Children with Asperger Syndrome (AS) often have a team of parents, teachers, therapists, and other people to help them advance toward the goals in their Individualized Education Plans. But what if you are now an adult with AS? Did your AS traits and needs disappear when you reached the magic age of 18 (age of majority)? When you graduated from high school, had you learned all the basic skills you needed to handle the myriad challenges adulthood presents?
At AANE, we have spoken with thousands of adults with AS. Some have independent, satisfying lives. However, many adults we know—interesting, bright, funny, and talented people with much to offer—have gotten stuck in their lives. Most of them did not receive an AS diagnosis and appropriate interventions when they were children. Even younger-diagnosed adults may have received inadequate transition services in high school, or they “fell off the grid” when they exited the structure of high school or college. Many may be unemployed or underemployed, lonely and discouraged.
Perhaps this is how you feel. Perhaps you don’t know what to do, where to turn for help. But there’s hope! You can put together a team to help you overcome obstacles and move toward a more rewarding life.
What kind of team do you need?
- Identify your specific needs. Then you can identify who might be available to help you.
- Identify your current team. Chances are that you already have some helpful people in your life—as well as helpful tools, strategies, and resources. Think about the specific ways in which these people or resources enrich your life or help you accomplish practical tasks.
- Brainstorm new team members. Your current team may be able to help you think about your family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, social or interest groups, pets, community members, professionals (clergy, pharmacist, gym personnel). Team members can be paid or volunteer, short-term or long-term.
- Include tools (assistive technology) and strategies. Identify tools or strategies that work for you, and keep them easily accessible in your house, office, brief case, or mental “toolbox.” Tools might include items to address your sensory needs (weighted blankets, fidget toys, soft clothing, or softer lighting.) There are tools available to assist with executive functioning or organizational challenges such as cell phone/tablet apps, and calendars.
Assembling your team, tools and strategies
What kinds of people or expertise might you need on your team? While each person’s needs are unique, there will probably be certain general areas in common. What follows are some suggestions to address common areas of need for adults with AS. Please feel free to create your own list to suit your needs.
- To improve social understanding and skills: You may want to work with a speech therapist, life coach, family member, friend, or other adults with AS.
- To make social connections—in person and/or online: These links offer options that may work for you. AANE Adult Social and Support Groups, ASAN , GRASP , Meetup group, Services for Adults through AANE and Asperger & Autism Forum Community Wrong Planet
- To improve executive functioning: If you struggle with time management, planning and organization, some of these resources may help. AANE Life Management Assistance Program (LifeMAP) , National Association of Professional Organizers, or Flylady.
- To feel less anxious: You may want to contact a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, licensed mental health counselor, family member, friend, or support group.
- To improve and maintain health: You may want to contact a doctor, dentist, personal trainer, cooking instructor or nutritionist.
- To find successful employment: You may want to contact employment, career, or rehab counselors; job coach, human resources professional, or talk with your supervisor. The AANE LifeMAP program can also help you with employment questions or concerns.
- To manage sensory challenges: You may want to contact an occupational therapist, other adults with AS, or visit this helpful website.
Don't go it alone
You're not alone--please contact AANE if you are looking for information or referrals for your team.