“High Functioning Autism” or “Asperger’s” can have it strengths.
Folks within this group can have incredible memories, particularly for topics that are of great interest to them. They also tend to look at the world from a different perspective which lends them to being creative problem-solvers and wonderful inventors. They tend to approach problems analytically and practically, which can be a wonderful skill to have. Additionally, I often find that they have very big hearts, kindly reaching out to vulnerable people or animals in situations where other people would just turn away, pretending not to notice, because it would be taking a social risk if a person were to show that they cared.
Of course, there are aspects of being on the Autism Spectrum that can pose challenges, sometimes significant ones, that affect how you (or your child) feel about yourself. The social struggles that are a key feature of Autism can create difficulties with family members, friends, classmates, and colleagues. This is because it can be extra difficult for a person with autism to consider or easily pick up on the unwritten social rules that we expect of one another. Cross these social boundaries too often and the people around you may conclude that you (or your child) are selfish, rude, thoughtless, or even mean. All the while, you are baffled as to what has gone wrong. You wind up feeling very lonely and misunderstood. Depression and/or anxiety can take hold in these situations and become a secondary problem.
Parenting a child with Autism has a unique set of challenges that can, at times, feel exhausting to manage. Intense moods and even a higher level of meltdowns for things that other kids seem to be able to handle can be both baffling and exasperating. You can wind up feeling embarrassed or even angry when these meltdowns occur in social situations because people have given you looks clearly communicating that they don’t understand why your child is reacting as intensely as they are…and sometimes, neither do you!
And, folks with Autism often struggle with issues like organization and time management, much like people with ADHD.
Fortunately, there are ways to more consciously teach how to identify and consider social expectations in different social environments as well as becoming a more flexible thinker. I work with kids and adults on the higher end of the Autism Spectrum, formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome. I use an approach informed by my training with Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking (c). This framework teaches a person how to become a “social detective” and consciously learn what socially expected things are in a given situation and decide whether you want to change your behavior to meet these expectations. I blend this with my own experience and ideas, from my own work with people on the spectrum, so that I can customize my interventions to each person’s unique needs.
Additionally, there are ways to teach executive functioning skills tricks to help strengthen this weaknesses, in areas such as organization and time management, so that you can meet deadlines and complete necessary tasks. I’ve taken trainings directly from Peg Dawson, Ed.D., NCSP and with Sara Ward, CCC-SLP, so I have many ideas up my sleeve!
There will always be more for me, and others, to learn in this area, because I think that science still has a long way to go in understanding what works and what doesn’t. It’s also important to keep in mind that change can happen quite gradually with people who have challenges such as these. However, with consistency and continued learning and effort, things can progress and get easier for all involved. So, if you’ll let me, I’m happy to figuratively step into your world so that we can work together towards identifying what is helpful to you or your family member and get this progress started, or to continue on the journey that you have already begun.