Much of the discussion about those on the autism spectrum revolves around children. Of course, early diagnosis and treatment are essential to help children reach their full potential. But, autistic adults and the challenges they face as they try to find their place in society deserves attention as well.
Adults on the spectrum deal with the same problems all adults do, including earning a living, finding a suitable place to live, developing friendships and finding love.
How are adults on the spectrum dealing with life as adults? How do they handle the challenges of living a so-called “normal” life?
Here are some of the very real issues they face, as well as inspiring stories of adults on the spectrum who learned how to navigate their own way and live life to the fullest.
Life is Challenging
Life is challenging no matter who you are. But for those with autism spectrum disorder, life holds more than the usual level of challenge. The world isn’t set up for people who are different. Workplace environments are often filled with distractions and living arrangements may be less than optimal.
In addition, many on the spectrum suffer from co-existing conditions, such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or epilepsy. It’s vital that those on the spectrum receive support from family, caregivers and medical professionals. For those now adults who didn’t receive a diagnosis and necessary support as children, the world seems all the more frightening.
That’s what happened to Simon Perks. Simon grew up, went to college, married his sweetheart and found a great job he loved. But growing up, he always knew he was different. He didn’t like social events and avoided them when he could. When that wasn’t possible, he ended up sitting in a corner by himself. The world and the people in it were confusing. He hadn’t made many friends. He felt isolated. Small talk was not something he engaged in or understood. There seemed no purpose in it, so what was the point?
It wasn’t until his wife watched a documentary about Asperger syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum that everything began to make sense. The revelation was not only eye-opening, it was a relief as well. There was a real reason he felt he didn’t fit in.
With the help of his wife, he’s made life changes that better fit his unique abilities. His natural talent for understanding and explaining complex ideas and an innate ability to see patterns led to him to open his own consulting business. Simon has also written a book and several articles about his experiences. He learned that life’s not about copying what everyone else does, but ” …following my own path, living my own life and finding my own definition of success.”
A Before and After Story
Karen is another example of someone who was not diagnosed until adulthood. Karen had a troubled childhood. She became obsessed with riding buses and would skip school to ride the bus instead. She was routinely bullied, but her mind turned what should have been a horrific experience into thoughts of friendship, leaving her open to more attacks. Her lack of eye contact troubled her teachers who thought it was disrespectful. Karen acted out by running away from home.
She always knew she was different. Feeling more at home on the streets than with people, she was sent to a children’s home at age 14. There, she attempted suicide. She was hospitalized and released, but none of the services had helped her cope. She became a teenage mum at 16. She and her partner have been together over 24 years and have five children. But, it wasn’t until her son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder that she discovered she herself was autistic as well. With that diagnosis came a whole new attitude toward life. She wasn’t bad, or weird; she was autistic.
Always a “mum,” Karen decided to pursue her dream of becoming a midwife and is currently continuing her education to reach her goal. She sees her autism as a positive, explaining, “It does not define who I am but is part of my makeup.”
From Sensory Overload to Successful Business Owner
Sienna’s story is a familiar one for many. She was severely bullied as a child in her working class neighborhood. The classroom environment with the onslaught of faces, sounds and, what seemed to her, constant disorder resulted in a retreat into her own world. She was isolated from everyone else. She didn’t fit in and didn’t know why.
Her first job as a cashier sent her further into isolation. Sienna experienced nightmares and worried she was crazy. Counting money was difficult and she was eventually fired. Her next attempt at normalcy was college. At the end of her first year, she experienced a nervous breakdown.
With the support of friends, Sienna was able to complete a year of college. She also married and had three children. She and her family owned a hobby farm with animals to care and woods to explore. She began to feel more grounded and went back to college. She still had difficulty being surrounded by people, but her studies seemed easy. She obtained a degree in counseling psychology and, with her first job, came to a sudden realization about herself. She was on the spectrum.
Adjusting her work life to suit her unique abilities, Sienna now owns her own business, works http://usdailyreview.com/ home and helps others. Her motto is: never give up, no matter what!
From Train Wreck to Teacher
Andre Jean Baptiste went through years of feeling like he couldn’t take life anymore. He didn’t fit in. He knew he was different. “Am I crazy?” he thought? When he was 19, Andre was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and suddenly things were different. He had answers. He found purpose.
After his diagnosis, he spent a year researching about his condition and decided to put build a purposeful life. He went back to school and participated in autism research work with City and UCL universities. He now works as a volunteer, teaching life skills to adults on the spectrum. He learned a lot about himself through volunteer work and realized he was OK. In fact, he’s more than OK. Andre explains, “Now I am at the wheel and in control.”