Uniquely Human: Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Trust, Fear, and Control

“[He] had developed an understanding of how things should happen based on how they had always happened, or at least how he remembered them. Now he had reason to wonder whether he could rely on me–or on the world he thought he had understood” (72).


“[F]or the vast majority of people on the spectrum, autism can be best understood as a disability of trust” (72).


“‘The opposite of anxiety isn’t calm, it’s trust.’ That insight helps to explain much of what makes all of us anxious, not just those on the spectrum, and why we react with fear and often seek ways to control our lives, surroundings, and relationships. These tendencies are even more pronounced in people with autism” (73).


“Much of the stress of the disease comes from the physical changes that occur, the uncertainty of the future course, and that same question: Will I ever be able to trust my body again?” (74)


“Even if you can trust your own body, it’s hard to trust the world surrounding us” (75).


“If your neurological system is constantly on heightened alert, how can you pay attention to anything else? It’s exhausting. It becomes difficult to function. All of your energy is focused on merely keeping your defenses up” (78).


“Because they display fewer problem behaviors, they appear to be better regulated and are often thought of as well-behaved. Does that mean they don’t experience anxiety? Not necessarily. When they feel dysregulated, these individuals tend to internalize their anxiety rather than directing their behavior outward. The anxious feelings build over time, with few observable, or only very subtle, signs of dysregulation, so outbursts or meltdowns can be difficult to predict” (78).


“No matter how much you prepare, there are always surprises” (83).


“When our sense of trust is challenged and we feel frightened and anxious, our natural response is to try to exert control” (84).

What can we do to help people with autism foster trusting relationships? (90-91)

  • Acknowledge attempts to communicate.
  • Practice shared control to build self-determination.
  • Acknowledge the individual’s emotional state.
  • Be dependable, reliable, and clear.
  • Celebrate successes.

Thank you for reading this post! I hope you enjoyed it and consider reading the upcoming posts on Uniquely Human by Barry Prizant!



Prizant, B. (2015). Uniquely human: A different way of seeing autism. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster

Featured image: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s