Monday, June 17, 2013

Being Autistic

Ever go to another country where you don't speak the language?  Imagine being lost in the middle of a busy city, not sure where to go or who to ask in order to get where you need to be.  The city is bustling with activity and you are isolated, alone, scared, and lost.  Soon people start to notice you and try to help, they keep asking you questions that you don't understand and you look at them with a puzzled expression.  Soon they start speaking louder, thinking that will make you understand them better.  Your eyes widen and you stare blankly...

This is a close approximation as to how an Autistic person feels, as described by a typical person.  I have found that many people don't understand Autism because it isn't something you can see with your eyes.  We can tell when a person with a hearing impairment can't hear, so we don't go screaming at them to make them understand us.  We teach them sign language and soon the mind opens up and can express thoughts, feelings, and complex concepts to the world.  The same holds true for an Autistic person.  The typical person cannot see the impairment in the Autistic mind.  It is hidden behind a cute child's face, or behind an attractive man or woman's smile.  But the difference still exists, and we are at fault if we continually try to communicate with them over and over in the same way expecting different results.

Every Autistic person learns differently, so there is no one way to "fix" a person with Autism.  There is no drug, no magic cure.  We must learn how each particular person learns, and create a language that they understand to unlock the potential in their minds and let them express themselves to the world.  We need to bridge the communication gap.  Some people learn better visually, some verbally, others in the written word.  But we need to get even more specific than that.  Some Autistic individuals respond to the written word over the typed word, or the reverse.  Others respond to sign language, but sometimes that sign language has to be tactile, letting the person feel the words and letters instead of just seeing them.  There are infinite ways of communicating, and each and every method must be thought of and experimented with until a breakthrough is made.

The point is, we need to make the system of figuring out how to communicate with each individual as the focus, and not try to find one specific fix.  Everyone is different, and teaching the typical child or adult in this way, using a variety of methods, will do nothing but benefit everyone.  Being clear, concise, and thorough.  Something we all can benefit from.

Jaclyn Hunt
@asnlifecoach on Twitter, AutismAndSpecialNeedsLifeCoach on Facebook

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Autism, Special Needs, and the Life Coach

The rates of children being diagnosed with an Autism spectrum disorder and other special needs (whether they are medical, mental, or psychological) are on the rise.  This fact has been well documented by the media, the field of medicine, and by the realization that almost everyone we come in contact with has or knows someone with some sort of label or disability.  Likewise, the services for these children are growing and developing into high quality care due to the passion and diligence of parents who demand it from society, the government, and the world.

With these high quality programs on the rise, why then is a Life Coach an important addition to the Autism and Special Needs network?  A good place to start is with the child.  What happens to a special needs child once he becomes an adult?  The high quality care and environment he has had access to his entire life quickly vanishes and he is thrust into a society that is not necessarily tailored to every individual’s personal needs.  It is apparent that services for special needs adults are lacking greatly in today’s society.  This is where a Life Coach, such as myself, can be recruited to assist in the very specialized needs of this population.
In my experience, I have found that the desire to obtain the qualities of organization, motivation, and focus are some of the most common reasons people seek out the services of a Life Coach.  Interestingly enough, these qualities are what many in the special needs population require support in developing, by a person who knows how to effectively communicate and integrate with the unique learning methods of a special needs individual.

For instance, some real life situations where a special needs adult may need support is of course the transition to college, followed by choosing a career path, starting a family and becoming a parent, and general planning for the future.  These are very broad categories that most adults navigate through successfully with hard work and a strong support system. However, a person with special needs may greatly benefit from an advisor who can help them break down these monumental life events into small, easy to accomplish goals.  In addition, another related aspect of adults with special needs entering the real world is the task of establishing and maintaining proper social relationships in these various stages and areas of our lives.  A Life Coach can be an excellent guide in a potentially confusing and rule laden environment.

It is equally important to mention that people who reach out to me are not only those on the Autism spectrum or have issues with attention, organization, or social understanding.  I have worked with the parents of children with Autism and other special needs, as well as their siblings, and in some cases close friends.  It is very easy for a parent who is dedicated to her child’s life to lose sight of her own identity.  Having a Life Coach who understands the frustrations and difficulties, as well as the joys, of having a special needs child is essential in assisting the parent in whatever goals she wishes to set and strive towards as an individual.

Furthermore, I have worked with individuals and couples who are in romantic relationships where one or both partners are on the Autism spectrum.  These types of romantic relationships can become very complicated and have a different set of circumstances as compared to a typical couple’s relationship.  A Life Coach can assist in helping this type of couple create goals and solve problems as well as bridge a gap in potential communication difficulties due to the different way each person in the relationship thinks, learns, and feels.

Currently, there are very few Life Coaches in the United States who are specialized in Autism and Special Needs.  One of my goals is to change that by making my services and experience available to all those who want assistance. I also hope to encourage other Life Coaches and professionals in related fields to see the importance and very great need for these services in the world today.  Autism and Special Needs do not simply disappear when a young adult graduates high school.  It is my belief that we should continue to fight hard for these people by offering our support now, and for the rest of their lives.

Jaclyn Hunt
@asnlifecoach on Twitter, AutismAndSpecialNeedsLifeCoach on Facebook