April 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:
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.
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.
Tactile hyper-sensitivity is something a lot of people with autism have to deal with. It is an increased sensitivity to touch which can leaned to being feeling sensory over-load and into a meltdown, which is often confused with a temper tantrum. Meltdowns are not temper tantrums. It’s more like, as an aspie, I suddenly have all this energy built up and it has to get out. It can feel like I’ve got electricity running along my skin. And when it’s over, I’m so bloody exhausted and worn out.
Touch is one of the harder issues to deal with as an Aspie, at least it is for me because you can’t really get away with not touching certain things.
The worst offenders are:
– towels (and honestly, I’ve tried every towel out there, nothing makes it better. I just have to grit my teeth and deal with it when I’m drying myself off or folding laundry.)
– velvet (I don’t even like thinking about velvet)
– rough cotton
– some kinds of parchment paper
Just to name a few.
My sensitivity to touch also has an impact on my husband. I don’t crave closeness or hugs or kisses like most NTs seem to. I have trouble with a caress which is either too soft or too hard, it’s difficult to get it right, and I feel for the level of frustration my husband often goes through in his efforts. He’s amazingly patient, and I’m lucky to have him.
One piece of advice I can give is, don’t assume someone(particular someone who is neuroAtypical) wants to be hugged or even shake hands. And don’t take it personally if they don’t, it’s might not actually be about you.
Any questions for the #AspieAuthor, shoot me an email.
Neurotypicals (NTs) knew about Aspergers.
1. It’s not a disease. I don’t need or desire a cure. The only thing I could use is patience and understanding.
2. I experience emotions–I just don’t always understand them. And I have trouble with subtle emotions.
3. Eye contact is awkward, confusing and uncomfortable. I usually have to count down seconds in my head so I don’t ‘stare’ for too long. I’ve learned the hard way if I stare too long people think I’m creepy, but if I don’t make eye contact, people think I’m ‘lying’ or ‘shady.’
4. Sounds, smells and sensations can be so overwhelming it feels like a physical assault.
5. Meltdowns are not temper tantrums. Most Aspies experience meltdowns when they have reached a point of sensory overload. It feels like your body is filled with electricity and energy that has nowhere to go. It’s normally followed by exhaustion and a migraine.
6. Don’t step into my personal space. Just. Don’t. Don’t assume I’m comfortable with physical contact be it a handshake or a hug. I’m not trying to be rude.
7. I take almost everything literally. If I don’t laugh at your joke, chances are I didn’t realize it was a joke.
8. Winding me up on purpose might be fun for you. But I’m the one left feeling worn out.
9. Most Aspies are experience PTSD by the time they reach their late 30s and 40s. It speaks to the level of intensity the world around us becomes.
10. Political and Religious conversations/debates tend to get heated which makes me incredibly uncomfortable and uneasy.
10a. The difficulties many aspies face in heated discussions is that often our minds go blank. It’s akin to losing the ability to speak. There are no words. It’s frustrating…very…very frustrating.
…about promoting as an author who is autistic.
1 & 2 (and 3 – 10 actually) – EVERYTHING.
Maybe that’s a cop-out.
Or you might think it’s an exaggeration.
What is Autism/Asperger’s Snydrome? There’s a great video by the National Autistic Society in the UK which explains it better than I can.
(further reading: Here)
Promoting a book requires an immense amount of social interactions which isn’t something an Aspie like myself does all that brilliantly. Takeovers are probably the worst. It end to suffer terrible anxiety before hand and extreme exhaustion and migraines after.
I jokingly refer to this as ‘Aspie Drain.’
Small talk and social interactions are second nature to the neurotypical for the most part. An NT doesn’t necessarily spend time thinking about the rhythm of a conversation: how soon is too soon to reply, how much information is too much or not enough, how do I end the conversation, how do I include others. If the average ‘normal’ person has say ten thought bubbles floating around while conversing(whether in real life or online) and Aspie likely has fourty to fifty of them.
Nothing about social interaction is instinctual for me. I have to careful think about everything or I tend to confused. Aspies do not improv well. We can mimic NT behaviour, but only for so long and generally at the risk of greatly exhausting ourselves.
I’ve learned to work around this by doing a lot of prep-work. I also try to stick with Q&A type formats because it’s a linear type of conversation. I ask(or others ask), and they respond(or I respond). There’s no guesswork.
All of this combines and makes things like promoting very difficult for me.
But I do it anyway. Because I don’t really have a choice. =)
That’s the thing about being autistic, I live in a world meant for other people. It’s like being an alien . I have to learn how to adapt, but it’s not always easy.