Let me describe a situations that happened for me.
It’s early morning, and I am having to battle the elements of the Scottish weather, trying to hold up my umbrella against the wind and rain. I arrive at the bus stop. Someone else is waiting in the bus shelter.
I turn and say:
“Good grief, this weather is awful. You wouldn’t think it was the middle of May, would you?”.
The elderly man who was in the shelter responds with:
“No, I couldn’t believe it when I got up this morning, we had such a beautiful weekend too. At least I won’t have to water the garden tonight though.”
This occurs with ease, involved no active learning and no pre-thought. I did it because it makes me feel good, to connect with another person in this way. It makes me smile. My emotional well being is raised by participating in this type of social behaviour and I may never meet him again, I don’t know his name and yet I felt compelled to inform him of the state of the weather.
For autistic people, this is different.
Autistic people go through the middle ground, where they require to watch, observe, analyse, copy, evaluate and review.
They learn how to behave in particular settings with particular people. They craft a way of being that allows them to ‘ get by’ in the social world.
This pathway is exhausting to navigate requires a very high degree of hyper vigilance. Autistic people require to be ‘on their game’, to ensure success in this area. Social communication is very heavy on cognitive effort and is therefore exhausting. Meeting up with 2 or 3 friends for a couple of hours can leave an autistic person requiring to sleep to recharge their cognitive energy.
When the demands to socially interact are greater than your cognitive energy reserve then many autistic people will develop anxiety, may withdraw or may start to make errors.
Autistic people, especially those where there autism has not been recognised often experience issues with their well being, suffering social anxiety, recurrent depressive episodes, low mood or low self esteem. Some autistic people find it difficult to multi task, organise their lives or plan life goals into the future.
In order to help with these issues, undiagnosed autistic people need first to understand themselves better and a diagnostic assessment is the first step on the journey of self discovery.