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Success Can Be Its Own Adversity

  • Posted on June 11, 2012 at 8:00 AM

One of the common threads in discussing autism, Asperger’s and associated neurological differences is the challenge of discrimination and the lack of opportunity.  One of the threads that seems less common, if not entirely ignored, is the adversity of success.

With success brings the expectation—often overwhelming—to perform successfully.  This is emboldening when that performance is accessible, but it can be extremely disheartening when that success is out of reach.  As many of us know, ability is variable.  Some days we can do more than we can on most days.  Some days we can do less that we can on most days.  What we can do any given day, even a normal day, isn’t the same from day to day.  Add the stress to perform and that variability can increase exponentially.  Now this is, to a degree, true for everyone.  With autism, this variance is heightened and enunciated in a way that seems dramatic, even odd.  It makes the normal level of unpredictability seem predictable in comparison.

What makes this especially unfortunate is the days that we must perform are not always the days that we can perform.  I see this in my children and in myself.  These are the days when our successes come back to bite us.  We are expected to do, so we try, but we can’t and the frustration mounts, making it even harder to do and even harder to explain why we can’t, because everyone already knows we can or, rather, that we could without seeing the difference between the two.

How do you deal with success?  How do your children deal with success?  Do you give yourself or your children permission not to succeed even when you know, on another day, at another time you or your children could do what they can’t do at the moment?  It’s hard to do so, but it’s necessary.  Some days we can.  Some days we can’t.  Even when we usually can, there are still some days when we simply can’t, try as we might, as much as we want to, it’s just simply inevitably and unalterably out of reach.