The Autistic Struggle Of Associating With Neurotypical People

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Note: Sorry I’ve been absent for a while.  Its been a very busy and hectic time for me.  Thank you all for your patience!

Imagine me sitting alone in a room playing the piano.  If you can imagine that, I’m afraid that’s as far as you’re ever going to get seeing me play the piano, because I don’t know how to play it. The point is, imagine me sitting alone in a room playing the piano while everyone else is outside.  I’m playing it and becoming immersed in the sound.  It resonates with me, it makes sense to me, and I feel good as I’m in the moment.  Though I don’t know how to play the piano, I believe the piano has a beautiful sound that really resonates with me.  I can think of a few music tracks or songs that makes excellent use of the piano and makes me feel good.  I’m playing a song with piano music on a loop right now as I type this actually.  To me, this best describes my feelings towards my interaction with other people on the autism spectrum versus people who are labeled as neurotypicals.  I’m able to latch onto a sound that I tend to understand the most, which is normally my own inner voice or the voices of other people on the spectrum while everyone else is left out.

The term ‘neurotypical’ actually originated from the autistic community to label people who are not on the autism spectrum.  Whether or not you think that’s a justifiable thing is entirely up to you, but there are people who are not on the spectrum regardless, and they are some of the hardest people for me to talk to.  It’s even harder to be friends with them too.  Here are three reasons why this can be the case:

1. It’s hard for an autistic and a ‘normal’ person to understand each other.

Unless the ‘normal’ person has a lot of personal experience communicating with autistic people under his belt, he has a hard time understanding people like me, which can lead to me feeling really frustrated with him for not understanding me, and it can lead to frustration on the other person’s part because he doesn’t know what to do or say to get me to understand.  Confusion and frustration play large roles in this, which I think can sometimes jeopardize relationships.  A lot of times, I have a very difficult time understanding people who are not on the spectrum and it makes me feel bad because I feel like I’m doing something wrong.  I don’t understand the person’s motives, emotions, goals, and sometimes the person’s personality.  It almost feels like we’re completely incompatible.

2. Autistics and ‘normal’ people generally speak a different language.

When I say ‘different language’, I’m not referring to different languages like Spanish and French, I’m simply referring to the way we talk, how we express our words and structure our sentences. What makes sense to us individually when we talk may not make any sense to others, and that’s a lot like a conversation between an autistic and a ‘normal’ person.  I’ve been asked a lot to repeat what I just said or rephrase my words differently.  I don’t believe that this is unfixable, but it takes a long time to finally learn how to communicate properly with other people who don’t think or talk like I do or like a lot of other people in the autism community.

3. Typically, autistic people can have a difficult time caring about another person’s interests unless it’s the same as theirs.

I’m not not listening because I don’t care about other people.  I just have a difficult time taking interest in other people’s interests unless they’re very well aligned with my own.  I believe I speak for a lot of people on the spectrum when I say that we’re so swamped and knee-deep in our own interests that it’s difficult for us to be very open to anything new.  We love our own interests and if they’re not being talked about on a consistent basis, then we leave very little room for anything else.  This is one thing that causes one of the hardest and most painful wedges between an autistic person and a neurotypical.  We feel as though we need things in common in order to have a legitimate relationship.

I’m not writing this list to defend the way I act or treat other people who are different.  It’s not easy operating the way I do, in fact, sometimes it’s painful.  It hurts even more when someone I know and even love knows next to nothing about my place on the spectrum and doesn’t act like he or she wants to know.  I love people, but I’ve tended to feel alienated from them because I can’t connect with them and they can’t connect with me.  I long for that connection, and I long to learn how to make them.

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