Attitudes are policies that we choose to apply to our lives. Once we have awakened to our free will, we choose our attitudes regardless of our abilities or disabilities, advantages or disadvantages.
1) People with good attitudes choose to be a positive force that contributes to the world. People with bad attitudes either do not care or choose to create problems for the world.
2) People with good attitudes make an effort to improve themselves – no matter in the area of knowledge, skills, relationships or self-awareness. People with bad attitudes do not care or live a lifestyle that is harmful to themselves.
3) We can never be satisfied with this world – everything here is imperfect and temporary. People with good attitudes accept and work with reality. People with bad attitudes demand the world fit into their ideals; they deny, escape and condemn reality.
4) What we say and do has consequences that affect ourselves as well as others. People with good attitudes consider these consequences while people with bad attitudes ignore them.
5) People with good attitudes make an effort to keep their good attitudes even when bad things happen to them. People with bad attitudes give up on trying to have good attitudes upon encountering the smallest setback.
People often confuse autism with having bad attitudes, believing that such counterproductive behaviour is naturally part of being autistic. As a result, they accommodate bad attitudes to the detriment of both themselves and the autistics that they are caring for.
Autism is defined as a disability affecting social skills, social communication and executive functioning. Anything other than these three is not autism. We also need to take note of other co-morbid disabilities such as sensory sensitivities and difficulty recognising faces (i.e. prosopagnosia). Accommodating them is accommodating disability. [Do read this article for another explanation that makes this point.]
For example, if an autistic is unwilling to work in a fast-food restaurant because of sensory sensitivities, audio processing difficulties and being bullied, then these are legitimate concerns due to disability. We should find other options that can address these issues so that he can have sustainable employment.
Where the situation is something that comes down to making a choice, then it is not a disability. If the autistic chooses not to work because he wants to play video games all day and thinks he deserves to be exempted from employment as he is “special”, then this is an attitude issue. Accommodating it will result in the child becoming reliant on the caregiver for life.
Tolerating/accepting such attitudes is not about accommodating autism; it is accommodating immaturity. With the right attitudes, determined autistics will find a way to solve their problems even without external help from caregivers and job coaches. But when counterproductive attitudes are in the way, herculean efforts to help affected autistics are futile.
Some concrete examples are provided below to help tell the difference between attitude and disability.
Situation: Jack keeps taking all the muffins from the buffet table – he does not seem to consider other’s welfare.
Disability: Jack did not realise that his behaviour deprives others of their share of muffins. When told about this, he stops taking more muffins.
Attitude: Jack did not care that others are missing out on the chance to eat the muffins. He continues taking muffins even after being told why he should not.
Situation: Jack tells Mary about all her mistakes but not what she has done well – he does not seem to consider others’ feelings.
Disability: Jack did not realise that he seems to be attacking Mary for her mistakes. When told about this, he makes an effort to praise Mary too.
Attitude: Jack did not care that Mary is upset. He keeps insisting that he is just giving Mary feedback to make her better.
Situation: Jack keeps submitting work full of simple mistakes – he does not seem to take any initiative to address the issues.
Disability: Jack did not realise that he could do something to reduce the mistakes. When told about this, he starts coming up with ideas on how to reduce his mistakes and implements some of these ideas.
Attitude: Jack did not care that he keeps making mistakes. He keeps complaining that the mistakes happened because the work was boring and no one helped him double-check his work.
Situation: Jack just started working at a company and he immediately tells his boss how everything should be run – he seems to be unaware that he is annoying his boss.
Disability: Jack is unaware of the reasons why people do things the way that they are being done. When told about this, he concedes his ignorance. He withholds his comments while he learns and observes.
Attitude: Jack did not care about learning something new, only about expressing what he thinks is right. He insists that he is only trying to help his boss see things from a new light that only an outsider can provide.
Situation: Jack gets angry and shouts at people who disagree with him – he seems to behave immaturely to others.
Disability: Jack did not realise what he was doing to others. When told about this, Jack admits that his behaviour was inappropriate and studies self-help books to find better ways to express his disagreement with others.
Attitude: Jack did not care how others perceive his behaviour. He insists that he was objective and it was other people who behaved immaturely when he told them the obvious truth.
Situation: Jack keeps emailing people daily about supporting his autism awareness campaign until they reply to him – he seems unaware that he is annoying people.
Disability: Jack did not realise that people have more important priorities than his campaign in their lives. When told about this, he stops repeatedly emailing people.
Attitude: Jack did not care about being considerate to others’ needs. He insists that it is harmless for him to just remind people and that they can easily delete his emails if they feel bothered by him.
Situation: Jack keeps trying something different all the time and giving up halfway (e.g. part-time courses) – he does not seem to have any proper planning to improve his life.
Disability: Jack was unable to see how disorganized his life was. When told about this, he starts reading self-help books for some guidance.
Attitude: Jack did not care what happens to him in the future. He only wants to be able to pursue his favourite hobbies now.