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How to deal with outside questions

MikeS's picture

How to deal with outside questions

Fri 16 May 2014 2:06pm

Scope have recently started their excellent End The Awkward campaign and they've emailed us to ask if we can help with a question they've received from a supporter:

My friend has Asperger's Syndrome, high-end functioning, but cannot work outside the home.  He has stopped going out because people say, 'Oh, what do you do for a living?' or 'What do you find to do all day?'

What is the best way to deal with this? He is an artist but never offers his work for sale, so I said he can truthfully make that his reply. 'I am an artist.' Any offers, please? People have said to me, 'Well, he doesn't look disabled to me, there can't be much wrong with him.' His AS is crippling.

Mike - Former Community Manager

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  • JosieB's picture

    Hi Mike

    I think the response suggested by the poster is a good one, but perhaps the person with AS finds even that difficult to do.   Perhaps doing some role play with someone familiar to practice how to respond to the questions he finds difficult.

    Re his art, could they not source a gallery, gift shop or even a local cafe willing to display his work with price tags so that they could be sold but through a third party which would make it easier for him.  I've seen paintings in a cafe before marked up for sale in this way. 

    Josie - Community Champion
  • fixmatop's picture

    I argree with Josie that the other persons suggestion about saying he is an artist is a good one.  However, he may not feel this to be true or he may see it a a lie, as he is not actually being employed to do this or getting paid for his paintings.  Him not selling his paintings may be to do with the fact it is a hobby to him and he my feel they are just something he does for fun and may think people won't want to buy them.  Maybe sarting by having a website to display his work and if asked selling them  will give him confidence to display them and sell them outside his home.  This may also help him get involved or get to know  other artists near him, and may help him see himself as a artist.

    Kim - Community Champion
  • Buttercup's picture

    If he is uncomfortable saying that he is an artist then he could perhaps say - 'I spend my time working on my art'. If he is questioned on why he does not have a job he could say something like ' Work is not an option for me at the moment, but I keep myself busy creating art'. Or 'I am looking into ways to sell my work'.

    It depends how much he wants to bring his diagnosis into it, or whether he wants to keep it private. Obviously it is nothing to be ashamed of, but equally it is no-one else's business. He could say something like, 'I have Asperger's Syndrome and it affects me very significantly.' He could also mention it is an invisible disability before people say it looks as if nothing is wrong. He could explain that things that are not a problem for most people are extremely difficult for him. 

    Regarding selling art - as well as cafes, a friend of mine displayed and sold some of her paintings in a dentist's surgery.

    Amy - Community Champion
  • Mockingbird's picture

    Being an artist is something to be proud of and even if he doesn't sell, he's still an artisit.

    I've had my daughter's diagnosis questioned this week by a proffessional.  Its really made me reflect on her disability and how I handle questions.  I think my issue has come about because she has an ASD diagnosis (because in my county, they no longer diagnose Aspergers) and there is little knowledge yet of the changes that seem to be happening with diagnosis.

    I'd also question High Functioning - your friend is crippled by anxiety?  As is my daughter.  I don't 'get' how someone can be classed as High Functioning if they struggle to get out of the house without support?

  • Mockingbird's picture

    I think I missed the point of the question Embarassed but I agree with the others - I think many people have a vision of an artist being someone that works at home/studio so its a good answer. 

  • Tea's picture

    I have had the whole ' oh it must mild' thing. People think I am really high-functioning, and in some ways I am, but in many other ways I am not. I can reflect on my condition and work out the reasons of things, but a lot of this is down to the fact that I read a lot and analyse things  - this can be mistaken for genuine self understanding. But ask me about my emotions and a lot of the time I have not got a clue. In fact I often experience physical aches and pains, and I think this is how anxiety manifests itself in me on an emotional level. I then have the cognitive thought that something bad will happen, and I then experience more aches and pains, but aside from understanding that I feel anxious, I cannot always pin it down. Other emotions can completely elude me.

    In other areas of my life, I really struggle. I often find it really hard to leave the house, and this simple act takes a huge amount of effort. It is down to my will-power and motivation that I at least get out, if only to walk round the block for 15 minutes, most days, but the anxiety is always there.

    How can I be high-functioning when don't have any meaningful friendships, can't live without support, and even find it hard to maintain a 7 hour a week job? I guess people just see someone who looks 'normal' , for want of a better word, who speaks clearly and eloquently, smiles, and tries to be social. They can have no idea what is really going on because I keep it under lock and key until I am in a safe place - home.

  • MartialAutist's picture

    I used to use them a lot, but I'm increasingly coming to agree with people who refuse to use functioning labels.  Not so much because they belittle people (though they certainly can), but because they create a simple dichotomy in something that is much more complex than that.

  • MikeS's picture

    Thank you, everyone, for inputting on this one Smile. I'm going to send the link to Scope now. If anyone else has got anything else to add, please do post.

    Mike - Former Community Manager
  • Tallulah's picture

    I think people with various disabilities including things like depression struggle with this question. Unless your disability is a very obvious physical one, it's often difficult to explain why you do not work. I've even heard full-time mums saying they dislike answering this question. People often just think everyone ought to have paid employment.


    It depends how open the man wants to be. If he is willing, he could truthfully explain that his disability causes X symptom which means he cannot get a job, and spends his time on his art.


    Perhaps with some support he could come up with some different answers to this question, depending who he is talking to and how much he wants to tell them.

    Laura - Community Champion
  • michaelz's picture

    patrick samuel.

    Artist and Public Speaker with Asperger Syndrome and ADHD.

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