I have noticed that other people are much more integrated to their surroundings and their relationships. They can mix their family and their friends (and often involve their family and friends in their work and hobbies). They can mix friends with other friends. This is in contrast to me, in which the different aspects of my life are kept separated. I’ve noticed that in particular it is easier for me if my relationships are kept separate from each other.
I’ve learned that neurotypical people can feel quite excited by the prospect of meeting new people and introducing them to their social networks and vice versa. Surely this is exactly why people enjoy parties and social gatherings, because of all that “mingling”!
I have had quite unusual relationships. I once dated someone for about 2 years and in that time I never met this person’s friends or got involved in his social life. I remember my friend thinking this was weird. This was long before I knew I had ASD. It might be a bit weird but it makes sense now why it was this way!
Another example is the two people that I used to spend time with when I was at school. Spending time with both of them together used to make me feel uncomfortable; I much preferred to spend time with only one of them at a time.
I’ve never been part of a group. I avoid all group/team interactions.
A lot of people with ASD have very strong, powerful emotions. For me, I have many, many ups and downs. It doesn’t take a lot to make me feel VERY positive or VERY negative. I drew this graph to illustrate how I think the emotional pattern is of an ASD person vs a neurotypical person:
The definition of small talk is ‘polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters.’ Most of us have to make a lot of it! I know that lots of autistic people dislike small talk (including me), but I think it has its benefits and I think there are a couple of tricks you can do to make it a bit easier.
Why small talk causes difficulties for people with ASD
It might involve discussion of things that don’t interest you
This is a common problem for people with ASD as our interests tend to be unusual and narrow and different from neurotypicals’.
Small talk doesn’t animate me. Popular conversational topics are usually things I am not interested in. There are many ‘normal’ things that interest neurotypical people (weather, news, arts/entertainment, family, holiday/travel…) that just don’t interest me. This makes actually participating in the small talk difficult too, as it can be impossible to know what to say if I have no awareness or knowledge of whatever it is the other person is talking about, such as what’s in the news.
It involves some degree of ‘masking’
Following on from the previous point, I have to ‘pretend’ to be interested in or to know about the subject of conversation. Small talk also requires me to ‘pretend’ I have social skills. This is stressful and exhausting.
I am thinking about whether people go through different stages or emotional responses after they are diagnosed with ASD. I found that at first I was quite elated. This stage lasted quite a long time (at least a couple of years). I was happy because there was an explanation for why I was always different. That I find life “unbelievably hard” can now be described as “believably hard”, if that makes sense.
I’m definitely massively relieved and comforted that I have my diagnosis as it explains my whole life and everything about me, and I have been able to make adjustments that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought to make. My relationships with other people and with the world at large are much better now. However, I don’t feel quite as happy about my diagnosis anymore. In fact, I can now actually understand a bit more why someone (especially someone who was older) might not want a diagnosis.
There is a well known model called the
I am probably the perfect example of the classic stereotype of autism. I am very, very solitary – through choice and also because of my quite complex social difficulties. Any involvement with others generally makes me uncomfortable. This experience might be similar for neurotypical introverts so I think that neurotypical introverts will also find this article helpful.
One major barrier to being this way is it makes it very hard to work with others in both leader (employer/manager/teacher) and follower (peer/classmate/colleague/team member) roles.
In sports science, there’s a theory known as supercompensation. It’s a way of improving your base level of fitness. The way to do this, it proposes, is by putting yourself through more exercise just after you’ve recovered from your previous workout. The time of the next workout is absolutely critical – you have to do it after you’ve recovered but you can’t have too long a gap.
This blog article was inspired because the way I weight train is very much through supercompensation methods. My base level of fitness increases regularly. It made me wonder whether this idea could help someone increase their base level of social energy. Let’s look at it in more detail:
I’ve been thinking about what makes a situation easier for me. One aspect I talked about recently was how immediate a situation is. I debated whether doing something very soon is sometimes easier than planning it ahead of time. Something else I think makes a difference is how predictable and how familiar something is. Let’s find out more.
One of the reasons that having friends is hard for me is because I am not very communicative. My friends (before they understood my condition) would contact me but my responses would always be minimal and would not encourage further communication. For example, I might answer their question but then say nothing further. I’m sure many of you will be familiar with the following sorts of interaction:
Here are 10 positive things about autistic people. Always remember that everyone is a unique individual and that these are general findings. No one will identify with all or every positive feature of autism.
1. Autistic people are usually highly dedicated to, and interested in, their interests
I suspect that although everyone can have a hobby, an autistic person may have greater interest in and dedication to their hobby than the average person is to theirs. This can give us very indepth knowledge, it means we’re very skilled at what we do, and what we produce is high quality. Continue Reading
I’ve been pondering about sensitivity and reactivity, wondering what their link is, or are they the same thing? What are sensitivity and reactivity like in people with autism spectrum disorders?