As I’ve already explored, communication and relationship difficulties between Autistics and allistics (non-Autistics) are not solely the fault of Autistics. Both sides have to seek understanding.
To start with the obvious, understanding of Autistics cannot come from reading allistic perspectives of Autistic lives. Allistics haven’t lived it. They are only guessing about what it’s like to be Autistic and usually manage to completely misunderstand what our motivations are.
I can tell you for a fact that I do not relate to allistic renditions about autism at all. I had to find writings by Autistic authors/bloggers before I saw myself clearly and eerily reflected in others’ words for the first time in my life.
Allistic understanding for how we experience the world and communicate can only come after we are accepted and respected enough to be listened to and believed.
I’ve had an entire lifetime of both being forced and being curious enough to learn a good deal of understanding for the allistics who surround me. I also believe my allistic friends and acquaintances when they tell me about how they experience the world, even when I find it difficult to comprehend how their minds could possibly work that way.
I would appreciate having that same courtesy extended to Autistics, as well.
A small recent study shows a bit of what we’re up against. Based on personal experience, that study is spot on. Allistics often have irrational prejudices against us, based on snap judgments, for things we don’t even know we’re doing.
Snap judgments that are made so quickly that we might not even be aware of the other person’s presence by the time they’ve decided we aren’t worth their time and attention.
Even if we are deemed worthy and human enough for their efforts, we have to accommodate their expectations or the interaction will meet a hasty end.
And even when I’m the most accommodating I can possibly be, those interactions have frequently still involved allistic assumptions and “reading into” what I say, usually in ways that I would never have dreamed possible ahead of time. Thus, I’m blindsided, can’t clarify adequately enough, often end up completely mute, and my entire attempt at socializing is an utter failure.
A quote that I love (and finally found again!) is from the Autistic Academic:
“Few things are worse than being dismissed for something you didn’t actually mean.”
That is how most misunderstandings I have can be summed up.
Allistics need to stop dismissing us for things we didn’t say and certainly didn’t mean.
And they really need to stop dismissing what we have to say just because we’re Autistic. Who better than Autistic people to explain what being Autistic is like!
I do not understand why so many allistics don’t seem to understand that very simple concept.
5 thoughts on “Seeking Understanding”
It’s a cycle I see again and again, even with my spouse. I say something or even just don’t react as expected and things I didn’t think and didn’t intend are attributed to me. Much of the time, I struggle to find words to correct the misapprehension, but am often reduced to simple negations. “No, I’m not–, No, I don’t think–, No, I didn’t mean–, even just No.” And that’s assuming I can say anything at all and don’t just stand there looking or shaking my head. Other times I’ll think it’s just an intellectual misunderstanding and I’ll start trying to explain my train of thought only to see after a while that I misjudged the issue or the topic.
I think I actually run low or out of words more quickly and more often today than I once did, not that having more words ever helped that much. I feel the weight of decades of miscommunication and misunderstandings these days every time things start to go sideways. Even when words do come to mind, they carry with them the memory or even just the sense and feeling of the times they weren’t the right words and they made things worse instead of better. Sometimes even when I think I could have more words, I feel blocked from speaking them. I literally don’t know what to say.
The other day, my wife tried to explain something by using an analogy which seemed obvious to her. It was a description of all the things you would do and say to communicate your remorse if you accidentally ran over your neighbor’s dog. The analogy wasn’t helpful in the way it was intended. Of course, if I ran over our neighbor’s dog, I would feel horrible. (In fact, I feel awful just at the mental image. I really like our neighbor’s dog, Zeus.) And I would try to communicate that fact and do anything I could to help.
But I listened to me wife say things such as, “Just like you would do in that situation, you would do this other similar thing in this other situation.” And the only thing I could think as she went through this list of things you would “obviously” do after running over your neighbor’s dog was that almost none of the things she was listing were even vaguely things I would “naturally” think to do. I mean, I would at least try to do them now. I have a script for that situation and some idea what would be expected. And, of course, I was able to think through the analogy afterward.
I’m still blindsided every day. It’s especially hard when I thought I understood the situation only to discover again I was completely wrong.
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Thank you for your comment! It’s very relatable for me.
Sometimes my words are so clearly outlined in my mind, but there’s some kind of blockage or something preventing them from getting out of my mouth. Other times the words can’t even be formed in my mind.
It’s so frustrating in part, I think, because it does often take so much effort for us to come up with the words, make them come out, and then to have them be misunderstood or dismissed on top of that is just too much.
I frequently have trouble with analogies. I can make them (good ones, even, I think) myself, but allistic people’s don’t usually make sense to me. Then they accuse me of nitpicking or arguing semantics when their analogy was just terrible to begin with. If it doesn’t even hold true for the bare minimum comparison then I don’t see how it can be a valid analogy, you know? I guess it has to make sense to them on a different level, but I can’t see it myself.
Husband is trying to understand better. He knows now to give me a lot of time. We, just the other night, talked about a situation that happened several months ago and it made more sense to both of us. But that’s a long time to wait, I guess, for resolution.
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