One of my biggest concerns, like most others out there, is about the future. We all deserve one, and many of us try our best to build it. Whether it’s our career, finances, social life, or elsewhere, every one of us wants to grow and succeed―in short, we all want to thrive, especially once we reach adulthood. But for people with autism who’ve reached the age of twenty-one and beyond, “adulthood” and “thriving” are seldom said in the same breath; the benefits vanish, the safety net stops, and adults with autism are often left high and dry. This, combined with a greater tendency to become overwhelmed by all of life’s demands, creates a scenario that all but guarantees severe hardship. It’s an injustice that’s gone on for long enough, so for this article, I’m going to explain exactly what it takes for an adult with autism to thrive, to be able to cope with life and remain a healthy, functioning member of society.
Having someone be there to assist an adult with autism truly can make or break their success in life. Why? The truth is people with autism have trouble with autonomy, decision-making, and maintaining the necessary levels of awareness that come with self-discipline, thereby requiring some sort of third party micromanagement, be it from a friend or family member, or even possibly a social worker or therapist. Supervision for those with autism is also crucial because we can be prone to high levels of distraction and losing our train of thought. It even happens to me! Whenever I write an article for you all to read, sometimes I wish I had somebody redirecting me every time I get distracted and my mind wanders off. It makes the whole process take at least twice as long and at times it frustrates me; however, I’m able to overcome it in general, which is unfortunately a luxury that not many on the spectrum have. So, if you know anyone with autism who’s struggling to get something done, all it can take is just sticking by for moral support to see it through.
Limitation of Variables
If there’s one thing you need to know about the way people with autism think, it’s this: We see too much! What do I mean by that? Basically, having autism means that we pick up on even the smallest of details no matter what we’re doing, and this is often more of a weakness than a strength. At any given moment, there are usually a bare minimum of dozens of variables that someone with autism would notice, and this number can easily go into the hundreds depending on the situation. It can all be so disorienting! That’s why it’s important to try to limit this number as much as possible. For example, one obvious solution is to make sure there’s not much noise; a lot of people with autism are sensitive to noises both soft and loud―a pair of headphones could easily solve that! Or when it comes to employment, to list another example, it’s a good idea to pick a job that has few factors to consider, such as dishwashing or cash handling. One time, I’d made the mistake of working an overnight stocking position at Toys R Us. I thought I could handle it, but I quickly learned otherwise; trying to sort through literally fifty variations of a Barbie or Minnie Mouse toy with fluorescent lighting and holiday music was a lot more of a challenge than I realized! The same holds true for others with autism. Regardless of the scenario, fewer variables matter. For more on this topic, watch the following video from Asperger Experts to learn about how sensory issues can put adults with autism into “defense mode.”
A Busy and Predictable Schedule
We all know the saying “Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.” And yet, how many of us truly believe it? It’s more than just an expression, and it really applies when autism’s involved. Remember how I said too many variables can be bad for those with autism? Well, the opposite is also true, but in a different way. Given how autistic individuals can become distressed over even the smallest of details, they can naturally want to retreat and withdraw so that they no longer have to deal with anyone or anything. While this is understandable, it can cause problems of its own as well because it then becomes too easy for those individuals to get used to doing nothing; what then ensues is a form of inadvertent laziness and a profound reduction of an already-low threshold for new and novel stimuli, where even the simplest of demands registers as some kind of intrusion and violation in their minds. The only surefire way to prevent either extreme is a busy and predictable schedule, preferably via a mix of hobbies, social interactions, household chores, and employment. Make sure it’s things that the person with autism wants; if his or her favorite activity is playing with technology (computer, iPad, etc.), then have some room for that, and also include certain activities that he or she might also enjoy, like swimming or even just a walk in the park. But make sure it takes up the majority of the day every day, no matter what. That might seem like a lot, but if it’s largely enjoyable and anticipated, then this has a very positive impact. Adhering to such a schedule results in a lot of fulfillment for all parties involved.
Life, regardless of how it goes, is quite demanding. It’s taxing enough for people in general, but for adults with autism, there’s no comparison. Yes, having autism has its own advantages, but that’s only when our needs are catered to and not cast aside. That’s why if you follow my advice and share this article, the lives of autistic adults might start to improve. It’s not getting any easier, so we all need to do our part. Once we do, we can all thrive in the end.
My adoptive mother knew I was on the spectrum when I was a teen, but instead of getting me any help, or ensuring that I would have a future, I was systematically emotionally abused, ridiculed, scapegoated, and thrown out of both my home and my family shortly after graduating from HS.
Twenty years later, and I’m on disability for PTSD; dealing with chronic homelessness and ba deteriorating mental state due to not having a safe place to process any burnouts that have happened either recently or in the past; I still get targeted by bullies at almost 40; and I have an unshakeable depression. Gee, I wonder why?
There seems to be exactly zero help out there for me, and I’m wondering how much longer I’ll be expected to drag myself through life before finally calling it quits. The only thing that keeps me alive most days are my cats, because they’re the only source of love I have in life.
I wish I had a family or a partner, but I know now that that’s an unattainable fantasy; a disabled person on the spectrum with no family connection, no job, no home of their own has no value at all.
I just want to cry, but that won’t relieve the cycle of endless failure.
Amanda, you are valuable. Please email me and I will do a pro-bono consultation with you to see if we can find some support: [email protected]
I was researching the effect of busy environments on autistic kids and found your article.
My son hates spending time in his bedroom. Instead of a peaceful retreat he views it as scary.
I wonder if all the colurful books, toys and posters are ‘shouting’ at him?
I’m going to see if I can ease him into to a minimal makeover, and make it a haven for him.
Does anyone know of any Autism homes in Virginia or how to go about building or making in actual Autism home for adults/children with Autism? And I don’t mean group homes.