I was already of the opinion that Autism Speaks is a pretty awful group. Their message is so dire, bleak, that it seemed pretty clear to me: they do more harm than good.
Two questions this time around. One from a parent…and one from a lady diagnosed with Aspergers who wants to know how anyone could feel good about life on the spectrum.
Thoughtful questions. My non-expert, answery type things: in effect.
Re-posting from last year:
Growing up as a socially awkward spectrum kid, I always felt a kind of kinship with Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. But there’s a problem. His story ends in a way that strikes me as being counter-productive. I think it sends a pretty confusing message to kids.
Getting lost in Seville is like getting lost in a dream. Especially at night.
Drifting by people and stone, steeped in the verbal footfall of echoing voices. Restaurants folded into impossibly small spaces, yet expelling, into the passageways, a rich bundle of sensory clatter: meal-scents, more voices and the ceaseless clinking of glass.
An Odyssey of Social Confusion, Sensory Issues and Paychecks
I lived at home during my college years. I was beginning to struggle with depression…it wasn’t a full thing yet, but I was too spacey and low-energy to both take classes and hold down a job. But by my junior year, it was becoming a challenge to pay for gas, meals, stuff like that, so there was no avoiding it. I had to find work.
So, the employment thing: it started in 1995. I was 20 years old.
These are the jobs I’ve had.
The question I receive the most: “A family member who is on the autism spectrum is also experiencing severe depression. What can I do to help them?”
I offered some initial thoughts in a recent post, but this time around I wanted to focus on a very specific facet of this issue.
One of the recurring themes in these questions is not just depression; it’s that the person is having a hard time accepting the diagnosis. The individual is described as hating their spectrum traits to such an extent that they refuse to accept the diagnosis or even discuss it. Those writing in about this frequently report that they have tried to offer positive, practical descriptions of the spectrum, yet find that this approach is only making things worse.
The holidays can be fun for a lot of different reasons. But it’s an aggressively social time of year- celebrations, gatherings, parties, events, reunions- as mentally exhausting for some as it is enjoyable for others.
Personally, I can handle an obligatory social event…I can stand in a corner and wait it out with the best of them. I don’t want to brag or anything, but wallflowering? It’s an art; I’ve mastered it.
(This is part 6 in an ongoing series devoted to the topic of autism and depression; use the “depression” tab at the top of the site to find previous posts.)
As a kid on the autism spectrum, I received a lot of pressure to blend in and hide differences. As an adult on the autism spectrum, I now know what the consequences are for that kind of pressure.
When you are young and traits that are part of who you are receive negative reactions from people- especially from parents and teachers- it can very quickly erode your sense of confidence and well-being. This, in turn, creates a perfect storm for self-loathing and depression.
When I was 32 years old, I found myself facing a dilemma.
After socially isolating for a about a decade, I began therapy and was diagnosed with both depression and autism spectrum disorder.
The psychologist said that, in addition to managing the depression, we needed to spend a fair amount of time just talking…simply sitting around, conversing…so that we could begin to map out how my mind was processing social data. Once we had a better understand of that, we could then make a game plan.
I went to a psychologist one time and said, “I don’t have body language.” We spent about four years hashing that one out.
One time she asked if we could talk about my gait. She said, “When you walk, your arms never move.” And they don’t, they just hang there like pointless, arm-shaped curtains. Sometimes when I’m walking, I mentally kick at them, will them to seem lifelike. They don’t care. It’s like someone took the batteries out.