My Life As a Young Adult on the Autism Spectrum
Brennan is a twenty-four year old college student with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He was diagnosed as a young child and has worked hard for years to become knowledgeable about his Autism and what it means to him. Now, as an adult, he is passionate about speaking out and helping others understand what it is like to be a young adult with Autism living in a neurotypical world.
He shared his perspective of what its like to be a working adult with autism in this great piece:
Life as a young adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has had various ups and downs. As a young adult with ASD, I view certain things differently than others. These things impact my life in a variety of ways, including at home, work, and school.
For example, while most employees at work are a little more lenient towards enforcing regulations at the fitness center I work at, I take a more black and white approach to this. I have been known to do either too much or not enough enforcement of regulations. When I try to be easier on rule enforcement, I let too many things slide which could be detrimental to my job. When I try to be too strict, I can come across as aggressive.
Another problem I encounter with autism is that I often perceive that people take advantage of my disability to persuade me into doing something I may not be comfortable doing. This can be done when people want me to attend an outing, go to a certain restaurant, or change my schedule. I do, however, understand that is not at all true, but I still feel it is. One side of life this has a significant effect on is when I try to compromise. This is something that has been an uphill battle for me because most of my attempts to compromise with people do not meet the satisfaction of those who I intend to compromise with. This difficulty in communication will often lead to me giving in to make the other person happy since I do not know how to better communicate what is in my head.
Another issue is my ability to remember certain things related to change. For instance, if there is a change in routine added to my schedule, it is difficult for me to remember these things without a visual reminder. When these types of changes occur, I am convinced I can remember it without this memory cue. Most of the time, however, that does not remain so, as I often am running late or forget about it entirely. To best ensure this is not forgotten, I post a visual reminder in my planner or in the calendar/reminder app on my phone. It does not matter how old I am, I still use the visual reminders like I used when I was younger, but they look different now.
An area that is considered by myself to be both an area of strength and weakness is perspective taking. A strength of mine in this particular area is being able to tell when it is or is not a good time or place to bring something up. For instance, I know not to bring up anything related to politics in a public environment. Another strength is being able to tell when someone is in the mood for having a conversation with. For example, if someone is visibly stressed out, I know that talking to that person would have to wait. I have learned this through the professionals that have worked with me to teach me the hidden rules of social situations.
A weakness for me, on the other hand, is making sure my body language matches the situation. It takes a little extra effort to ensure my message is successfully relayed to those it is intended to reach. For example, if someone’s talking to me and I am staring off into space, it may take some time for me to catch myself losing focus. However, me seeing this very same thing in other people is not a problem. I have also learned this skill through instruction by professionals helping me grow in my social development.
There are basic skills that most people my age can do independently that I cannot do. One of these basic skills is cooking. My culinary skills are not as up to par as they should be compared to most others. What makes this difficult is the need for executive functioning skills that my autism causes me to lack. Although it is difficult, I still make sure to overcome this with practice and patience. I know nothing is impossible.
Autism gives me many weaknesses but it also gives me just as many strengths. The strengths I have can be maintained while the weaknesses can turn into strengths with practice and patience. Autism, to me, means that while I may be different than most others, I can still have just as much of a positive effect on others. I look forward to seeing what is still to come and to perhaps help others on the autism spectrum get to where I am at.