What The Young Person With ASD Can Do
Autism Spectrum Disorder makes interpersonal skills more difficult, which can make it hard to have relationships with others and also to get and keep a good job. Please see our blog on sharing insights about autism with the young adult who has this condition (“Talking to Your Adolescent or Young Adult About Autism and Asperger’s”). The young adult with high functioning autism who wants to be employed, and have friends and other meaningful relationships, can do a lot to help him/herself! We suggest the following:
Try to do one thing every day that is outside your comfort zone.
Spend more time around people (as opposed to machines).
Work on your insight: pay attention to what you’re avoiding and spending your time doing, and how positive you look and sound.
Consider the following intensity scale for uncomfortable feelings (such as anxiety or frustration): 1 "not at all", 2 "a little bit", 3 "quite a lot", 4 "very"--recognize when you are moving from a 2 to a 3 in “uncomfortable” feelings so you can utilize a coping strategy (see next bullet point) to decrease the intensity of your uncomfortable feelings.
Think about how you cope or deal with anxiety and other issues that are challenging for you. Consider “unhelpful” coping that does not make things better and often makes them worse, for example quitting, sleeping too much, spending all your free time doing a preferred activity, avoiding, etc. Make a list of “helpful” coping strategies that allow you to deal positively with your challenges (they will be different for different people!), and use them to bring your intensity down when you are feeling more intensely uncomfortable (moving from a 2 to a 3 for example). Helpful coping strategies might be listening to music, playing with a pet, drawing, or taking a walk.
Make a special effort to always first acknowledge other people, whenever you encounter them, by positive body language (friendly face, smile, eye contact), and by greeting them, before you transact business/have conversation/answer or ask a question.
Practice Positivity (see positivity blog) at home with parents and family members.
Have a partnership with a parent or other loved one who can help you, and allow them to help you to: recognize when you are moving from a 2 to a 3 in intensity, remind you to do things that are not obvious to you, give you constructive criticism on how you look or sound--whether or not it is positive, whether or not you are interested or care at that moment.
Work extra hard at tolerating and allowing discomfort (instead of avoiding it), so that you can grow!