Adult Autism Survival - Super Condensed Mini Guide
Autism is a way of being in the world that affects how an individual perceives and interacts with the world around them. While every autistic individual is unique and may have their own set of strengths and challenges, there are some general strategies that can be helpful for us as we navigate daily life in a neurotypical world. We all have to design a life that respects our autistic flow, and we all need to discover for ourselves what our flow looks like, what it feels like, and how we need to be in the world to be okay. So if something in this guide doesn't work for you, discard it and find something that does. You are the absolute expert on yourself.
Develop self-advocacy skills: As an autistic adult, it is important to be able to speak up for yourself and communicate your needs and preferences to others. This can be especially important when seeking accommodations at work or school, or when interacting with healthcare providers. If you struggle to speak up for yourself or lose your words find someone to provide support while you speak up or someone who will speak up for you. As an autistic therapist, I often reinforce my client's voices in the medical setting, in the school setting, and in the workplace. Sometimes NT people in these environments need education on how ADA laws are utilized by autistic people.
Build a support network: It can be helpful to have a network of supportive friends, family members, and professionals who understand your unique needs and can provide guidance and assistance when needed. This can include therapists and other healthcare providers who can offer support and help you navigate challenges. Online friends are valid and support networks aren't always the people who help us solve problems or support us with mental health issues, sometimes they are your online D&D friends, your Dischord Pokemon group, your Facebook autism support group, etc. Just people who accept you as you are.
Find ways to manage sensory needs: Many of us experience sensory sensitivities, which can be overwhelming and disrupt daily life. Experiment with different strategies to manage these sensitivities, such as using earplugs or wearing noise-canceling headphones in loud environments, or finding a quiet place to retreat to when you need a break from sensory input. Also, feel free to avoid environments that are difficult for you. It is okay to make accommodations for yourself. Make sure you meet any of the sensory input needs you have; swinging, floating, running, hanging out under a weighted blanket, using colored led lights, etc.
Practice self-care: It is important to prioritize your physical and mental well-being as an autistic person. This can include engaging in activities that you find enjoyable and relaxing, such as exercise, interest areas, or spending time with your people. It can also be helpful to set boundaries and advocate for your own needs in order to prevent burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance. A healthy work-life balance will sometimes look very different for autistic people. It often looks like more life and less work or working at a different pace or in different ways.
Seek out resources and support: There are many resources available to autistic adults, including support groups, online communities, and advocacy organizations. Beware of the groups that want to "cure autism" and promote ABA therapy, they have often decorated themselves in puzzle pieces because we are puzzling to them and they would really like us to act more 'normal'. Don't be afraid to seek out help and support from safe spaces and people when you need it.
Remember, we are all unique and what works for one person may not work for another. It may take some trial and error to find what works best for you, but through trial and error, you will eventually find autistic strategies and ways of being in the world that make life doable as an autistic adult.