Welcome to this month’s blog series that discusses teens and adults who are twice-exceptional. This means, they are both gifted and on the autism spectrum. In this series, I will discuss what it is like being twice-exceptional, the challenges and strengths of this profile, and supporting a loved one who is twice-exceptional.
As a psychologist, I specialize in working with teens and adults who are twice-exceptional. This means they are both gifted and on the autism spectrum. In particular, the clients I see have an Asperger’s type profile.
Being Twice-Exceptional with Autism Gives You Strengths and Challenges
How does being twice-exceptional play out in your everyday life? On the one hand, you have some incredible strengths. For example, you could excel in mathematics, art, writing, singing, etc. Maybe, you win school, regional, and national awards. But, it doesn’t seem like you put in as much effort as others in the competition.
Yet, in other areas, you are severely lacking in skills. These include social and communication skills like difficulty in relating to peers, taking things too literally, not reading social cues. Or, you might struggle with self-help skills. For example, not maintaining good hygiene or doing their chores.
You might be an incredible writer or abstract thinker but have slow processing speed. As a result, it could be difficult for you to process instructions people say to you. Or, it could be difficult to start, hold or follow conversations, especially group conversations. Your executive functioning skills might be poor. For example, you might have poor planning, time-management, attention, organization, or short-term memory.
Gifted Individuals with Autism Are Specialist Thinkers
Having exceptional strengths, while also having serious skill deficits, is referred to as an uneven profile, spiky profile, or splinter skills. Another way of thinking about it is that people with autism are “specialist thinkers” rather than “generalist thinkers.” Dr. Temple Grandin is a professor and renowned self-advocate with autism. She considers herself to be a visual specialist thinker because she can generate and manipulate photo-realistic images in her mind. Just like a virtual reality machine. This specialist thinking style has enabled her to create revolutionary designs in her industry, which have won her awards.
Temple Grandin states that there are three types of specialist thinkers in the Asperger’s profile. In Dr. Temple Grandin’s 2009 article, she described the three types of specialist thinkers as: “visual thinkers such as I, who are often poor at algebra, pattern thinkers such as Daniel Tammet who excel in math and music but may have problems with reading or writing composition, and verbal specialists who are good at talking and writing, but they lack visual skills.”
I appreciate the term “specialist thinker” for describing people with autism because I do not think it holds a negative connotation. In fact, when I hear it, it sounds positive and worthy of admiration.
Getting Autism Support When You’re Twice-Exceptional
When clients first come to me, they often feel shame around their weaknesses and their uneven profile. In fact, this shame has become so internalized they may consider themselves defective or broken. They might be critical of themselves and feel guilty about their behavior or personality.
For this reason, a big part of my work with teen and adult clients with autism is to support them where they are at. Then I help them build their sense of pride in their great abilities and talents. I also help them normalize and accept that everyone, including them, has some weaknesses. This helps give them a more cohesive and balanced sense of self. A metaphor I use to describe my clinical work with clients is that I help provide fresh soil and nutrients so they can grow and thrive. They are the same plant, but just need healthy nutrients to grow.
Come back next week for part two of my blog series titled, How People with Autism Are Misunderstood Because They Are Both Exceedingly Good and Bad at Things.
Social Skills Groups for Autistic Individuals at Open Doors Therapy in the South Bay area:
Group therapy for high functioning autistic teens and adults can help you learn important social skills that help build interpersonal relationships and improve your comfort in social situations.
Our therapy clinic in Palo Alto, CA offers a variety of social skills groups for high functioning teens and adults on the autism spectrum. During these groups, you will learn and practice a variety of social skills that will help you or your teen interact with your peers without draining your social battery.
Open Doors Therapy in the South Bay Area Offers Social Skills Groups for Adults and Teens on the Autism Spectrum
The Gifted Teens with Autism and Caregiver Group:
The Gifted Teens with Autism and Caregiver Group provides a supportive environment where you and your teen can come and meet with people who share similar struggles. During the meeting, we separate the gifted youth from their caregivers. We do this to allow both the youth and their caregivers to have their own space to express their thoughts, concerns, and feelings. Actually, having their own group is important for your teen to begin separating themselves from their parents and find independence. Often, autistic youth rely on their parents to speak for them. But, in their own group teens learn the skills to feel empowered.
Our College Group includes high-functioning students with autistic traits who attend a college or a university in the South Bay Area. Our College Group discusses the unique challenges that they might face.
Young Adults Group:
Our Young Adults Group provides you with a safe place to learn what it means to be a millennial with autistic traits. You may identify as having autism, having Asperger’s, gifted and talented, twice-exceptional, or neurodiverse.
Working Professionals Group:
During the Working Professional’s Group, we talk about common difficulties autistic professionals often have. During this group, participants learn and practice social skills that are useful both in and outside of work.
If you’re unsure which group would be a good fit for you or your gifted teen with autism, please contact our counseling clinic.
Join an Autistic Support Group in the South Bay Area
If you are looking for a support group for yourself or your gifted teen with autism, then please consider group therapy at Open Doors Therapy. Our support groups are designed to help high-functioning autistic individuals learn the skills they need to be happy and successful. To join an autism support group online in California and in Palo Alto, CA, follow these three steps:
- Schedule a free 30-minute phone consultation with a therapist using this link. During this consultation, we will help you to find a group that best fits your needs.
- Like our therapy clinic on Facebook and stay up-to-date on our autism services.
- Sign up to receive our newsletter for useful information about living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Other Services for the Neurodiverse at Open Doors Therapy
Our Palo Alto/Bay Area autism therapy clinic serves teens and adults on the autism spectrum. This includes high functioning people with autism who identify as having Aspergers, high functioning autism, undiagnosed autism traits, etc. and their families. We are pleased to offer a variety of autism services including individual counseling for autistic teens and adults, parent counseling, and group therapy. Also, our autism therapists offer several different social skills groups for neurodiverse working professionals, college students with autistic traits, gifted youth & caregivers, autistic adults, women who identify as neurodiverse, a summer social skills college transition training program for youth going to college, teens & caregivers, and a mothers group. Please call or email our South Bay Area autism counseling office for more information or to schedule a consultation.