We “neurotypicals” make life so stinkin’ difficult. Life is so full of social norms, we don’t usually think of most of them and could never list them all. Of course, that isn’t how most people on the spectrum live. In fact, that is a big part of the diagnosis criteria, the social difficulties. But really, why do we say there is something “wrong” with someone who does not understand or observe all of the inane little rules we make for ourselves?
Personally, I hate small talk. I never know what to say and think I sound…well, lame. I am happy to talk (to an individual or small group) on any topic I understand well, but I don’t want to stand around trying to come up with a question about a family I’ve never met or the weather. I think a lot of that stems from my anxiety, since on a related note I also despise talking on the phone. E-mail and text messaging were made for people like me. I have a mini anxiety attack just calling to make a doctor’s appointment or order takeout (which is why I always make my husband order takeout, unless it is for Mexican then he makes me because I speak and understand some Spanish and can understand accents well). Although it may throw me back for a second when I experience the openness of conversation with an autistic person (due to the directness and lack of “filter”) I really find it refreshing and liberating.
Today M was telling me that now that she has learned to tie her shoes she thinks she is ready to live on her own. Not that she wants to be away from me, she clarified, but she thinks she will soon be ready and she likes to be alone. (This is the same kid who often tells me she will never go to college and wants to live at home forever). My solution is that when she grows up she can live next door. (I don’t want to think about any of my kids ever leaving me!). To which she replied (very matter-of-factly) “well, if you’re still alive. You might die before that. I hope you don’t, but you never know.” I gave the automatic response “of course I will be alive”. But then, I have to be very direct and honest with M, with her concrete thinking and distaste for anything even seeming like pretend or not real most of the time. She told me “you don’t KNOW that, you could die any time”. Hmmm…true.
It is still kind of funny to me sometimes that she can talk about things like that with no emotion attached. It is factual, black and white, not emotional. Which is not to say she doesn’t love me or would be any less grieved than her sisters if I were to pass away, it’s just that we are conditioned to not want to think about or talk about these things, where M needs to be correct and factual, not to be told what we think sounds nice.
It definitely makes me think twice about my interactions. I really dislike how so few people are capable of handling someone really being true with them. We automatically get defensive at anything we don’t want to hear and tune out the possibility that the other person is just speaking truth and not attacking us. And so we are often fake with each other, even people who we are close with probably “nicer” and less “truthful” than we should be. But so many autistics I know just tell it how it is and take truth from our mouths (true, maybe I won’t be alive but hopefully I will be) rather than our socially acceptable fake speak (of course I will be alive).
I am still getting used to it, but I like it. She gets the information she needs and moves on. So tell me why it is we think the social skills aspect of Autism is so wrong? I think maybe these people we want to treat, the square pegs to fit into the round holes, are more right than we are. Maybe we need to fit our round selves into square holes once in a while. I think Neurodiversity is wonderful and can teach us all more about ourselves and what is really important, social skills or honesty?