My name is Justin, I’m 20 years old, and I was born with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), diagnosed at 16 years of age. I’m not what most people may expect of someone with ASD; I am not a savant like Dr. Shaun Murphy from The Good Doctor or Rain Man, but neither am I incapable. I am, for the most part, a normal college student who loves writing and is pursuing a degree in Forensic.
Many people expect those with ASD to be one of two things; superhuman or helpless. What they forget is that life is rarely so black and white. When these expectations are put upon anyone, it can be damaging to personal growth and psychological health, even when intended to be friendly or constructive.
Today, I would like to deconstruct some of these ideas and potentially help a few people while I’m at it.
Hold us accountable for our misdeeds
A common occurrence is for someone close to us to defend our actions, citing that we have autism and therefore cannot control our actions. Doing this can see a child grow into an irresponsible, lousy, or even criminal adult. Good parents hold their neurotypical children accountable for their horrible behavior; parents of autistic children need to do the same.
Even if we don’t like it in the moment, many of us will eventually see the positive effect it has on our personalities and how it helps us grow into responsible adults.
Autism does not equal social anxiety
Autism and social anxiety commonly correlate, but they’re usually not causal. The more common occurrence, myself included, is stunted or total lack of social inhibition, which can develop into social anxiety due to how people react to us. This is not anyone’s fault, it just happens due to societal norms.
We also can’t forget that socially anxious people, autistic or neurotypical, can sometimes change and begin enjoying more social interactions. This should not be frowned upon, so long as it is not forced. Stranger danger is very real and should be taught to both neurotypical and autistic children.
However, under safe conditions, don’t take away your child’s opportunity for socialization and personal growth. In my opinion, based off personal experiences as an autistic child, as well as accounts of extended family who also have autistic children, one of the best tools for developing social skills is the simple playdate.
Lastly, dislike or even fear of crowds doesn’t necessarily indicate social anxiety, as crowds are not always social in nature. A crowd is basically a horde of people; so long as you are not talking or having other personal interactions with the people inside that crowd, then it’s correlation, not causation.
Disdain for crowds is more often attributed to sensory overload itself, such as too much noise, too much shoulder-to-shoulder contact, or too many odd smells.
Click here to find out more
Sexual education and autistic youth
This should go without saying, but you should never shame your autistic teen for coming to you with sex related questions. Would you shame your neurotypical teen for asking such questions? Sexual education is an important aspect of education for the ASD teen because just like anyone else, we are sexual creatures.
This education can prepare your child for when he/she becomes an adult with the legal autonomy to have a lover. This is especially important for someone who may have more difficulty understanding romance.
Overall, whenever possible, aid your autistic child’s development—do not prevent it. Treat us as normal human beings at every opportunity it is possible. We are just as capable of mistakes, of greatness, of growth, and of maturity.
This article was featured in Issue 99 – Navigating Relationships With Autism