Being an adult with autism is a challenging issue in today's society. This is because support systems have an annoying tendency to drop off once you are 21 or 22 years of age (varies by location). At least while developing as a teen, there were counselors and hopefully support systems. Making adult decisions isn't easy.
I was diagnosed at age 35-36 when my son was diagnosed around age 3. His diagnosis brought about memories from my childhood. So what I tell you today comes from my baptism by fire. Since no one knew I needed help, I floundered and lived at random. Now that I have a few years under my belt I believe I can offer some advice on how to live with autism as a grown up. Keep in mind, this is for high functioning persons who are striking out on their own.
1: Never forget you have autism. Not like it will ever let you forget it, but you'd be amazed at how you can forget this when misunderstandings happen. You live with a form of social blindness and will miss various adult social cues. This can cause you to butt heads with people. It's not your fault and not theirs, but remembering that your condition may have tricked you can lead you to a resolution faster than not.
2: Don't be so hard on yourself. You can't help the situation. You have to learn how to live with the fact that these things happen. They aren't the end of the world. The more you accept yourself, the more other people will accept you. So give yourself a break when a misunderstanding happens. They are really a part of life and everyone else has them too.
3: Take things slow. Don't let anyone rush you when you are trying to figure out what is going on. If a misunderstanding happens, that's the best time to take a deep breath and rethink the situation. If someone gets irate with you, tell them calmly that you are trying to understand the situation. Don't rush in earning friends either. Take everything slow. Yes, the autistic mind wants to live at 1000 miles an hour. You will have to practice at slowing down.
4: Know your limits. You've always had them. If you are still at risk of meltdowns, you need to have your living space set up with a safe place to retreat to. You must do everything you can not to have meltdowns in public. I know how hard that sounds. Sometimes, you just need to play an escape route if things get too intense for you. Meltdowns in public wind up involving police who are often less than understanding. So you must have plans of action for your own conditions. That being said;
5: Don't seal yourself away. Becoming a hermit is tempting, but you starve yourself socially. That's a good way to drop into depression and make yourself worse. You must practice dealing with the world to get better at it. Get out there and see the world. Find social places that you can deal with.
6: Don't expect acceptance from everyone. There are a lot of jerks out there and you must dismiss them from your life. This goes for jobs and dating too. If someone can't be decent to you, you don't need them. That's no matter how lonely you feel. If an employer doesn't want to hire you, let it go and go somewhere else. If some group of people can't accept you, go somewhere else.
7: Believe in yourself! You are a worthwhile person. Find those good qualities in yourself and decide that you don't absolutely need anyone but you. The rest will fall into place.
8: You are not autism. Finally, it comes to this. You have autism. It is an aspect of who you are, but not the sum of who you are. With practice, yes practice, you will triumph over life's challenges and you can live a decent life. Not because of autism, but because of all of who you are.
Take it one day at at time. Find a support group or even form one to share life's challenges. In truth, a list like this could go on forever. There is so much to learn and experience in life and so many things that can happen. You just have to take them one at a time. Remind yourself of that. One at a time.
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