What Supporters Need to Know


An AS woman who lives in "sheltered housing" asked for suggestions. A new support worker would be starting at their house soon. What should such a support worker be told about people at the "high-functioning" (AS) end of the autism spectrum? Here is my response:

I agree with N___ about the importance of their keeping in mind that each AS/autistic person is unique and should not be approached on the basis of stereotypes (even if those stereotypes are enshrined in medical texts).

For me, if I were going to be living in a house where support people were working, it would be important to talk about anger. I would want them to understand that when I get frustrated I am likely to sound/act a lot more angry than seems reasonable to NT people. Some NT people are even afraid of me when they perceive me as "unreasonably angry" during a spell of serious frustration.

What's important for the NT to understand is that my anger (which actually I don't usually feel/see as anger at the time) is not personal. It is the situation that is making me so frustrated that my inner "switch" is flipped and I am put into a mode of behavior that I can't escape from for the moment. Usually I need to retire to a quiet place where I can be alone for a while so I can decompress and wait for the inner switch to flip back to calm mode.

Therefore, the support person should try not to take my "anger" personally. If there isn't anything abvious to be done to resolve the situation that is causing my frustration, the support person might want to suggest that we "retire to separate corners" and deal with the problem at a later time -- perhaps even in writing or by email. It would be helpful if the support person was willing to accept the impersonal nature of my "anger" to the extent that s/he wouldn't insist on an "apology" every time I acted in a manner considered "rude" by NT standards.

Oh, and another thing: I would emphasize that AS/autistic people's "intelligence" should be assessed by their areas of strength, not their areas of weakness. Some of us are of at least normal intelligence (whatever "intelligence" means) but have areas in which we are "stupid" by NT standards. Therefore it is not a good idea to assume, "She's smart, so she'll be able to do _____." Nor is it a good idea to assume, "She can't do _____, so she must not be very smart."



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