Normal.

I can’t count the number of times a non-autistic has told me, ‘wow, you seem so normal.’ Or some version of that sentence, when told that I’m autistic.

And I’m not the only one.

I imagine that most adult autistics have heard it at some point–or repeatedly.

So, here’s a list of reasons why non-autistics SHOULD NOT tell autistics ‘but you seem so normal’ or any variation of the same.

  1. Because WE ASKED YOU NOT TO DO IT.
  2. Because we asked you not to.
  3. The implication feels as though you believe we are not autistic enough for you–which makes us wonder what exactly you are envisioning as the behaviour of an autistic.
  4. It’s rude.
  5. But mostly, because autistics repeatedly ask you not to do it.

I mean, I could honestly come up with fifteen or twenty reasons. The most important one remains, autistics continue to talk about why you shouldn’t do it…listen to us.

The most frustrating thing in the world is finding your voice as an autistic and finding non-autistics aren’t interested in listening.

Please. Do better.

Here’s a great video by an autistic activist about what things you shouldn’t say to an autistic:

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Sound.

Well, honestly, it’s more the volume of it that has always been a tricky thing for me. Many autistics struggle to regulate the pitch and tone of their voices as well. We often end up too loud or too quiet–never just right.

Monotone is another word we hear thrown at us. It’s part of what I think convinces people autistics have no emotion. Our speech tends to be spoken with little to no inflexion. For what it’s worth, we also struggle to understand the subtle inflexions when a neurotypical speak.  (And let me tell you that leads to a lot of ‘fun’ if you happen to married to one.)

You can’t learn to add the inflexion either.

Trust me, I’ve tried.

Add to these issues my inability to instinctually grasp the flow of normal conversation, you can start to see how difficult group settings can be. I often end up either monopolising it or not contributing my thoughts at all. I never quite know when I’m supposed to interject.

I tend to speak too quietly to be heard in a group situation. I know don’t regulate my own volume well, so I prefer to err on the side of quiet. There’s nothing so embarrassing as shouting when you don’t know you’re doing it.

That’s the thing about being an autistic adult.

I’ve lived long enough to understand when I’m standing out–and not in a good way.

The other additional issue with group conversations for an autistic is that we usually need time to process what is being said in order to respond. If you have three or four people conversing, it becomes impossible for me to register everything being said and formulate a response. I get overwhelmed and since group settings don’t happen in a void–my brain is usually trying to decipher this through the prism of all the other sounds in the surrounding environment.

On any given day, I probably ask my husband to repeat himself at least twenty times. Not because I didn’t hear him the first time, but usually I need the extra time to process what he said. I often end up answering his question in the middle of his repeating it for the second time. It frustrates him.

And it frustrates me as well.

If I could tell the neurotypicals in my life two things, the first would be to have patience with the neurally divergent.  We’re doing our best.  Our best just might not be your idea of ‘best.’

The second thing would be–don’t tell us that ‘we’ll be fine’ when we’re expressing a frustration or concern. It feels dismissive. For most autistics, dealing with ‘normal’ life isn’t a matter of ‘it’ll all be fine.’ We’re going to push through the situation and on the other side of it, we’re going to struggle to decompress.

That’s the thing I think a lot of neurotypicals miss out on completely.

Can I go out in public and deal with large crowds?

Yes, I can. I’ll probably look just like everyone else when I do it as well–unless you know me well and are looking carefully.

But what you don’t see is me afterwards.  The migraines. The long, long hours I spend watching the same episode of a TV show over and over until the stress bleeds off.

So, don’t be dismissive. Sometimes autistics just want to know their fears have been heard. Maybe instead of ‘it’ll all be alright,’ you could say ‘wow, that sucks’ or ‘That’s rough. Can I help?’

This ramble was brought to you by the letters R and T.

 

 

The Anatomy of a Relationship

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At the root of any romance novel is the relationship between the main characters, we tend to approach reading (and writing) them with a particular formula already set in our minds. Like most things in life, anything straying outside of the norm jolts us out of our fictional daydreaming. It takes a bit more effort to understand and appreciate the beauty of them.

From the outset, I knew Elaine and Alim from The Misguided Confession wouldn’t fit the standard mould. Their romance is real and built strongly by the both of them. It’s just not like others.

Elaine is quirky, offbeat, autistic, and romantically different. She expresses her emotions in a way some might find unusual. Her relationship with Alim might be considered equally eccentric.

Of all my characters, Elaine has the most in common with me. As we’re both autistic, I modelled many of her interpersonal struggles after ones I had faced with my husband. Well, minus the creepy zealot who wreaks havoc on Elaine’s world.

In the process of writing The Misguided Confession, I wanted desperately to stay faithful to showing the truth of a relationship between an autistic and a neurotypical (or non-autistic). It’s not typical. It’s certainly not easy, but most definitely real—real love.

Love is often a finicky business.  Alim learns early on, as did my own husband, that often a relationship with an autistic requires a healthy amount of compromise. Elaine feels emotions deeply but doesn’t always know how to identify or express them.

They soldier on together. Their souls and hearts meeting in ways they never imagined possible. Maybe it’s not typical, but it works for them. It’s deep, meaningful, and special.

My hope is when readers approach the novel—along with Elaine and Alim’s relationship—they do so with open hearts and minds.

Love is love, after all.

Love is love.

 

Five Ways to Handle Grief.

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Someone very close to me passed away this weekend. I’ll be travelling for the funeral later in the week. I’m not looking forward to it if I’m honest. I’ve never been good with grief, my own or that of others. Most Autistics struggle with identifying and dealing with emotions, our own and other people’s. I never know what to say. I know I’m feeling sad, but that is about the extent of my capacity to deal with grieving.

So here are five things I do to help myself:

  1. Chocolate. What? It helps everything.
  2. Write. I’ve found it a great relief to channel the turmoil within into my writing, does tend to make for more dramatic stories though.
  3. Reading, losing myself in someone else’s story.
  4. Movies, see above.
  5. Friends. Neurotypical friends in particular are a great help because they often help me muddle through figuring out my own feelings, and can help me understand how to respond to others.

How do you deal with grief?

A Friendship Guide

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I think I’m going to start giving this out to my friends.

How to nurture a friendship with me, your friendly neighborhood autistic.

1. Remember that my brain works differently, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work at all, and it doesn’t mean I’m not human.

2. Remember that I find you as difficult to understand as you find me.

3. Vaccines didn’t cause my autism.

4. You are not a little autistic, unless you are actually autistic.  You claiming to be what I am, isn’t showing empathy.  It’s brushing under the rug the things I deal with.

5. Don’t hug me unless you know for 100% certainty that I’m okay with physical contact from you.

6. If I’m not talking, it’s not personal, I might’ve just reached my social engagement limit for the day.

7. Yes, certain sounds really do bother me as badly as I act like they do.

8. I’m not throwing a temper tantrum.  I am having a meltdown because I have gotten so much input, my brain can no longer process anything.

9. I would love to talk about my special interests and obsessions with you.

10. Don’t promise me you’re going to do something then not do it.

And most importantly, remember that I’m an actual person with feelings and emotions.  I might not always understand them, but I have them.  I need friends just as much as a neurotypical does.  It’s just a little (or a lot) harder for me to find, make and keep them.

I need friendships which are reciprocal with people who are patient and understanding.

 

Autism Acceptance

ebook and books IIApril brings along a time which many autistics find incredibly uncomfortable due to Autism Speaks’ Light It Up Blue campaign.  While I am a very firm supporter of Autism acceptance, I am NOT a supporter of Autism speaks.  There’s a brilliant article here that explains far better than I could ever do:

From Neurotribes.

So…how can you show your acceptance of the autistics in your life without support an organization that has never shown acceptance?  Here’s a few tips:

– keep your voice low.

– include us in your invitations to parties & social gatherings, but don’t pressure us.  Take no at face value.

– ask before hugging.

– don’t wear strong perfume or cologne.

– understand we don’t stim to embarrass you, we stim because it is necessary.

– we’re not always aware of what conversations are socially acceptable, and we often forget how a conversation is supposed to flow.  We aren’t being self-absorbed or disrespectful, our brains jsut don’t trigger on the social cues which others do.

When is a joke a joke?

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Aspies tend to take things literally.  We tend to have trouble determine if someone is being facetious or not.  Satire is another thing that occasionally goes over my head, probably why I don’t care for sites like the Onion.

We also, unfortunately, get taken advantage of quote often.  We have a tendency towards naivety.  It’s compounded by the fact that without a diagnosis, it’s hard to understand that there’s something different about how our minds work.

Even those without nefarious (such a great word) intentions can accidentally confuse someone who is autistic.

Things I have learned to do to help myself:

– if a news article or report is forwarded to me, I do my own research before ‘believing’ it.

– I ask questions if I’m not sure if someone is teasing me or not.

– I also politely ask my friends not to tease me about certain types of things which confuse me.

– I wait to laugh at a joke until other people are laughing.  Nothing worse than laughing inappropriately.

– I unfollow(online) or step back from (in the real world) people who refuse to respect the boundaries that I need in my life.