Welcome back to my blog series. The prior blogs in my series discussed challenges, misconceptions and parenting of a twice-exceptional teen or adult with autism. This week we will explore the problem with avoidance in individuals with ASD. Avoidance is the common go-to strategy for handling challenging situations for many twice-exceptional teens and adults with autism.
I have the deepest respect for my clients. I value how deeply they ponder topics of interest to them and how they are passionate about their interests. When they set their mind to something, they can unrelentingly persevere, even when met with obstacles. They just keep trying away until they have come to a resolution.
However, their great level of perseverance in one area can be rivaled by their extreme avoidance in another area of their life. What do I mean? Well, my clients with an ASD become so fearful and anxious about change, new things, or stressful situations, that they outright avoid it at all costs.
Gifted adults and teens with an ASD often look for the easy way out when they lack skills.
Avoidance can take on many forms. For example, it could be simply looking down at your phone instead of trying to start a conversation with someone you don’t know. Or, it could be working late into the evening to avoid social interactions. Some people might refer to you as a workaholic. Yet, you feel like your work is an area of mastery and where you excel. Your work gives you a sense of pride and helps you define your identity. Of course, you might focus on work instead of all those social situations and relationships which can be perplexing, frustrating, and exhausting.
The neurodiverse teens or adults I work with often focus their minds on their work and/or their special interests. In part because it is fulfilling. However, they often allow it to take over their life, and they don’t make meaningful connections with people.
I would personally never tell someone they should make friends. At the end of the day, I think it comes down to what you want! Are you lonely? Do you feel sad? Are you isolated? Do you wish you had someone to talk to?
If you answered yes to the above questions, then it’s time to consider if you really want to put effort into building relationships. Honestly, for all people, relationships take effort. However, for people with autism, it takes a LOT more effort.
Twice-exceptional teens and adults with an ASD often struggle in relationships
Relationships take intentional effort. You really have to want to be around and talk with people, perhaps even go outside your comfort zone. In our social skills groups, I don’t tell my clients with autism that they need to be more like neurotypicals. I discuss how relationships take effort for anyone. If you want it, you gotta put the effort in. We talk about ways to make your efforts worthwhile. For example, we talk about the power of empathic listening (which I’ll describe further in a future blog post). I’ve had clients with autism say,” well that’s not me,” or “I can’t do that.” Then, a few weeks later, they say things like, “Yeah, I can see the value in it,” “I seem to connect better with people now,” or “People want to talk with me again”.
I can give you the tools to improve your relationships
Some people are naturally better at empathic listening. But, no one was born perfect at it. The people who are really good at it have practiced it a lot. They made some close friends when they used empathic listening during conversations. This reinforced their use of this skill. Some people refer to empathic listening as a superpower. It kind of is! It can have powerful, positive effects on relationships.
The way I see it is, if you want to make friends, then I want to help give you the tools to make that happen. Be true to yourself. I believe it is important to honor yourself and still grow new skills. It’s just a question of what you are trying to accomplish and will these skills help you.
Social Skills Groups for Twice-Exceptional Teens and Adults with an ASD
Social skills are increasingly important for any autistic individual, no matter their age. They can be anything from taking turns to not interrupting conversations, not telling “too much” (telling an overweight person they are “fat”) or conversational skills just to name a few. Meeting other neurodiverse teens and adults helps you or your loved one realize they are not alone. Also, it allows you to make friends in group that you can relate too.
A social skills group can help neurodiverse teens and adults by allowing them to learn tools to achieve their goals. They can practice these skills in a safe, supportive and structured environment. Social skills groups also provide valuable lessons such as how to communicate with others, read social cues and provide an understanding of emotions and dealing with conflict. When they practice these skills in group, they get positive reinforcement for using that targeted skill in their everyday life. Ultimately, providing immediate reinforcement increases the likelihood of the skill being used more often. In our groups, these skills are taught by people who can teach your loved one in a manner they understand. They provide a wonderful resource for you or your loved one with an ASD.
Thank you for reading my blog series on twice-exceptional teens and adults.
We want you to learn the tools you need to be successful living with an ASD. Therefore, our autism therapy clinic in Palo Alto, CA offers a variety of social skills groups for high functioning teens and adults on the autism spectrum. In our groups, you will learn and practice a variety of social skills that will help you interact with your peers without draining your social battery.
Social Skills Groups at Open Doors Therapy in the South Bay area:
The Gifted Teen with Autism and Caregiver Group:
The Gifted Teen with Autism and Caregiver Group offers a safe environment where you and your teen can come and meet with people who share similar struggles. In this group, we separate the gifted youth from their caregivers. This allows both the teen and their caregivers to have their own place to express their thoughts, concerns, and feelings. Having their own group is important for your teen to learn the skills they need to advocate for themselves and be independent. Some autistic youth rely on their parents to speak for them. But, in their own group, your teen will 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 as a college student with an ASD.
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. Will will teach you a variety of social skills that will help you feel empowered and confident in your life.
Working Professionals Group:
During the Working Professional’s Group, we talk about the struggles many autistic professionals face in and outside of work. During this group, we discuss managing miscommunications, non-verbal communication, listening skills, perspective-talking, empathizing, and unwritten social rules.
If you’re unsure which social skills group would be a good fit for you, please contact our autism clinic.
Join an Autism Social Skills Group for Teens and Adults with an ASD in Palo Alto, CA:
Thank you for reading my blogs, if you are a twice-exceptional adult or have a gifted teen with autism, then we encourage you to check out our social skills group! We would love to teach you or your child the skills you need to be confident and empowered. To begin group therapy in Palo Alto, CA please follow these steps:
- Make a free 30-minute phone consultation using this link. During our consultation call, we will help you to find a group that best suits your unique situation.
- Like me on Facebook. Here I post useful information that will allow you to stay up-to-date on Open Doors Therapy and our autism services.
- Sign up to receive my newsletter. This is another great resource for autistic individuals or their caregivers.
Other Services for individuals with an ASD at Open Doors Therapy:
Our Palo Alto autism therapy clinic serves teens and adults on the autism spectrum. This includes high functioning individuals who identify as having Aspergers, high functioning autism, undiagnosed autism traits, etc. and their families. Our autism therapists offer a variety of autism therapy services including individual counseling for autistic teens and adults, parent counseling, and group therapy. We also 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 transitioning to college, teens & caregivers, and a mothers group. Please contact our South Bay Area counseling office for more information on our services or to schedule a consultation.