Shoulds

ought, supposed to, and other unhelpful or damaging words and phrases

This is about undefined expectations and non specific social pressure, guilt, shaming, and other undefined vague or incomprehensible negative communication.


Should sit up by age 6 months
Should walk by age 18 months
Should talk by age 24 months

Expectations for performance in our lives are set at a very early age. Before we go to day care we should be potty trained, before we go to school we should be able to dress ourselves, tie our own shoes, wash our hands and brush our teeth.

In school we should be able to sit still, listen to and obey the teacher, should be performing according to the parameters set in the guidelines for our average grade levels.

And so it goes. By the time we reach adulthood we have heard that word “should” at least a thousand different ways in a thousand different contexts allied with performance and expectations.

Somewhere in that, ” should “also is used to shame.
You should know that.
You should have….( done something)!
You should not ( have done something else)!.

“Should” becomes condemnation and guilt causing.
Added are variations of should: “ought to”, and “supposed to”.
You ought to know what you did wrong!
You ought to be able to figure it out!
You are supposed to (be like this, react like this, think like this).

I spent years in emotional chaos and despair over these words and this particular form of communication from others.
How was I supposed to know the things they said I “should”?
They never explained or defined their complaints or their criticisms so that I could avoid doing whatever it was they did not like me to do from then on.
I got responses such as “that was so mean” or “you hurt my feelings on purpose” or “You know very well what you did!”.
I could not understand how I was bad, wrong, thoughtless, improper, incorrect, etc without specific explanations of how I had offended or made mistakes that were so frequently interpreted as deliberate actions meant to cause emotional pain, to show defiance, or to deliberately thwart or frustrate others.

I was told constantly “you should know by now”, ” I should not have to tell you to” , “You ought to be able to figure it out”, and “you should not need help with that” .

I did not know, you did have to tell me, I was not able to figure it out on my own.
I was lost, confused, frightened and felt terrible because it was obviously “all my fault” but I did not understand how that could be so. I had absolutely no idea of how this had happened. I had absolutely no idea of what I could do to make sure it never happened again, but oh how I wanted to fix that!!!!

Add to this “you’re not supposed to be like that” ” You’re supposed to say (this)” or “You are supposed to ( do this)”.
I was often told I was supposed to want certain things, supposed to feel certain ways, supposed to like certain things, or to react in certain ways. I tried so hard to comply.

The world was just full of rules I tried so desperately to understand.
I did not know until years and years later that the words “should, ought, and supposed to” were subjective and dependent on the expectations of the person speaking rather than rules written in some unknown and hidden social code book to which I was for some reason not allowed access.

I did not know that the same “should”, “ought” , “supposed to” did not apply to everybody equally in any interaction. Nobody told me. I did not have a clue!

I wish somebody would have explained.

If you are the parent of a child with autism, it might be helpful to omit those few words and provide complete and detailed explanations of expectations and how they are to be met.
Adults with any kind of interactions or relationships to adult autistic persons, for these folks, I suggest the same.

Disappointing behavior, words spoken, actions taken, and expectations not met can be helped most by explicit and detailed explanations about why a certain action is preferred.
Please provide detailed description and explanation about how the expectations can be met in the future.

Your autistic partner in communications, child or adult will be much more likely to understand your expectations than by your telling them “you should know”.

Self inventory of skills

A useful tool

I fell on the idea of a skills self inventory when I was in my middle 30’s. I had never given much thought to
my mindset, my skills, my abilities, the things I had learned in previous years and previous jobs, etc.

I decided I needed to go get a job when my children were in school for most of the day, and found a book called ” What color is your parachute”.
There have been many versions of this book over the years. In the front of the book it helps you find your strengths and weaknesses and gives you an idea of the kinds of jobs you are suited for. The back section is dedicated to the ins and outs of actually job hunting. ( I am only concerned with the front section today)
I did the exercises in the book faithfully and found that I had much better understanding of myself after completing the exercises. I had never really thought much about my abilities or skills, and this helped me see many facets of myself that I had never suspected. ( remember this was 30 years before I knew about my autism).
The “homework” that made the most difference to me in terms of self confidence, self understanding, and general self knowledge (something I think many autistic people struggle with) was a skills self inventory.

The project was meant to help you see what you can do. It asks the participant to list everything we know how to do. This includes basic skills as well as those we have been highly trained for or that we are most adept at. I started my list chronologically, from the earliest memories of learning how to do something on through my most recent experiences. I listed the ability to walk and talk and do toilet things, to self dress, to do self care such as washing myself, combing my hair, etc…. I got super specific… if you do this you might be very specific too. I listed everything I could remember that I learned in school, how to read and write, how to play certain games, how to do arts and crafts… how to play a musical instrument, how to cook, how to clean…. on and on and on. I listed everything I could remember learning. How to use specific tools, how to type and file, how to give myself a home permanent and cut my own and other’s hair. How to carve leather, how to change a fuse… everything I had learned I tried to think of and write down. It took days! I had pages and pages when I finished.

It took just a short while to recognize that I could learn, that I had learned a great deal over the years… and the self inventory gave me insights about what I was best at, what I liked to do the most, etc etc.

I tried to share this revelation with others, but most of them already knew… yeah yeah, skills inventory and aptitude tests for school… so blase… did they do aptitude tests when I was in school? I think maybe they did. I remember getting results telling me I should be a forest ranger or a jeweler/watchmaker. I remember them telling me I should go to college. ??????? How did they come up with those suggestions?

Evidently I had missed a lot that others picked up on . Story of an autistic life, right???

That self inventory gave me better self understanding than my communication skills therapy had at age 30..( although those skills saved my life and were essential to life as I now know it).

I was much more confident of being able to learn new skills and being able to cope with new situations after doing a very complete and detailed inventory of the things I had already learned.

We hear so much about ‘disability’ and so much seems to be focused on “what we can’t do”.
Do a self inventory in these days when many of us seem to have extra time to fill while waiting for the current world health situation to evolve…. if you have never done a detailed self inventory, listing everything you know and know how to do… I suggest that you might view yourself differently after compiling such a list.

Flat Affect

I missed this one, I think!

I have been trying to learn if there is a link between Parkinsonism’s “mask” and Autism’s frequent reports of flat affect.

Flat affect is simply a lack of expressivity in one’s face and reactions.. the lack of showing emotion in one’s “presentation” to the world. Flat affect is reported as being frequent among autistic people.

I was quite surprised when the Doctor who diagnosed my autism said in the summary report that I “presented with flat affect”. I had always thought I was quite expressive both in my face and body, and in my voice! I certainly feel emotions, and was amazed that these emotions are not clearly visible on my face and in my reactions, etc in interactions with others, etc.

My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s while she was in her mid 50’s partly because she appeared to show “the mask” or flat affect that is known to develop with Parkinson’s disease… and knowing of her autism, I am now wondering if the flat affect due to her autism was perhaps attributed instead to Parkinson’s.

Flat affect might be one reason that autistic people are often accused of being cold.. our emotions may not be evident to others because of flat effect… NT people generally are very facially expressive of emotions and looking at one’s face is often a giveaway to one’s thoughts ( one being a person or an individual). When other people can not see our emotions clearly displayed on our faces, it is assumed that we are unfeeling. This is often far from the truth!

If you have been accused of ‘Not caring, being cold, being heartless, unreceptive, detached,” or otherwise unfeeling, yet you know you feel emotions sometimes desperately, perhaps flat affect is present. Did you know? I did not!

Autism Awareness April

April has been designated Autism awareness month once again.

The word is getting out. Autism awareness and acceptance news is spreading.
This is a challenge to all of us to go one step more, some of us will make posts, give talks, write our blogs, participate in other awareness and acceptance activities.
I hope we can add awareness of autism in adults to the things we discuss this year. (2020)

Extrapolated from the most recently completed USA Census, There are 1.6 million children in the USA (2 percent of the total population of those under age 18) who likely are autistic.
Awareness is rising and help is becoming available for children. Never quickly enough but we are definitely making progress.

Children do grow up. Here is a statistic that might surprise you.
Did you know there are likely 4.2 million autistic adults over age 18???
(2 percent of the adult USA population age 18 and older). Did you know the majority of them will be completely unaware of their own autism?
Please share these statistics. Those of us who are affected by autism know the difference a diagnosis makes in our lives.
Thanks for sharing, and for promoting understanding of autism in all ages.
Learn more here:

https:// oldladywithautism.blog/author/debrabrisch3436/

feel free to copy and paste! Share Share Share thank you.

Was there LOVE????

Something is missing from the lives of autistic children.

If the insights I am gaining from adult reports of their childhood are any indication.

Growing up I truly believed my family hated me and could not wait to get rid of me,
did not want to hear from me, was not interested in anything I had to say, how I felt,
what I thought. I believed they looked for reasons to try to hurt me, to shame me, to humiliate me, to cause me emotional pain and to punish me. I learned to be wary, defensive, self protective, afraid and anxious.

I still remember vividly almost every incident in which I was treated this way . To be fair, my perceptions might have been skewed due to my very poor visual and audio processing, which did not allow me to experience anything in “real time”. I was not equipped to understand a thing I saw or heard (human interactions face to face or in any person to person settings such as family interactions, school classrooms and free time association with others, watching tv, movies, or today watching you tube or other online visual and audio presentations). Nobody knew or understood about autism back then. I do understand (now) how it happened.

I remember family sometimes said they loved me, but in day to day experiences it was very difficult to believe. I remember my sister asking me if I believed I was loved, and I replied that I believed my mother when she said she loved us. That’s what she said, one did not doubt mother!
But I never felt loved. I never understood the concept of love. Nobody ever explained it. I could not see it, so I could not feel it. Looking back, I can see signs ( now ) of concern and caring, but at the time of my family and youth experiences growing up, I did not see or understand. Nothing in my childhood was ever explained. I was simply ‘told’ and had to accept whatever i was told, and accept it immediately, whether it was good or bad.

I rely on my autistic brothers and sisters on several forums to give me insight and understanding of how my autistic life experiences compare with others’.
I rely on insights they provide to make adaptations or adjustments in the way I see my world. They explain much that has remained hidden to me all these years. I asked on a couple of the larger forums (over a thousand members in each) this question.

“When you were growing up , did you feel loved?”

Hundreds of answers poured in over a period of days. If the answers I got were any insight, the majority (approximately 19 out of 20) reported that they did not feel loved. I was not alone!
I had suspected as much due to the large number of posts with memories of difficult struggles and cruelty reported of childhoods past.
In other conversations, Autistic parents swear they will not intentionally make their child feel unloved, uncared for, ignored, or cast aside, isolated or as though they were being discarded.
I believe it is human nature for parents to want life to be better for their children than the childhood they experienced. (but I don’t know many people who had happy childhoods).

I then asked a follow up question and asked the people who gave me insights to answer another question. “if you grew up unloved, what could have changed to make you feel loved?” and
” If you grew up feeling loved, what do you think made you believe you were loved”?

Overwhelmingly, the answers to this question were so moving. First of all, many of us needed to feel safe. Many of us remembered frequent emotional or physical punishments, criticisms, pointing out of weaknesses and scoldings, never feeling free to be themselves, feeling the anger, disgust, contempt and revulsion of their family members and just waiting for the next round of attacks on their bodes and or their psychological/emotional existence.

Most said they wished they had been listened to, encouraged, had explanations or discussions about so many aspects of life, had been approved of, had been included in family activities, had been at least sometimes the focus of loving and kind attention, instead of being ignored, criticized, cast aside or isolated.
One point brought up over and over, was being kept from family outings, family events, family activities that other siblings were included in.
I remember being sent to my grandparents, who did make me feel loved and worthy and who encouraged me, engaged me, and were kind to me.
I was in about 4th grade when I finally realized that the weekends I spent at my grandparents were weekends that family outings without me happened. I got full reports from the sister next younger, about where they went and what fun it all was. When I protested, and asked whi I could not have gone too, I was told “you had your special time with grandma and grandpa”.

The weekends when my siblings went to visit grandma and grandpa, the rest of us stayed home.

Many others had similar memories. Not welcome in my own family circle to do the fun things they did. What message does that send?


I think I really did not understood about all the facets of love and all its implications or the ways it is shown. I know I tried to make my own children loved, and as young adults, they report I succeeded in that. Somehow that is so precious to me. Of all the things I longed for as a child, to feel I was loved was at the top of the list. I never felt I succeeded with my parents or my siblings. Love may have been present but I did not experience it. I did not believe it. How much of my experience and its interpretation was the truth, and how much was my processing struggles and my autism keeping me from understanding???

I have struggled, as many autistic folks do, to sort my emotions and understand them.

Not until my learning about my own autism, and examining my previous experiences through the understanding of how autism has affected everything in my life did I have more than crumbs of understanding taken from clues in my early life, and most of it I “got wrong” or was incompletely informed. It is a lot to digest, it is a lot to understand. I am still working on sorting it out.

I hope that autistic children today are getting explanations about everything, the nature of things that are not black and white cut and dried in life, things like emotions- love, hate, how they can happen in a relationship at the same time and what it means. How emotions work, how to recognize them, how to understand other peoples’ emotions and what to do about it all.

Parents of autistic children, please keep explaining everything… what, how, why, when…. it is so important your child’s understanding of the world, their place in it, and to their sense of self and their perception of life as it unfolds around them. Don’t assume they understand what seems evident to you. I am fully intelligent, and I can learn, but sometimes I need to have the nature of things explained. In the case of those with auditory and or visual processing struggles, a lot that is evident to neurotypical people can be missed or misinterpreted.

Take time, explain everything. Your children will thank you some day.

Autism hazards

How being autistic might predispose us to behavioral hazards.

I have spent quite a while trying to learn more about autism’s association with some of society’s most difficult struggles.

Exact numbers are difficult to gather, and the numbers give here have been extrapolated by averaging results of studies I examined.

There is much to be learned and decided, but there have been studies on autism and social struggles such as homelessness, substance abuse, eating disorders, suicide, crime rates, jail and prison time.

Here are some of the statistics I found, averaged by combining results, some were significantly higher or lower than the averages I quote here from each group of studies I looked at. I used studies done since 2015, and there was actually very little research done before this on the subject of autistic involvement in each of these social issues.

Autistic people are 7x more likely to struggle with substance abuse.

up to 12 percent of homeless people show features of autism in one recent study. T

here is still lack of much research being done in this area.

One survey of adults admitted for rehab in clinics across the country said up to 30 percent of the people admitted were autistic.

Up to 23 percent of admissions ( in a similar nationwide clinic survey ) for treatment of eating disorders were autistic.

Autistic people are 9x more likely to die by suicide, and studies report up to 60 percent have had suicidal thoughts or attempts.

Up to 40 percent of autistic people report strong symptoms of depression.

27 to 42 percent report struggles with anxiety

Most studies I looked at regarding crime and incarceration were based on general intellectual disabilities rather than on autism, so I will not comment on that, but I know there are new studies being done regarding those statistics and autism.

One thing I have observed is that today people being admitted for treatment for most of these struggles are often being screened for autism. This is not universal yet, but it is a trend which is being reported as recently as 2018 and continuing through today. I find that encouraging.

None of these numbers are scientific from the point of my collecting information and extracting information and averaging it.
I am not a scientist. I am a concerned old lady bystander hoping to bring information to light so that it can be used for better understanding of adult autism, better self understanding, and perhaps better lives through self knowledge and application of coping and survival skills or seeking help if one struggles with one or more of these issues.

You are not alone! there is help available. Please reach out and ask for help if you are struggling.

Crisis lines and local hospitals usually have lists of supports available in your area. Your doctor or social worker can also help you find what you need. Tell others in online autistic communities and ask how others have dealt with these issues. Reach out to family or a friend.
Just know you are not alone, and it is OK to admit you have struggles.
A better life is out there but you have to take that first step. I hope and pray that you do.

After diagnosis

What next?




What happens when older adults are diagnosed with autism? Are there supports or therapies

which can explain this surprising diagnosis and help us understand our new autistic selves?

How will life be different? What do we need to help ourselves transition to this new definition

of ourselves?

Recent discussions in some forums I check out each morning have given some great insights

and not all of them are good.


On the question asking how knowing our autistic diagnosis has helped us, the great majority responded by saying it has not!

I must say this surprised me, considering how much better I feel I am doing now I know myself better and now I better understand my struggles.
For the majority giving answers, simply understanding how one struggles and why has not been enough. Those struggles still exist, even though they have been given a name (autism).

Most respondents said they needed more help. The great majority wished for available therapy to help them adjust to the new information and understand how to cope with the changes this brings.

Many said they could not break down the information of knowing their struggles to understand how to make adjustments and accommodations for themselves; they sought insights but struggled to find those new coping mechanisms on their own.

Many thought they could use another person to help in day- to-day functioning, actions requiring “executive functioning” struggles were the ones mostly named: household tasks such as cleaning and laundry, self care including bathing and other hygiene issues, food preparation and shopping, bill payments and financial struggles were all mentioned.

Finding affordable housing, and transportation issues were also discussed, as well as seeking persons to advocate for them in many transactions, medical, legal, etc. and for helping with filling forms, making applications, finding the services needed. Many services may be available, but finding out about them and applying for them seems insurmountable in difficulty. Even learning of local connections who might help is difficult at best.

Many wanted training in job skills, specialized education, and help finding jobs, perhaps getting accommodations for some sensory or other issues they were dealing with.

Some of these services can be provided through the state level insurance mandates in the United States that now say adult diagnosis and therapies/treatments must be covered (medicare too).
Others may be accessible without the word “autism” ever being raised. Locations where individual help is available vary considerably from place to place, so there is no general outline to tell us which steps to take to get what sort of help.
Getting ourselves connected to the networks used by other groups is complicated and for those who struggle with social issues, can be overwhelming/terrifying.

The forums I attend are international. In other countries there may be nothing at all to address autism . In some there may be agencies where one applies first. Here in the USA we ( autistic elders) are lost and on our own for the most part. Raising awareness is the first step.