The High School Survival Guide for Aspies, Part Two
Dealing With Authority Figures
-This is trickier than it first seems. I could recommend that you just do whatever authority figures say, and trust them, and obey them, but some authority figures don’t know what they’re doing and some of them are abusive.
-So here’s what you should do. If an authority figure asks or tells you to do something, ask yourself the following questions (in your head):
1. Is this safe?
2. Is this legal?
3. Does this make sense?
4. Does this make me feel uncomfortable?
If the answer to questions 1 or 2 is no, then you should refuse to comply. If the answer to question 3 is no, then you should ask for clarification. If the answer to question 4 is yes, then you should tell the authority figure that the situation is making you uncomfortable. If the situation continues to make you feel uncomfortable, you should refuse to comply.
-If you have to challenge an authority figure, either do it through writing or do it when your peers are not present. You may also achieve good results if at least one other authority figure is present (but don’t interrupt a conversation or meeting).
-Authority figures respond well to:
3. Verbal precociousness
Fortunately, these are all qualities that many Aspies naturally possess. I have known several adults who are usually uncomfortable around youth, but are fond of Aspies because they are not youth in any recognizable sense. So in some cases you might have an innate advantage over your peers. However, some authority figures have a problem with youth who are in any way different from the norm. Remember that this is their problem, and not yours.
-Some general rules to remember are:
1. Do not touch authority figures, unless they are in your family.
2. Do not comment on the personal appearance of authority figures, or comment on any aspect of their personal lives, unless they are in your family. If they are in your family, you may complement their appearance, and you may comment on aspects of their lives that you do not believe will upset them.
3. When challenging authority figures, refrain from becoming emotional. Especially watch out for feelings of anger and frustration. If you feel yourself becoming angry or frustrated, remember that you will outlive the authority figure in question. Remember that you will have the last laugh. Whatever you do, don’t remind them of this fact.
-If you suspect that an authority figure is abusing their authority, or you witness an authority figure breaking the law, tell another authority figure who you trust.
-At high school you’ll be putting on an elaborate performance in order to ensure your survival. Obviously, this can really mess with a person’s head. You have to take care of yourself when you’re not performing, and you have to make sure you have enough downtime to keep plugging ahead.
-Find at least one “safe space” in your high school where you can recharge through reading or other quiet activities. This safe space might be in the academic resource room, the library, guidance department, or somewhere else. You might want to access it before school, during lunch, during a study period, after school, or- by special arrangement- during class, if you’re close to having a meltdown.
-It is really helpful to have a calm, soothing place to decompress after school. Hopefully, you can go home and relax by involving yourself in your special interests. But if your house is stressful, get permission to go somewhere relaxing before going home. This could be a library, bookstore, house of worship, or some other place.
-Your special interests exist for a reason. Use them to decrease your anxiety. In your spare time, and when you’re feeling especially overloaded, spend some time focusing on a special interest.
-Think about what you want your life to be like in ten, twenty, or thirty years. Where would you like to live? What job would you like to have? What will your day-to-day routine look like? Whenever you’re feeling really stressed, or facing a problem that seems insurmountable, think about your future plans.
-Some of the goals that high school students are expected to achieve are:
-Multiple close friendships (perhaps as part of a clique)
-Extra-curicular activities (sports, clubs, community service)
-Academic success (which includes school work completed at home)
-Working out your identity and life goals
-As an autistic, you’ll also be dealing with stresses that other students don’t have to deal with, like puzzling out social situations and coping with sensory overstimulation. So you won’t be able to accomplish everything on that list. Don’t feel pressure to accomplish everything on that list. You won’t be able to, and if you try, you’ll make yourself crazy.
-Figure out what your priorities are. You need to start doing this as soon as possible, because it’s going to take awhile. What items on that list are the most important to you? Which items on that list are not important to you?
-Imagine what would happen if you ditched the items that are not important to you. Is it a positive scenario, or a negative scenario? If it’s a negative scenario, you need to reassess which items you want to give up.
-I know this is a tough exercise, because the section of the human brain that understands long-term consequences doesn’t finish developing until a person is twenty-years-old. But you’re smart, and you’ve already handled more than most people your age. With the help of at least one trusted adult, you’ll be able to figure it out.
-To provide an example, here’s what I did in high school. I only ever had a few close friends at any given time, because having a lot of friends wasn’t important to me. I only dated once in high school, for a few weeks. I wasn’t as interested in dating as most of my peers. I never participated in any extra-curicular activities because I wasn’t interested. I worked very hard to get good grades because it was important to me. I thought a lot about what I wanted in life and what I wanted my future to be like because that was important to me.
Your interests and needs will probably be completely different from mine. But in order to be happy and successful, you have to figure out what your interests and needs are.