Adult Autism (ASD) – Living in a Vacuum

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has, in recent decades, received much attention and press.  It appears that the rate of ASD is increasing.  No one is certain if this increase is real or simply because educators, parent, physicians, etc. are looking for it more closely than before.  Perhaps it is both.  There are many clinics, schools, and psychologists who specialize in treating children with diagnosed ASD.  But ASD is not curable.  People can teach children with ASD how to better cope with this disorder and to improve social and communication skills.  But people with ASD have it for life and those with high functioning ASD such as myself have to struggle to fit in with society throughout adulthood.

Apparently once a child becomes an adult they drop off a cliff in terms of help or support groups available to them, and all those children with ASD do grow up into adults.  For my part ASD, which was simply called autism, was little known when I was a kid in the early 1950’s so I was never formally diagnosed.  In addition to autism I had a number of learning disabilities which is common for ASD people.  So I was a very shy slow and forgetful learner with dyslexic.

Since I was never diagnosed I was never treated.  But because I was highly functional I taught myself how to cope with society and figured out the best I could the coping skills I ended up using the rest of my life.  Throughout most of my adult life I never knew I had ASD.  But I was acutely aware that I was quite different from other people so far as social interactions and all the quirks that are often associated with ASD such as sensitivity to sounds, light, taste and pain.  I also had to struggle to learn such things as matching the color schemes of clothing and other things that come so natural to other people.  Cloths to me are worn to hide my nakedness and keep me warm and protected.  I also never understood why people got so excited over sporting and other public events.  I could never get genuinely excited and cheer my children on when they played soccer.  So as an adult I had to develop coping strategies and often fake things such as excitement and interest at social events which all seemed so uncomfortable and uninteresting to me.

So fitting in to society was a huge struggle of developing coping strategies to make me appear as normal as I could.  To this day I fear being in a crowd of people at social events.  I would tend to eat to appear preoccupied with doing something other than chatting with people which is so uncomfortable to me and which I do so extremely poorly.

So we ASD people enter a vacuum of assistance ones reaching adulthood.  At least that has been my experience.  There is almost no help except for those on the low-end of the spectrum who are institutionalized like in the movie Rain Man starring Dustin Hoffman as Raymond the autistic brother of Tom Cruise.  Depending upon where we lie on the spectrum we either develop coping skills or remain under the supervision of parents until they pass away then are passed from relative to relative or are institutionalized.  The vast majority of ASD people are quite intelligent and aware of their situation but are too ultra-insecure to do anything about it.  I am one of the lucky ones who is high enough functioning that I can cope and live independently in society.

But society is not very accommodating to people with high-end ASD and due to our high functionality often assume we can do more than we are capable, especially some who should know better.  I have almost no sense about reading body language or sensing how a person I am talking with is taking my conversation.  Sometime I talk about a topic I am passionate about without letting others be part of the conversation.  I occasionally become aware of this after the fact.  Life is so awkward and there is no one to really talk to and share with or learn from as there is with Alcohol Anonymous or drug addiction support groups because we generally do not pose a threat to society.

I feel like I am living in a vacuum and am most comfortable when I am alone in my own comfort zone of isolation.  But I do sometimes want to talk to people and desperately want to  feel more like a normal human being.  As I have said in other posts about Autism it is not that we do not want to communicate with others, we simply don’t know how and feel so awkwardly out of place and occasionally frustrated in the presence of others.  I do want to fit in but have no support group or specialists to help me learn those social skill.  I am now in my 70’s and still struggling with ASD.  But since I am now retired, dealing with people is more an option than a necessity.  I still need to deal with my family members which is sometimes problematic but it is manageable and I feel comfortable with them unlike with most other people.

I don’t know what happens to other high functioning ASD adults.  How do they cope with life and society?  Do they end up isolating themselves in a social vacuum?  I don’t know any other high functioning ASD adults.  I have no occasion for meeting them and I do not have a sign on my back announcing that I have ASD.  So we lost souls may have occasion to bump into one another but are not aware of each others afflictions because we are so skilled at hiding them and lack the ability to sense them in others.  I’m not even sure ASD adults can get along with one another.  But at least we can empathize on how life often sucks and seem so often unfair.

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