Tips for Coping with Autistic Life #2

Written by: Sam Warner
Published on: 2 July 2024

Autistic Coping Mechanisms (3-part blog)

There are things in life that are rarely taught or talked about, and for neurotypical people it seems they were just born with this knowledge. For those on the Autistic Spectrum (ASD) becoming self-aware, acquiring coping mechanisms and giving yourself thinking time to cope with situations that may arise means you can be less confused and feel more confident.

Remember that your perception of the world is a little different, it just means that your brain works differently. Not everyone works in black and white (all or nothing) most work in greys so it can be harder for them to empathise and understand if you appear to be obsessed or single-minded about something.

There are some books out there with guidance, but I’ve put together my own brief list as not everyone wants to read a book.

Here are some more tips to cope in society when you are Autistic

General Rules – Some rules are rigid and some rules are flexible. It’s very useful to ask clarifying questions to find which are which. It’s important to understand that lots of people say they are going to do things, and then don’t follow through. They mean it when they say it, they are not lying but many people suffer from procrastination or try to please others by saying yes all the time even if they don’t have the capacity to fit it in. It is our gift to be understanding and tolerant of this and help others to achieve their goals by being helpful and supportive, not judgmental and critical. We should never judge others by our own standards as there are rarely the same.

Jobs and Interviews – Body language and the way you dress is very important in interviews, so get some advice from a trusted friend so you don’t create a problem you didn’t need to create. I’m not saying you can’t have a personality and show your style, but it’s probably better to wait until you have secured the job before you do that if you are a little Avant Garde or eccentric (both great attributes to have but not usual for neurotypicals). Try to do some rehearsal with a trusted friend, a little role play, and anticipate which questions you think they will ask so you don’t get caught off guard. You should assume they will ask you things like “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “ Tell me about a time when you overcame a problem or confrontation”. Do some research on the company but don’t be a know it all. Another favourite question is “Tell me about yourself”. This can be confusing as you’ve probably already sent them your CV and application form or letter, but they wan to hear a summary in your own words to hear how you communicate. If they ask about your hobbies, keep it to a brief overview unless they ask more probing questions about a specific subject. Some jobs will be very difficult to do if you have ASD, mostly those that require a lot of public interaction, and making assumptions about human behaviour and using intuition.

“Only 15% of all Adults diagnosed with Autism are in work!”

You could ring them before the interview if you felt comfortable speaking to them on the phone to let them know you process info a little differently to the general public and you’d like some more direct questions in the interview to help you relax and be yourself.  They will get more out of it too, so it’s in their best interests, and if they are not willing to adapt, then chances are they will not make any allowances in the job either – so do you really want to work for them?

When you are in your job you can find out who you can trust and what the rules are, what can be flexible, and how the “game” is played so that you are not at a disadvantage. One of the best things you could do is interview everyone you work with to find out how you will be working with them, what their expectations of you are and so you can tell them how you like to work too.

Looks downHas an upright but relaxed stance.Stands still with stiff, rigid posture.
Keeps his fists clenched (a closed signal).Maintains eye contact when listening or speaking (for over two-thirds of the time) looking at faces as a whole.
Keeps his arms folded.
Often speaks too quietly.Has a firm handshake but not too firm.Shouts and points finger
Steps backwards when spoken to.Is able to say ‘no’ when needs must.Bangs desk or table
Has a weak handshake.Can express his true feelingsMay give eye contact almost the whole time he is speaking (looking straight into the eyes)
Is easily put down by othersIs interested in other people’s opinions as well as his ownIs better at talking than at listening
Is often angry with himself for allowing others to take advantage of him.
Tries to treat everyone as equals.Likes telling others what to do
Is shy and withdrawn in company.
Thinks his own opinion is always right
Cannot accept complimentsLikes to tell other people they’re useless
Says ‘oh dear!’ and ‘sorry’ too muchTends to make himself quite lonely because people feel they have to be careful around him
Taken from ‘Coping: A Survival Guide for People with Asperger Syndrome’ by Marc Segar

Education – Bragging and showing off are unattractive and should be avoided where possible. Be assured that in a conversation where you are knowledgeable about the subject – it will come across quite clearly without you having to prove it, or demonstrate it. There are times and places where showing off your knowledge is fine (perhaps at a club of like-minded enthusiasts comparing collections or information). It might be that you are not very good at getting high grades in tests and exams – don’t be put off. Just because you can’t conform to a set way of regurgitating information does not mean you don’t know it and can’t apply it. It is usual that those with ASD have more acute problem solving skills, blue sky and detail vision and the ability to focus like no-one else. Try not to compare yourself with others and celebrate your strengths, whatever they are for you.

“Most people don’t understand Autism at all – you have to help them understand sometimes”

Social Rules – Its important to keep yourself clean and tidy in order to make it easier for others to stand near you and listen to us and talk to you. If you think people are avoiding you, perhaps check to make sure you have any body odour under control, or you don’t have bad breath or smelly feet. Often people will not tell you about this unless you ask them directly. If they do respond to you confirming it, then the appropriate response is to thank them (not get defensive or have a meltdown) and then do something about it.

Humour and Conflict – An autistic person’s sense of humour is often about things which suggest silliness, ridiculousness or which appear slightly insane. You might find yourself the butt of neurotypicals jokes because they don’t know how to handle someone who is different and have a hard time dealing with their own insecurities. Humour in humans sometimes replaces violence that animals would normally display. If a joke aimed at you is not too harsh it may be a good idea to laugh at yourself. If a joke or some sarcasm aimed at you is too harsh, you can say ‘what do you mean by that’, ‘why did you say that’, ‘what’s that supposed to mean’, or ‘that’s not very nice’. You may have to use your discretion in order to choose a suitable answer but putting someone else on the spot can be quite a good defence. If a joke or some sarcasm aimed at you is downright hurtful, here is a last resort you can use. Calmly say that you found the joke hurtful and ask if it was meant to be hurtful. If the other person says ‘can’t you take a joke’ or messes you around in some other way, stick to your guns and just calmly ask them again if they meant it to be hurtful. If they answer ‘no’ then you have got what you needed. If they answer ‘yes’ then calmly walk away and in future make it very difficult for that person to talk to you until they apologise of their own accord.  You will have given them a clear message that their plan to make themselves feel good at your expense is noted and will not be tolerated whilst keeping your dignity intact.

Getting your message across – Self-awareness and self-improvement are the keys to unlocking coping techniques that work. Personal development is a very useful way to tap into your strengths and weaknesses (we all have them) and work on the things we’d like to improve upon. Get Your Message Across can help you do this, building your arsenal of skills for life.

“Remember to read Tips for Coping with Autistic Life #1 too, #3

About Sam Warner

Hi I'm Sam Warner. Neurodivergent Communications Specialist supporting you to Get Your Message Across. Welcome to my blog.


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