Thursday, April 19, 2007

Talking about talking about talking

Yesterday was a bad day for me. I had a presentation to make in class and it did not go well, though I had practiced it and knew the material thoroughly. Now I'm putting way too much time and energy into trying to figure out why I'm overreacting to something that happens fairly often, and what it really means about my acceptance of my autism.

First of all, I was just having a "bad communication day". If you are autistic, you know what I mean. For anyone else who might see this, it is important that you understand that the autistics in your life don't do this stuff on purpose.

Some days I talk very well, other days I don't. For the neurotypical, think about your level of competence at math, the kinds of problems you can solve on your best day, rested and undistracted. Now think about those same problems, having a strict time limit to solve them in a room that is way too hot, and you didn't get any sleep last night, and next to you, someone is screaming. Oh yeah, you also don't get a pencil and paper; you do this in your head.

No one else in the room thinks it is hot, they can't hear the screaming, and whether or not you can solve the equation will determine how they view you, if not forever, then for a long time to come. That is a bit what talking is like for me. And the shift from "passing for normal" to "passing for nuts" can happen at any time with no warning. Then people say we are "acting out".

That's why, before a presentation or a social situation, you'll see me acting more stereotypically autistic. I may go outside and howl a bit, or make quieter animal noises inside. I like to repeat words and syllables or numbers. And of course, I'll be drawing some squares. Pretty much the way I am all of the time, but with the volume turned up a notch. It doesn't make me self-conscious to be this way around people and ususally I don't mind if someone comments on it, as long as the comment isn't judgmental. My normal is not your normal. I'm okay with that.

A lot of things did go wrong yesterday, including unexpected time pressures, last minute plan changes and (at least in my perception) being singled out and treated noticibly differently from the others in the class. And like I said, it wasn't the best day for talking, words were getting lost and coming out too slow. I didn't say everything I needed to say, and some of what was left out was important, most important to me. Time's up.

The presentation had much to do with autism. I felt like Teddy Willis for a minute. Then I realized what that meant. Teddy's story is all about going on to the next day, where there will be another chance to talk, and under better circumstances, finding a way to say what needs saying, even when it gets difficult. Maybe next time, I'll put what I really want to say most at the beginning. Making it fit there logically might be an interesting challenge. The next presentation is on Monday.

Time's Up! is a party game for teams of two or more players (best with teams of two). The same set of famous names is used for each of three rounds. In each round, one member of a team tries to get his teammates to guess as many names as possible in 30 seconds. In round 1, almost any kind of clue is allowed. In round 2 no more than one word can be used in each clue (but unlimited sounds and gestures are permitted). In round 3, no words are allowed at all.


  1. It may not seem like it to you, but thanks for lightening my day.

  2. Bev, if these comments appear more than once, please be free to delete this one.

    lol "passing for nuts" !!! XD

    I LOVE it.

    I _just_ got a job. I will be on probation for _six_ months. My livelihood depends on this. I have to do my darnedest to not "pass for nuts" during this time frame. It's a very very small company. I also need all the good luck I can get. It's a mine field with loads of tripwires and I always feel like I'm walking on eggshells and I'm like the subject on a Petri dish under evaluation. Like, I better not goof up! On top of that, it's a "people" position. I'm hired to be the face of a company over a very wide region. Their success depends on my success for this region. I will do everything in my power to pull this off.

    It reminds me of Mission Impossible. Is this a mission I'm willing to accept. Well, it is, but it is obviously not the most comfortable one, but I'm up to the challenge.

    I guess one can call it a stretch exercise, one in which I'm learning to parachute out of a burning aircraft. Then, upon landing, the awaiting party wants to see me dance. Dance, dance, dance!

    I will definitely need to schedule some breaks in between these obstacle confidence courses, just to recharge. It will be quite the juggling act. I invoke all of the good powers of the universe to help me along this journey.

    I will need to learn to walk the tight rope, serpentine, avoid infra red sensors, trip wires, ambushes, and parachute, all while holding an egg on a spoon! That's what it feels like.

    The job I'm getting is one that is already considered to be complex for a neurotypical individual and here I am to try to master it as someone on the spectrum. Well, I managed to make it through the many many interviews. Passed, but with some reservations about my personality. Perhaps they are correct about their reservations. My goal now is to prove them wrong. The position requires me not only to be technically competent (which I very much am) but also very important to have an abundance of charisma and personality and very importantly to be a closer. As in close deals. Yes. The big experiment!

    I'm determined to pull this off.

    Any official word on my condition, I am sure, would have "disqualified" me from them choosing me for the job. I even went through a rigorous psychological eval. But I knew what they were looking for, and they still had some reservations. Imagine if I hadn't known, I would have been caught so off-guard!

    Now I must face each of the projects I will be assigned with the same fervor and pass there as well. Who knows, with more practice at stretching, I might yet excel!

    But, again, proof that the world is a stage wherein we are not only the spectators, we are the actors and occasionally dancers as well.

    And now, once more, the curtain is opening.


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