Interacting Autistically

For the past few years I’ve been seeing a private psychiatrist who has helped me a lot with my anxiety, depression and trauma. I’ve left university now, and been kicked out of the university’s social group for Autistic students, and all the similar groups I can go to are patronising, pathologising and difficult for me to access. Me and the psychiatrist both agree that the main thing contributing to my depression at the moment is my isolation and loneliness.

I’ve given up on achieving the necessary amount of meaningful human interaction at groups for Autistic people, and started looking for groups aimed at neurotypicals. (Of course these groups don’t say they’re specially aimed at NTs, but I think in practice they usually are.) I’ve found a birdwatching group that runs regular talks that have an interval where people chat over cups of tea. At the first one I went to, someone approached me and talked to me because I was new. The room was noisy and distracting, so I forgot to look at her, and I think she misinterpreted it as meaning I didn’t want to talk to her. I find it hard to know what to say in those situations, and in general I’m bad at human interaction and relationships.

My psychiatrist said I should try to learn conversation skills from books – there are social skills books aimed at NTs, as well as at Autistic people. I said I was worried those books would teach me to behave like an NT, and I wanted to interact Autistically, but I couldn’t explain what I meant by that. He said I needed to learn social skills if I was going to make friends and that refusing to do it was like moving to France and refusing to learn French.

I don’t think that analogy is right though. My situation is more like being a native speaker of a language that’s been suppressed, like Welsh or British Sign Language, and growing up being bullied and punished for using your native language. You’re told you have to learn English, the language of the people who mistreated you, if you’re going to have relationships. But you’re incapable of becoming fluent in English – you make a lot of mistakes when you speak it, you can only understand part of what people say to you, and you manage by parroting phrases you’ve learned but don’t fully understand.

I know I need to better understand and use neurotypical communication, but I want people to try to understand my language as well. I also see a difference between passing skills that help me avoid discrimination and smooth over interactions with NTs I don’t want deep relationships with; and social skills that help me have meaningful relationships as an Autistic person. I want to learn both sets of skills.

It’s probably inherent to the field of psychiatry that the aim is to fix people’s brains and bring them closer to being NT. That approach works for my actual brain problems like depression, but not for difficulties caused by being Autistic.

The psychiatrist thinks I’m being stubborn. But I like my stubbornness. I think it’s helped me get through times when everyone else thought they knew what was best for me, even though I understand myself better than anyone.

I think my concept of ‘interacting Autistically’ comes from Jim Sinclair. In their article about how they founded the first Autistic community, Sinclair wrote about Autistic people connecting with each other using the things they’re passionate about, and interacting by stimming together.

This is what I mean by incinerating Autistically:

  • Sharing information about things we’re interested in
  • Sharing our stims
  • Using and accepting atypical body language, and trying to get to know other people’s body language
  • Being literal and saying what we mean, and/or communicating through echolalia
  • Typing to communicate – online and/or in person

Even though I’m Autistic, not all of these things come naturally to me. And I know most people aren’t going to interact with me like this all the time. But I want to try to learn, and to find people who’ll accept me and my communication style. The problem is  I don’t know how to learn.

 

Note: I don’t know the correct pronouns for Jim Sinclair. I used singular they in this post, but I’ll correct it if I find out the right pronouns.

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12 thoughts on “Interacting Autistically

    • That’s great, I came out as Autistic recently to an old NT friend who seems to mostly accept me the way I am, though it’s hard to tell exactly how far she accepts me because I’ve spent a long time trying to pass around her.

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  1. and to live in Neurodiverse Nurturing Neighborhoods, whether they are urban, rural, smi rural or suburban!!! where there are folks who communicate and relate in many ways!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, do you still write your blog? I’ve just found it online after Googling ‘autism, asexuality’ and I can identify a lot with what you write. I am a 51 year old woman who was diagnosed with autism in her mid 40s while being in treatment for an atypical eating disorder, OCD, anxiety and depression. I have always known that I don’t experience sexual attraction. In addition, my OCD (of the contamination variety) makes intimate relationships quite disgusting for me. I am very curious about possible links between autism and asexuality, without pathologising either ‘condition’. One ‘problem’ I’ve found when connecting with other women with autism (mainly Asperger’s) is that many many are not asexual…. It’s a problem for me because it makes me feel even more isolated. Being asexual can be very lonely. Thanks for writing these posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello,
      I’m not still writing my blog unfortunately, it’s become too difficult for me. And I agree that being asexual can be lonely, especially because I only really get on with other Autistic people and Autistic asexuals can be hard to find.
      Thanks for commenting, it’s good to hear from someone else like me!

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