Why is it hard for people with autism to communicate?
So imagine you are in Japan… people speak differently in Japan and you can’t understand what they’re saying. People in Japan do things differently to you – you’re not sure why they’re doing it, but you can tell it’s obviously important. And the culture is so different that you are like, ‘what the heck?!’
For a lot of people with autism that’s what communication is like – it just seems all foreign and unfamiliar. People expect you to automatically pick stuff up, but when you have autism you just can’t.
Does this mean you don’t get irony or sarcasm?
I can understand irony and sarcasm, and I actually do use it myself. But do I always use it appropriately? No!
Is it hard for you to make eye-contact? Why?
For me it depends on the situation – I have actually had enough practice that I can now make eye contact quite easily. But it took a long time – it was probably not until I was in my early 20s that I felt comfortable.
But even these days…when I’m processing something or when I’m thinking really hard and trying to learn something, I don’t look people in the eye. Also, the more panicked and anxious I am – the more important something is to me – the harder it is to make eye contact.
It’s because when I’m using all my brain to understand what someone’s telling me, I don’t have the brain power left-over to look someone in the eye.
Can you read facial expressions?
Reading facial expressions is something I’ve learnt to do better, but can I do it as well as what is considered ‘the norm’? No.
My brain just literally doesn’t pick up all the nonverbal cues. I don’t see them. It’s like running into an invisible lamp pole – my brain doesn’t process that something’s there, but it still hurts when you run into it! And then I’m like, where the heck did this thing come from?
So do you ever offend anyone?
I’ve definitely learnt how to do social talk, like the surface talk, I can do that.
But I’m very strong willed, and I’ve always said I’m like a steamroller made of flowers – I look pretty, I smell great, but people can still get squished!
These days I can generally go to a social event, chat, and make no social tsunamis anymore. That’s where I have totally misread something and insulted someone accidentally.
What about relationships? Are they hard for you?
I am choosey about my friends because making friends and having friends is hard – it takes an awful lot of brain energy for me and it’s easy for me to get burnt out.
Same thing for romantic relationships – I haven’t had one because I am really choosey. I want to make the right choice because it’s going to take a lot of effort. I want to make sure this guy, whoever he is, is going to be worth all the effort it’s going to take.
I’d love to be married, I’d love to have kids. But I’m happy to wait for that right guy to come into my life. I’m not good with the communication or emotional side of stuff, so I’m going to need a guy who can help me with that. But they’re hard to find!