Autism is a complicated disorder that encompasses a whole spectrum of symptoms (thus, the autism spectrum disorder). However, one set of symptoms that many children and adults with autism share is a lack of important communicative skills. This can lead to problems with gaining social acceptance with autism, as children and as adults.
Individuals with autism struggle when it comes to social cues and language, which can lead to bullying from peers, serious misunderstandings, missed important cues, and more. A tendency to focus on the non-essential while losing sight of the bigger picture can further confuse others. It can also lead to frustration among the uninitiated while leaving the person with autism in the dark about why their behavior is unusual or negatively perceived.
Children on the spectrum may be aware of how they’re being mistreated, and may internalize that punishment, conditioning them early on to avoid further social contact and turn towards antisocial behavior, all while causing them to further lose out on the crucial practice that’s meant to help hone their communicative skills for adulthood.
This can be even more frustrating for those on the milder end of the spectrum. They naturally want to make friends (as all children do) yet find themselves ill-equipped to do so. Tackling this issue early is key to helping a child on the spectrum gain acceptance in any stage of their life.
NAVIGATING AUTISM AND COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS
Autism is linked to other disorders, notably learning disabilities like dyslexia and intellectual disability, which causes a below average IQ. However, low IQ and problems processing words or numbers is not a part of autism itself, and an estimated 44 percent of children on the spectrum have an average to above average IQ (>85).
Despite that, many on the spectrum struggle to function at school, at work, and in society at large. Mostly due to difficulties processing social cues and communicating with others. Some use analogies like being in a play, describing it as “I’m in a play and everyone else has the script but me.”
Other issues compound this, making it difficult to focus on conversations with others due to any number of other reasons. Common symptoms of autism include sensory overload, which can make it difficult to concentrate on a conversation with someone else due to a distracting or distressing environment, or something incredibly stressful happening in the background.
As children on the spectrum get older, they may begin to figure out what neurotypical peers expect to hear or see. They excel at pretending just to fit in. They feel like they can never quite be able to properly express who they are or what they want. Rather, they just project an adequate image of themselves to get by with others.
GAINING ACCEPTANCE WITH AUTISM AT SCHOOL
School can be a grueling place for many on the spectrum. It is where children naturally learn to develop and coexist and test one another. Social conventions are discovered and established. Children go through a host of different behaviors over their early years, as they master their ability to communicate. Yet for children on the spectrum, the pace at which other children develop their communicative skills can leave them feeling left behind. This could cause them to seek isolation, especially after some negative experiences due to unusual behavior.
Early intervention is critical once children on the spectrum start to go to school. Applied behavioral analysis can help a child learn to recognize certain cues, phrases and avoid behavior like palilalia and echolalia.
However, it isn’t always enough during this stage to rely on making the child take on the brunt of the work. It’s often critical to work with teachers and students themselves to help the class better understand autism. And why their classmate might seem so different. With the right support, a child with autism can learn to fit into a positive role within the class.
MAKING FRIENDS WHILE HAVING AUTISM
Children on the spectrum can be naturally social, while others don’t really show any interest in other kids early on. Once a child has been reliably diagnosed, early intervention can help set up the foundation for play dates. A lot of early experiences between the child and their peers can build a stronger social foundation.
Yet once language and more complex forms of communication enter the picture and playing is no longer the primary way in which kids interact with one another, things can get much tougher. This is especially true throughout pre-adolescence and adolescence, where conventions and rules quickly shift as children experience the big hormone shift.
This is a wildly confusing and difficult time for any kid, let alone someone on the spectrum. Support here can help guide a young teen through each step of the process, as well as to help them cope with their growing sexuality, issues of sex and friendship in teenage years, feelings of romance, and more.
Building off of earlier lessons, kids at this point are learning to continue to focus on communicative skills that help them be better understood by their peers. As while practicing the skills that they might be struggling with on the road to independence.
For kids where total independence isn’t realistic, interventions might focus on reducing harmful behavior and improving self-control. At the same time, introducing different, healthier outlets for emotional frustration or sudden mood shifts.
AUTISM IN THE WORKPLACE
The statistics on autism in the workplace are rather grim overall, but forecasts show reasons for hope. More and more headlines about companies specializing in hiring people on the milder end of the spectrum draw media attention to how being autistic does not mean someone isn’t skilled or capable, and there are several studies that show that, with proper support, most on the spectrum can perform on the same level as their peers and earn similar salaries.
Vocational rehabilitation and programs focused on teaching specific skills can help. Although intense on-the-job training made the biggest difference. It was often crucial to helping those on the spectrum better adapt to the workplace.
With the transition into the workforce come many unique challenges. Communication continues to be an issue. Also, social interaction is important towards helping someone on the spectrum find work they can thrive in. Finding the appropriate job is also crucial. For those on the spectrum, environments with minimal distractions and a predictable, steady schedule are common requirements.
THE IMPORTANCE OF AUTISM TREATMENT
In the end, gaining acceptance with autism needs to start from the home. Many children and adults, once aware of how and why they’re different from their peers, may have a hard time not resenting their current situation. They may find themselves seeking distractions. And trying to distance themselves from interacting with others due to painful experiences and challenges. Which further isolates them later in life.
While many mistake those with autism as being somehow less emotional or incapable of empathy, children and adults with autism have all the same emotional needs that any other human being possesses. They do wish very badly to belong.
Helping them accept themselves and their condition should be an important first step into acceptance with autism. From there, many different behavioral approaches can help them find ways to start interacting with their peers. Such as to start developing mechanisms to cope with their condition and still make friends, find work, or function a little more independently.
Depending on where you or your child is on the spectrum, the expected outcome of any course of treatment will be wildly different. Some adults cannot live without the constant support of their loved ones. Others learn to live on their own without any treatment.
But some still struggle with some respect to their ability to interact with others. And to benefit off of the support that certain kinds of treatment and intervention may offer. Treatment for autism is wholly flexible and depends on each person’s unique circumstances and needs.
Behavioral intervention and long-term support can do a lot to help children and adults to gain acceptance with autism. As well as to develop the means to own their identity and disorder while still effectively communicating with others.