Sunday, February 21, 2016

Independence anxiety and the role of Interdependence

In this post,  I am going to talk about one topic that is very personal and brings me angst.  It is about being independent.  Now from reading this post, you might think what is wrong with being independent.  After all being independent brings a lot of freedoms and you don't have to worry about relying on others as much.  If you ask any of my friends, they enjoy the independent lifestyle and it is a goal that everyone in society strives for.  In fact, in a number of autism books, experts stress the importance in striving for self sufficiency.  But does anyone understand the amount of ambivalence and anxiety that some people on the spectrum  have about independence? For years, the thought of independence and having increased demands placed on me has caused me a lot of anxiety.  In middle school, no one could bring up the word "independence" to me.  Back then, it would cause me to get so anxious that I would throw a meltdown.  Yet, it was highly stressed by my support people and it was a goal engraved in all my school IEPs. For example, in order to be prepared for college, I had to fade my aide which brought a whole lot of "independence anxiety" (a separate blog post on this shortly).  Let me share why being independent causes my stomach to tighten up.  The world is so unpredictable to a person like me.  To ask me to navigate this world by myself  without the security and the comfort of others is very scary since the outside world is not familiar with autism and would less likely be sympathetic to my thought processes of how I see the world.   I know that it is important to go out of the comfort zone and if people want to take you seriously, having independence skills is important but understand that there is a lot of unpredictability that is associated with being self sufficient.
So what is the solution of how I resolved my angst of being independent: The concept of interdependence.  I first heard about this concept when I attended a conference by a therapist who specializes in RDI.  He stressed that too many experts stress the concept of "independence" but in reality we should stress the concept of interdependence.  If you don't know what interdependence is, it is based in the principle of helping each other and that all humans (both disabled and nondisabled alike) are reliant on others to help them.  Sometimes in the autism world, we forget this principle of interconnectedness of human beings when we try to push independence on children and adults on the spectrum.  The concept of interdependence helped resolved some of my anxiety about independence (although not all) since it makes me realize that I am not alone on my journey.  I know not everyone on the spectrum shares my angst of being independent but I want to share my perspective on the matter in case there are others on the spectrum who face the same issue.

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