When those of us on the spectrum find ourselves in a social situation where it seems everything is going wrong, we feel like we’re falling behind.
Once that starts to happen, it becomes very hard to resolve things and every situation becomes more stressful, especially when there’s not enough time to recover between events. It gets incrementally worse until something goes horribly wrong.
Maybe we’re shouting at someone or locking ourselves in a room because we don’t feel like we’re able to come out for a while. I’ve been there.
A big challenge is learning limits, and I’ve gotten a good feel for where my stress level is at any given time.
Now I can tell people when I’m getting too tired to spend any more time with them and that I need to go home; or tell them, “I’m sorry, but I really need to ask you guys to head on out.” I have an awareness of my stress that’s taken a long time for me to develop.
A lot of people on the spectrum don’t really have any awareness of how stressed they are, how to recover, or how long it’s going to take to recover, so that presents a challenge for higher-functioning individuals with autism. It’s learning to recognize that self-awareness of, “What stresses me, how stressed am I, and how do I recover from it.” It is an important step in figuring out how to comfortably live.
Improving Social Interaction
It’s important that everyone involved works hard to not interpret struggles in social situations as a lack of desire or avoidance of social interaction. Sometimes, it’s just hard and it becomes very difficult. Unpredictability is something that I believe a lot of people on the spectrum struggle with, and I think that if we can all work to recognize that sometimes people just need support, social situations can become a less intimidating thing.
Some tips that others have offered include getting to know people better before entering larger social situations, working toward a focus on areas of interest within social situations, and lastly, understanding that social situations will be perceived differently by all people on the spectrum — not one person is the same as the next.
Challenges will always be apparent in social settings, but it does not always mean we’re trying to avoid them.