By Jaclyn Hunt, MA
There are those on the Autism Spectrum that are highly exceptional. Sometimes they have IQs well above average. Quite often these people take great pride in their high levels of intellect, as they should. But, at the same time I have found that when a situation arises where they are unsure of their capabilities, they avoid that situation like the plague. The reason may not necessarily mean that they can’t do what is expected of them, they are simply afraid of failure at something that comes easily to others. If they tried and failed it would be a tremendous blow to their intellect and/or self-esteem.
A wise man once told me: “If you do not try there is zero percent chance of success.” Not all talent comes naturally. Many times we have to put in a lot of hard work to excel at something. Typical people frequently take social understanding for granted because it comes so easily and naturally to them. The same goes for those on the spectrum, where intellect comes easily. They automatically assume that if it doesn’t come naturally it will not come at all. That could not be farther from the truth.
First of all, when we work hard for something it is that much more rewarding than something that comes easily to us. This is true for people on the spectrum and typical people alike. Time, dedication, and focus are the qualities that make up learning a skill and becoming proficient in that skill. The act of learning how to develop skills is even a skill in itself. Next, if we do not try new things, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to discover something that we enjoy. For example, one of my adult clients refused to try new foods. He automatically assumed that he wouldn’t like them. Slowly, I began introducing new foods to him and he liked almost every new item after a few tries. He now loves to try new foods because he is almost afraid of what he might be missing out on if he doesn’t. It will not hurt him if he doesn’t like a new food because it is only temporary discomfort if something tastes truly horrible. He told me he used to fear that if he didn’t like his meal he would go hungry, not realizing he could switch his order or try again next time. The future seemed so far away to him. It was all about immediate gratification.
Allow me to pose a question; how many surfers were immediately experts the first time they tried to stand on a surfboard? Many skills (as well as tastes and preferences) are acquired and we must learn these skills before we can judge whether we have a talent or not. To a person on the spectrum, change is scary, but that is only because there is so much unknown to that person. Typical people usually do not understand the fears a person with autism has simply because they are unable to see all the unknowns that circulate in the autistic mind. These unknowns seem obviously known and clear to the typical person. This is a case where a typical person must learn to put themselves in the shoes of a person on the autism spectrum.
Therefore, the way to help a person on the spectrum overcome fears of failure, change, and the unknown is to make the unknown easily discoverable, make change the norm, and to allow the person on the spectrum to experience failures along with successes on a regular basis. Frequency keeps the memories fresh and the fears at bay. I feel that explaining everything at excess is highly beneficial to those on the spectrum. Highly detailed explanations, preparations, and repeating those details frequently is the key. This is what we mean by intensive intervention because it involves a large amount of work for the teacher as well as the student. In order to accomplish this task, we must keep energy levels high with proper diet, exercise, and rest. All of which are an entirely different topic of discussion when dealing with those on the autism spectrum…
Jaclyn Hunt is a Life Coach specializing in the Autism and Special Needs Population. She works with adults on the spectrum, parents of autistic children and adults, spouses of adults on the spectrum, and anyone affected by autism or other related special needs. Visit her website to learn more: