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Talking about talking about talking

Posted Nov 10 2008 4:52pm
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.
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