[PROFILE] Jacob Lang: Dealing with social barriers
Updated: May 5
Think about what it would be like to feel socially isolated. You may feel like many people don’t understand you. How would you cope with this feeling? Jacob Lang, who is on the autism spectrum, has dealt with these social barriers for much of his life.
On a chilly, wet afternoon on Friday, Oct. 2, Jacob calls me from his home near Alliston, Ont. The 20-year-old, with his long brown hair and Foo Fighters shirt, openly shares his social struggles with living on the autism spectrum. Jacob’s mother, Jodie Lang, gives me insight a day later.
Jacob had very few friends growing up. A turning point for him especially having problems making friends, was when he moved schools after fifth grade.
“I had a few friends I got to know for most of elementary school, but once I changed schools, making friends definitely got a lot harder for me,” he says. “It still can be hard.”
Jodie says that early in elementary school, Jacob didn’t often have problems with the other children.
“For the most part, he didn’t have problems with his schoolmates,” she says. “It was more so with adults. Up until fourth grade, he had some incidents, but they were rarely a big deal. That year, there were a few incidents where I was coming in once or twice a month. ”
20-year-old Jacob Lang, who has autism, sits in his home in Everett, Ont.
Jacob had a couple of huge bullying incidents in fifth grade. This was around the time doctors diagnosed him with autism. The bullying prompted Jacob’s parents to make him change schools.
Fortunately, after the diagnosis, Jacob did not have many bullying incidents. However, this has not stopped the social challenges he faces.
“I have a hard time starting casual conversations with my normal peers,” he says. “I also have a problem with severely oversharing or under sharing information in most social situations.”
Despite these difficulties, Jacob has found talking to people easier when they share his special interests.
“I don’t try to fit in with groups I don’t expect would work for me.”
According to Autism Canada, one common trait with autism is to have narrow interests to fixate on. For Jacob, these interests include video games and anime.
“Most of my friends from high school and online are friends I’ve made because we’re into the same types of video games,” he says. “I think this is very good for me. I’ve made a lot of friends with these interests online. Even before the pandemic, most of my friends have been online.”
Jacob and his family also hope that people have a more positive perspective on autism to make fitting in easier for these people.
“Don’t believe any negative autism stereotypes,” he says. “Hopefully, the public will forget these stereotypes.”
Jodie hopes that people will embrace uniqueness more often. “I would like people to know that the oddities we have are wonderful things that make us all more unique,” she says.
Jacob may still have social challenges, but he has made them easier to handle by clicking with people with his interests. He has great friends and family who he is thankful for and enjoy his company.