Autism After 16 | By Zosia Zaks
Everyone has some memory that continues to thrill us years later: our first real friend, the first time we went on a date, the time we received an award at work. These memories are sweet and they have a direct impact on our confidence. Human beings derive not just pleasure but also self-respect, a sense of dignity, and a sense of meaning from succeeding socially.
Almost always in my line of work as an autism consultant and educator, the biggest stereotype about autistic adults that I encounter is that having autism-related social challenges means no socializing. Autism is automatically correlated to a preference for isolation or a reduced interest in social contact.
But in reality, individuals on the autism spectrum are, after all, people—human beings with the same hopes, dreams, concerns, and capacity to love as everyone else. I have rarely met anyone—on or off the autism spectrum—who is not comforted by the presence of others, and who does not seek to relate to others one way or another. With this idea as the starting point, the following article explores the impact of social challenges on relationships of all sorts without ignoring corresponding strengths. Strategies to enhance social fluidity and success are also discussed.
Socializing: What Is It and Why Is It So Hard?
Of course I knew the rule, don’t talk to strangers. But the usher at the movie theater wasn’t a stranger anymore, right? After all, we had talked for a few minutes. When I was invited into the little booth to see the movie reels, I couldn’t read the social signals indicating potential trouble.
Every act of social interaction between two people or more is a complex series of delivering and receiving information, making adjustments based on data gleaned, and following through on decisions about what to do. Think about making a friend: First, you have to go somewhere or be doing an activity where you might meet someone to befriend. Then, you have to decode often very subtle cues that another person might want to be your friend. The process of becoming friends involves initiating communication, utilizing and processing verbal and nonverbal language, judging friendship potential, regulating and expressing emotions, sharing interests, establishing rules for joint activities, demarcating interpersonal boundaries, and navigating conflicts. And that is just a friendship! Imagine the added layers of complexity if you want to find someone to date!
Autism-related differences in the wiring of the brain can make socializing an arduous process. Everything from sensory issues to social cognition can factor into the difficulty. Brain-based differences impact the ability... READ MORE >>
About the Author - Writer
Zosia Zaks, M.Ed., CRC, is an adult on the autism spectrum and the parent of two daughters on the spectrum. In addition to contributing to AA16, Zaks is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.
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