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Monday, January 17, 2011

Autism: Ongoing Understanding of Neurotypicals....the *regular* folk

"On the spectrum" of Autism, such a nebulous term. I lean more toward Austism than Aspergers in spots, yet I'm presentable enough at times to recieve the brunt of social expectation. "Expectation" is a word I wish had never been invented. "Neurotypical," despite it's basic meaning of a most common neurological wiring, is another word I don't like, because I find nothing typical among either those without Autistic traits or those with them. Each human being is an individual to be celebrated for their beingness.  
    I learned about autism 19 years ago when my son was diagnosed, and that's when I learned about me. I even learned about other people....a lot. It seems a whole lot of people never bumped their heads on the floor for comfort as a child, don't chew their tongues, don't have a kneaded eraser in their purse that they can play with for comfort, flick their fingernails against their palms in an "it's gonna be alright" way, and most of them do not have a hum in their voice, nor do they keep a respectful/comfortable three foot distance from people when speaking. Most of them have no problem with grabbing your arm when speaking to you (different boundaries). A whole lot of them (believe it or not) do not see details. They seem to enjoy or ingnore  noise sometimes (ie. crowd chatter), they love fluorescent lighting (Sadistic lights/sounds are pleasant to them.). Many of them, "Think outside the box" without ever looking to see what's actually IN the box, and only vaguely know what I'm talking about when I refer them to the feeling they get at "fingernails on a chalkboard."
     Many of them are burdened with having the socially correct hair cuts, clothing (whether it's comfortable or not) and latest sayings. Idioms, or not saying what they mean are common language, and they have to have a constant translator going in their minds at all times to understand what others (who don't say what they mean), really mean. (Remember that "Who's on First?" Abbott and Costello routine? It's like that for them as best I understand it. I must admire them for this, as I could never keep up with the codes.) They have talents too. many spontaneously know what to say in drivel conversations (small talk) and have textbook body language. A lot of people even have exaggerated body and face movements and a disturbing need to peer into my eyes and worse, many get upset if I don't do it back! Weirdos! (grins)
  If there is one thing I've learned, (and I do hope there's at least one) it's that there is no greater waste of my time and energy than to try to get the world to understand me. They are not going to get it. I'd be better off telling a person born blind that the sun hurts my eyes.They may accept it or not, but they're not going to understand it, and many people get mad at or fear things they don't understand.Thus, I'd totally given up on living happily misunderstood (Yes, I got temporary gratification from it, sadly). I needed a new outlook. There is no chance of me changing them. They are probably perfectly fine just like they are. Sometimes they say that people on the spectrum don't have compassion/empathy. I do understand projection.
   The situation is for me that I live in a world mostly populated by fear of difference. It's ok with them that you're different as long you don't talk about it and can fake a reasonably good *normal.* (Another useless word to me). Many neurotypicals have a need to try to fix others. Well, I can be the one person of respit in their lives who doesn't try to change them. I can accept with love. (This often confuses them. grins.) Someone has got to understand, they can't, it's not hardwired in, they were not made this way for better or for worse, regardless of what I or anyone thinks of it, so, in the interest of me not asking a legless person to run.....
   If understanding, compassion and empathy are what I sense is missing in the world, then understanding, compassion and empathy are precisely what I need to give to the world. Ok so they don't get me, so what? I enjoy learning, so I study them. True, I feel like Jane Goodall of "Gorillas in the mist" sometimes, but I see wonderful things. They interact oddly to me with all of the small talk, touching, social status rules and other things that don't have significance to me, but they do to them. Just because a thing is not important to me, that doesn't mean it's not important whether or not I understand it. St. Francis said, "it's better to understand than be understood," and for the sake of my sanity, I agree, it's better in that it's more effective.
 I'm interested in what works.
   Not all, but some people respond well to being heard and understood. This, I do right in the middle of yearning to be accepted, by the way. I don't care who provides the understanding. I can't afford to worry about that.  It doesn't matter to me when there is a shortage of understanding who provides it, and it most certainly doesn't matter who goes first or if it's ever returned to me from them. I'm going to have understanding of them and myself either way, because whenever I take time to understand others, I learn a little more about me. I become someone I like better, and someone who is ultimately less alone
   I can't afford to care much what others think of me (another waste of my energy). What I think of them, however comes from inside of me even when faced with apparent proof positive of my own judgements. I'd much prefer the compassion of thinking "they just can't understand or are not ready" than the thought "that they are too cruel to try." I am more peaceful when I have the compassion that is so sorely needed in and for everyone. Who does not desire to be loved for who they are? This I can give.I can let go of judgements, I can accept, and I can love.
   Long ago, I was so angry at *normal* people (neurotypicals) for being different. I was doing exactly what I felt was done to me and hoping that would make a difference. It only made the problem worse. I had to learn to give in the middle of needing, to love in the middle of wanting love, to accept in the middle of feeling judged and to embrace in the middle of feeling rejected. I do not crawl, nor do I negate my own needs. I simply allow my natural compassion to fill the void in others and me.
  Somehow through "It's better to understand than be understood," I got everything I needed and more. When I'm willing to give to the need I sense in the world, my own needs are fullfilled. The compassion I have for a world who has struggles that I could not comprehend comes from perhaps not the person I show compassion to, but from someone, or something or even from the last place I thought to look: From me.
  It helps me to look at similarities, for example "stimming." I've already mentioned what I do for comfort. I've come to believe that their form of stimming is small talk. From the outside, it doesn't look productive. It often involves strange staring, *pretend* smiles, and huge body movements,  but it seems to give them some comfort. Where I chew my tongue, they jiggle their change. I have a kneaded eraser, they have good luck charms like rabbit's feet, prayer beads, etc.
   Priorities are relative too. Where I focus on doing what I can to live in a low stress environment and improving my canvas or memorizing that new tune to the last note so much that I'll listen to it thirty times in a day, they focus (like my obsessing) on competitive steps and getting ahead of someone else. Neurotypical or On the Spectrum, to me, we are all a little delightfully strange.
   Understanding, however much or little I can, is making the world I live in a more comfortable place for me. Some of the NT people, I've noticed, even calm down after a while of me trying to understand, and don't do so much small talk *stimming.* If I can't make the world a better place for me directly, I can begin by making it better for them. When the world is a better place, I am content. When I am content, the importance of differences fade, and I see the beauty in all, all, all of us.

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