First off, I’m back. Yay! Second, I’m reducing posting frequency to a whenever-I-feel-like-it basis. Third, on with the post!
Autism is a nebulous thing that nobody can REALLY define. Yet when I tell people that I’m on the spectrum, they are often in disbelief, the first thing to come out of their mouths being “you don’t look like you’re on the spectrum!”
I’m intensely annoyed with people refuting the fact that I’m autistic based on ’look.’ ’Look’ doesn’t mean anything concrete and isn’t rooted in anything more substantial than culturally assigned stereotypes. Also, it’s hugely disrespectful, like claiming that someone can’t be gay just because they don’t ’look’ gay or denying that I’m Egyptian just because I ‘look’ white (which is my personal dilemma). Besides, there is such a thing as having invisible autism, in which one doesn’t flap their hands, engage in ritualistic behavior, or perform any other outward behaviors strongly associated with autism but could still be considered autistic. This leaves sensory input differences, which is definitely a thing among autistic people, invisibly so or not, that the average Joe cannot detect upon first meeting, and some subtle behaviors that could be easily associated with other neurological conditions or just an eccentric personality.
Here is a list of traits associated with – but not necessarily linked to – autism that I still have to the best of my knowledge, based upon 4 hours of speculation on a bus ride:
- I can’t filter auditory information well. For example, if two people are talking to me at once and I want to focus on one person, I’ll be quite disappointed. The cocktail party effect doesn’t work on me.
- If there’s too much unsolicited stimuli directed at me, I become nervous and may even lash out. My threshold could be as low as two people trying to talk to me at once but it seems to vary based on my mood (the happier I am, the more I can handle).
- If I’m in a crowd of people, I don’t necessarily get nervous but it will become difficult to talk to me.
- I suppose the first three points are related: differences in processing auditory information. I process everything at once, including all the auditory fluff. In music production, this is a huge advantage but in other situations, like trying to write while a plane flies overhead (I live under a plane route), it’s unwanted.
- I’m far more comfortable in writing than in oral communication. Yeah, a lot of neurotypicals feel this way as well but this is a phenomenon that’s particularly unique to autistic people.
- I can’t pick up social cues. If a girl likes me and is sending me the subtle signals, I could be completely oblivious until someone explicitly tells me or she makes it REALLY obvious.
- I seem to have a mind that runs faster than my vocal cords. Too many bits of thought may bombard me at once and this may result in disordered or halted spontaneous communication. I may say something and suddenly stop mid-sentence when a new thought suddenly springs up in my mind. This doesn’t happen to me so often anymore but it’s extremely frustrating when it does happen and may lead people to believe that I’m slow.
- I’m notoriously difficult to rope into a group dynamic. Right now, I’m on a bus, coming home from a protest. While one of the organizers is leading the bus in song, I’m writing this post (yes, I’m writing, despite the noise). Of all the things on this list, this is what I’m most proud of.
- I occasionally only process instructions partially if the instructions are given to me orally and/or in large bulks. Of all the things on this list, this is what I’m most self-conscious about.
- I value logic over emotion. A lot. Sometimes to the detriment of other people (just ask my mom!). I’ve tried playing up the pathos on this blog to little personal satisfaction. I also look up to the ultra-logical Sherlock Holmes, who, interestingly, is speculated to be autistic. (In the modern BBC adaptation, “Sherlock” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, he describes himself as a “high-functioning sociopath”)
- I get confused when someone uses ambiguous speech, instead of assuming one meaning. If you get the following joke, you’ll get my issue: “I like ambiguity more than most people.”
- Actually, I dislike imprecise speech with ill-defined terms overall. I think that on a visceral level, when I hear people speak like this, I think that they’re trying to deceive me. On a side note, I have a special dislike for religious terminology such as ’God’ or ’soul.’
- Lastly, I can be very meticulous. For example, I may make lists that are longer than necessary 😉