer with Aspergers, Ken Kellam, answered questions from some of our readers. Doug and Kelly both had concerns about their adult sons with Aspergers. Now, Dema Stout–Coach and creator of an adult Aspergers Meetup in San Antonio–adds her own insight and guidance.
Too often, neurotypicals expect a perfect useful relationship from a friend. They like friendships to be easygoing with as much similarity between two people as possible. Therefore, they hold higher expectations for the other side, even though the other side shares that same expectation. Due to the absence of fulfillment, neither person makes connections or sometimes people can become unreasonably selective in the friendship process. The reason for this is that both neurotypicals and aspies often feel like outcasts around certain groups of people.
If this happens too frequently, the inclination to make friends declines. However, this shared dilemma can actually help to foster the relationship between an aspie and a neurotypical or an aspie and another aspie, if they are willing to give a chance for that to happen. After all, few things feel more reassuring than being able to take up your worst fears and issues with others, knowing that they will not condemn you for them.
Having lived in several different cities, I can attest that it most certainly is not a regional thing: you’ll run into idiot drivers no matter where you live. It isn’t profound at all; many casual conversations begin with a gripe about traffic on the way to someplace or another, or end up there eventually. Driving is a serious source of stress for many, even under the best circumstances. And for people diagnosed with Autism, they are already functioning under decidedly less than the best of circumstances, and the idea of getting behind the wheel can cause anxiety.
I found that I did not have a great deal of difficulty behind the wheel. Having a nice, large, rarely-traveled stretch of land to practice on, and taking as many opportunities to practice, is the first thing I recommend for those who are diagnosed and want to drive. It certainly helped me. After enough practice, it became second-nature.
Contrary to the assumption that driving is the natural enemy of the Autistic because it demands multi-tasking, it really isn’t so difficult as all that. It has a nice and structured set of regulations, and your task is simple: start at one location, and control the vehicle in order to safely reach the next. Anyone who has ever played a game, whether analog or digital, can tell you that while rules and setup are intimidating at first, once you see how it’s done and try it for yourself, it isn’t as hard as all that.
To the Autistic person who wants to learn to drive but feels rather intimidated, just think of it as a video game.
Starting from an early age, many Aspergers adults consistently feel like they have little chance of success, productivity, or joy in the real world. Negative early-life experiences that typically fall under the categories of isolation, ignorance, exclusion, or sheltering, in addition to present challenges, collectively form this delusional mental/emotional construct.
Fortunately, Aspergers adults who claim to have it hard have the power to turn the tables of their lives right-side-up and to make incredible progress as adults in both their personal and professional lives. Even though Aspergers adults usually have numerous struggles in adulthood for countless reasons, there are crucial practices they can incorporate into their daily lives to work towards success. The happiest and most successful Aspergers adults significantly understand:
My son, now 30yrs old has had difficulties since childhood, and we know he has Aspergers. During his teens he was extremely angry and sad but he came through this period. Today he lives independently, has his own home and car but for the past year he has not spoken at all to anyone. His life is restricted to his job, which is in jeopardy because of his refusal to speak to his co-workers. He was visiting me on Sunday but now that has ended. He literally speaks less than a “Yes” or “No” to anyone. We have been to social service, doctors, clinicians, speech therapists, psychologists, and he refuses to see any of them. Everything I read online is about children. Any advice?
I want to address the difference between “in spite of” and “because of”. One of the greatest equalizers that spans across all barriers of humanity is that we individually cannot choose when we are born and when we die. I was born a sensitive and socially honest soul into a superficial and insincere social environment.
If I was born in a world where people constantly strive for self-improvement, valued relationships rather than objects, and looked for acceptance over status, I think I would have been just fine. The kind who prefers the former bullied me to think I’m crazy but I don’t think I am. So if I take this perspective, I did succeed in spite of these kinds of environments.
I knew from a young age that I wanted to help people.
“Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe ~ Different is More!”, written by Julie Coy Manier and illustrated by her son with Asperger’s, Grant Manier, is about a young giraffe who is born with jigsaw pieces instead of spots, but follows his passion to paint despite his challenges. “Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe” is a heartfelt story that resonates with anyone who feels different, but not less.
A new baby giraffe is born at the city zoo. Grant, the baby giraffe looks like a giraffe, but he’s different. His spots are not spots at all, instead he has jigsaw puzzle pieces. He looks different, he acts differently, and he has some physical challenges. But, Grant doesn’t let his differences stand in the way; he has big dreams!
Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe wants to be a talented paintbrush artist, but how will he hold a paintbrush with hooves? Grant is initially discouraged by the idea that he may never become an artist and paint colorful masterpieces. Then, he sets off on a journey through the zoo with his trusted friend, Ms. Judy, to explore the world around him in hope of finding his talent.
Follow Grant’s journey and get ready to be amazed by what different minds can do.
Jobs need to be chosen that make use of the strengths of people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Both high and low functioning people have very poor short-term working memory, but they often have a better long-term memory than most neurotypicals. I have great difficulty with tasks that put high demands on short-term working memory. I cannot handle multiple tasks at the same time.
Table 1 is a list of BAD jobs that I would have great difficulty doing.
Table 2 is a list of easy jobs for a visual thinker like me.
I have difficulty doing abstract math such as algebra and most of the jobs on Table 2 do not require complex math. Many of the visual thinking jobs would also be good for people with dyslexia.
Too frequently, Aspies face highly adverse circumstances. On top of the necessary challenges that they must embrace, Aspies face many unnecessary challenges that threaten to offset the balance in their lives. Many of these challenges result from in-home or in-school adversities during childhood.
These harsh experiences sow toxic seeds that later become poisonous. However, every aspie has at least some control of their lifestyle and significant control over how they interpret and develop from such circumstances. Of course, even adults require aid along the way as they walk on the path to prosperity. Here are some examples of difficult early life situations for people with Aspergers, and how to resolve them:
This is Part 2 of a two-part article by Reese Eskridge on the topic of building leadership skills. You can read Part 1 here. Reese compiled the following list of personal challenges that often plague those with Autism or Aspergers. Each piece of common self-doubt listed below is accompanied with Reese’s own personal encouragement and guidance for how to overcome!
- I am not competent enough about role(s)/inexperienced in creating and running events or activities: Be yourself and start with what you know you can do, create something to promote it and to enable others to use it; identify an issue or interesting concept and think about a purpose that will serve the greater good; Take opportunities and think about how you can excel in each role you play.
- I do not understand what message(s) to convey… Ask yourself many questions and try to answer as many potential questions as possible (i.e. what would they like to know about…? How would they react if…?).
- I have a problem with perfectionism and fear of failure… If you have challenges, thoroughly examine the challenge and work around it to achieve your purpose as the leader; what are the lessons to learn from each challenge (use keywords).
- I am too fixated on minor or irrelevant details or do not know most important details; Digresses into restricted interests, rather than piques follower’s interest and serves followers’ best interests… Establish structure in a manner that ensures that you do not miss any important details; then, you can take control of a given situation by speaking with all forms of credibility.
- I am too shy to speak up when needed; there is too much pressure… Recruit help where and when you need it the most, even if it means developing just yourself, and plan out and organize those resources to maximize their effectiveness; in other words, get those resources to do exactly what you want them to do. Develop passion in what you do or plan to do and the rest will come naturally.
- I do not feel like I can do this independently… Don’t sweat it! Try to develop abilities to do assortments of tasks that you must accomplish and get guidance as necessary; do not get guidance if you can easily figure out tasks at hand; get help when you absolutely cannot do something yourself; learn team building strategies for this.
- I am not confident in having a positive influence… Just remember that during an organized event, people are there to listen to you and do what you say, although it is better to give recommendations and to delegate responsibilities fairly, rather than simply take over. Keep it positive every step of the way and devise strategies when the going gets tough for anything. Ask yourself the potential solution to a problem when it arises and keep calm; be a role model by acting like the person you want them to act like.
- I have poor organizational skills… Do not hesitate to consult with other people and resources that specifically address this. Also ask yourself, how can I best keep track of materials in general. Obtain folders, files, etc. for documents and a calendar or calendar book in which you can write down the dates and times of upcoming events, meetings, etc. Planning is the single best strategy when you or your followers are disorganized or disoriented. Make sure that everybody involved has at least one role and delegate by each person’s strengths and willingness to participate in that role. Ask who wants what and go from there.
by Reese Eskridge