Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…
Tips for Teens with Asperger’s –
How to Stay True to Yourself
One of the hardest challenges for teens with Asperger’s is trying to figure out how to fit in. How do you make friends? How do you get people to like you? To what extent should you change yourself to try to get people to like you?
Everyone struggles with these questions, not only at this age but at all stages of life, but for people with Asperger’s, the lines are even more blurry. Figuring out where the line is, or even knowing there is a line at all, can often be extremely difficult for teens with Asperger’s.
Here are some things to keep in mind when discussing these issues with your teen with Asperger’s, or to take to heart if you are a teen with Asperger’s.
What Does “Being Yourself” Mean for Teens with Asperger’s?
For teens with Asperger’s what does it mean to “be yourself”? It means say whatever thoughts come into your head (that you feel are fairly relevant to the conversation) without censoring them or thinking they’re stupid.
Even if you say something that doesn’t seem to go over well, don’t beat yourself up over it. Most people would rather know someone who was really genuine and honest but occasionally a little quirky than someone who was fake all the time and never really let anyone get to know them.
It means wear what you want to wear, listen to the kind of music you like, read what you want, don’t worry about whether something is “cool” or “dorky.”
Try to summon up the courage to approach the world knowing that even if you appear weird in some areas, you have a lot of good in you too. If you let it show, people will want to get to know you.
For Teens with Asperger’s, Why Should you Be Yourself?
It may seem tempting to try to mold yourself after the most popular kid in school in an attempt to win friends and get people to like you.
It may seem like a good idea to present yourself in ways that feel uncomfortable to you but that you feel have a better chance of making you friends.
Many teens with Asperger’s struggle with this. But, think about this — if you do make friends using this method, they will only like the “pretend” you. You will always have to be performing for them. It gets exhausting. It takes all the joy out of having friends, quite frankly, if you can’t really enjoy them. What’s the point?
But if you be yourself, then people will be attracted to who you really are. Then you won’t have to pretend! You might not make as many friends this way, and it may take longer, but the friends you do have with be genuine. People will probably stick around for a while and support you. People you can actually feel a connection to. This is a hard thing for teens with Asperger’s but well worth it.
Compromising Between Being Yourself and Fitting In
There is another side to this issue, though. Sometimes you WILL have to change just enough of yourself so that you can function in the situation you’re in. Figuring this out is something that all teens with Asperger’s (and teens without) have to do at some time or another.
But as long as you remember what’s truly important, what parts of yourself you most value, then that’s okay. It’s a part of adapting to the world around you.
What are Some Examples for Teens with Asperger’s?
In the workplace environment
- You will have to dress a certain way, talk to others in a certain way and behave the way that is expected. This is a part of having a job. But when you get out of work, then you can go back to being yourself.
When you meet someone you don’t know well
- You might not want to tell them everything about yourself right at once. Save that for the people that you are close to and your family. You want to be yourself, but you also want to feed people little pieces of yourself at a time.
- There are certain social rules that teens with Asperger’s should keep in mind in order to make passable first impressions. For example, people tend to feel weird around someone who seems too over-eager or over-excited. So even though you might feel like you are full of burning passion for a certain topic, try to restrain yourself and only feed bits and pieces of the topic to the person until you get to know them.
Teens with Asperger’s can value who they are and be themselves, while still understanding that there are some circumstances in which they have to adapt certain areas of themselves to fit in the situation. But this knowledge often takes a few years longer than normal to really sink in, so in the meantime, be patient. Teens with Asperger’s can have a lot of challenges but a lot of rewards as well.
And for much more great information on autism and Asperger’s Syndrome read Craig Kendall’s book, New Hope for Autism