There are countless stories out there about youth with autism struggling during the process of transition and other times of change. Whether it’s moving out of Mom and Dad’s house, going to a new school, or finding work, just to name a few scenarios, all of them have one thing in common…they have the potential to make you a better person.
New things can be especially hard if you do not know about your diagnosis or how it affects you both positively as well as constructively.
Maybe you find it impossible to accept yourself as a person thinking you might not be worthy or capable of love. Or how about living the life that YOU want as opposed to the life that others want for you?
These matters warrant the need for the critical “prequel to transition” process of self-discovery for youth with autism.
Transition plans for a person with autism and all the work associated with them will not have meaning or importance if the person with autism doesn’t fully understand themselves first and foremost. The steps to self-discovery are summarized by the mantra, “Know Yourself. Love Yourself. Be Yourself.”
You can become your best self by knowing about your diagnosis (parents can check out Tom’s Tips for Telling) as well as the strengths and opportunities for improvement that come along with it, by realizing that your diagnosis doesn’t have to define you, and by being open to the opinions, considerations, and suggestions of others!
Speaking from experience, it can be difficult to foster the courage to get out of your comfort zone or to do the things that are needed for you to get answers to the questions you need to take your life to the next level. For example, there was a young man in college who was afraid to go to his professor to ask for help. This young man, however, liked Marvel Comics and the X-MEN are part of Marvel Comics.
This man was told, “Pretend you’re an X-Man and that you’re going to see Professor Xavier for help.” His face lit up instantly, and he mustered up the confidence and the courage to go and get the help he needed. A great deal of guidance can be found in studying superheroes and other characters in movies, TV shows, etc. that are on a journey to accomplish something bigger and greater than themselves and must help themselves overcome their internal conflict before they can help others.
Batman, for example, may only be one man, but he constantly and consistently puts in the work to gain more knowledge, make himself stronger and adapt to new situations to remain at least one step ahead of his enemies. As a result, he is very effective and creates a reputation for being a skilled crime fighter that makes a difference for the better in the lives of others.
Also, Batman has teammates, or “allies” as they are called in Come to Life! Your Guide to Self-Discovery that help him accomplish his missions and make a bigger difference. They also help him when he was feeling down emotionally or had experienced failure. Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred, once asked him, “Why do we fall?” The answer is, “So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
This is an example of being the hero in your life. Knowing what you do well AND where you can improve, accepting that once you love yourself…others will love you in return, and that hearing what others have to say so you can make the best decision for yourself will help you see that getting out of your comfort zone and embracing change rather than avoiding it can be and often is good for you. You don’t have to go through this journey alone. There are people in your life who want you to succeed and will help and guide you to help you get there. Similar to playing “make-believe,” you can pretend that you are a hero on a journey to bigger, better things. See what happens when you apply this approach…you might be amazed at the results.
It all starts with you asking yourself, “Who’s my superhero?” More specifically, ask yourself, “Who do I look up to?” or “Who do I want to be like?” Your superhero can be a real person or a character, alive or dead. After you have chosen your superhero, list the following about him/her:
- His/her superpowers (what he/she does very well)
- What his/her mission is (why is he/she here?)
- Special tools he/she uses (Batarangs and grapple guns, in the case of Batman)
- Allies that your hero works with to get the job done
- The hero’s weaknesses or things that distract the hero from his/her mission
Finally, after looking at your answers to these items, ask yourself, “How is my superhero a good role model for me?” In other words, what are the good things that your hero does that you do or can do, too? Once you get an idea of what your hero has going for him/her, you can start to look at your skills, talents, and people that care for you and figure out what you have going for yourself.
Lastly, remember a hero does not complete his/her mission sitting at home feeling sorry for themselves…a hero ventures out into the unknown with his/her head held high ready to take on new challenges. It is crucial that you know that life doesn’t come to you…it’s up to YOU to come to life! So, get up, get out there and see how you can be the hero in your own life!
Diagnosed with autism at 13 years old, Tom Iland has worked hard to achieve his goals: learning to drive, living on his own, graduating from college, obtaining full-time employment, becoming a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) and having a girlfriend. Tom recently left his career as a certified public accountant (CPA) to educate, inspire and motivate people affected by autism. His mantra “Know Yourself. Love Yourself. Be Yourself.” has been featured in keynote speeches and is among the topics in his Amazon #1 Bestseller book, Come to Life! Your Guide to Self-Discovery. Tom currently lives in Santa Clarita, California, with his dog, Bridget.
This article was featured in Issue 72 – Sensory Solutions For Life