“They’re Such A Pain To Talk To” (Relating To other Aspies)

You know that throughout my life, I have experienced feelings of not “fitting in” with the rest of the crowd. My life as a freshman and sophomore at the Freeport Area Senior High School felt like a number. It felt like the unhappy nurses assistant calling patients out of the waiting room and escorting them to the doctor’s office. Instead of addressing the patients by name, they assign everybody in the crowded room a number. The assistant calls everyone’s names in a monotonous manner. My frequent visits to the guidance counselor felt like this. I remember one visit I was upset about a student who harassed me in the hallway. He would purposely invade my personal space and ask me why I never talked to people, then he would rudely tell me to “get some friends.” The thing is, I couldn’t connect with anybody in school. The typical students were too involved in their own social group to include a new person and I didn’t feel like I could function with many of the students in the learning support program. The guidance counselor was horrible at listening to my problems. During my frequent visits to his office, I would tell him I had problems “fitting in”, and he would say “we’re gonna work on it” or the same “advice” I would hear from everybody “you need to come out of your shell and talk to people more.” This obviously didn’t help that much.

“Normals” Not Taking Me Seriously:

Every learning support student in the United States is entitled to an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). My mother felt it was appropriate to add a social into my plan for my freshman year. My goal was to “initiate spontaneous social communication among peers without prompting.” The truth is it is not easy for a person on the Autistic Spectrum to meet this goal. This was simply because “neurotypcials” (people not diagnosed with a form of Autism) didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them. Halfway into my freshman year my “drill Sargent” therapist wanted me to practice conversations with my peers in school. He wanted me to start working on this during my learning support class period. The teacher would ask a student to come over and we would pretend we saw each other in public. The other student would say the greeting, and I was to continue the conversation. However, this student decided to pull a “Mr. Clown” act. He talked to me in the same tone of voice of which a person would speak when giving attention to a baby or a cute puppy or kitten. “Hello! How are you doin today little freshman?” he said. I then heard the teacher say “don’t be silly.” I was obviously not the least bit amused by his attempt to entertain everybody in the classroom. I became aggravated, so I reluctantly said “uh, hi?” It was amazing how my teacher couldn’t figure out how my eyes getting big and the irritated look on my face showed that I did not have the desire to interact with this “comic genius”. After all, it was obvious he really didn’t have the desire to interact with me. I don’t socialize with people who treat me like I am stupid.

Feeling Lost Around My Own Kind:

This post is about something I have mentioned in my other posts before, but I never really thought about building on this topic until I read a post from somebody on Wrongplanet.net, a forum website for people on the Autistic Spectrum. This person complained about how he felt his Aspie peers were a “pain to talk to.” This post caught my eye because I experienced similar emotions myself. The Wesley Wonder Kids club really tried to push social interaction on me, but I also felt the group members were a “pain to talk to.” They were infatuated with topics that I felt were extremely “weird.” They varied from video games, Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokémon. We had others who loved television cartoons and comic books, and another would always talk about gardening, reptiles and history. There was another group member who seemed to have a new cut or bruise on his arms or legs every single day the group met. At the beginning of each session, all group members were given the opportunity to share news in their lives. They would enthusiastically share stories about their new Game Boy, Xbox or Playstation games. The student who loved reptiles and gardening would share stories about his lizard and the vegetables he picked from his garden in the summer time. The clumsy kid would share stories about the new cuts and bruises he would get from horsing around with his friends at home. They expected the group members to ask questions about the news which came from the particular group member.

Me Not Taking My Own Kind Seriously:

Depending on the nature of the news, they would either ask questions right away or the staff members would have to prompt them. I would very rarely ask questions right away because most of the things they shared were about their “obsession”. There were also occasions where the staff members would put me on the spot and prompt me to ask with the whole group looking at me. They would say “Derek, we haven’t heard from you yet. Why don’t you ask ________ a question about his garden?” This was the thing which I loathed the most, because after all I knew very little about video games, cartoons, comic books, gardening and reptiles. High school was the time in which I loathed myself and other people. Why? It was because they didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them. Here were the many thoughts that went through my mind when the other group members shared their introductory news stories:

“Oh my god, what is this kid, five? Who the f*** watches cartoons in high school? He needs to watch normal, age appropriate TV shows!”

“Does he ever talk about anything besides video games? No wonder this kid is unemployed and has no friends in school!”

“What kind of a teenager wants to plant a garden in their spare time? That sounds really stupid!”

“Something is wrong with a teenager who likes history. It happened hundreds of years ago, who cares about it now?”

I never blurted my opinions to those people, but they could probably tell I didn’t really have much of an interest to sit and listen to their “weird obsession.” In fact, I remember one time at the end of the session I put my headphones in my ears so I could ignore “Mr. Dirt Worshiping Treehugger History Geek” and his stories about the ancient something others and homegrown zucchini.

Trying To Understand My Own Kind:

My bitterness in high school really took a toll on my social life outside of school. The main reason I felt I couldn’t relate to the other kids in the group was that I felt they couldn’t function in the real world as well as I could. Therefore, I resorted to making snide comments about them behind their backs. I happen to know this emotion is common among many groups of people. Take the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) community for an example. They are a unique group of people among themselves. They all have different shapes, sizes, hobbies, interests, ethnicities and personalities. The main reason I brought them up is because very many of them know how it feels to not “fit in” and be harassed by people. They hate the many stereotypes they receive from the heterosexual community, just as we hate the stereotypes that come from the neurotypical (Non Autistic) community. Far to often you hear a gay man making fun of another gay man because he is too feminine. You hear about an Aspie making fun of another because they exhibit repetitive hand motions.

I completely agree with the statement that it is unacceptable to make fun of somebody, however it is understandable to feel disconnected from somebody in your own group because they fit the negative stereotypes that are given from society. When the staff members caught me making comments about the other students from Wesley, they would just say “We don’t talk about people like that!” or “That’s innapropriate!” One of the general reasons people may decide to make fun of another person is simply because they don’t understand. Just because you have Asperger’s doesn’t always mean you understand somebody else who may have it. The Wesley staff members could have helped me develop social skills by helping me understand my Aspie peers.

It’s been almost three years since I left that program. I know that many Aspies use their “obsession” as an outlet for the pain of not “fitting in.” I remember my obsession with fans when I was little, and back then I knew nothing about Autism and Asperger’s. I know how it felt to have people pressure me into becoming the illusion known as “normal.” I knew no other way than to ignore and make fun of other Aspies during high school because I wanted to eliminate my bitterness somehow. Writing has become my own outlet because it helps members of the “neurotypical” community understand me, and it hopefully helps kids who have previously experienced or may be experiencing many of these same emotions now.

I am not a huge “bible thumper” as many people call it, but I quoted a bible verse that I put in a previous post titled “Teachers, Counselors and Parents: Practice What You Preach!” because it relates to the topic I am covering today.

Matthew 7 vs 1-5

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged and the measure you give will be judged, and the measure you get is the measure you get. Why do you seek the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbors eye.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, feel free to leave a comment!

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2 thoughts on ““They’re Such A Pain To Talk To” (Relating To other Aspies)

  1. Um, so, You posted on WP about this, so I thought what the heck.

    Because I like social interaction, I just stink at it sometimes because I won’t know that I took something too literally or I’ll be too blunt or I’ll say something stupid or I’ll be awkward or I won’t know the body language consequentially not knowing what people are truly saying.

    Also, there are more boys than girls that have AS, and they talk about how there are no good women in the world and how we are all just mean people and that kinda sucks for the aspie girls who are nice.

    Also, I don’t have a lot of the same special interests. I like pretty normal activities like running, singing and drawing. The only one that I have been able to find a wide base of support for is vegetarianism, and even with that some people don’t understand the things that go through my head when I think about food.

    Finally, I am weirder than the average aspie. I have so many quirks and things that I like that are strange (though not in a creepy way) that I doubt that there would be any aspie that could totally relate to my weirdness.

    Thanks for letting me get this load off my shoulders!

  2. Hi, Derek,
    Here are a few observations: Your comment, “…the same “advice” I would hear from everybody “you need to come out of your shell and talk to people more.” makes me think that, yes, you do need to trust more people to respond and reciprocate to your appropriate and friendly greetings and social advances. Please understand that the therapists and teachers and other professionals who were working with you were trying to use various methods (role play, practice, scripted conversation, structured situations, etc) to help you learn these methods in order for you to eventually incorporate them into your life. The fact that there were peers who did not participate in good faith and with sensitivity was really unfortunate and was definitely discouraging. As you go forward in life, don’t be afraid to keep trying to connect with people in the appropriate ways you were shown by these professionals. It will probably be a case “fake it until you make it”, because you will not feel genuine or natural when you try these things. Eventually, however, as you get some successful interchanges and some friendly conversation and social connection, you will incorporate these skills into the way you live your daily life. You will pick up on the social cues with practice, maybe not every time, as Chrissy experienced, but more and more often.
    When you discussed Wonder Kids, ” I would very rarely ask questions right away because most of the things they shared were about their “obsession””, I thought about the way neurotypical adults handled your obsession. The key was kindness. They treated you kindly, which included trying to converse with you about your obsessions, because they wanted to be friendly and to engage you in their lives, too. The same is true with the group session at Wonder Kids. You were there to practice social interactions with people who have the same difficulties you do. They are not going to be particularly interested in what you have to say, either. However, the point is to practice the skill. Your facilitators there were trying to help you learn the social nuance of beginning and continuing conversation. They were trying to help you take hold of a thread of interest that you possibly have that is tangential to the interest of someone else, and then they wanted you to continue the back-and-forth, possibly bringing the conversation back around to you and your interests. This is what conversation is like among neurotypical friends who gather to chat. I may not be particularly interested in Keith Urban, nor do I understand an adult’s obsession with a country music star, but I am willing to talk about it with my friends who are interested. I’m willing to do this because I want their friendship or acquaintanceship, and I care about them, and I want to be kind to them. I know if we establish this connection I can often trust them to be kind to and care about me, also. It isn’t a perfect world, and I have made some awkward comments to my friends, but I have usually been able to backtrack and either apologize or show in other ways that I am sorry and that I value them and their interests and ideas. They also respond by inquiring about me and my interests and my life, and they underscore my trust of them. Often they surprise me with affection that I feel I don’t necessarily deserve! It’s funny how friendship works. It’s worthwhile to get better at it, and that’s all the professionals and your parents were trying to teach you.
    Let’s hope that your post high-school peers are more capable of kindness, understanding, and friendship with you in particular, and with all the people in their adult worlds in general! Let’s also hope that you are trying to be kind, understanding, and friendly with them as well. It goes both ways, and when it works, you’ve really got a good thing going. You’ve also got some confidence to keep trying and improving the ways you interact with others.
    I hope this was helpful. You inspire many people and relate with understanding to many people who read your blog. It’s great to learn about your experience and to see how you are incorporating many of the things you’ve learned in your writing here.

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