Blog # 7- Social Problems in the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)


Here is the link to the article:

Wright, Jessica, “Social Problems in autism may impair practical life skills” Spectrum-Autism Research News. Published 28 Mar 2019. 

People in our society often state that some individuals with an autism spectrum diagnosis often show difficulties with behavior; social communication; and social interaction. Some individuals with autism have great reasoning and problem-solving abilities, yet, they may have issues with applying these reasoning and problem-solving abilities in an experiential learning atmosphere. Wright in her article states that individuals on the autism spectrum, “may have a high IQ but be unable to hold down a job because they cannot navigate public transportation” (Spectrum News, 2019). I think Wright is referring to the example in which individuals with autism may know how to get to point A to point B back to point A, which ideally point A could be home and point B being work and back home to point A. The problem is that some individuals with autism may have difficulty communicating and expressing their needs to specific people in charge of public transportation such as a bus driver or a conductor on the transit. I think it is also possible that some individuals on the autism spectrum may have difficulty navigating public transportation due to a lack of experience in which they may not be aware of the rules and expectations, or the “social norms” behind accessing public transportation.

Another reason that people with autism may not be able to hold onto a job is because companies might not fully be educated about the autism spectrum, especially where behaviors and social interactions that are typical and harmless in everyday society may be misperceived and misinterpreted as misconduct. Unfortunately, this often leads to disciplinary action, and, at times, termination of employment. Some people on the autism spectrum have difficulty with understanding the social norms in terms of what is expected during the interview process (i.e. dress etiquette, preparation, materials, having questions to ask), and, if hired, the onboarding process and job expectations (schedule, expectations of daily routines like clocking in and out of work; supervision, performance, teamwork, etc.). Oftentimes, people on the autism spectrum have difficulty with forming relationships with other people at work, which because sometimes people with autism can have trouble picking up on nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions, as well as the “unwritten rules” and the “hidden curriculum”, this often leads to social misunderstandings which connects back to Wright’s point about people on the autism spectrum having difficulties with adaptive living skills, or what I like to call in the world of human services and rehabilitation, activities of daily living.

Wright also stated in her article that, in which I agree with, is that some individuals on the autism spectrum are comorbid with other disabilities and medical conditions, “such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or depression” (Spectrum News, 2019). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) emphasizes difficulties with attention and concentration, which both cognitive skills are essential for multitasking which is often a job requirement in many positions. Depression can often lead to feelings of doubt and hopelessness, especially if the person on the autism spectrum not only has difficulty with socializing with others at work, but also, having difficulty with keeping up with the essential functions of the position, whether they do not advocate for themselves and receiving poor performance feedback, or, the person with autism advocates all they can for help, and the company is limited in terms of what supports and services they can provide to accommodate the person on the autism spectrum. Having problems with attention and concentration associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ASD) as well as depression can also affect other aspects of a person’s life, especially with autism, such as: money management; personal care; housing; homemaking; healthcare; dating; marriage; education; and other aspects of society at the micro level (the individual) and the macro level (society as a whole). The connection is that these issues can often lead to negative responses toward the biopsychosocial well-being of people on the autism spectrum over the course of the life span which is why supports and services need to be set in place as well as resources to help individuals with autism to succeed, and that includes the informal supports (family, friends, neighbors, etc.) and formal supports (doctors, teachers, counselors, etc.).

I think I may know why Wright stated there may be an, “incongruity between IQ and adaptive skills” (Spectrum News, 2019). The problem with using IQ (intelligence quotient) and adaptive skills is that you cannot necessarily connect the two. Although a person with autism may have not had the reasoning or problem-solving skills to learn activities of daily living in the beginning, it is possible they are able to now perform these activities of daily living thanks to the acquisition of experiential knowledge through childhood and adolescence with learned experiences as well as specialized supports like speech and occupational therapy. Also, experience and wisdom are acquired over the course of time as well which both are the fundamental components of learning. Neuroplasticity also plays an essential role in compensating for cognitive issues for certain parts of the brain, and this is where different kinds of minds and learning styles effect their lifestyles. That is how people over the course of time learned skills like personal hygiene; professional etiquette; relationship building; and even simplifying this concept by stating simply learning how to get dressed; how to manage money; how to shop for food at the grocery store; and other life examples.

Although there may be some people on the autism spectrum that are not comfortable or interested in socializing with other people, they can be a tremendous asset to other aspects of society. For example, like using their attention and concentration to write computer programs; to create beautiful artwork; to complete scientific experiments; or to even play musical instruments. Another example is that technology has grown in our society as an alternate path to establishing communication and interaction with others as well for people on the autism spectrum. I do think there needs to be more research geared towards analyzing and evaluating the social issues that people on the autism spectrum face which effect their activities of daily living (ADLs), and I will also emphasize that this kind of research needs to be expanded into older adulthood to understand the gerontological and geriatric needs of older adults with autism spectrum disorder to analyze and evaluate their needs and interests, but also, evaluate their social issues and how they effect their activities of daily living.

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