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Young Adults with Autism and the Struggle with Isolation

Leaving high school and embarking on those next steps can be challenging for any young adult. For those on the autism spectrum, that journey often presents unique hurdles. 

For years, you’ve watched your child navigate through rocky social terrain, with social skills challenges being a hallmark trait of autism spectrum disorder. Now, upon entering adulthood, isolation likely stands out as a significant concern. 

As your young adult begins the transition into adulthood, they may face more limited social opportunities, encounter misunderstandings, or experience exclusion, leading to a . However, there are key ways to address this isolation and help them to foster social connections in this next stage of life.

Why Isolation Is So Prevalent with ASD

Several factors are at play when your young adult is experiencing isolation, many of which are not in their control. 

  1. Challenges with social skills: Difficulties in understanding social cues and norms can make it harder to initiate and maintain meaningful relationships. They may struggle with interpreting nonverbal communication, understanding social boundaries, or engaging in reciprocal conversations.
  2. Limited social opportunities: Young adults with autism often face more limited opportunities for socialization. Employment challenges, transportation fears, or hesitation to be their authentic selves make it harder to form genuine connections.
  3. Stigma and misunderstanding: Though familiarity with neurodiversity has come a long way, society continues to have a limited understanding of autism. This may lead to misconceptions about the abilities and interests of your young adult with ASD.
  4. Sensory overload: Sensory sensitivities are common in individuals with autism. Noisy or crowded environments can be overwhelming, leading to avoidance of social situations and further isolation.

Ways to Reduce Feelings of Isolation at Home

To support young adults with autism in overcoming isolation, it is crucial to foster connections and promote inclusivity. During this period of transition, you can take some .

  1. Make a plan: As part of your child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program), you likely had a transition plan in place. Having a plan for employment, further schooling, internships, or activities is essential, as a pattern of downtime is hard to break. 
  2. Seek inclusive communities: Helping them to establish a peer support network can provide a young adult with autism with a sense of belonging and understanding. They can join a support group in-person or online, or seek out an activity related to a specific interest. Finding connections with others who share similar experiences and interests can help them create more meaningful relationships and alleviate feelings of isolation. 
  3. Empower self-advocacy: By empowering young adults on the autism spectrum to express their needs and preferences, you are giving them the tools to participate in shaping their own social environment and seek support when needed. Teach them ways to make themselves heard in new social situations, the workplace, and amongst peers so they can feel more free to be themselves.
  4. Celebrate and accept their identity: Spend time with your young adult focusing on the positive aspects of neurodiversity and all of the strengths they bring to any social group or organization. Acknowledge both their unique way of perceiving the world and the challenges they encounter daily, and honor their overall experience of life. This will promote more self-awareness and an increased appreciation of their identity.

The struggle with isolation is a significant challenge faced by many young adults with autism. However, it is crucial to overcome this isolation because social connection and inclusion play such a fundamental role in their overall well-being and development. By actively seeking social interaction and gaining a greater sense of self, autistic individuals will strengthen communication skills, build meaningful relationships, and expand their essential support networks. 

The ýapp is so unique because of its focus on socialization and independence through both of its tracks, either residential or the new day program. The one-of-a-kind program builds skills in four areas necessary for success in adulthood: life skills, psychological, educational, and social. Our goal: to help autistic young adults grow into individuals with the drive, skillset, and confidence to enter the adult world. If your young adult would benefit from a program like ours, reach out here.

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-forgotten-women/202303/the-problem-of-loneliness-for-people-with-autism

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