Social impairment of interaction and communication struggles are the heart of autism. It is becoming evident that our sensory problems may contribute to the social struggles in their own way.
Why can’t I make friends?
I hate parties and large groups!
I hate malls and shopping!
Why can’t I get a date, find a significant other?
Why do I keep being isolated, rejected, bullied?
I need to be alone!
It drives me crazy when ………..
The on line forums I attend are fairly evenly split in regard discussions about social struggles with family, friends, co workers, others in shops, medical care and supportive work, jobs, ( people in other words, and all things social), and descriptions of sensory issues that plague us.
It has been interesting to see how one struggle might feed into the other.
We may not like fashions that are currently popular because of sensory issues such as the way they feel in texture, the way they fit (too tight, too loose, too restrictive of motion, too short or long, or touching parts of the body which we are sensitive to) We may hate the tags or the odor of or sounds of when wearing the fabric.
So we may dress for comfort, and we look “odd” to much of society.
We might hate using deodorant because of the feel or smell, tooth brushing the same, sensory issues surrounding bathing, issues of washing hair or feet, nail clipping, etc….. all may add up to ‘socially unacceptable” appearance or smelly bodies.
We may have issues of proprioception or interoception leading to odd gait, strange voice modulation (too loud, too soft, inappropriately expressive of emotion or lacking emotion for flat affect etc). Struggles may also keep us from being good judges of how close to stand or knowing when or if we are intruding into others’ personal space.
We can be socially inappropriate, not recognizing when what we say may be too much personal information or offensive to comment on in others, not recognizing that the same manners used at the gym may not be appropriate in church, etc.
We may not recognize that people we are interacting with are bored, angry, etc.
We may blurt out opinions or advice where none have been sought, unknowingly offending those in our presence.
We may tend to use direct, blunt statements due to black and white thinking.
We might tend to monopolize conversations and never realize that others are tired of listening to our discussion of our favorite subjects.
Of course this does not apply to all autistic people. All or none may apply to any of us.
Many autistic people/people with autism have learned to wear “the mask” successfully, to avoid all those pitfalls, and to recognize most of the social requirements society asks of us to “fit in”, at the cost of emotional and physical/sensory overload and resulting exhaustion or breakdowns.
We may be very set in our ways and refuse to change because our ways, rituals, schedules, forms of speech, our stimming behaviors, etc are what comfort us and give us a feeling of security in an otherwise overwhelming and distressing world.
We seek silence and remove ourselves from all things social to help ourselves recover from too much sensory input and too many demands.
But we are human and long for interactions with others. Many long for romantic relationships or physical contact.
My own social life depends primarily on online autism based communities.
It is so uplifting to see our online communities interact with each other, encourage each other, and offer information or ideas that have worked in similar situations.
Those who say autistic people do not feel empathy or sympathy are simply wrong.
The kindness and encouragement that is shown to our own autistic brothers and sisters/kin on multiple forums proves that the “unfeeling autistic” idea is a misconception over and over.
I look forward to a day of deeper understanding of autism and better insights into diagnosis and compassion for all of the ways we struggle.
Mean time, my forum families provide insights and support from their own life experiences in so many ways.
I have learned from generous hearts, fascinating minds, and wonderful compassionate sharing of insights of so many in online autism forums.
It does not matter how we present ourselves socially there, we are accepted and encouraged in a way that might not be possible in group or individual face to face encounters. I find answers to many of my personal struggles there, and learn new ways to deal with my autism’s most vexing characteristics.
Internet forums are one of today’s modern miracles for many of us.