By Michael McManmon, EdD
The optimist says the glass is half full, the pessimist says the glass is half-empty, and the person with Asperger’s says the glass is made of silicon melted and formed into a shape to hold liquids for humans to drink.
The analytical brain of someone with Asperger’s often has a very black-and-white way of seeing things. They tend to see only what is in front of them and take things literally. They lack the experience of living through the “ups and downs” that their neurotypical peers have had.
Many young people with Asperger’s are overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings that they are not able to express. The inability to express feelings can lead to isolation, depression and anger. Because of this isolation, young adults on the spectrum can be judgmental, analytical, disapproving and rigid in their thinking. This lack of tolerance toward others can be exacerbated by their own depression or lack of self-esteem and can lead to negative behaviors.
Creating emotional outlets through open dialogue, honesty, and learning from experiences (both positive and negative), will help a young adult with Asperger’s find his/her identity. Laying this groundwork is vital preparation for teenagers as they prepare to leave home for college, find a job, or learn to live independently.
Learning self-acceptance and tolerance releases individuals with Asperger’s from a lifetime of rigidity and pain. Learning to be open to others with what may seem like insurmountable differences sets the stage for self-acceptance and harmonious relationships with others.
When I was in my teens I was frustrated in my dealings with others; I could not agree with my peers or accept their points of view. I felt isolated and clung stubbornly to my beliefs. I would outwardly respect others in public, but secretly not accept them as having a “valid existence” in private.
Consequently, as an adult with Asperger’s syndrome, I had to learn to suspend judgment of others. I learned the hard way that I do not have to agree with everyone and they do not have to agree with me. I can still be friendly with people of all different religions and political, racial, and national origins, and still be me.
Young adults on the spectrum need to be taught how to build partnerships, how to manage their emotions and ask for help. Competency with these skills leads to self-acceptance and can help these bright young people achieve success with their goals and dreams.
Michael McManmon, Ed.D., holds a Doctorate in Special Education from the University of Nevada/ Las Vegas, a Masters in Counseling from Shippensburg University and a Masters in Human Development from the University of Kansas. He is the founder of the College Internship Program and has supported students with learning differences and Asperger’s syndrome for 40 years.
His book Made for Good Purpose: What Every Parent Needs to Know to Help Their Adolescent with Asperger’s, High Functioning Autism or Learning Difference Become an Independent Adult was released by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in 2012.
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