Bringing Out the Talents of Autistic Spectrum Kids

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Social Butterfly
Therapists jokingly say “if you’re working with young autistic adults, you’re job is secure because no one will pay you for it.”  Children’s intervention programs are siphoning most of the resources devoted to autism.  The Millennial generation of autistics (born 1980-2000), who generally didn’t receive much intervention as children, have largely been relegated to the self-help section of the bookstore, where they read that autism is a problem with social communication.

Their demoralizing experience with peers bears this out—they are bullied and excluded, aching with loneliness in the midst of a haze of social butterflies.  They closely observe and painstakingly rehearse the methods of the in crowd.  If you want innovative formulas for social success, ask an autistic high school kid, who refines his techniques every time he gets off the bus to stand in front of a mirror.

Many young autistics have taught themselves how the game is played—reading inspirational books about how to win acceptance and getting advice from all kinds of people over the Internet—honing the skills they need to cast a spell over the rest of us, with refreshing frankness and uncanny dry humor.

If autism is primarily a problem with social communication, these charming teenagers are no longer autistic.  Their acumen and wit give them every reason to take pride in having single-handedly vanquished the stigma forever.

But autism is also a problem with executive function (means-to-an-end planning and execution).  After high school, they will need to learn self-direction.

Their appealing personas will decidedly turn against them.  They’re so good at faking normal that their weaknesses might go unnoticed, when, to reach their aspirations, they will need a lot of help sticking to an agenda.

Meanwhile, most therapists will be occupied with small children.  Fortunately, autism awareness has become more inclusive, as loved ones rally around young autistic adults who are transitioning into college or the workforce, where the gift of gab isn’t the only thing that matters.

2 Responses to For the Millennial autistics, Charm doesn’t go far enough

  • yes. this is an issue. people with aspergers and autism suffer on both sides, socially and in terms of overall responsibility and self-management. me being able to perform excellently in social situations is great as i won’t be stigmatized as autism. on the other end of things, no one would ever believe i have greater problems.

    i often wonder what would happen if i pretended to be fully dysfunctional, if i would get more understanding or help, but i wouldn’t do that

  • I relate to the statement, “They closely observe and painstakingly rehearse the methods of the ‘in crowd.'” I was the guy who was so socially awkward that I could not “get the girl,” so I never found a life partner, significant other, wife, whatever term you wish to use, with whom to achieve things I/we might have wanted.

    I have never “achieved” that much, in the traditional sense, as I cannot seem to finish things I start. I often cannot sustain attention or interest. I get sidetracked very easily. My father is a real long-term thinker, and with my mother, who is very detailed oriented and a masterful planner, at his side the last 60 years, he became a successful surgeon and amassed a sizable fortune.

    He told me dozens of times when I was young to set goals. I wanted to, but failed as I could not fathom how to set goals. The concept sort of baffled me. I knew the definition of the word, but I knew that if I somehow figured out how to set goals, I could not follow through, so I figured why bother? It made no sense whatever. Those “Where do you want to be in 5 years” things? I was just trying to get through the day; never mind some fictional space and time.

    My Aspergers had less of an impact as my life as an adult unfolded. I became comfortable with being single and with not getting a college degree. I found a way to earn good money for a single man that required no social interaction, that being medical transcription. I had few friends, as I did not know how to be a friend. That was a hard lesson, knowing that I had to keep up my end of things. I would rather have a few fast friends that a hundred thousand so-called “friends” who are merely acquaintances.

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