Recently, I asked my blog readers for their suggestions on how adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder can change how they think, feel and behave. A large number of people responded, many with stories of their personal attempts to change, others with general reflections on how change is possible, and several with questions of their own about the necessity of change.
Thank you to everyone who offered ideas on this subject, including those of you who shared your own personal attempts to address the challenges of this condition. I very much appreciate everyone’s willingness to help those who seek ways of improving their lives and the lives of others who have this condition.
Here are suggestions about how to address the challenges of Autism Spectrum Disorder, as offered by those who experience them first-hand.
- Recognize there are good and bad aspects to having ASD and remember that the good outweighs the bad.
- Pay attention to which situations tend to activate the challenges you have, for example, social awkwardness or rigidity of thinking. This will help you anticipate when you might react inappropriately and lessen the chances of that happening.
- Write down a list of alternative strategies to use when you are feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated. Keep that list with you and refer to it when those difficult situations occur.
- Develop realistic expectations of what you are in control of. How you think and feel and behave is under your control. How others think and feel, and how they react to you, is not. Focus on changing what you can control. Try less to change the things you can’t control.
- Change happens gradually. If you remember this you will see the wisdom of taking things one step at a time. You didn’t become the person you are overnight and you won’t be the person you’d like to be right away. Patience is, indeed, a virtue.
- Surround yourself with tolerant and understanding people. They are your most valuable resource. Don’t waste your time with people who can’t accept who you are.
- Recognize your mixed feelings about changing. You may want to improve your social skills, make friends, or find romantic relationships, for example, but doing so has led to failure, discouragement and/or rejection in the past. Don’t let your discouragement stop you from doing what you must to have the life that you want. No one else can stop you from this, only you can.
- Explore how you really feel about changing. Look carefully at what it is you want that you don’t have now. Examine your motivation to change so that you can work on changing without sabotaging yourself. People who do change are clear about what their goals are and what they’re willing to do and not do to achieve them. Be one of those people.
- Find at least one person who will advise you on how you get in the way of your happiness and who will give you feedback on how you can be happy. Whether it’s a friend, family member, colleague, therapist or someone else, listen to this person. Seek out their advice and pay attention to their feedback, no matter how much you may not like what you hear.
- Don’t listen to those who say it’s not possible to change. How do they know? Just because your brain developed differently early in your life doesn’t mean it has stopped developing and can’t change anymore. Brain plasticity, or the ability of the brain to change, is a well-established fact.
- Finally, keep in mind that Autism Spectrum Disorder may not be a disorder as much as an instance of the diversity in life. Were we not to have variations in how we think and act, how would the human race grow and thrive?