Making our own accommodations and finding help
As an older adult, it is very difficult to find support that is available to children and minors. Most insurance does not support specialized autism therapies for adults. But there may be ways of gaining support using therapies and systems already in place.
I think it is very important to know yourself and know your own struggles, strengths and weaknesses. If you have had a neurological study done, you will have some information about what you do best at, and what is hardest for you. I had never given this a thought.
It is amazing to me that so many autistic people have no concept of themselves. They have been so busy trying to survive and mask, interact with their demanding worlds, that they do not understand what motivates them, their emotions, how they see the world, their own thoughts and feelings and beliefs are often shoved to the background as not being essential to whatever struggle is of the moment. The majority do not seem to have any understanding at all about how others might see them. ( I surely did not!).
Many autistic folk don’t see the areas of life they struggle the most with, and usually do not understand why that particular thing is so difficult. Mostly we do know the frustration of not performing as we (or others) think we ‘should’ and we deal with residual guilt and self doubt because of those hidden struggles.
I had been so busy working and taking care of every day struggles I had never really thought about inner things. I did not understand the way I got through my days. What skills I used, what I believed about myself. I did not have a definite understanding of “who I was” or “what I wanted” in anything but the most shallow and immediate way as it depended on responses to every day situations. I have since had time and motivation to think about all of that. I can’t tell you how much it helps to know and value yourself enough to work to really understand the “inner you”.
Things to think about:
What things do I love to do best, and what is it that I like most about them?
What skills do I have that I perform well and confidently?
What skills do I struggle with, hate to be called on to use, fills me with a sense of struggle or failure?
When do I feel the happiest, most satisfied, most at peace?
How do I deal with sorrow, fears, disappointment, emotional pain? Do I need to learn healthier ways to respond?
Do I need to learn to recognize my feelings and express my feelings or learn to react to my feelings in healthier ways ?
Do I struggle with physical things? If so, what causes the most trouble for me?
Do I have anxiety or depression?
Do I have troubling responses to sensory and or emotional overload?
What struggles bother me the most, and do I need or want to learn new ways to deal with them?
Once we see our strengths and weaknesses and truly understand our struggles, we can begin to find ways to ease the struggles.
Accommodations for sensory overload, for example can be found in doing things in new ways. ( replacing bright flickering lights in the home with soft light, using rheostat switches to adjust brightness or dimness, for example) The list is endless of things we can do to help ourselves every day . But first we have to recognize the struggle and the needs.
We may not be able to access “autism therapy” but we can find professional specialists to help us with our social, emotional and our physical struggles.
There are occupational and physical therapists to help us with our gait or our coordination and our sensory struggles.
There are specialists in communication struggles to help us with speech, language, and other communication needs.
There are behavioral therapists who do not need to know you are autistic in order to help you overcome difficult behaviors, fears, anxiety, trauma, emotional recognition and self expression.
You can learn new ways to do things without your teacher/therapist knowing every detail about autism. I have found that many therapists are interested and open to learning more . The ones who listen instead of just tell you what you are or do or feel are the ones who will probably be most successful to work with. You may have to interview or try several before you find one you feel you can trust and who will work to understand and help you, but the things you can learn with a therapist as a coach or teacher for your life struggles will be worth the extra effort.
Insurance often can and will cover a certain number of visits to these specialists. Autism may contribute to your struggles, but your struggles may be better covered in the medical system (at least in the USA) through addressing the individual struggles and finding ways to work within the system which is already in place. (therapy for ptsd, therapy for trouble with walking, therapy for depression, etc rather than addressing autism directly)
Support groups and group therapies can also be helpful for social issues, as well as any special support groups for single issues such as epilepsy, various syndromes often associated with autism, etc… and in some large cities there are even autism support or social groups.
Adjusting to diagnosis and learning all the ways autism can affect us takes a lot of time. Please be patient with yourself and know you are not alone. It is a huge change to look at autism from the side of finally knowing. But knowing our diagnosis is autism, we can finally grow, understand, and take action for ourselves to make or lives better.
Take your time, explore, and realize that things will not change overnight, but gradually. 3 years in, and my life keeps getting better. The struggles are the same, but I am finding new ways to do things, and finding new understanding almost every day. 65 years of not knowing and adaptive changes I made in my life to survive will not be understood or un-done in a short while. It is an ongoing process. You are worthy of understanding, knowing, learning and you are worthy of the best life you can make for yourself .
Knowing will make all the difference!