This guest post is by Jeffrey Alan Ford who was named 2016 Genius of the Year – America in the World Genius Directory. He was also featured in a TEDxTalk called "An autistic genius discusses how differences make us special" which you can watch at the end of this post.
Growing up with an autism spectrum disorder (Asperger's Syndrome) and not being diagnosed until well into adulthood made every developmental stage of my life far more challenging than it ever needed to be. Sure, I'm proud that I eventually grew up to become an author who has been read by millions of people and that I won a global election to become the World Genius Directory: 2016 Genius of the Year for America, but I still know deep down that my life could have been exponentially better right from the start if I had just learned a few simple coping strategies earlier in life.
Here are three positive coping strategies designed to help you grow into the best you possible:
1. Accept Your Situation
Sometimes it's hard for people to accept the truth about themselves. It wasn't until I fully embraced the reality of my being autistic and accepted my many unique differences that I was finally able to start making profoundly positive changes in my life. It's vital that you wholeheartedly accept the truth about yourself so that you can start creating the best you possible. Just remember that autism doesn't fully define you – it is how you handle being autistic and the way you face all of your other challenges that will significantly shape your true identity.
2. Be Forgiving
As difficult as it might be at times, try to find it in your heart to forgive those who harshly judge you based upon any aspect of your autism spectrum disorder. That doesn't mean that you must allow yourself to be victimized emotionally or physically because that is never acceptable (and seek responsible help from others if you are being abused in any manner.) But do try to understand that everyone is flawed in a variety of ways. Just as we are challenged by our autism, others can be challenged by their lack of understanding. When people mistreat me due to their own ignorance they seldom receive my scorn – only my forgiveness and pity.
3. Give Yourself Time
I don't know about you, but I want to do things right the first time every time and I also want to behave perfectly in every social situation. However, that isn't realistic for anyone whether you're autistic or not.
Just because I won a global election to become this years World Genius Directory's Genius of the Year for America doesn't mean that I don't continue to sometimes make embarrassing social errors. And guess what? I'm proud of that because at least I'm out there trying!
While I wish I was perfect, I've come to grips with the fact that socializing will probably always be a bit of a challenge for me. I used to experience intense anxiety both before and during social events and that would often lead me to stay at home. But I don't do that now. I've truly accepted how I'm different and have learned so much by throwing myself into various social activities. And even though I'm far from being a social animal … I am improving and having fun doing so.
Life for most of us is a longtime. Give yourself permission to try your best and to make reasonable mistakes in the process. And always remember this, you needn't be perfect in order to have invaluable worth in our world. You only need to be … perfectly you!
Have a story you want to share about living on the autism spectrum? Email us at InOurOwnWords@autismspeaks.org.