Non-Verbal Communication and Autism — Some Personal Consequences

Autism is considered to be a communication disorder. It is of course much more than that, and the definition of dis-order depends on one’s standard of order, but in a world dominated by neurotypicals, our differences are considered to be disorders. And given the consequences, we might as well call them that.

When we think of a communication disorder, we are typically thinking of language as communication. However, much human communication is non-verbal, and here autistic people face a number of hurdles as well.

It was a few years ago when I came to understand the degree to which this is true in a recent situation in which I was being correctly redirected to do something other than what I was doing. When the person redirected me, I realized she was right and that I should be doing something else, so I immediately complied. A bit later, though, she asked me if it annoyed her that she had redirected me.

When I am concentrating on something–as I was in this case doing–I tend to get “in the zone.” If you do or say something to get me out of the zone, I feel immediately annoyed. I cannot help it, but I can often get over is as immediately as I feel it. What I didn’t realize is that I also showed that annoyance on my face. Which is just as immediate and something I can’t help.

Now imagine that I have been doing this all my life. Which I have. Without realizing it. Which I have. How do you think people will react to me? Or think of me?

For my regular readers, you may remember that this is not the first time this has happened to me where my attention was drawn to the look I was giving.

But I do have to wonder how many times something has gone awry because I was giving a look that I was unaware I was giving.

This just ends up on my growing list of things I seem to have to tell people about me so they won’t misunderstand my words, actions, and now facial expressions. Meaning I’m almost certainly going to have to always tell everyone I’m on the spectrum just to create the conditions under which I’ll be less likely to be misunderstood. Meaning I’ll get all the fun and pleasure of being directly discriminated against when people know I’m on the spectrum.

So those are the choices: open discrimination against me for being on the autism spectrum or have people decide they don’t like me because of my “attitude.” I’ve decided to take my chances with the former.

5 thoughts on “Non-Verbal Communication and Autism — Some Personal Consequences

  1. If people discriminate you because of your telling them you are autistic, then they are ignorants. I rather have someone letting me know beforehand of some condition they may have. That will help me understand and accept them better and easier.

    On one of my previous jobs, I had a boss who suffered some sort of breakdown on the job. He was sent home and put on a leave. He was instructed to seek help. And he did. When he came back to work a month later, he called us into a conference room and broke the news to us that he had been diagnosed with ASD. He lived his entire life with ASD and didn’t know about it.

    It all started to make sense to us. The man was a programming genius. His razor-sharp focus at times. The being in the zone when we would go see him for something and not really paying attention to what we were saying. The non-stop talking over topics that he was passionate about. His love for certain science-fiction books than most of us couldn’t understand…

    We were grateful he told us. We asked him what he needed us to do differently or to help. He smiled at us and said, ‘I’m still trying to figure that out. A lot of things are now starting to make sense to me, but I have to learn so much myself. In the meantime, please, do not take it personally if I seem not to be paying attention to you. And you’re allowed to throw a rubber ball at me to get me out of the zone.” Needless to say we never had to do that.

    But it helped us to know what he was dealing with.

    I believe this applies to all types of disabilities and disorders. I had a coworker once who was deaf. I had no idea that she was deaf because she spoke normally. She had not always been deaf. Therefore, he could speak normally. But she had trouble reading my lips because English was not my first language. So we both learnt to help each other.

    We are all humans. We are all different. And we need to learn to embrace the difference. Those who are not willing to then deserve no room in our lives. At least that’s how I feel about them. I won’t mistreat them. I just feel sorry for them because they are missing out on everything everybody who is different has to offer.

    I’m sure some people will appreciate your telling them right away. If that’s what you want to do, then do so. If nothing else, then it will help you find good people and weed out the ones that take space in your life.


    Liked by 2 people

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