I want to talk a bit about my communication challenges from being on the Autism Spectrum.
People with Aspergers (or the Autism Spectrum as its now known in the DSM) have delays in learning communication skills. Our Problem Solving skills aren’t the best either, so I may write about that one day. (if you like, you can read more on the Autism Queensland website.)
We learn communications skills not like you might. Just by observing I mean. We need to be taught most things. The Communication Skills that the rest of the world naturally, unconsciously learn growing up.
We have varying degrees of being able to function in society, in relationships and at work. We also have varied areas of social skills and varied symptoms. Hence it is called the Autism Spectrum. Hopefully you’ll understand soon why we can be nervous or lack social graces a bit.
I got a late diagnosis – when I was thirty, so I learn social skills through YouTube, articles and The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships by Temple Grandin. Share house living is an interesting place to practice I can tell you!
We can be non-verbal, which is, as far as I know ‘classic autism’.
Sometimes I go mute, and after the following posts you might understand why. *grins*
There are other aspects too, but there are three things I want to share with you over the week. All related to conversations.
I’ll talk about each one in a separate post, so don’t worry if you aren’t sure what I mean right now.
- Theory of Mind
This is recognising that another person could have another viewpoint. That they don’t know what you know. We on the Spectrum can have varying degrees awareness and challenges when it comes to Theory of Mind.
It can cause confusion and a level of distress for both parties in a conversation.
You know with little kids, say about two years old. All excited they’ll ask you about a butterfly they’d seen. They just assume you’d seen it too, and knew what it was sitting on, and where – on earth – this occurred? TV? Backyard? A Carpark?
How many of you have been there?
That lack of Theory of Mind happens to us, even as adults. Or I should say, a lot for someone like me who’d gotten a late diagnosis of Aspergers.
I’ll tell you a bit about one time with me. Something that I can now say, Aah! That was a lack of Theory of Mind.
I was attending a personal development seminar, and I’d asked someone for coaching.
The guy I’d approached just didn’t know how to help and said he’d find someone else. Fair enough.
When I spoke to the second guy I just assumed a few things. That the first guy would tell the second guy what I’d said. Obviously he’d set the context, parrot what I’d said and that I could just continue the conversation.
It didn’t quite work out like that. Pretty quickly the second guy stopped me. He had no idea what I was talking about!
He asked ‘What are you doing here?’
I stopped and thought about it, and told him. The exact reason I was at the seminar. All serious like!
He said ‘No, what are you doing here, in this room, in this seat, next to me?’
I was gobsmacked – how could he not know? The first guy would have told him – surely?
It took a lot of stumbling, and quite a bit of confusion, trying to orient myself with what he may not know. In the previous moment, I lacked Theory of Mind.
Finally we talked about what I wanted to, and it turned out great.
Now how old do you think I was? I was 23 years old.
I knew all about assumptions, as you no doubt know. The difference is how often it happens.
Fast forward to now.
If I’m in a conversation with you, it’s a concentrated effort to think of things you may or may not know. It’s a challenge, so if you ask me a question, it will take me a while to think of an answer.
If you’re wondering ‘why is that lady soo nervous?’ it may be that I’m trying to orient myself with you. I may be practicing Theory of Mind.
If you notice that we are not on the same page, you may like to point it out. This can be hard to do, so it’s ok to pick your battles.
Thankfully these days there aren’t huge consequences to my communication challenges.
Like what I’ll share with you about Taking Words Literally in ‘Why is that lady soo nervous #2’.
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These can be pre-ordered on Kindle. Release date: April 1st 2017
Successful to Burnt Out: Experiences of Women on the Autism Spectrum
Inaccessible: Poetry about Inaccessible Things.