Understanding the Challenges of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Part 1

When discussing ASD, the quote, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” is frequently heard.  Although this is undoubtedly the case, there are some similarities amongst people on the spectrum.  One similarity is difficulty with flexibility.  We’re not talking about doing the splits. Some people with ASD may have that level of physical flexibility, some may not.  We’re talking about mental flexibility, the ability to change plans when something unexpected happens, or the ability to follow a conversation as it loops, twisting and turning as people add their own connections and stories.  These skills are difficult for people that have Autism Spectrum Disorder/ Asperger’s Syndrome.  The expression of these challenges can be unique to the individual.

Here’s what it might looks like. 

As a conversation progresses:

      • You/ your friend may get stuck on a previous topic, sounding a bit awkward. 
      • You/ your friend may sound as if you are giving a lecture with little, if any, input from other friends. 
      • You/ your friend may continue on this subject despite the shrinking group of friends, as one by one they go on their way.

In the case of changing plans:

      • You/ your friend may repeat the same phrase or question over and over, despite reassurances and answers. 
      • You/ your friend may go ahead with the regular plan, causing worry, discomfort, and possible injury to yourself and others.
      • You/ your friend may seek comfort in a preferred topic or activity despite the expectations of the current environment, creating an uncomfortable atmosphere.
      • You/ your friend may rock, fidget, or use a repetitive movement to self soothe.


Rebecca J Weaver is a Certified Autism Specialist at Independent with Autism, working to empower individuals with ASD.  Need help with mental flexibility? Check out IndependentwithAutism.com for more information.