My 25-Year-Old HFA Son Is Not "Growing Up"

“My son with autism (high functioning) has recently turned 25. He still lives with us, he struggled in college and bailed out, can’t seem to find employment, has few friends (no girlfriend), is on his computer all day long (and through the night), refuses to seek the assistance of a job coach or other therapist. He's simply not 'growing up'. This is the same behavior we witness when he was a teenager. My question is, what happens typically in situations like this, where the person is now an adult with the disorder and seemingly unable to ‘make it’ out in the real world? What can we expect from our son as time goes by? Thanks in advance.”

Here are a few possible outcomes with respect to what may occur as your son continues to age:

1.    Behaviors that result from “mind-blindness” and a lack of understanding of non-verbal cues (e.g., body language, facial expression, etc.) can leave romantic partners (e.g., girlfriend, spouse) with the impression that the person with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is self-absorbed and selfish. Relationship counseling from a professional well-versed in ASDs should be pursued if this case.

2.    Even the most mildly affected among young people with HFA face challenges in managing their symptoms (e.g., depression, low self-esteem, loneliness and anxiety are common problems). Applications for medical and psychological assistance can be pursued in this case.

3.    Often, young adults with HFA are misunderstood by those who lack experience with autism spectrum disorders. The HFA person’s lack of social awareness and interaction may be construed as odd or rude behavior.

Symptoms (e.g., inability to maintain eye contact during conversation) can make job interviews and establishing friendships difficult, as others often misinterpret the behavior as dishonesty or a lack of interest. Therefore, procuring the assistance of a job and/or life coach could be a real advantage in this situation.

4.    People with HFA suffer difficulties in communication, language, and social interaction typical of Autistic Disorder, as well as repetitive behaviors and narrow interests. Also, abstract language concepts, (e.g., irony and humor) may be beyond their comprehension. Thus, social skills training programs and/or seeking the assistance of a social skills therapist can be beneficial.

==> Launching Adult Children With Aspergers and HFA: How To Promote Self-Reliance

5.    While employees with HFA are very often extremely bright, focused, and talented, the social aspects of the workplace can be their undoing. Workplace friendships can be unfamiliar territory for those with social interaction difficulties, the small talk and humor beyond their grasp. Co-workers who are not aware of the difficulties faced by people on the spectrum may see them as awkward due to behavioral symptoms.

The person with HFA may be viewed as too serious, aloof, or arrogant because of repeated “social mistakes.” These misunderstandings can breed resentments among co-workers, causing dismissals by employers in order to keep peace in the workplace. In cases such as this, it’s best to self-disclose one’s disorder to the employer and request special accommodations when possible.

6.    On a positive note, many young people with HFA are able to blend into society just fine, learning to manage their symptoms to build successful and independent lives. Many find their niche in society with satisfying careers, successful marriages, fulfilling friendships, and active social lives. These “high-functioning” adults may not seem as if they have any autistic traits, sparing them the assumptions and prejudices faced by those with symptoms that are more obvious.

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