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When and how to disclose in college.

Should I tell people? What if they begin to treat me differently/like I’m stupid? What if I begin to attract predators? What if they react badly? What if they pigeonhole me? Do I really want to be known as the autistic girl on campus? What if they say the dreaded words: “But you don’t look autistic!” “But you don’t look disabled!” These words are incredibly painful and totally invalidate our experience.

Unfortunately, Autism Spectrum Disorders and social disabilities are still misunderstood, stigmatized, and kind of taboo in this society, and disclosing is a tough personal decision. I know that I, like many others in our community, was raised to believe that my diagnosis was a facet of myself to hide. My diagnosis was to be a personal condition that nobody is to ever know about. Before college I asked my mom if I should have my diagnosis on file. She simply replied with “Oh no honey, we don’t want you going in with that.”

Growing up, assimilation was the ultimate goal. The message was that I’d have an easier time in life attempting to assimilate into nuerotypical society.

Coming out as gay isn’t a bad analogy to coming out as on the spectrum. Personally, I still haven’t disclosed to the vast majority of people in my life (and I don’t really plan on it). I’m not yet ready to deal with the aforementioned adverse reactions. However, looking back at my university experiences there may have been some useful times to disclose. Instead of full on disclosure I personally prefer a middle ground tactic called admitting vulnerabilities. Here is an instance in college when I believe it would have been beneficial to admit vulnerabilities.

One day first semester freshman year, I was called in to speak my freshman year guidance counselor. She mentioned that she was concerned about why I was having some significant social troubles in college. She mentioned a freshman year teacher who was perplexed by my atypical facial expressions and the trouble I seemed to have getting along with my peers. Earlier, the teacher had called me aside to ask me about why I seemed “checked out” in class. He then reached out to my guidance counselor. I simply replied to them both “I don’t know, I’m not really sure what to do about this.” and refused to elaborate.

At this point in my life (age 18), I was completely obsessed with masking, blending in, and the mere thought of revealing any type of vulnerability to anyone was entirely unthinkable. I was completely in the closet about my handicaps and too proud to ask for any help. Looking back I wish I had at least disclosed to the guidance counselor and the freshman year teacher. You can not hide a full on disability, it will come out in other ways. If you are uncomfortable with revealing your diagnosis, there are ways to disclose without using the key words “disability, autism, Aspergers, NVLD etc.” You can disclose by revealing what the specific challenge is. I probably would have said something like this:

“I have a challenge that is characterized by x,y,and z. A neutral facial expression is an external indication of this, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not paying attention. I just have a different way of processing information. Here are the specific accommodations I need to succeed academically and socially.”

or

“I have a tough time reading social cues and can be a bit socially awkward sometimes, which is probably what my peers and teachers are picking up on. However, this has no bearing on my academics, I can still succeed academically despite being a bit socially awkward. I will let you know if I need additional academic support.”

Upon reflection, it is completely unfathomable that I went four years hiding my diagnosis from my teachers and counselors and not requesting any type of help. When you have a significant additional challenge, that means that you need significant additional support- it will make your college journey much smoother. I wish I had broke down to all of my guidance counselors and teachers all my specific challenges and strengths. If you have your diagnosis on your school’s file, I would recommend providing all of your guidance counselor with your diagnosis report. I know it can be difficult, but I would recommend being open about your distinct challenges and weaknesses with your guidance counselor and teachers in the beginning. It will help to avoid confusion, misunderstandings and negative feedback later down the line.

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How to cultivate a healthy self-esteem in the face of adversity.

“A.G. As a disabled black woman you are just going to piss people off just by existing.”

These words were told to me by a therapist a couple of years ago. At first I couldn’t wrap my head around these words. How could my mere existence piss someone off? Then it dawned on me I’m a triple minority- a woman, black, and with an invisible disability. At the lowest estimate I’m literally less than .01 percent of the population! For all intensive purposes- I only exist in most people’s imaginations. Even in the rare media representations of young adults with autism spectrum disorders, its always a lower functioning young white male- its never a high functioning black woman (i.e. see Rainman, The Good Doctor and Atypical for examples). The face of autism spectrum disorders is a stereotypically awkward white male.

Most people have never met/seen/ or heard of a person with my profile in their entire lives- and its entirely jarring for them. Because I do not fit any predesignated categories, most people’s gut reaction to me is to “fight” or “flight”. As a society we have a long way to go for accepting differences and people who don’t fit the mold. People who don’t fit the mold are still penalized and stigmatized.

For my entire life I was told that there was something fundamentally “wrong” with how I am made and that I should change. How do you learn to love yourself when the world is telling you that there is something wrong with the way you were born? Similar to almost everyone else on the spectrum, my struggle to self-acceptance was arduous, frustrating, and tedious.

During my teenage years, I felt like a martian on the fringes of planet weird. I’d fantasize everyday about how awesome my life would be if I was simply born nuerotypical. I felt slighted. I spent literally every minute of the day trying to hide and mask who I am. My biggest fear was that someone would “discover” that I have an invisible disability. I was in an extremely dark place and I was ashamed and embarrassed to be disabled.

I see now that this is a ridiculous notion to internalize! When you have a disability it becomes difficult to separate who you are from your disability. My disability does NOT define who I am. I was 18 when I decided I did not want to be another statistic and I wanted to take control of my life. When I was 21 I graduated from a top college with numerous internships under my belt. At 23 I began my own successful business. I’m thinking about getting my MBA and beginning another business. Now at 26, I am just now slowly beginning my path to self-acceptance. It took a near death experience last year for me to get to the point on making peace with myself.

We don’t fit the norm. We are weird as hell, we are special, we are unique. But we are not broken. I’m too blunt sometimes, I’m “rude”, I’m honest to a fault. But I’m also passionate about social justice issues, extremely introspective, funny, big-hearted, extremely open minded, and the most tolerant person you’ll ever meet. I speak my mind and I can debate circles around you. The friends I have in my life now have stayed by my side for years and years and adore me just the way I am. The fact that I was chosen to be so out of the norm is actually a privilege, I have my own category and have overcome distinct hurdles that almost nobody ever else will. Who really wants to be like everyone else?

There IS beauty in differences. I have a fresh perspective on life and can see and evaluate things in a different lense. Everybody (nuerotypical or not) has distinct challenges and hurdles, and life is what you make it. If I did not have this challenge, I would certainly have a different one. This is MY challenge.

A healthy self- esteem is vital to have the resiliency to get through life and your university experiences. I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not- cliche I know, but true! Please, please, don’t worry what people think- find people who understand your quirks and will leverage your strengths (these people do exist I promise you!) and ignore the rest. Was the therapist right- will I piss some people off? Hell to the yes. Whose problem is that? Theirs of course! It is NOT my job to make other people feel comfortable.

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Top 12 tips for Aspergers/ NVLD/ HFA students to navigate college

  1. Find a “mentor” who can translate social situations for you if you can. I had two: one was my junior year roommate who was an older international graduate student. The other was a kind classmate. This relationship was the highlight of my college experience. I’d recommend finding a compassionate, trustworthy and open-minded nuerotypical who can help you to learn the rules. Some ideal places to meet these type of people: A religious group, an LGBT group, animal rights group, or a disability center. However, you need to be very cautious about who you choose- I’ve always had success befriending other outcasts/misfits/ “weirdos”. I’ll get more into this in another blog post. 
  2. Limit your social interactions and be comfortable with solitude. We all know the harsh reality that because our deficits we will have trouble fitting in/ finding a peer group.  I wouldn’t recommend entering college with too high of expectations in the social realm- you need to know your limitations before going in. For example, in freshman year I joined a cafe that was a fast-paced, busy, socially charged environment and it was a disaster. You need to know your limitations so that you can avoid catastrophic situations. I know it can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider deactivating your facebook, so you are not constantly comparing yourself to other people. Focus on finding activities where you can be comfortable and content being alone- whether that’s reading, doing homework, or watching Netflix. For me, it was going on long bike rides. Solitude can actually be a strength rather than a weakness. 
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Because of our social challenges, you WILL encounter hurdles that other students do not. This includes possible social ostracism. This is an unfortunately reality. I’d recommend developing tools to cope with these challenges before going to college. Don’t take these incidents to heart and learn to let them roll off.  Although these incidents are painful, in the grand scheme they ARE minor- don’t sweat the small stuff! 
  4. Evaluate your coursework to ensure that it leverages your strengths and weaknesses. For example, if your strengths are in math focus your courseload in that direction. For example, by senior year I was able to attain a 3.96 GPA by discovering my strengths in the social sciences. 
  5. I’d definitely recommend requesting a dorm room without a roommate if possible. Roommates require a large degree of social skills and can later lead to conflict. 
  6. Have a clear career path for after graduation (I’d recommend entrepeurship/ I’ll get into that in another blog post) and steer your coursework/ internships in this direction. 
  7. Although it’s tempting, DO NOT get involved with drugs, hookup culture, or alcohol in order to fit in. I made this mistake freshman year. It will end badly and put you in dangerous situations. It’s really not a good look!
  8. Focus on your leveraging your strengths and not your weaknesses. For example, I love to cook and was able to become president of the cooking club by senior year. 
  9. Consider hanging out/ connecting with international students. International students are usually looking for guidance/ are open to friendship and usually don’t have the same cultural norms of other people. I was able to make lifelong international friends in college.
  10. Establish a routine. I was happiest senior year when I had a strict routine. For example: Breakfast, classes, pilates, gym, homework, Netflix to relax. Routine and structure will relieve anxiety and help you to smoothly get through the day without mishaps.
  11. Do not be afraid to seek support from a disability center. While on campus, I wish I had reached out to the disability center for extra support. Think about investing in regular therapy if your college offers free mental health services. You need to have a way to cope with challenges that arise and regular therapy is an excellent way.
  12. Develop a healthy self-esteem and a thick skin. I know it can seem hard- or even impossible at times- but DO NOT give up! Expect to encounter distinct challenges, but this is NOT a hinderance, in fact every challenge can be treated as a learning experience. It’s okay to get frustrated, but let out these frustrations in healthy ways. Breathe. Keep your eye on the prize- first and foremost your here to get a degree! You CAN do it! I promise you. 

Entrepreneurship is the answer.

This post is a branch of my previous post “Evaluating your strengths and weaknesses.” Your a senior and you ask yourself: So, what am I going to do after graduation? We all know the sobering statistic that 90% of us suffer from unemployment. Even simple entry level jobs (think fast food) are extraordinarily difficult for us. Before I began my company, I was another statistic. However, by utilizing the deep dive method, I was able to begin a successful granola company shortly after graduation. I have plans to begin another business in the next couple of years. Let’s use the deep dive method to look at our strengths as it relates to my granola company.

  • Single obsessive focus on one topic.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Able to concentrate for long periods of time when motivated.
  • A drive for perfection and order.
  • Above average intelligence.
  • Being able to see concepts from a fresh perspective.

I was able to apply all of the aforementioned strengths directly to my business. In the beginning, I became fixated on learning everything about granola. Granola became my special interest. I was able to dissect my product, packaging, and ingredients as it related to my competitors. I was able to perfect my product and craft. I was able to offer a unique twist on granola that my competitors did not offer. I plan on expanding my company in the upcoming years.

In my opinion, our strengths are a recipe for success when it comes to entrepreneurship. If you have the capital, I would say to seriously consider going for it. If your interested there is a book I like called: “An Asperger’s Guide to Entrepreneurship: Setting Up Your Own Business for Leaders With Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Employment Skills Guides)”, that you can find on Amazon.

Using the Deep Dive Method to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.

A common theme of my blog is to know your limitations. Before entering any type of environment or activity its imperative to know and understand what your exact strengths and weaknesses are. This will reduce your risk of failure (See me example: “Don’t get in over your head” for an example). One of the biggest reasons we are discouraged from attending University is because we are prone to potentially traumatic experiences.

I believe that because of our challenges, it is easy to forget all of our tremendous strengths. You want to place yourself in healthy environments where you will swim not sink. By utilizing my deep dive method, I was able to begin a successful company at 23 (while failing miserably at a smoothie shop with teenagers only months before). Here are two graphs that I’ve compiled. The two graphs demonstrate some of our strengths and weaknesses, with a column to check if the activity or environment displays these attributes. Personally, I do not enter any activity that will utilize 20% or more of my weaknesses. If you are unsure you can bring your checklist to a mentor or guidance counselor.

Asperger’s Syndrome/ NVLD (I did a combination and you can add your own to the columns).

The Deep Dive Method

Activity:Overall Percentage:
My StrengthsMy Weaknesses
Attention to detail Social Skills
LogicMulti-tasking
Rote MemoryTeam Work
Strong focus on
one topic
Uncoordinated Motor Skills
Recognizing PatternsRigidity/ Inflexibility/ changes in routine
Following Rulesnon verbal communications (tone of voice, body language, facial expressions)
Writing/ Verbal SkillsSensory Overload
Social Justice ActivitiesWeak Visual Spacial (i.e. Reading A Map)

Organization

How I built up my resume in college.

This post is just to lay out how I built up my resume in college. By the end of college, I had nearly 10 internships under my belt ranging from (marketing, outreach, research, social media) and a ton of campus involvement. Here’s how I did it.

  • I reached out to the alumni network within my college network. I requested the alumni portal white pages from career services. Browsing through the alumni directory is a wonderful way to forge connections. After browsing the directory, I crafted personalized emails to every alumni in a management position in my field (Environmental Science and Organizational Studies). By utilizing this tactic, I was able to secure a wonderful oceanography research project where I worked closely with an alumni in my field.
  • I had many remote internships that were research and writing oriented. The majority of my internships were research and writing based. For example, I worked on a 50 page research proposal for an environmental non-profit. I could do this project entirely alone, with little to no social interaction. I would recommend looking up remote internship opportunities.
  • I doubled up on internships during the summer. For example, I did a marketing proposal for a corporation 2 days of the week, and a research project the other 3 days of the week. I also did internships on campus junior and senior year.
  • If your having trouble getting hired for an internship you can try to create your own. For example, I reached out to the Community Engagement Center on campus and I asked if I could do a marketing project for them. I presented them with an outline about what this internship project would look like and all the ideas I had for the center. They allowed me to structure my own internship which revolved around marketing several events around campus.
  • I chose a common theme and stuck to it. Upon graduation, I thought I was going to be searching for writing jobs in environmental research. Therefore, I centered the majority of my student activities around this common theme. I signed up for an author for the student newspaper, for this exact reason.
  • If you can afford it I would recommend doing unpaid internships. Most of my internships were unpaid. It’s all about gaining experience and cultivating references. You’ll have a leg up on the competition after graduation.

Don’t be desperate. Seriously.

First of all, I would never recommend anyone on the spectrum to have a roommate in the first place. Sharing one room with a stranger requires a significant amount of social skills and theory of mind that we simply do not have. Because of our deficiencies in social skills, you need to ask your college for special accommodations for your disability.

My biggest regret in college is how I treated my freshman year roommate. The combination of serious immaturity (age 17), being on a total power trip, a lack of social perception, and pure desperation to belong led to me doing some truly callous actions. I simply did not care who I stepped over or whom I hurt in the process. I guess the point of this post is that I’d like to take the time to apologize if she’s reading this. I’m deeply sorry for how I treated you freshman year, there were no excuses for that toxic behavior.

The moral of the story is to never be desperate for friends- it will only make things worse for yourself and the people around you. I know even reading our statistics can be scary (a very low life expectancy and total social isolation), but you can never compromise your standards or morals just to fit in.

As an extreme example, desperation for a peer group led to a terrifying near death experience last year. This experience led me to reevaluate how I’m living my life and all of my priorities (probably what inspired me to begin this blog in the first place). Moral of the story: do not be desperate to fit in, it’s not a good look and has nasty consequences.

Minefield (Just poems)

Poetry is a wonderful avenue to release stress and express your emotions. Here’s a poem I wrote tonight.

Minefield

Faces screaming, voices changing, bodies constantly moving.

Trapped in the continuum of space and time fighting a vortex of confusion.

Running, running, running but I can never keep up.

I walk deeper into the minefield.

The minefield of human interactions.

The minefield of planet earth. The minefield of my life.

Clawing my way out but there’s no escape. Sinking into the abyss of myself.

I can’t fucking breathe. I’m suffocating in darkness.

1+1=?

Faces screaming, voices changing, bodies constantly moving.

Trapped in the continuum of space and time fighting a vortex of confusion.

A rush of adrenaline. Release me. I won’t surrender.

….But now I’m free. …

How to Spot a Friend vs. Foe

If your goal is to make friends, then this post is critical. It’s all about how to identify a friend vs foe. Here are two contrary examples from college.

FRIEND

There were a few kind classmates that I met at college. Let’s use Noah as an example. Noah never put me down and frequently translated social situations for me. If a person is taking the time to translate a social situation for you in a nice way, they probably do have your best interest in mind. I believe that he suspected I was the spectrum even though I never directly mentioned it to him. For example, I was incredibly upset about my lack of friends sophomore year and he recruited a girl to do homework with me. A friend will reciprocate plans, if they do not this is an unequal power balance. A friend will be happy at your accomplishments. A friend will always, value, respect, and uplift you.

FOE

On the other hand, I was burned by several foes in college. There are too many people out there with cunning, malicious, and manipulative intentions. Most nuerotypicals have hidden motives, intentions and agendas and false fronts. Just because somebody is friendly on the surface, does NOT mean that they have your best interest at heart. You need to question the motives of every single person that you allow in your life.

  • Keep track of how they treat you vs. how they treat other people. For example, if a person is requesting money, favors, rides, and homework answers this person is using you. They are NOT your friend-they are a leech and a foe. You need to teach people how to treat you.
  • A foe will give you backhanded compliments and you will probably receive an uneasy feeling around them. If a person is subtly insulting you or making you feel badly about yourself you need to avoid this person. If somebody is treating you differently from their other friends, for example, inviting everyone to places but you.
  • A foe will exhibit closed off body language (i.e turn away from you with closed arms or a fake smile that doesn’t reach the eyes).
  • If you are a woman I’d recommend never attempting to make friends with a straight man (or else you run the risk of sexual assault and we are 5X more vulnerable).

I know it can be difficult to read these red flags, but if you see any red flags at all you need to stop affiliating with this person. If your unsure about somebody’s intentions you can ask a trusted nuerotypical (like your parents or a therapist). You need to surround yourself with people who lift you up, respect you, and value you. I know that because of our deficits in forming relationships, it may be tempting to be friends with anyone, but you can not compromise your standards. On the contrary, you need to be MORE selective or else you run the risk of being taken advantage of, harmed, and “played”. I’ve cleansed my friend list multiple times since graduation. You need to choose your friends more carefully and be very selective and cautious about who you allow into your life.

My 3 Biggest Hurdles To Graduation.

Our biggest hindrances to graduation are rarely academic. In fact, academics are usually at the bottom of the list. This post is simply to lay out the 3 biggest hurdles I faced.

  1. Extreme loneliness, social isolation, and lack of friendships sophomore year. This was one of biggest challenges by far. Watching everyone around me effortlessly socialize was incredibly painful and excruciatingly difficult. I am not going to lie you, I’m still dealing with some residual post traumatic stress from these situations. However, by junior and senior year it did get better. Looking back, I would have deactivated my facebook sophomore year. When you are on facebook you are constantly comparing yourself to others.
  2. I developed a drinking problem freshman year. In order to relieve the anxiety of college, I relied in crazy partying and binge drinking as a coping mechanism. It was a terrible look and put me in dangerous situations. I’d recommend learning to release your stress in healthy ways. For example, by senior year I had become sober and had replaced alcohol with a strict cardio exercise schedule in order to release stress. As a result, I had the highest GPA I’ve ever had (3.96).
  3. Not properly researching my study abroad program (I’ll get this more in another post). I ended up as the only black person at an extremely racist all white rambunctious socially charged boarding house in Southern Australia. This was literally the antithesis of a healthy environment. You need to properly research every activity and situation that you put yourself in.

These were my top 3 biggest hurdles. Yours may look different. The point is I wish I had known the potential challenges to expect before going in (I’ll get into my tactics more in another post). It would have helped me to establish better coping mechanisms. In order to dodge traumatic experiences you need to identify potential hurdles and cultivate healthy ways to overcome these obstacles.

The fine line between masking and adapting.

I know there is a lot of controversy in our community about if we should teach children to mask their natural traits. Should we force our children to make eye contact even though it’s painful? Should we stop stimming? Should we force ourselves to lie? Here is my take on the matter.

There is a fine line between entirely hiding who are you are and adapting to make life a little bit easier. I’d recommend finding a middle ground. Even nuerotypicals adapt their behaviors to fit their environments. For example, at a job interview you dress in your best suit and give well thought out sugarcoated answers. After leaving the job interview you change into your jeans and t-shirt and let loose at a bar with friends. Then you go to pick up your kids and modify your language and behaviors for your 5 year old. This is called adapting to the situation at hand. In life it is impossible be yourself in all instances. However, when your natural behaviors are way out of the norm this further complicates matters. I am not an advocate of full on masking, instead I would recommend slightly adapting.

An example of useful adapting:

I used to be unknowingly brutally honest to the point of wrecking havoc. I’d always have unexplainable conflicts with people and could never figure out why. One day senior year my study buddy randomly spelled out to me

Study Buddy: “A.G. you are way way too honest, it’s just really weird. Has anyone ever told you this?”

Me (looking confused): “Nope.”

Study Buddy *sighs*: “Ah of course not. That’s because most people are not honest. Everyone else is speaking in code.”

Shortly after this conversation, I began researching white lies and mild deception. The average person tells dozens of these polite lies every single day. White lies act as a social lubricant and in their world this is called being polite. You are supposed to filter your thoughts before they come out of your mouth. If you do not, or do not “sugarcoat” what you are saying, then people will label you rude. This information blew my mind! In order to get along with people you can not be brutally honest at all times. Nobody is. Brutal honesty and directness is abhorred and leads to conflict. Although, they call this “being polite”, I’ll call it as a see it- for all intensive purposes these are simply social lies. Some tactics that I like to utilize are: speaking in code/ sugarcoating, lying by omission, and white lies. Here are some real life college scenarios of where conflict could have been avoided by mildly adapting.

Tactic 1: Speaking in code/ sugarcoating.

(Scenario 1) In cooking club:

Natural Me: “Wow. That risotto looks atrocious, it has the consistency of glue. I’m going to add some more vegetable stock.” (As a result the other person suddenly gets angry and I sit there dumbfounded about what went awry).

Adapting by (speaking in code): “I make risotto a lot at home and I think this risotto is looking a bit on the thick side. Would you mind if I add a bit of vegetable stock to thin it out and keep it al dente?” (The other person is receptive to the idea and there is no conflict).

Tactic 2: Lying by omission.

(Scenario 2) When speaking with a girlfriend:

Jane: “I’m so excited (my crush) spoke to me. It was the highlight of my night!”

Natural Me: “That should never be the highlight of your night because he is ugly.” (Jane randomly becomes upset.)

Adapted me (lying by omission): “Great. I’m happy for ya!”(Jane is still excited.)

Tactic 3: White lies.

(Scenario 3) When replying to a manager about scheduling an interview for an internship:

Interviewer: Does this Monday work for a Skype interview?

Natural Me: Nope, I’ll be going to the beach with my friends in San Diego. (Interviewer views me as irresponsible and I loose the internship interview without ever knowing why).

Adapted Me (White Lies): Unfortunately, I have finals that afternoon. Can we please reschedule for Tuesday if that works on your end? (Interviewer and I find a different date for the Skype interview).

See how in the above scenarios I communicated the exact same message- but with drastically different results?

After learning and utilizing the aforementioned tactics, I miraculously began having a much much easier time getting along with people. By not adapting, I was missing out on job opportunities, friendships, and kept getting in unexplainable conflict. It was a night and day difference overnight. This does not mean I am no longer honest. It just means that I selectively choose when, how, where, and whom to indulge the truth.

An example of masking gone bad:

Like most people on the spectrum, I have a very difficult time with atypical facial expressions and with modulating my tone of voice. People were constantly telling me that I looked and sounded angry. I even have had people become immensely threatened by my atypical body language. As a result, in high school I developed an intense obsession with my expressions and tone of voice. I would spend multiple times every day in the mirror checking my facial expressions. I was spend every minute of the day actively trying to make facial expressions and body language. It became obsessive and debilitating. I became very self-conscious, because my atypical facial expressions are a visual representation of my difference. All my efforts did not even pay off. Since expressions are supposed to be subconscious and precise, I could never master the art. For example, I would force artificial smiles at strange times. Nuerotypicals make hundreds of precise micro expressions a day and this is entirely impossible to emulate. Guess what? After all this work, people still remark that I appear angry and aloof. My outer exterior simply does not match my internal mental state. However, people are typically pleasantly surprised when they actually talk to me. I can not count the amount of times I have heard “Wow! You are so different than I thought you would be.” I have learned to focus on these instances and to ignore the criticisms. Anyways, resting bitch isn’t all bad, it keeps the creeps and predators at bay.

I hope you can the difference between masking and adapting in these previous examples. Some places where adapting is mandatory: Work, the classroom, when speaking to a teacher or a manager, a job interview. Some places where adapting is unnecessary: When you are with your family, when you are with your close friends, when you are alone, and when you are with strangers whom you will never see again. You can choose when and how to adapt your behaviors. It is NOT your job to make other people feel comfortable. Evaluate the situation at hand and see if it’s absolutely necessary to adapt. Ask yourself: Is it even possible to adapt? Am I holding myself back by not adapting at this time? What will I gain/loose by adapting?

How to make friends with a social disability.

I’ve never actually been friendless in my young adult lifetime. This is highly unusual for a person with a social disability. I actually have an impressive amount close friends (probably around 10). How did I do it? Listen up!

  1. Do not try to too hard. You’ll come off as desperate and attract the wrong types of people. Nobody wants to be around somebody clingy and desperate for friends. People are drawn to confidence and independence. As you go about your life, you’ll find people attracted to you when you least expect it. Do not try to make friends. It is a natural process based on chemistry. Sure, there are certain situations where you can expedite this process, but your best bet is to let friendships form naturally.
  2. Do not ever mask your autistic traits in order to make friends. You want friends who accept you for who you are and you do not want to feel like a fraud. Don’t you want friends who you can be natural around? For example, one of my best friends was drawn to my bluntness, strong opinions, and candor. Instead of finding it rude, she found it brave that I had such confidence in voicing my opinions. She appreciates my candid honesty because she does not have to wade through implied statements, false communication and hidden meanings with me. Whenever she wants to have a philosophical debate she comes to me first because she knows I won’t back down. Likewise, another close friend of mine was actually drawn to my “resting bitch face”. She found it mysterious and intriguing, and liked how I didn’t fake smile and mask my emotions. She was attracted to the authenticity and found it unique and refreshing. Every time I have tried masking these traits I came off as awkward, phony, inauthentic, and trying too hard. As a result, I attracted the wrong type of people into my life. There’s a fine line between completely masking and making mild adaptations to get along with people a bit easier. I’ll address this in another post.
  3. Join clubs that are geared towards social justice. Some good places include: animal rights organizations, community service clubs, religious clubs, LGBT clubs, and minority clubs. These people are generally more tolerant of differences.
  4. If you are part of some type of group try approaching people of the same group. For example, if you are a muslim girl, and you see a group of muslim girls sitting together in the dining hall, you may find it easy to be accepted by them. When socializing, nuerotypicals employ a lot of subconscious group-think, and in group/out group tools. They like being around people who they feel they can identify with at some superficial level. They have a much smoother time accepting people who they feel are in their clan or within their predesignated social group. So, if you are a muslim girl you will have much better luck being accepted by the group of muslim girls- rather than let’s say- a group of catholic monks. For example, I had more success approaching a group of girls in my grade, rather than a group of random footballers. Utilizing your clothing as a visual indication of what group you would like to belong to can also help them to identify your group affiliation. It took me a long time to figure this out. For nuerotypicals, clothing is a vital non-verbal statement. For example, if you dress gothic do not be surprised if you attract other gothic people.
  5. After making small talk, don’t be afraid to ask people to do things with you. Whether that’s getting brunch or doing homework together. Many people will say no, but one may say yes.
  6. Approach other outcasts. Most of friends are social outcasts in some way, shape, or form. For example, I had the most success in high school hanging out with the rejects, weirdos, and nerds. Approach the awkward loner standing in the corner, they will be glad to speak with you. On the other hand, avoid the “popular people” they will reject you. I know this seems like immature high school behavior, but if you go a small college, cliques will still form. It’s just how people are.
  7. Watch your presentation. People judge one another by first impressions. Make sure that you are dressed in neat clothing, clean, smelling good, and have nice breath.
  8. Keep in mind that not everyone who says they are your friend is actually your friend. (See my post “friend vs foe).
  9. Don’t worry too hard about making friends. Friends come and go and friendships are fickle. You will however, always have your degree. So even if you do not make friends (which is a very real possibility), do not sweat it. It is not the end of the world. You will be just fine. I promise you.

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