A question that comes up repeatedly from parents and spouses of spectrumites is “Is it the Asperger’s or is he just being difficult?” Some say (and I can relate) “Sometimes he can be a real ass.” There have been plenty of times when I’ve been an ASS and needed to be called on it and take responsibility for it.
Bottom line, it isn’t a question of Asperger’s versus typical, it is a question of to what degree the child, teen or adult on the spectrum is able to consciously choose their behavior. By consciously choosing I’m referring to whether the person is aware of what options exist for how to respond in a given situation.
When I work with my sons and clients I emphasize personal responsibility and self awareness among other things. Through observation I make note of what aggravates and calms them and then I point it out in a way that they’re likely to hear it. I might say, “I notice you seem more relaxed when you rock like that. Is that correct?” This question encourages them to reflect upon their experience and increases self-awareness.
Let’s say a spectrumite becomes aware that a certain situation overloads her and chooses to go into that situation anyway, becomes overloaded and begins taking her anger out on you as though it’s your fault. In this instance, she’s being an ASS. An ASS in my mind is someone who is aware of the root of their anger, but instead of owning it and dealing with the real problem, decides to take it out on someone else.
However, when a spectrumite hasn’t developed the awareness around his triggers he’ll tend to walk through life reacting because he doesn’t know what upset him. That’s why it’s imperative to help increase his awareness so he can plan for situations where a trigger is likely to occur and either accommodate it or avoid it.
Will this work 100% of the time? Of course not, nothing does. What it will do overtime is significantly reduce how often she feels like the world is happening to her, like those around her failed to protect her and therefore need to be punished.
A child, teen or adult on the spectrum may readily use being on the spectrum as an excuse for the behavior when he needs to step up, learn the reason for it and the best way to take care of himself so the behavior is preventable whenever possible. There is nothing about the Autism Spectrum that authorizes a person to be a jerk.
Yes, life can kick us in the butt on a daily basis and we can often hit our threshold and want to just scream at the world. That does not change the fact that punishing others with our anger may produce the very result many of us most fear – finding ourselves alone. Make excuses all you like for treating people like garbage and before long there will be no one left to hear them.
Thanks for being you.
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Brian R. King LCSW (ADHD & ASD Life Coach) is a #1 Best Selling Author, 25-year cancer survivor, adult with Dyslexia, ADHD, and Asperger’s. He’s also the father of three sons on the autism spectrum. He is known worldwide for his books and highly engaging presentations that teach the power of connection and collaboration. His strategies empower others to overcome their differences so they can build powerful and lasting partnerships. His motto is: We’re all in this together.