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Featured How do older autistic adults deal with social challenges?

Discussion in 'Friends, Family & Social Skills' started by Oldlady, Feb 1, 2019.

  1. Oldlady

    Oldlady Well-Known Member

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    Hello. I'm new to the forum, but would really love to hear about how any of the older adults have experienced the social challenges of being autistic, both past and present. How did you manage when you were younger and how has the awareness of your autism effected or changed how you deal with social stuff now?
     
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  2. Progster

    Progster Gone sideways to the sun V.I.P Member

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    When you say older adults, how old do you mean?

    I'm in my late 40s. It depends on the situation. If I'm with my partner and we have to do anything social, I just don't talk... I can't do group conversations because I don't have time to think of a reply and react before someone else speaks. I feel disconnected, like watching TV, and this has always been the case. I also find it difficult to follow conversations where there is background noise like a TV, other conversations or music. I switch off and withdraw inside my head, get bored because I'm just sitting there not doing anything, then usually go home early. If I can't do that, I often go out for a walk around until it's time to go.

    If I'm in a situation where I have to talk, I keep it short, and have breaks (for work). Talking is very tiring for me, I much prefer to be doing something with someone rather than just talking. I prefer to be alone really.
     
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  3. Nitro

    Nitro Admin/Immoral Turpitude Staff Member Admin V.I.P Member

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    Being the anomaly that I am, I contradict the stereotype of being introverted and actually draw attention towards myself.
     
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  4. Shamar

    Shamar Well-Known Member

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    Very simple. In private I cried, I screamed, I suffered. In public I sucked it all in, endured and carried on. I eventually gave up social interaction.
    In the two instances when I tried to become social again, one ended up with problems, the other is an ongoing disaster. I am 67, diagnosed at age 60.
     
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  5. Nervous Rex

    Nervous Rex High-functioning autistic V.I.P Member

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    Through brevity and kindness.

    Brevity
    I try to keep all my comments and stories short. If I don't, someone will interrupt (often with "Get to the point!"). I'm always thinking of something to contribute to a conversation, but just like @Progster said, the conversation usually speeds past before I can formulate a reply. My wife is social and entertaining, and I usually let her carry the conversation. When I do speak, it's usually because I feel like I have something very meaningful to say.

    Kindness
    So many times, I've seen people insulting or taking jabs at one another in a friendly way. Every time I try to get in on it, I end up horribly offending someone. So I don't even try that anymore. I have found that it's never wrong to be kind, so I always look for the kindest reaction and the kindest comment. It's very deliberate and not second nature at all. When I want to call someone an idiot, when I want to complain, scream, and shout, when I know I could easily knock someone down a peg or two ... I push that desire down, and I am kind. At work, I have a reputation as being one of the nicest people to work with. It was a hard thing to cultivate and it's hard to maintain, but worth it.

    I made this flowchart to appear humorous, but it's also 100% true for me. These are the things that go through my head when I am trying to socialize:
     
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  6. Oldlady

    Oldlady Well-Known Member

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    I guess I mean however you identify - some people will think they are an older adult when they are in their 40's and others will not. The 40's are a very transitional time. At least they were for me. I really felt as if my youth was over when I turned 40. I was no longer young, but I wasn't old either. Turning fifty was much harder though and I feel that my fifties have been the decade in which I learned how to be an old woman in the world. I'll be glad when I turn 60 because it will signify (to me) that I am old now and will be until I die. I wonder if this way of thinking is typical of the autistic type?

    Are there any situations in which you do enjoy talking? I can be a chatter box if I'm talking with someone who has the same interests, but only for so long and then I get really drained. However, I really don't enjoy 'small talk' although I do see it's value. I also need an inordinate amount of alone time, but I do enjoy a certain amount of company if it is with people with whom I have an intimate relationship.
     
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  7. Oldlady

    Oldlady Well-Known Member

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    What about social interaction is difficult for you specifically?
     
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  8. Oldlady

    Oldlady Well-Known Member

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    Does being interrupted annoy you or disrupt your train of thought? Do you find that saying something meaningful is not usually welcomed? How did you get to the point where you were able to push down your true nature and be consistently kind?
     
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  9. Tom

    Tom Well-Known Member

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    Sometimes I don't. I'll just say something like 'Well if that ain't the gol dernest nonsense I ever heard.'
     
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  10. Mr Allen

    Mr Allen Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I just go, "look, I don't want to talk to you, [deleted] off" :D
     
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  11. Nihil

    Nihil Active Member

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    I still have a habit of avoiding social situations. I expect that to continue.

    (Actually 26 isn't old. But I feel old mentally). :p
     
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  12. Progster

    Progster Gone sideways to the sun V.I.P Member

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    I much prefer to be doing an activity with someone rather than just sitting in a cafe talking, helping them in the garden for example, and I am better with one to one than with a group - but with one to one, I have to talk, I can't switch off like I do in groups, and I get tired... I don't enjoy small talk or chit chat and find it hard to fake interest, though I try to keep nodding and smiling. I like any conversation to be meaningful - I usually don't engage with people unless I have something to say, I'm functional rather than social in my dealings with people. I don't ever phone people just to chat, for example, but I might phone to ask them something or tell them something, though I don't like using the phone and don't do this often. If they enjoy similar things or we have similar views on things it's easier, but actually I don't have much in common with most people at all and find it hard to think of things to say.
     
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  13. Nervous Rex

    Nervous Rex High-functioning autistic V.I.P Member

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    It doesn't disrupt my train of thought. I remember what I didn't get to say for days afterward. It is absolutely annoying and kinda hurts - because it means that the people I was talking to don't deeply care about what I deeply care about. I try to realize that it doesn't matter how much I get to say - if people aren't interested, they won't listen.

    I am getting more and more comfortable with the fact that no one else around me has the same intense obsessions that I have. I try to remember that the tendency toward intense obsessions is an autistic thing (or just a Nervous Rex thing, for my specific avocation), and understand that others around me don't get it. Heck, I haven't even monologued about my obsessions on this site, because no one else here has expressed interest. I have decided that it's okay to cherish the things I cherish, even if no one else around me does.

    Years - no exaggeration - years of practice.

    30 years ago, a well-liked person in my social circle died, and everyone gushed about all the nice things he had done for them. As I listened, I thought, "I want that kind of talk at my funeral." I started deliberately doing nice things not because I wanted to do them, but because I wanted to be the kind of person that does them. Would a nice person help clean up after a social event? Yes? Then I'll do that. It was 100% fake-it-to-make-it when I started, but it worked.

    15 years ago, I decided that I didn't care about being known as the smartest person at my company - I want to be known as the nicest. I would try, succeed for a bit, react at something without thinking, beat myself up about it, and then try again. A lot of actions I regret still randomly pop in my head at inconvenient times, and instead of beating myself up about it, I try to say to myself, "Yep, that happened. I'm going to learn from it and do better next time." That type of thinking isn't second-nature yet, but I'm getting better at it.

    About 8 years ago, I was in a near road-rage incident - I was super angry. I didn't act out at all, but I hated the way I felt. I realized I needed to try to be nice everywhere, always.

    About 4 years ago, I realized that I still made snarky or snide comments about people in their absence because it made other people laugh and got me attention. I decided that I need to avoid all humor at other people's expense.

    About 2 years ago, I realized that all these efforts were converging around kindness, and decided that the simplest rule is to try to be kind, everywhere, to everyone, always.

    I still get angry. I still react mindlessly sometimes and do things I regret. I still want to see jerks in traffic get their comeuppance and I would love to be person to give it to them. I am the weakest and at my worst when I'm mentally fatigued, so I try to avoid doing or saying anything when I'm in that state. But overall, I'm slowly getting better at being kind.
     
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  14. clg114

    clg114 Still crazy, after all these years. Staff Member V.I.P Member

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    I am 73 and was diagnosed at 62. Socially, my worst times were when I was in my late teens and early twenties. By the time I was thirty I had a lot more confidence in my self and that kept up as I got older. Now I have the confidence to talk to anyone. However I still have social problems. In a social setting with lots of people, I have a very hard time telling what anybody is saying. It sounds like a bunch of chickens clucking to me. If somebody talks to me while a TV or radio is on, I can not understand either one. I have been this way all of my life and my old ears are making it worse. So when we are in a social setting, I follow my NT wife around, smile and try to be as pleasant as I can. All in all, being a old Aspie is a lot better than being a young Aspie. That is how it is for me, but remember, we are all different.
     
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  15. Judge

    Judge Well-Known Member

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    I'm retired, live alone and in relative isolation by choice. I answer to no one except God and the Internal Revenue Service. Consequently I'm very picky about social challenges. If I don't really need to deal with them, I won't bother. No harm, no foul. And on occasion, no prisoners.

    Before that I gave up struggling with interacting with others some years ago, working in a self-employed capacity. Relying on my own strengths, without having to rely on other people for better or worse.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019
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  16. Nervous Rex

    Nervous Rex High-functioning autistic V.I.P Member

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    I had to rate your comment "Winner" just for that sentence.
     
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  17. Pats

    Pats Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I'm 61, diagnosed at 59. I cried every day on the school bus in first grade. Second grade was begging my mom to let me quit. I made a friend in 7th grade and my family moved to Virginia when I was in 9th. Never made a friend and quit in 10th. Moved around a lot, never making friends. It never bothered me all those years. Divorce brought me to NC and I got myself through nursing school in order to support my kids because I knew I would have no help. I worked at one hospital changing floors I worked on once for 15 years, and during the last 5 years finally made a friend. Otherwise co-workers just didn't like me, even though I did my work and minded my own business. I had church acquaintances, but it was kind of like the preacher - when I tried speaking to him he was looking over my head to see who else was there that he may want to talk to. I finally gave up and quit.
    I think my peak social years would be in my 40's - when my kids were all grown and gone, I got remarried and moved to Ga and went into home health nursing. Found a very small church there and really enjoyed being with them. It was church, then after church we all went out to eat together. (there was about 20 at the most). But I still didn't have any one on one friends which I really wanted. But I would attend any social events - if one of them had a get together, or Christmas party. It's the only time I've ever been comfortable in a group and I don't know why. But I learned that my husband was a narcissist and I couldn't handle it. He'd just walk into the room and start yelling at me for no reason, at night he'd deliberately pull my hair to wake me up and pretend it was an accident and made it a point to never do things I wanted to do (completely opposite from when we were dating). ANyway, I left and moved back to NC and fixed my oldest son's basement garage into my apartment. I found a church here and I tried my best to make friends and be social and it was harder than I ever remember it being. Seems everything was getting harder (just leaving the house - even to go visit my kids). And I found myself in a situation that I ended up hiding from my own kids and their families trying to figure out my escape and that was when I realize there was, indeed something wrong with me. I mean I always knew I struggled with everything and I always felt like I didn't belong on this earth, but with my own kids - something is wrong with that picture. That's what led to the discovery of autism and soon followed with an official diagnosis. What an eye opener.
    Things are seemingly harder as I've aged. Things I used to have a hard time doing but could get myself to do, is next to impossible any more.
    (K, My daughter called and interrupted my train of thought).
    Hello and welcome.
     
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  18. Pats

    Pats Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I like that comment, too - sounds familiar. Why can't I find the comment?
    Actually with tinitis and can't understand what anyone is saying any more, it's just frustrating to try to talk to people.
     
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  19. Gracey

    Gracey Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I don’t deal with social challenges if I don’t want to.

    Sometimes for lack of not knowing what to do anymore,
    sometimes because I don’t have the patience (and that rarely ends well)

    Currently my social graces extend to being at arms length. General , (scripty) chitty -chat.
    Not really connecting and somewhat guarded.

    I suppose that’s because I have a head chocker block full of ‘reality’. New Problems, issues and aspects of health that all need action on my part.

    I can just about string a sentence together with those I know,
    I can retrieve scripts and ‘arms-length’ pleasantries for strangers.
    (Other dog walkers, standing in a shopping queue- you know the stuff that doesn’t mean much)
     
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  20. china autie

    china autie friend to dogs and frogs and cats

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    I socialize with one or two people or one selected small group at a time. I am pretty much sitting on the sidelines at this point and that is usually okay with me.
     
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