Living With Autism: Taming Expectations In Your Relationships

autism in love

Everyone, and I mean everyone, goes into most dating relationships with a specific set of expectations in mind.  Most people face disappointment in these relationships, as certain expectations of theirs are contradicted or even completely shut out.  Leading up to the start of a relationship, most people typically form this picture in their heads as to what that relationship will look like and what direction it will take.  I myself have done that, and as someone having personally experienced this, I believe I have the freedom to tell you this.  If you’re about to get into a relationship or are already in one, cancel your expectations.  Cancel them hard.  Or at least repress them.  Our expectations for relationships are typically fantasy to begin with, fantasies that don’t qualify with reality in the least.

As someone who is on the autism spectrum and someone who is currently coming up on eleven months dating the same person, I have a few things to say about expectations in relationships that I believe everyone, autistic or not, should know about and learn to repress.  Before I start though, I should point out that there’s nothing wrong with having hope.  There’s nothing wrong with having hope for something as long as they’re not too high.  Having hopes and having expectations are two different things.

1. More than half of the things that you want to have happen won’t happen exactly when you want them to.

Whether it’s physical affection, topics of conversation, and the places you want to go and the things you want to do together, there is the right time for everything, and sometimes the timing you have isn’t the timing of the other person.  When two people start a dating/romantic relationship together, each of them typically has a different idea about the timing of everything, although sometimes they don’t have an idea at all and they’re just going with the flow.  The latter are the kind of people I’m admittedly a little jealous about.  They just take things as they come, and they don’t have to make a decision about something until the moment to make one comes.  My girlfriend belongs to that crowd, which on one hand is fantastic because it’s refreshing to be with someone that doesn’t analyze every little detail, but because tend to do that, I’m usually always wondering what is going through my girlfriend’s mind.  This is where patience comes in great handy, and I’m happy to say that that patience is typically rewarded.  Patience doesn’t put a timestamp on things.  It’s the willingness to wait until both of you are ready to share something that you haven’t shared before.

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2. When it comes to life, theology, philosophy, and all those kinds of things, the two of you are not going to be perfectly on the same page.

Your partner is going to talk about things he or she believes that you won’t agree with, and you’re going to say things about your own beliefs that he or she doesn’t agree with.  Regardless of how alike the two of you may think, you’re never going to be consistently 100% in sync.  There may be times or experiences where you do, but if you’re hoping to be with someone that is exactly on the same wavelengths as you, purge that hope now, otherwise you’ll end up being disappointed.  Even two autistic people don’t think alike on everything.

I know I probably sound pessimistic, but bear with me here.  Two people who don’t believe everything the other person does is not only necessary, but it can also be a blessing.  If the two of you agreed on everything on every level, then what exactly can you learn from each other?  How can you help the other spiritually grow if the other person already knows and believes everything you do?  Now, am I saying that you should influence the other person to your side so that he or she does think like you?  No.  Don’t do that.  Don’t try to rob the person of what he or she believes, because it’s also a large part of who they are as people.  It’s a large part of their identity.  Instead, love the person for who he or she is and let the person believe what it will, as long as it doesn’t happen to be self-damaging.  As a Christ-follower, I’ve always believed that what’s essential to believe is that God is real, that the Bible is true, and that God’s son Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later.  There is so much else related to the Bible and Christianity that people interpret or believe differently, and that’s just the way it is in our spiritual walk.

3. Loving people isn’t always easy, even your dating partner.

You can’t tell me that you’ve never gotten frustrated, irritated, or annoyed with your partner.  I feel like you’d be lying.  The truth is, loving people in general isn’t always easy, even the one you’re dating and have a romantic attachment with.  What would a relationship be without its disagreements or without its fights?  How will either of you be able to learn?  How will your character grow?  How consistent will your spiritual growth be?  Life is full of trials, obstacles, and tribulations, and romantic relationships have no shortage of these.  That’s why it’s important to talk to each other and try the best you can to understand to each other.  Be sacrificial.  If you’re religious, pray.  Better yet, pray with your partner so that both of you can seek God’s help and guidance in your relationship together.  Love isn’t always easy for us human beings, but it’s something we’re capable of, even if things aren’t always going the way we want them to.  Most importantly, it’s absolutely worth it.

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Now, I do understand that I’ve only tackled these subjects from one or two aspects.  The sad truth is that there are times where even though you want to believe so much that a relationship with a particular person will work, some people are simply incompatible with each other when it comes to romantic relationships.  Simple friendships are one thing, but romantic relationships come with its own terms and conditions, and certain people together just don’t make the cut, whether they really want it to or not.  But that’s a completely different subject altogether.  The bottom line here is this: don’t let your pre-established set of expectations for a relationship get in the way of choosing to learn and grow with another person, even if their preferences and beliefs don’t always go hand-in-hand with yours.

 

The Other Side Of the Conflict Coin

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There are many instances in life where I hear older people talk about ‘simpler times’ and compare them to the way things are in the world today, and it’s usually viewed through a rather negative lens.  Being that the world is the way it is today, who can really blame them?  Violent protests, constant acts of terrorism, racism, and division between different groups of people are only some of many things that plagues our world today, and a lot of these events are covered through stories told by deeply flawed news stations in America.  Most of the time we hear these stories, we either shrug them off, simply content with the fact that were weren’t directly affected by the events, or we absorb these stories and allow fear to take up space in our minds.  I’m not going to go very deep into the negative influence that the media has had on us in America as a society, but I will say that it absolutely has had a hand.

Growing up, I didn’t pay much attention to the news or politics or what else was going on around the world.  Most of my biggest concerns with life were usually strictly centered around my own life, as is usually the case with children growing up and becoming teenagers.  When I think back to the ‘problems’ I believed I had then, they’re laughable and even a little sad when I consider now how pointless most of them were.  At the same time though, it’s all still part of growing up and becoming the person you’re meant to become.  As I got older, my awareness for world events grew and I didn’t like what I saw.  Fear was usually my first reaction to a lot of the negative news, and I avoided it like the plague.  Now as a 21-year old Aspie coming onto 2017, I think more deeply about the kind of world that I was dropped in, and I ask myself more why I was put in this time of all times.  With this in mind, I have listed a few things that come from my own perspective about the world today.  I do hope that you will at least be able to appreciate the way that I choose to look at it.

1. Almost nothing that gets reported about stuff that has happened surprises me, nor do I see these things as unexpected.

Some people would call this ‘desensitization’ since people have the tendency to grow numb to bad news after a while since we get bombarded by it every day.  For me personally, I’m typically not surprised by any of this news because I have the basic knowledge that the acts of violence and hatred play a large part in human nature.  Given that we’re looking at the actions of humanity, it’s to be expected, whether we like it or not.  In no way do I accept the fact that it is what it is, but I’m not surprised by any of it either.  Humanity fails us every time, no matter how hard it may try.

2. The bad news makes the good feel more refreshing

In this world full of tragedy, violence, and division, there is still good, and that good makes itself stick out more amongst the bad things as long as people are willing to see it.  If we spend so much time dwelling on the tragedies that go on in the world, we lose sight of the good things that we have, and we don’t spend enough time ‘counting our blessings’.  When the bad news starts to overcrowd, remember that you always have something that you can be thankful for (it was just recently Thanksgiving Day after all).  There’s always something that shines a good light in your life.  Whatever that may be, dwell on that, and never take it for granted.

3. Some of the best things about humanity are made clearer in the midst of tragedy

It goes without saying that 9/11 was a tragic and terrifying event, but even in the wake of the tragedy, some of the best of humanity emerged in the form of people’s heroics.  Heroes like former Marine Jason Thomas and former Vietnam vet Rick Rescorla are only a select few of many people that were responsible for performing feats of true heroism during that horrifying morning.  When the worst of humanity rears its head, some of its best bites back, and I believe it will continue to be that way.

 

Autism And Depression: How Bullying Plays A Part

After a while of not writing any blog posts, I’m back with a new post about autism and how depression has had a history in coinciding with it.  Because there are many people that believe that a lot of those with autism don’t feel many emotions, not much thought is given to the fact that autistic people are capable of having depression.

Like any neurotypical people, autistic people are completely capable of experiencing depression too.  I’ve touched on my history of depression in previous articles not too long ago, so I can say that I’ve experienced it firsthand as one with Aspergers Syndrome, and I’ve known others with autism that struggled with depression.  To touch on one factor of depression in autistic people specifically, I will mention bullying.

Young people with autism are unfortunately the target of bullying in schools.  According to a 2012 national survey conducted by the Interactive Autism Network and Johns Hopkins University, children with autism are three times as likely as their neurotypical siblings to experience bullying, and according to the parents that took the survey, 61% of children with Aspergers, 28% of children with autism, and 37% of children with other autism disorders have been affected.  Being bullied by others simply for what makes them different absolutely has the potential to make a child with autism experience depression because of the feelings of loneliness and worthlessness that is provoked through being bullied.  Sometimes other children will do things on purpose that negatively affects an autistic child’s senses.

The issue with depression in an autistic child or even a little older is that it’s harder for the parents or other adults to recognize when an autistic child is depressed.  The symptoms practically ‘overlap’ when it comes to autism and depression.  If someone with autism is emotionally distant or socially withdrawn, people are quick to decide that the behavior is part of the child’s autism, rather than it being linked to something else since social withdrawal and emotional distance can be common in certain autistic people anyway.  This is why it’s all the more important that parents pay closer attention and make sure to have conversations with their child about how things are going at school so that they will know whether or not things are going well.

While it’s obviously sad that autistic children get bullied at school, particularly in different fashions than others at times, this is fixable.  It can be prevented.  What needs to happen is that the school boards need to have more motivation to handle serious matters like these, and it’s the parents’ role to see to it that these issues are recognized and fixed.  As someone who has heard dozens of stories about the treatment of autistic children in schools, I can say that this is something that saddens me and I hope so much that autistic children get better treatment in the future soon.

 

Recognizing World Autism Awareness Day

 

autism awareness

Sorry for not having a blog post up in a while guys, I’ve been very busy with school, work, and other projects I’ve been working on, so I’ve been dedicating a lot more time to those other projects.  Fortunately, today gives me perfect motivation to write a new blog post.  Today is National Autism Awareness Day.  Though the whole month of April is considered National Autism Awareness Month, April 2 is Awareness Day (which understandably falls on the second day instead of falling on April Fools Day, good call).  To be honest, even though I’ve been diagnosed to be on the spectrum myself, there was very little I knew about the month until I found out what today was and therefore looked into it a little more.

In this research, I found out that apparently people that follow autism awareness wears blue today.  I haven’t quite been able to figure out why of all colors it’s blue, but nevertheless, it warms my heart to know that efforts are made to be more aware of the people who are on the autism spectrum and efforts are made to pay better attention to the struggles autistic people go through in their day-to-day lives.  World Autism Awareness Day is primarily meant to be a day where people are encouraged to spread awareness of autism and motivate actions to be taken to make the lives of autistic people (children in particular) a little easier every day.

Creating a better understanding and awareness of autism is something I’ve been going for with this blog for the past couple months, and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback where people have told me that thanks to my posts, they have a better understanding when it comes to autism and the people that have autism as a part of them.  Though culturally, today may be the official ‘awareness’ day, I want to continue writing blog posts that will help increase that awareness all year round, because I don’t believe there’s any point in time where one has to stop trying to help other people understand.

So for those of you who still have a lot to learn about autism, I’d encourage you to do a little more research.  Read past blog posts of mine or find other sources.  Our culture encourages us to have more awareness and understanding of different people groups, and the autism community is no exception.  Patience is key to being a blessing to those on the spectrum.  People with autism have the tendency to think and process things very differently than ‘neurotypical’ people, which is definitely one way when patience needs to be practiced, so start with that.

For more information about World Autism Awareness Day, click here.

Autism’s Role In… Social Interaction

I was homeschooled growing up, so most of the social settings I was involved in was church or youth group (which is more or less the same thing, just with different age demographics).  After getting my high school diploma, I had the opportunity to get involved in other different social settings like my first job, then eventually college, and get exposed to a lot of people from different walks of life and different cultures and mindsets.  While my exposure to others on the spectrum started before college, I had the opportunity by the time I went to college to meet a lot of other people on the spectrum.  I’m positive I’ve said this before in previous posts, not one autistic person is exactly the same as another.  All autistic people have different personalities, mindsets, and strengths and weaknesses.  There may be some similarities in terms of weaknesses and even strengths, but no two people are exactly the same, as is the case with pretty much anyone else in general for that matter.

So what can it typically be like for autistic people in a social setting?  If they’re different, what different kinds of scenarios are there for people on the spectrum in public?  There are many different kinds, but to keep this short, I’ll list several that I’ve observed, including my own personal experience:

1. There are autistic people who are completely anti-social.  They prefer the company of themselves instead of interacting with other people.  Interacting with other people can be considered intimidating to them and they feel more comfortable alone, staying within the borders of their minds to brainstorm and sometimes even talk to themselves.  If they have no choice but to be in public, they will stay away from large groups and stand to the side to keep to themselves and let their minds take them wherever they want to go.

2. There are autistic people who actually want to interact with others, be heard, and talk about things they are very interested in.  The third thing there is one of the truest of them all.  They want to talk to people about things they’re passionate about and interested in, but that’s about as far they’ll go.  They can sit with someone and have an almost one-sided conversation by continuing to talk about what they’re passionate about with very few breaks in between to allow the other person to talk.  As I’ve said in previous articles, autistic people hold their passions and obsessions very near and dear to them, and they want to share it with others, sometimes unaware that others are simply not interested.  I’ve learned that the best thing to do is to let the person talk and try to listen as best I can, and then when I’m ready to move on, I can politely inform the person that I’d like to talk to someone else or move on to a different subject.  If done politely and calmly, this usually works.

3. There are autistic people who want to be part of a group or talk to other people but they feel uncomfortable when placed in that setting because if no one is talking about something the person is familiar with, then it can be hard to be engaged in the conversation.  There’s also the possibility of the person feeling left out because very little attention is payed to him.  This can lead to the person feeling awkward and deciding to move on, feeling ignored and not valued.  While this can type of scenario can absolutely be relevant for other kinds of people, autistic people can tend to feel the weight of that much more significantly and will tend to think a lot afterwards about how much people may or may not value them.

So those are some concepts for you guys to think about.  One more thing to mention is that I’d say that when you meet autistic people in public, they can surprise you, intrigue you, maybe even wear you out a little bit (even have the tendency to do that), or maybe you won’t even notice them at all because they’d rather stand to the side.  Personally for me, when it comes to going out with friends, I’ve always preferred just going out with one friend because it feels good to give special attention to one friend without all the distractions of other people, even if I really like them too, and it’s easier to find my words and follow conversations.  In groups a lot of times, there’s the tendency for someone to get left out, and I don’t like the thought of being responsible for that nor do I like to find myself in that position myself.  I love to talk, and I love to meet new people and form relationships, but as you’ve learned a little bit of just a second ago, I’m pretty particular about how I go about it.  There’s no single way that all people on the spectrum approach people or conversations in public, and for people who are higher functioning, you probably won’t even realize that the person is autistic on some level until later, but regardless, I hope that listing these things helps increase  your awareness and helps you think of ways to manage these scenarios when they come.

Announcement For A New Series: Autism’s Role In…

For a few months now, I’ve written article upon article about what it’s like for me to live on the autism spectrum and how I relate to others on the spectrum that deals with some of the same issues.  Now I’m launching a new series called Autism’s Role In….  This series is meant to explain what it’s like for autistic people to interact or engage in different aspects of our culture and society and how culture and society affects them back based on my own research and my own personal experiences.

Politics, social settings, entertainment, religion, and social media are some of the topics I’ll be exploring in this series.  One of the challenges of creating a series like this though is the fact that autistic people are all different.  As I’m sure you already know, it’s not like people on the spectrum are all clones of one person with the same personalty, thought process, and mannerisms.  Most autistic people all have different ways of approaching certain aspects of our culture, but those ways are usually very unique and tend to make ‘neurotypical’ people do a double-take.  This is part of how it can be difficult and even frustrating for people not on the spectrum to relate and connect with those who are, so learning the perspective of autistic people in different areas such as politics, social media, etc is key for ‘neurotypical’ people to better grasp and understand where autistic people are coming from, even if they may not be able to understand fully or even agree.

Next week, I will post the first part of the series, starting with simple everyday encounters, then move on into more complex territory (yes, along the way you may get to learn a thing or two about my own political views).  My hope is that these articles can be read and understood by people with or without autism and that they will benefit from learning what I have to say.

Living With Autism Part 10: A New Hope

Pardon my nerd reference for the title, but I felt it was fitting for this article.  So this is the tenth part in the Living With Autism series and some might say at this point that I’m just trying really hard to milk the cow and squeeze as many drops out of this topic as possible.  With the tenth part now up, and the fact that I had written some other autism-related articles on the side, what more can I possibly talk about regarding the subject and how I relate to it?

The answer is: a lot.  More than you would probably be able to imagine.  That’s why I’m currently writing a book to chronicle what I’ve talked about on this blog so far as well as add whole new aspects so that other people who don’t read my blog can get a picture too.  So what can I talk about in this article?

Remember the movie Good Will Hunting?  A well-made, well-written story about a twenty-year old orphan boy named Will who’s incredibly intelligent and has wisdom beyond his years, but is held back from doing anything really significant to make a life for himself beyond hanging out with his friends at the bar and working as a janitor in a prestigious university.  He is sent by one of the university’s professors to visit a psychology professor named Sean (played by the late and brilliant Robin Williams) for counseling and to get help in order to defeat his fear and make something of his life.  Eventually, after several sessions, Sean asks Will what he wants to do with his life, but he doesn’t know, despite everything he’s capable of.

Lately I’ve been having issues with figuring out what I myself want to do.  I recently visited an advisor over at the community college I’m attending because I couldn’t make peace with the fact that I wanted to slowly back out of the college and just select classes that could benefit my writing career.  My advisor, having involvement in the disability services there, was well aware of my place on the spectrum and still believed that I can work towards a transfer degree to get involved in the English department in a university.  Despite my problems with math, my advisor believed I can do it if I seek out the help I need, I just need to work harder.

As someone on the autism spectrum with the inability to learn certain things the same way as others, I have to work harder than some other people to succeed in certain things like math.  The advisor picked up on the fact that I was overthinking things a lot.  I was afraid that if I consistently rely on tutors to help me through another math class, I would frustrate the tutors because they would feel like their help isn’t getting to me, which is something my advisor believed was unnecessary for me to worry about and wanted to meet with me again so that we can discuss further how I should move forward after this semester.

While I do plan on proceeding to meet with my advisor to discuss what I should do, I’ve been praying to see what God wants me to do, but I hope the point is made here.  While autistic people are all different in what their strengths and weaknesses are, one thing is for certain: there is always something that they can work towards to make a reality in their lives, even if that means they have to work harder or get as much assistance as they can from outside sources.  Right now in my life, I severely lack inward motivation.  It takes a lot of outward motivation to push me forward and get certain things done, and I realize that needs to change. Everyone needs some outward motivation from time to time, but in the end it comes down to me making the decisions with what I want for my life.  In order for me to have the life that I have vision for and have a beneficial career, it means doing things and taking classes that I don’t want to do, but being autistic is not a good excuse for me to explain why I won’t do what I need to do in order to go far in life.

In conclusion, it’s not easy for anyone who’s autistic.  People on the spectrum have a unique ability to learn things earlier and quicker than others, but there are also things that come much easier to others than they do to autistic people and that’s where things get a little tricky, but no matter what, there’s always something that autistic people are capable of, and if it means doing less-than-desirable things like math classes or other classes involving topics where there’s zero interest in order to achieve that goal, it just means having to work harder and get extra assistance.  There’s always hope for people on the spectrum to get the help they need and do great things.

Note: Over the next couple of weeks, I will be focusing on writing satirical posts in the same vein as my post Autistic Guy Goes To Sunday Morning Mass For the First Time until I can think of a new way to continue writing about autism in a new format that branches out into different aspects I haven’t covered yet.

 

Living With Autism Part 9: Why Autism?

Every writer that pursues a particular topic to write about has to answer the question: why do you write what you write?

As I’ve been writing these articles about my life with autism and about the knowledge I have about the autism spectrum, I’ve been commended for being very open, transparent, and honest in my views and where I come from and people have told me that my articles have helped them gain a better understanding of autism and the people on that spectrum, including people who have autistic children.  Combine the feedback, my personal experiences, and my passion for writing, and it’s looking pretty obvious that writing about autism is something I seem to have a talent at doing.  So why do I personally feel passionate for writing about autism?

Personal experience as a high-functioning autistic is obviously a factor.  I have that personal experience under my belt as someone with Aspergers, so my articles are about autism by someone who is autistic on a certain level, therefore I have a fair understanding of what I’m actually talking about when I write.

Beyond that, I think people who are on the autism spectrum are very fascinating people.  A lot of assumptions are made that all autistic people are the same, but I can tell you that that’s not true at all, and I’m sure you already know it.  The population that’s on the spectrum is very diverse in its own ways, and I think its very fascinating and intriguing to observe and interact with people on the spectrum and learn how they’re different from each other.  Autism represents a group of unique people that think and process things differently, and though they have their weaknesses in certain areas of everyday life that comes naturally to a lot of people, they also have some amazing strengths and tend to learn things earlier than expected.  They introduce a certain dynamic in our culture that makes it different.

What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool?  You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.”  – Temple Grandin

Because of this fascination in the lives of people on the spectrum, I feel passionate to take what I’ve learned from both my own personal experiences and the information I get from doing research and write articles so that people will have an increased awareness and understanding. I believe that the lives of autistic people can become easier and more fair if others understand better how they think, feel, and function so that they can interact with them and not expect from them the same norms that they expect from others.  People can also learn how to take better care of people on the spectrum if their children are autistic or if they’re associated with autistic people.  Whatever I can do to help make the world a better place for people on the spectrum and make them feel accepted and understood is a real pleasure to me, and I hope that by continuing to write these articles, I can help someone, whether it’s an autistic person or a person that’s associated with autistic people.