Social struggles are a part of what many people with autism tend to face. While those touched by autism may find making friends to be difficult, the notion that it is impossible for autistic individuals to make friends is exactly the assumption Bryan Chandler is setting out to dispel. Bryan has Asperger’s (high-functioning autism) and – as he shared on The Mighty – feels that “we may have difficulty making friends, but we’re certainly able to make friends. It needs to be the right kind of person who’s willing to understand and accept the individual for who he or she is.” He goes on to say that the “general perception of autism makes me want to fall into my shell and recluse myself from the world. So my advice would be to stop talking and start listening to those on the spectrum.”
To further his important point, he went out and asked his Asperger Syndrome Awareness Facebook community: Do any other ‘Aspies’ struggle making and maintaining friendships?
The numerous heartfelt responses were varied – with some invaluable insights. Here are just some of them:
“I have very few close friends, and many of them also have Asperger’s or another form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We get along because of mutual understanding of each other’s strengths and limitations.” – Rhiannon Hartwell
“I can make friends. It’s maintaining them [that’s] hard.” – Evenstar Hebert
“My desire and need for isolation is so great and I almost never feel lonely…nurturing my budding friendship with the time and attention needed is very difficult for me.” – Dymphna Dionne Janney
“I just enjoy being with those few close friends who I have a great bond with. My acquaintances just don’t know how to relate to me completely.” – Chris Buley
You can read Bryan’s full post here.
Lynsey, Community Manager
Huffington Post just unveiled a short list of people in the public eye who have spoken out about their Asperger’s and autism diagnosis – helping to shed a positive light on it. Some of those on the list are not surprising – like Temple Grandin (who has professor, advocate and author as three of her many titles) – but most, I think you’llfind, are people you may not have known about. Although you may have recently heard that Daryl Hannah (actress from the movie Splash!) talked about her Asperger’s diagnosis – and singer Susan Boyle was also diagnosed with Asperger’s–you may be surprised to know that Dan Aykroyd– yes, that Dan Aykroyd from SNL, Ghostbusters, The Blues Brothers, and about a million other movies) – has been diagnosed with both Tourette syndrome and Asperger’s. In fact, his Asperger’s actually inspired the movie Ghostbusters – he said that one of his symptoms was an obsession with ghosts and law enforcement and that he “became obsessed by Hans Holzer, the greatest ghost hunter ever. That’s when the ideal of my film Ghostbusters was born.
Some others include Alexis Wineman – who served as Miss. Montana, the first Miss. America contestant with autism; James Durbin, a past American Idol contestant who found music to be a therapy; and, Heather Kuzmich, a former contestant on America’s Top Model. (Check out the full list and article here.)
Interesting list, and noted that the majority of those listed have an Asperger’s diagnosis. Granted that these members of the autism community are on the more high-functioning side, and recognizing that the spectrum is broad; however, I’m glad that all of these people have come forward to talk about their diagnosis because this can only continue to help increase awareness, and maybe even more acceptance of it as well. Whether it’s talking about the obstacles they’ve had to overcome (and/or continue to deal with), the therapies they’ve found, or even serving as a role model, utilizing their platform to share their experiences is, I’d agree, inspiring.
Lynsey, Community Manager
There is a decision many parents tend to struggle with after learning their child is autistic – -which is, when and how do I tell my child they’re autistic? Writer Brenda Rothman touched on this very topic (here via Huff Post). She talks about the various “tactics” that people have recommended (ie…think it’s time to have “The Talk”). After thinking it through, she came to realize it wasn’t about sitting down and having this serious, big talk with her son about his autism – which could make it a negative thing, like something was wrong. Instead, she felt it could be done in trickles, which was more of a natural sharing of information – almost the opposite of “The Big Talk” tactic – making it no big deal. I like this way of thinking – because autism is part of who your child is, it should be a natural sharing of information, with an emphasis on what makes them special.
There are some books out there that are designed for autistic children to help them understand what their autism means, which can also be a good tool in talking with your child. A few include:
What It Is To Be Me!
Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes
Asperger’s: What Does It Mean to Me?
But there are many different thoughts and ideas on this one, so we’d like to hear from you (as I’m sure other parents seeking this kind of information do too). How have you told (or how are you planning to tell) your child about their autism?
First to share her insights is our own Jen Westphal, who said:
A few of the most important aspects of The Son-Rise Program is the three E’s – eye contact, energy and enthusiasm – and their teachings of acceptance. Once we realized what a gift Kyle’s autism was (because we did NOT believe this before Son-Rise), we enthusiastically set out to help Kyle appreciate that his autism was an important part of him! Some days were better than others, for sure, but today, at 20 years of age, Kyle understands himself sometimes better than most “typical” people I know! Kyle’s courage to jump over one hurdle after another, fall down 7 times, get up 8, and embrace his autism makes him a hero in the eyes of so many who know him.
Lynsey, Community Manager