Its not difficult to get to know me. I don’t bite (ok so I bit one guy once, but to be fair he was a dentist so that doesn’t count), I’m not going to punch you in the face if you talk to me. And I won’t run screaming.
And yet for some reason, people avoid me. They only give cursory greetings and maybe a wave as they continue to walk past me. That is, the people I am familiar with. Most others who don’t know anything about me are not a problem.
There is a problem. But what was it? I’ve spent a long time going over this in my head Autistic fashion. I am always polite. I am courteous. Yes when I get excited all attempts at voice modulation goes out the window. I speak faster than a locomotive, hate small talk and only do deep and meaningfulls, flap my hands and clap when I’m happy or in anticipation, rant at anything that I see is unjust or wrong, and stare at my phone instead of you face when having a conversation.
I’m not difficult to get to know. I tell it like it is. My words don’t have a double meaning to them. It’s illogical to me to say one thing when I mean something else and I don’t understand anyone who does that. Being verbal takes up so much mental and physical energy that to not be upfront is irrational.
So why do people avoid me?
As an Autistic I have spent my whole life trying to “pass” in society. Its taken its toll on me and caused a large amount of pain and I have gotten to the point where I don’t do that anymore. I was always the one to make first contact even though the thought of approaching a person and initiating conversation made me want to roll up like an armadillo. I was the one who invited people for coffee or to “hangout”. I was the one to chase people up when they forgot or to remind so they wouldn’t forget. Of course there was the odd occasion when someone else would say “hey, why don’t go to this place and have a beverage sometime or on this day next week?” And then I was the one to call and confirm and remind. I got tired. And I started thinking. What would happen when I stopped doing all of that?
Nothing. Not one…thing…..happened. I learned very fast that the only reason I ever did any socializing at all was because I was the one doing all the work. And once I stopped, so did everyone else. Those times when someone else would ask to meet up on some occasion were just empty words when I stopped.
I went through a range of emotions and thoughts about all of this. One side I know that other people have lives and everyone is going through some kind of hardship or troubles. But the on the other hand when you speak to me I will take you literally. I don’t understand or automatically realize that what you are saying is just one of those things like ‘Hi how are you?” when you really don’t want to know how I am you’re just using small talk.
It was a painful slap to the face this realization.
I came across and article last week that explained it all (I will put the link at the bottom of this post). The piece is about 3 studies that were done that suggest that our social issues aren’t a result of our neurology but actually down to neurotypical’s views of us than anything else. Once a person became aware of our Autism their attitudes and behavior toward us changed…
“In other words, they found that an important contributor to social and communication problems stemmed not from the autistic individuals, but rather from the neurotypical reactions, based on (by definition) exclusionary social attitudes and first impressions, which led to a decreased drive to interact with autistic individuals. That is to say, neurotypicals tend to decide, within moments of meeting autistic people, that autistic people are less worth socialising with than neurotypicals..”
It was a fascinating article and I am interested to see if anymore study is done on this.
I have my answer. though it stings. But when I bump into someone I know while I am out and about with Kobash, when they brush past me like they didn’t see me, or I get a drive by hi while they keep going, it’s hard in those instances to stay polite and not be sarcastic when all I really want to do is raise my voice and yell “Whats so scary about me??” (yes I am aware of the irony of that statement) And the worst part is that I see it happening to my boy too.
Do these realisations make me want to hide my neurology in the to eliminate these issues? Hell no. I will never hide who I am. I’ve worked to hard to get to where I am to give up. I’m not completely alone. There are those that actually know me for what I am and they don’t run screaming in the opposite direction 😂 Those that know my boy too.
For all intents and purposes I look perfectly for you definition of the word ‘normal”. Till you see the dog in assistance dog vest by my side. I might be wearing my Autism World Domination t-shirt, my irlen lenses perched on my nose to stop the light from blinding me. Marks of my minority.
At the moment I am still working on my anger. And I do have some anger about this. But I am also frustrated and sad. I have had to take a step back for my own sake and ignore it. I don’t have any hope that things like this will change any time soon. And they won’t until people perceptions of us change. And that will be a long time yet.