To live in this world, you need to have some form of communication.
Up to when i was about 4 years old, i didn’t speak much. I was vastly behind my peers. Eventually i caught up, but still very quiet. Many people just put it down to being ‘shy’. Which is how autism in me wasn’t picked up till i was 29 – that, and a few other things, such as the other disorders masking it.
Communication is hard for me. Writing…as you can probably tell, i have the basics down, but i’m no grand writer. Which is a shame, because i love writing and telling stories. Instead, i write how i talk. Which is not good when it comes to formal communications, such as formal letters and emails. It’s a struggle, but i’m learning, slowly.
Speech, i’m understood. Apparently i have a nice voice, and i can have normal conversations with people. But its the things people over look that causes me distress. For example, i think in pictures and feelings, rather than words most of the time. It’s weird being in my mind! It’s a bit like its a radio. One of those terrible car radios that even if you find a radio station it keeps on losing reception, so you’re stuck with periods of static during each song and radio segment. So in relation to that fantastic metaphor, what that means is that when i have my ‘amazing’ monologue going on of what i want to write or say, it will cut out, and i’m there desperately searching for words, for suitable words too. Most people, yes, will sometimes struggle to find the right words to convey what they’re thinking. But for me, it’s all the time. I have paused a few times already, just writing this entry! Some times are worse than others, and i will really struggle and say something that may not much much sense or will be very disjointed. This is somewhat illustrated by a Sarah Millican joke:
This can be quite typical with autistic people, as some might re-name rain as ‘falling sky water’. Which i think is quite lovely really, makes sense and is very descriptive, much better than ‘rain’, don’t you think?!
Sometimes though, there will just be static. There will be the awkward silence as alarm bells ring in my brain and all hell brakes loose and my little mind minions delve into the box of words in my mind to find something to use. Something! Anything! Ahhh! There may be an intermittent noise, such as ‘erm’, ‘errr’ or even a low groan (that’ll be the sound of the cogs turning in my brain). Eventually something turns up, or i just give up and leave the sentence hanging there for someone to end it themselves!
The worst part is when i find myself in a discussion or heated debate about something. And i’m trying to recall facts and statistics accurately, but failing. Whilst i’m doing that though, i’m also trying to keep the flow of words coming as well, which as i just described, can be very difficult in itself, without being put on the spot. Sometimes it will become too much, and my mind will become overloaded, not just with thoughts, but feelings too. Which results in me locking up.
Locking up, basically means my mind flatlines. I struggle to carry on any further conversation. Not because i don’t want to, or that i’m annoyed with that person, it’s simply that my mind is worn out. At which point, i need to be left alone, till things right themselves in my brain. Sometimes though, if the other person forces the conversation, i end up crying from being overloaded without any respite. When that happens thats a desperate plea for you to stop.
In these situations with passionate discussions or heated debates, be careful how you speak to me. Not just, making sure you’re being a respectful human being, but also, when using debate methods. Such as turning peoples words around, questioning or probing something they’re said, quoting something back to them that they’ve said which contradicts something else. All these things create stress and confusion in my mind, and end up making me very ill. So be careful, keep a ear and eye out, if i’m getting stressed or upset – and if there’s signs i am, bring things down a notch.
Bringing things down
How, you may be asking.
That’s a very good question, so listen up! The best thing to do is show acknowledgement that you’ve noticed something is wrong – that i seem upset or stressed. Ask if i’m okay, if i say yeah and carry on, then just chalk it down to me being passionate about something and showing focus, rather than hurtling towards a meltdown! If i’m not okay, i may say yes, but then admit to how i’m feeling or say what i need from you. It may be simply slowly down, taking a break or even something simple like, relaying to me what you’ve understood or what I’ve said and perhaps pointing out some good points I’ve made.
This helps me calm down, because it shows i’m being listened to, respected and understood.
The blight of the Vague
One of the worst things that an aspie has to deal with, with people, is them being vague when talking to them.
Seeing ‘….’ in a conversation is THE most infuriating and frustrating thing to ever encounter! It gives the impression that I should know, or be able to deduce what is NOT being said.
Autistic people struggle with abstract thought.
This means, i frequently won’t be able to deduce what is not being said. I need you to tell me. To make it clear what it is you’re thinking or what to say, but are not saying.
What happens when someone is not clear?
Arguments can arise, just by sheer frustration or not knowing you’re you’re trying to say. Or not being able to pick up on subtext or subtleties. Being vague, intentionally is an act of passive aggression, so i have every right to be pissed off in response. Being vague, unintentionally, be prepared to explain things in detail, because i will be asking lots of questions for absolute clarity.
Being clear, is crucial. Because as I’ve said previously. I can’t fill in the missing thought patterns or words. I may try, but more often than not, i will get it wrong. Which can lead to horrible misunderstandings that may wreck or ruin things.
So when talking to me, be clear. I don’t need every little thing explained to me. I am not simple. I have a brain, and of high intelligence.
Just be clear, in what you’re saying and the tone and intentions behind it. My default setting otherwise, is set to negative. This is a coping mechanism. It is not meant as a personal judgement or slight on you. It’s just something I’ve had to establish in my mind to protect me. In the past, and recent past, i have been called out for being very negative in my thinking, and that i should be more positive. That, me being negative in my thinking, creates problems.
As much as i understand that belief. It does show lack of understanding of where I’ve come from, the life I’ve had and the experiences I’ve encountered, that have meant that I’ve had to learn to be quite critical in my thinking. I can’t accurately pick up signs and signals of deception from other people. Most people, even if they think they can’t, they can. You may not be aware of it, but you do.
So, over time I’ve had to be quite negative in my thinking. Sometimes though, when i’m told i’m being overly negative, i’m actually being very aware and honest, which some people may reject. It’s difficult sometimes to know who’s opinion and insight into myself, to trust. I tend to cross-reference with other close people in my life, to correlate things. This seems to give the best results.
When i’m set a task or tasks at work, they need to be clear and organised. Please refrain from bombarding me with things to do, and expecting me to remember everything! If there are a list of things you need me to do, then please, just jot them down in a list, that i can follow. Be clear in exactly what you want me to do with each task.
When i’m completing one of these tasks, try to avoid introducing a new task to do. As this can be quite confusing. Instead, just add it to the list – if its something that needs attending to urgently, and it’s not that obvious (a telephone ringing, that needs answering is an example of something obviously needing urgent attention), then put a asterix next to it, and i’ll come find you to ask what it is.
It may take me a minute of two to organise in my brain what i need to do, and how i’m going to go about doing it. Please be patient.
Having things written down, is such a lifesaver for me sometimes. So, if it’s a case of i need to bring something into work, or working different days or hours (even temporary), then please write it down or email me. It’ll be easier for me to remember, and not get mixed up as my mind, can’t hold on to things like that.