Adults with autism have a more difficult time interacting with others at work and in their personal life. To help understand what are some social challenges that autistic adults typically face and for social skills tips for the autistic adult, I have interviewed therapist Jennifer Daily, LCSW.
Tell me A little bit about yourself:
“I’m a clinical social worker with a private practice in New York City. I specialize in working with families who are affected by Autism Spectrum disorders , specifically High Functioning Autism and Aspergers. I graduated from Hunter College School of Social Work with a specialty in group social work. Prior to opening my private practice, I designed a residential treatment program for school aged children with Aspergers and high functioning autism , and the program focused on social skills, empathy, and relationship building in a clinically sound, home-like environment.”
What are social challenges that an autistic adult commonly faces?
“As humans, we are social beings. Whether in the spheres of work, family, friends, and leisure, the ability to adapt socially is a huge determinant of our successes. When the ability to understand complex social interactions quickly, and respond accordingly is hindered, it can greatly impact ones life. Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders may be challenged in social and romantic relationships. For instance, they may be passed up for promotions at work, if they are not able to effectively engage in the social aspects of career building ”
What type of impact can those social challenges have on an autistic adult?
“The impact of social challenges on an adult with an Autism Spectrum Disorder can be subtle or vast, depending on the particular adult. However, even those adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders who have learned the skills necessary for successful social interactions can be met with challenges. Feelings of alienation, difficulty in understating others, and feeling like they cannot meet the needs of their partners have been reported. Even with mastery of social skills, adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders need to continually implement those skills, which can be frustrating and tiresome.
Poor social skills , and an inability to interpret social situations, can greatly affect people in all the spheres of their lives. Adults often come to my office dealing with anger over their social difficulties, depression, and anxiety about the way their lives are working.”
What are some social skills tips for the autistic adult?
“It’s difficult to sum up tips for an autistic adult. If it were easy, Autism Spectrum Disordered adults would not be having such a difficult time. I think it does boil down to the conversation you have with the people in your life. For instance, be direct with your loved ones about what works for you, and what doesn’t. If they use metaphors, explain that you take things very literally, and that you might not understand what they mean if they aren’t specific. The next thing I would suggest doing is asking for clarification. If you’re not sure if someone was being literal, or if you are having difficulty interpreting tone of voice (anger, sternness, and teaching can all sound the same), ask the other person what he or she meant. Much of life is about discerning What’s happening, what does the situation require, and how can I best respond. If, as an Autism Spectrum Disordered adult can figure what is missing from that formula, then they can begin by asking for clarification in that area.”
What type of professional help is available for an autistic adult that is having social challenges?
“Many parents of autistic children are worried about when their children become adults due to the ‘drop-off’ that occurs when their child turns 21. Special schools and intensive interventions all end for Autism Spectrum Disordered people once they hit age 21. From then on out, most adults and families are left on their own to find the services they require. There are few professionals that work with autistic adults, as most funding is targeted for early intervention. However, there are some therapists and life coaches out there that can help. An Autism Spectrum Disordered adult should look for someone with a strong background in multiple disciplines, for example a therapist that would be qualified to work with Autism Spectrum Disordered adults if they have a background in applied behavioral analysis , cognitive behavioral therapy , as well as couples counseling, and social skills. Often times Autism Spectrum Disordered adults do not wish to seek ‘treatment’ per se, and there are some life coaches out there that know about Autism Spectrum Disorder , and can make a difference for those adults.
Some therapists offer social skills groups for Autism Spectrum Disordered adults, and this can be an excellent way to meet others struggling with similar issues, in a supportive, skills based atmosphere.
The bottom line is, finding someone who is specifically trained to work with Autism Spectrum Disorders can be a difficult process. I would recommend starting with a Google search like “Aspergers Therapist NYC”. Even if you are not in a major metropolitan area, those therapists often have contacts in more remote areas, and are happy to refer those seeking help to where they can best get their needs met.”
Thank you Jennifer for doing the interview on social skills tips for the autistic adult. For more information on Jennifer Daily or her work you can check out her website on www.JenniferDailyCounseling.com.
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