Do you want to know the secret to success on the autism spectrum?
Give me the next 10 minutes of your time, and I will present you with the secret of greatly enhancing your chances for success in your personal and professional life.
I recently picked up a book by Ms. Brenda Boyd, mother of a bold young man with Asperger’s syndrome by the name of Kenneth Hall. Kenneth wrote a book that is excellent for sharing with younger children who are just becoming aware of their differences. This book is called Asperger Syndrome, the Universe and Everything. It turns out that Ms. Boyd herself was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome later in life, and she wrote a book of her own, Appreciating Asperger Syndrome: Looking at the Upside – With 300 Positive Points. In the back of the book is a chapter that absolutely grabbed my attention: Asperger Syndrome: Positive Characteristics – 300 Positives from A-Z.
In a blog post called If You Don’t Get Your SWOT Together, You’ll Hate Yourself Later, I have written of a key tenet to balanced personal growth and development. We need to have a firm grasp on the strengths we possess, and we need to have a healthy respect for our weaknesses as well. We need to have a plan for capitalizing on our strengths, but we also need to have a personal growth plan to address our weaknesses as well.
Some of us may be in denial about the weaknesses and challenges in our genetic makeup. Yet more of us may struggle with discouragement and shame about them, so that we discount our positive characteristics. It’s my hope that this article can help you begin to develop a healthy balance of appreciation for your gifts and respect for your weaknesses, without developing a superiority or inferiority complex.
Now, I promised to share this success in 10 minutes, but I have shared it sooner: Understand your weaknesses and work on them; and balance that with a health understanding and appreciation of your strengths and your positives.
Here is a beginning toward sharing these 300 characteristics: I hope to share them with my newsletter reader in a daily or weekly format. (Let me know what you prefer). In order to give you some flavor of the downsides and upsides of Asperger’s characteristics, I will share some of them here.
Ability — “Everyone has different gifts and abilities; it’s what you do with them that matters.”
What is very difficult for individuals on the autism spectrum to accept, at times, is that they may be able to do some things with extreme ease, but struggle significantly in other areas. They can be “gifted” in some areas, yet have “special needs” in others.
- Everyone has a mix of strengths and weaknesses. Find your natural talents and develop them. Find a social skills group, or a counselor who understands the characteristics of the autism spectrum to help you develop a plan for addressing your areas of weakness.
- Sometimes, your special interests may guide you to where your natural talents lie. Even if you are not sure, keep on pursuing clues for what you are good at. For more information about figuring out what your talents are, you may want to consider reading the following book by Richard Nelson Bolles, called What Color Is Your Parachute? 2010: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. It’s one of my personal favorites.
- Be patient and persistent. Realize that some things may take a lot longer for you to learn compared to your NT peers. But also remember that you may learn some things a lot more quickly. The good news is that, over time, if you are patient and persistent, you may find that you are capable of a lot more than you thought.
Personally, I enjoy working about 18 hours a day. Besides the short catnaps I take each day, I average about four to five hours of sleep per night.
Often, individuals on the autism spectrum can find it difficult to keep things in balance: their emotions, interests, and reactions to things. They can get obsessed with things at the expense of other things in their lives. And they may get upset about minor things because they see these things as more important than they really are.
- There is a fine line between obsession and determination. Determination can be a real positive if it is channeled into something important. If your obsession has to do with an interest that does not necessarily translate into a career, you may want to turn that obsession into a hobby, but balance it with another interest that can translate into a career specialty.’
- Keep in mind that there are often several “right” answers or “right” decisions. It’s not always either/or, all-or-nothing.
- It’s good to realize that you have a tendency to be obsessive, because you can then ask others for input to let you know if you are becoming too obsessive.
- Be aware of the need for balance in your life.
- Recognize when things are getting out of balance and take practical steps to get them back into balance. (A couple of great resources here would be the Life Compass Worksheet and The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)
These are a couple of examples of the 300 points covered. Here are some of the other areas Ms. Boyd talks about: authority, brain differences, concentration, conformity, creativeity, depression, determination, diagnosis, disability, employment, feeling different, friendship, getting it wrong, gifts, guilt and shame, help for parents and carers, help for people with AS, Herioism and AS, Honesty, Inadequacy, Individuality, Lerning Styles, Loneliness, Marriage/Primary Relationships, Mental Health, Motivation, Obsessions, Oranization/Excecutive Function, Original Thinking, Painful Feelings, Perfectionism, Rejection, Rigidity, School, Sensory Issues, Social Skills, Space and Solitude , Special Interests, Stupidity (Feelings of), Tact, and Visual Thinking.
This is one of several autism books and resources I am glad to be able to refer to.
In summary: pursue your interests, identify your strengths. Respect and understand your weaknesses. Look for opportunities to pursue, given your interests, talents, and strengths. Be aware of threats to your success, given your weaknesses, and take steps to minimize those weaknesses.
What do you think? Am I right, wrong, or somewhere in between?
P.S. In addition to the related articles you will see at the end of this post, I am going to share some other articles you may find helpful:
If you Don’t Get Your SWOT Together, You’ll Hate Yourself Later
How to Find Your Career On the Autism Spectrum