I often find myself writing articles aimed at promoting understanding between people with Asperger's syndrome and people without. Usually my posts explain a particular reaction or an expression and nearly always, I'm asking for partners to be more understanding of differences rather than to make changes to themselves.
Today is going to be different. Today I want to talk to you, to people with Asperger's Syndrome, about how some personal changes can make a real difference to your life.
Asperger's syndrome can present many challenges. In particular, sensitivities to noise, smell and light can make it very difficult to perform "normal everyday" tasks. Parenting and teaching styles can also impact how children interact with their peers and their environment on a permanent basis.
A child who is "mollycoddled" may grow up to be less adventurous than his peers. He may be less inclined to take risks and more inclined to follow routines. He may even begin to develop dependencies on objects, for example a "medical kit" and may become unable to leave the house without following a specific routine and taking specific objects.
In children with Asperger's syndrome, this reliance upon routine is much stronger and has a good chance of following them into adulthood.
This results in fearful and often "housebound" adults.
Obviously, adults with these issues tend to find it difficult to work and to relate to others. They may also need to take more time off than others in the same jobs and they may be unable to cope with even low amounts of stress. This in turn makes it harder for them to find a job, or to keep one. Of course, in the long run, money problems often lead to independence problems.
It's a vicious cycle.
A Little Disclaiming
I think it would be very easy for someone to read between the lines here and assume that I'm suggesting that I'm talking about causation. That parenting a certain way "causes autism". It doesn't. There was a theory for this called "refrigerator mothers". It's wrong. I'm not saying that anything causes anything.
I'm trying to suggest that we may be able to reduce the intensity of some of these issues with a little "exercise". I don't expect that this will work in all cases but surely it's worth a try.
If you're a parent and the person with increasing anxiety is a child then you're in a good position to intervene and make a lasting positive change. Some of the things that you can do to help the change are to encourage your child to use public transport to get home from school (ideally for kids aged 13 and older), join a club with similarly aged individuals, for example; scouts or join groups who share similar interests such as computing, chess, reading, drama or cinema. It doesn't matter if your child doesn't seem to learn anything from the group, it's all about developing social skills and the confidence to mingle with others. Of course, if you detect that your child is receiving negative feedback, such as bullying, from the mingling, then should not force them to continue. It has to be a positive experience.
These options are good if you're an adult too. If you're not ready for work then at least get involved in either volunteer or educational opportunities. If you're strapped for cash, remember that taking a walk around your neighbourhood costs nothing. The worst thing that you can do is to stay at home and avoid contact with others.
Confidence and social contact are like muscles. once you stop exercising them, they quickly grow weaker.