Autism Is Not A One Size Fit All Label
The Autism Spectrum is not a one size fits all label, there’s so much diversity including race, gender, gender identity, culture, age, and much more. I find it frustrating when somebody says there’s a list of common traits, including such things as strength or weakness.
I have personally found the way people experience and express their Autism is unique to each individual person. Yes, we share some things in common but could that be because we’re human? I would suggest that the best way to learn someone‘s strengths is to spend time with the person or ask them what they think are their strengths. Again, the same way you learn about anybody whether they’re on the Autism Spectrum or not.
Having a similar diagnosis is no guarantee that people will be similar or even like each other. I find it frustrating when people assume that I have a lot in common with another person just because we share a common label. It’s like assuming all tall people play basketball. I try to be understanding and kind to all people regardless if they have a diagnosis that’s similar to mine. Whether I like the person or not has more to do with their personality and our interactions than a shared diagnosis.
Having Autism makes me feel awkward about spending time with other people especially people who have their own special needs. The best example I can give about interacting with other people is like dancing, in that you need to agree to the same style and speed of the dance. It doesn’t work if someone’s doing a completely different dance or the speed is too dissimilar. I find it’s much harder to interact with someone if you have very little in common.
I find it much easier and more comfortable to spend time with people who are more socially adept than I am. Someone who’s more socially adapt can often modify their conversation to include me and they’re good at making me feel more comfortable. There is less of a tendency to have awkward conversations or uncomfortable silence in this situation. I know I’m much likely to repeat the experience if I am comfortable and less likely if I feel it didn’t work out well.
What makes me feel comfortable: understanding the expectations and rules for social interaction. Having an exit strategy and the ability to leave when I feel uncomfortable. Having a friend or somebody who can help me if I need it. Being familiar with the physical location and knowing how to get there. Having an approximate idea of how I’m going to be and travel time home. I think this is pretty common for everyone but I think it’s especially important to talk about it ahead of time to somebody who has Autism about expectations.
These are my experiences and helpful tips for myself. As I said in the beginning, Autism is not a one–size-fits-all. So trying different techniques and talking or communicating about what works and what doesn’t work is important. I usually find it takes a couple of times to get used to a new pattern or to find that maybe it doesn’t work. Ultimately, patience and kindness and trying your best are all we can ask of each other. I hope you find some of the things that I shared useful and that you can apply them yourself.