Success and Autism

What is success? Well, society generally considers a person successful if they have at least one of three things: money, fame, or power. But this model for measuring success rarely works with people on the autism spectrum. There are many successful autistics in this world, but the world may not consider them successes.

So, what counts as success for an autistic? There are as many ways to answer that as there are autistics. Some can succeed through the standard “money, fame, or power” route. Others may be considered successful if they learn to use the toilet. The ability to go to the store, place of worship, library, etc. without a meltdown can prove success for still others. Since each autistic is unique in their abilities and deficits, the definition of success is also unique to each individual.

For me, I consider myself successful because I can write. As a girl with communication deficits and learning disabilities, being able to communicate my thoughts and imaginings through writing is a pretty big thing. The fact that I’ve been able to get some of my writing published is awesome. So while I may not conform to the world’s standards of success, I am still successful in my own way.

When it comes to autism, focusing on the individual is one of the best things you can do. Just because one autistic can overcome his set of challenges and get a full-time job working in a mail room doesn’t mean another autistic can do the same. Success for that second autistic could be volunteering one afternoon a week at the local animal shelter. Celebrate each success as it comes, no matter how small, and try to keep realistic expectations. As with so many things, what one autistic is capable of may be completely outside the realm of possibility for another.

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