Rude, thoughtless, cold, selfish, uncaring, intrusive, tactless, blundering,
lacking insight, impulsive, crude, socially unacceptable, unkind, mean, pushy,
can you add to this list of words?
Have they been used to describe you?
These and many more have been used to describe me over the years. I was hurt, shocked, and offended when told I was all of these things in various incidents from my past. I had a hard time believing this was so, it was never my intent! Why so angry? What had I done? From my point of view everybody was being hysterical over things that made no sense to me. I was quite defensive after years of these reactions to me. What in the world was wrong with all these people????
Not one time did I understand what I had said or done to evoke such angry and hurt responses. Nobody explained. I was told “you know what you did”, “you should know” or other angry responses about how hateful I was being, when I tried to understand. I was indignant! How did they get such hurt feelings from my speaking what I thought was the truth?
I had no idea that speaking whatever I thought could create chaos and heartbreak! I had no idea that what I was saying might bruise egos or hurt feelings or make others angry. When those things inevitably happened, nobody explained. I never understood my part in their distress.
I spent most of my life feeling abused and unfairly treated, not knowing how my autism and lack of insight and understanding had contributed to these incidents. It was not until I learned about my autism around age 65 that I began to see how my honesty, my outspokenness, my directness, and my penchant for stating what was obvious to me could get me into so much trouble and so deeply offend those around me. The intent was never to hurt or dismay, offend or otherwise cause bad feelings. I thought I was joining in information sharing and discussing insights and facts as I saw them. OH boy!
If all of the people I had offended had explained to me how my words or acts or lack of action led to making them feel bad, I could have learned about tact, discretion, the value of holding one’s tongue, and so much more. When I finally began to realize how my own speech and actions in many of these situations had led to such terrible misunderstandings, anger, hurt, distress, etc. I was horrified.
I had done it all in autistic oblivion and not with the direct intent to cause pain. How could I have been so blind?
Autism does not give us insight, instead it gives us the ability to observe superficial facts, often in great detail which may be missed by others…..but we often do not understand that we should not speak about those things.
We must be taught how to look for clues that we are making others uncomfortable, we must be taught basic insights into manners and the reasons we must practice good manners.
We must learn so much that is obvious to others who do not look at life through prisms of autism. Much that is clear with intuition by NT folk must be explained to be understood from the autistic side of life.
Once again, I wish that as a child growing up there had been somebody I could go to with questions, somebody I could ask these things of.
I wish that I had understood so much that was hidden and assumed that I “should know” but never had a clue because autism did not allow me to see what was so obvious to others.
One of the best things parents can do for their autistic kids is to explain everything in detail. Don’t assume they can put meaning on situations that are obvious to you.
You can use reading, tv, movies, etc to explain awkward situations or feelings that are being displayed in the stories.
Explain in details, not only what is happening, but why the characters responded the way they did. I think it would have been so helpful to have this understanding throughout my life. I simply had no clues to understanding the significance of so many things.
I believe body language can be learned, I studied long and hard to learn body language of dogs and horses and cats and studied hard to understand detailed nuances of social structure in their natural lives. I am very good at that!
But I never gave a thought to the fact that I could learn the same of human behavior, motivations, social structure, etc. Nope, I had to be taught!
Knowing now that I am autistic, I can make up for lost time and have begun to learn more about human thinking and interactions.
I want to stress this is not intuitive at all, this social behavior, but is learned through teaching myself the body language, thought patterns, social patterns, etc of humans.
It is not intuitive, it is not obvious to me at all, but I know it can be learned and put into practice.
I hope by doing this I can avoid many of the social blunders from my first 66 years… I urge you ( as a newly diagnosed autistic elder) to think about whether you too might need a social enhancement/ enrichment program to help you understand so much of your painful past and to give yourself a more socially successful future.
If you have contact with autistic youngsters, there will be much to be gained by deep explanation about manners, social customs, reading body language, expectations that are there but might not be obvious to direct thinkers… we can definitely learn, but first we have to figure out ‘what we don’t know’.
That part comes when we get a diagnosis of autism. Can you see why it is so important to reach the hidden autistic people among us and to give them the tools they need to finally understand themselves and the world they have long struggled in alone and not knowing?