Welcome back to my blog series discussing twice-exceptional teens and adults. This week we will further explore self-defeating and negative misconceptions of a twice-exceptional teen or adult with autism.
Last week I introduced and explored the concept of uneven profiles in twice-exceptional people. I discussed how the uneven cognitive and behavioral profile shows up in people with autism and Asperger’s. For example, they could be truly exceptional at math, music, or art. But, they may struggle miserably with basic life skills, like showering, planning, and time-management.
This uneven behavioral and cognitive profile can confuse people. Why? Well, people often expect that a bright and gifted person is exceptional across the board. The expectation is that they would be good at everything. Thus, a neurotypical person may be confused by a person on the autism spectrum who is great at certain things but struggles in others. Employers may be dumbfounded. Unfortunately, this is what often happens when incorrect assumptions are made about a person with autism.
Being Twice-Exceptional with Autism Often Means Being Misunderstood
I often hear neurodiverse teens and young adults being referred to as lazy, resistant, rude, or oppositional. However, I find that these are often misinterpretations. For instance, sometimes what appears to be laziness in a neurodiverse teen or adult is really fear and avoidance of certain situations. They may be avoiding situations that require skills they feel like they do not possess. For example, they may not want to go to party because they find it difficult to read social cues and track a group conversation. Situations, where they lack skills trigger high levels of anxiety for them. Also, they may already be feeling low self-esteem and low confidence in their abilities. They might not have the coping skills or emotional regulation skills to handle uncomfortable feelings.
Twice-Exceptional Adults and Teens with Autism May Have Learned Self-Defeating Beliefs
Many clients I have worked with have adopted the belief that they are lazy or some how inferior. Unfortunately, they hear others say this to them. However, this does them a disservice because they do not acknowledge areas where they are needing support. I find that with appropriate support, many neurodiverse teens and young adults can thrive. If they are misunderstood, invalidated, and negatively judged over and over again, then this fuels their shame cycle and negative self beliefs. They become ashamed of who they are. I hear teens and adults on the spectrum tell me they are defective, broken, or worthless. It is much harder for them to gain the skills and belief in themselves necessary to thrive when they are held back by these self-defeating beliefs and misrepresentations about their character.
What can make matters worse, is that neurodiverse teens and adults might have black-and-white thinking (polarized thinking). They can become rigidly stuck in their belief system and do not easily consider another’s point of view. They may create these rigid, black-and-white beliefs about themselves. About being a failure. These beliefs can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Not to mention, they may have a history of social rejection or being bullied, which only worsens their loneliness and shame-cycle.
It can be so hard for them to do something “simple.” Like starting a conversation with a classmate or co-worker for example. They have a strong desire to make friends and build a good relationship with their colleagues. But, these self-critical beliefs and uncomfortable feelings can interfere with them even taking a first step toward building these relationships.
Reducing Shame Through Self-Compassion
So how does a teen or adult with autism get unstuck from these negative self-perceptions? How do they become more fulfilled and comfortable with themselves? A good starting point is individual counseling or group therapy. There they can feel safe in a supportive environment. When they feel safe and supported, then they can grow. A gifted autistic individual can re-evaluate these long-standing negative self-beliefs. Then, they can slowly grow a more balanced perspective of themselves through the power of self-compassion.
If you are self-critical, then self-compassion is going to be one of the hardest things for you to learn. But, it is possible. When I see clients have self-compassion, they develop a kind understanding of who they are. That’s when their life starts to really change for the better.
Next week, I will discuss how to parent a twice-exceptional teen or adult with autism and how to get and give support. Stay tuned for part three of my blog series titled, Parenting a Twice-Exceptional Child.
Social Skills Groups at Open Doors Therapy in the South Bay area:
If you’re looking for an opportunity to learn and practice social skills that can help your relationships and lessen your comfort in social situations, group therapy for adults with autism can help!
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 these social skills groups, you will learn and practice a variety of social skills. These will help you interact with your peers without draining your social battery.
The Gifted Teens with Autism and Caregiver Group:
The Gifted Teens with Autism and Caregiver Group provides a kind environment where you and your teen can meet people who share similar challenges. During the weekly group meetings, we separate the gifted youth from their caregivers. This allows both the youth and the caregivers to have their own space to express their thoughts, concerns, and feelings. In fact, it allows your teen to begin separating themselves from their parents and find independence. Often, autistic youth rely on their parents to advocate for them. But, in their own group teens learn the skills to feel empowered and take care of themselves.
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. Taking this big step helps neurodiverse individuals gain the self-confidence to face life’s challenges and create lasting change.
Working Professionals Group:
During the Working Professional’s Group, we talk about common challenges autistic working professionals often have. The social skills we learn and practice are useful both in and outside of work.
If you’re unsure which autism support group would be a good fit for you, please contact our clinic.
Join an Autism Social Skills Group for Neurodiverse Adults in Palo Alto, CA:
If you are an autistic adult looking for support or have a high-functioning autistic teen we have a group for you. Our social skills groups teach the tools you can use to navigate challenging social situations, including dating! To join a neurodiverse support group in Palo Alto/South Bay Area, follow these three steps:
- Schedule a free 30-minute phone consultation. Then, we will help you to find a group to best support your needs.
- Like Open Doors Therapy on Facebook and stay informed on our autism services
- Sign up to receive my newsletter. It contains helpful information about living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Other Autism Services at Open Doors Therapy:
Our Palo Alto/Bay Area autism clinic serves high-functioning teens and adults on the autism spectrum. This includes individuals who identify as having Aspergers, high functioning autism, undiagnosed autism traits, etc. and their families. We offer a variety of autism therapy that includes individual counseling for autistic teens and adults, parent counseling, and group therapy. In addition, our autism therapists offer many 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 heading to college, teens & caregivers, and a mothers group. Please contact our Palo Alto counseling office for more information or to schedule a consultation for autism services.