I coached a college student (for several years) who has a diagnosis of both ADHD and Developmental Output Disorder. As a young child, he had difficulty getting along with other children. Therefore, his Mom enrolled him for a period of time in a program that helped him build better social skills. However, he continued to exhibit some odd and insensitive behaviors even in high school and college.
Though my client never had formal testing for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), he met many of the diagnostic criteria. ASD is a continuum of developmental conditions. With ASD, there are problems with social interactions, communication, repetitive behaviors, and/or restricted interests.
The term, “High Functioning Autism,” is often used for individuals who function at the high end of the Autism Spectrum. ASD is sometimes called a “hidden disorder.” That’s because those who look and act “normal” (like my college student client) may not appear to have special challenges.
Even though my client did not have a formal diagnosis of ASD, I decided early-on to incorporate social regulation skills into his customized coaching program.
Laughing At Him, Not With Him
When I first started working with my client, one of his odd and insensitive behaviors was to try and make almost everything funny, even if it wasn’t funny! He took great pride in making people laugh. He would tell jokes or make funny remarks almost anytime, anyplace, and under any condition.
A lot of my client’s classmates would laugh at his remarks. However, they sometimes were laughing at him, not with him. My client laughed almost uncontrollably when he made his “funny” remarks to me! It was almost as if he felt he had to be funny to be his real self.
Initially, this young man told me, “I can’t help myself. It’s like these funny things just come into my head, and I have to say them.”
Gaining Insight about Odd and Insensitive Behaviors
My client and I talked a lot about his use of humor in our coaching sessions. He truly didn’t know that his remarks were sometimes socially inappropriate and even offensive.
When his professors didn’t perceive his humor as appropriate during formal oral presentations, my client was taken aback. He was surprised when he lost points due to his “humorous” comments on exam essay questions and homework assignments.
Gradually, through coaching questions and role plays, my client gained insight about his inappropriate behaviors. I gave him feedback about remarks that were funny and remarks that were not funny. I helped him understand that he didn’t have to quit joking completely and give up this important part of his “identity,” especially with his close friends. That was a great relief to him.
Reflecting Upon What to Say and Getting Feedback
Over time, my client learned to reflect in advance upon what he wanted to say when he communicated with classmates and teachers. He would pause and ask himself if he could get in trouble by saying or writing a “humorous” thought. For most of his classes, he met with his teachers to get their feedback about initial drafts of written homework assignments or “practice essays” for exams. He then incorporated his teachers’ suggestions into revisions to his papers.
As he matured, this young man learned not to make so many humorous comments in class. He graduated from college and I continued coaching him for a while until he got work.
Once my client told me that he had cracked some jokes at a new job. However, he noticed that a co-worker was not laughing, so he stopped making jokes. Hurray!!
I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand. – Confucius
My client’s hard work to understand the impact of his behaviors and to get better control of his impulses paid off. He graduated from college with a 3.2 GPA. And he now has a paid job and budding career in his chosen field.
Being a “funny guy” is still somewhat the way this young man thinks of himself. He will probably always have some odd and insensitive behavioral tendencies. But if he had not stopped using humor that was odd and insensitive in his college classes, he may not have a college degree. He also may not have a job! He certainly has a much better chance of advancing at work and in life, now that he understands a lot more about when, where, and how to be a “funny guy.”
Changing Odd and Insensitive Behaviors
Young adults and other adults with ADHD, ASD, or other co-existing conditions, have special challenges. That sometimes includes becoming more aware of odd and insensitive behaviors and then making behavioral changes.
At LaMountain & Associates, we customize our coaching and coaching support services to meet our clients’ needs and to help them reach their goals. Please contact us for a free consultation to talk about our coaching services for yourself or your young adult child.