Supporting autistic adults, as adults
Supporting an autistic adult while maintaining respect and acknowledgement for them as adults, and not treating them as childlike is a balance. I don’t envy my family and close friends for trying to strike that balance. I have found it either comes naturally to people or it doesn’t.
It is very common for those trying to support me to fall into the trap of treating me like a child. I don’t mean any ill intent to those that have done this. They are often people close to me that want to protect me and aren’t really sure how to do it. But being supported by being treated like a child knocks at the autistic adult’s self-esteem and independence.
I need support. There is zero doubt about that. I can’t function without a huge amount of help from those around me. But there is a way to do that and still let me feel like an adult that is deserving of respect.
Some people have come into my life and seem to naturally fall into the perfect balance. This has been particularly true for two different people in the workplace.
Shortly after starting at my current workplace I realised I had clicked with someone there and they seemed to make sense to me, and I to them, which next to never happens. They got this balance of supporting me yet not making me feel like a child. In the first instance they supported me when I couldn’t cope. Upon walking into a meeting there was not enough chairs. To most, not a big deal. To me, I started to panic. I froze and wasn’t sure what to do. I was about to walk out of the meeting and say okay I will skip it. This person went and got me a chair. She also did phone calls for me and so much more to support me. Yet we also worked on projects together and she not only respected my opinions but sought them out as valued insights into the project. I needed help others didn’t, but that never took away from my place within the team.
At university I had a friend that would see me at my most vulnerable. From sensory overload to panic attacks and trying to control my breathing she saw me desperately trying to get through the hardest parts of my life. But once I was through it, it was over. I wasn’t some struggling person; I was just me.
Being an autistic adult is hard. It is so so hard. Sometimes we need help, okay a lot of times we need help. But we also need to stand tall and proud as adults with as much right to respect as any other adult. Please don’t think our need for help makes us weak and defenceless, unable to contribute as others can. We might need propping up every now and again and for someone to literally get us a seat for the table, but that doesn’t take away from the importance of what we have to say.
If you see us at our weakest, such as in meltdowns, please try to move on quickly and ensure us it hasn’t affected your respect for us. I have spent years trying to respect myself as a self-deserving adult. Those people that have come into my life and not only looked my autistic needs in the eye and supported them, but valued me as well, have had a huge affect on that journey.
I am an autistic adult AND a professional accountant AND a writer. I can be all of those things.
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