Sunday, June 3, 2018

I'm Not Just Socially Awkward

Photo courtesy the author
[image: Blurry photo of a pink ride-on bouncy balloon with
an animal face and two "horns" for handles. Overlaid white text
reads, "I'm not just socially awkward." Smaller white text in the
lower right corner reads, "@oufoxgloved"
and "Autnot.Wordpress.com"]
Rhi Lloyd-Williams
autistrhi.com

When I tell people I’m autistic, it usually goes one of two ways; either they can’t make me fit into their idea of what autism is and completely reject it, or they mark me down as “socially awkward” and leave it there.

Autism explains my lack of constant contact, it explains my monologuing about things that interest me, it explains why on social occasions I move around a room like a loose cog in a machine—catching on things, getting stuck in places, jarring against this and that before being knocked into a corner and staying there.

Those are the things about me that you can see. What you can’t see are the other bits; my problems with Executive Function, my never-ending battle with literalness, my lip-reading over auditory-processing, my sensory issues, my affinity with numbers and disassociation with names, and on and on and on.

When people classify me as “socially awkward” they expect too much from me. They’re surprised when I find some things hard. I’m not telling you that I can’t make a shopping list because it’s boring and takes time, I’m telling you that it’s incredibly hard. There are too many variables, I have to hold them all in my head, I can’t, it gets too big. I falter and have to start again, but then the same thing happens. I cannot juggle the thoughts needed like that. I cannot think in a linear way, I have to include all the forks going off in different directions.

You may think in straight lines, but my thoughts are like lightning bolts. They flash brightly, sparking off in every direction, and by the time the thunder rumbles, I have lost the central bolt and am caught in how my hairs all stand on end.

I am not socially awkward, I am socially different. Autism isn’t about not making connections, it’s about making different ones.

I am built to logicise and problem-solve, and this means I am brilliant at certain aspects of thinking, but terrible at things that other people take for granted as "easy."

When I say I find something hard, please don’t tell me how easy it is. Please don’t tell me I just have to do it like this or like that. It will never be easy for me. It will always take time and energy that could be spent elsewhere. If you found quadratic equations hard, I wouldn’t tell you how easy they are. I wouldn’t tell you to just do this or just do that. I accept that although I can explain and help you get to the answer, this may be something you will always need support with.

I am not socially awkward and lazy or incompetent. I did not get this autism diagnosis diagnosis because of shyness. I am autistic, with all the joys and pains being human brings. I am creative and imaginative, I am loving and thoughtful, I am good at things and bad at things. The things you find easy may not be the same as the things I find easy, and that is just fine too.