Bridging the communication gap between high functioning autistics and neurotypicals.

Posts tagged ‘neurotypical’

What Autism Feels Like to a Neurotypical

The past two days have reminded me what autism feels like to a neurotypical (NT). Mark had not been getting good sleep and may have ingested some sugar, sending him back into Aspieness. It wasn’t a complete reversal of NTness, but enough to make my world uncomfortable. Enough to remind me of the pain I endured all of these years.

I know there are a lot of people out there who never get a break from their autistic loved one. You don’t know what a break feels like and may be angry that I’ve had one after 20 years. You may not even believe that Mark is autistic or that a diet can reverse autism. Believe what you wish as I tell you my experience.

Autism
It is never happy.
It is never peaceful.
It is always searching.
It is never finding.
It is forever frustration.
It is never satisfied.
It is never present.
It is never connecting.

I feel bad.
Very, very bad.
This person is in agony.
I cannot help.
I try anyway.
I wear myself thin.
I have nothing.
I give more.

Autism doesn’t know.
It can’t see.
It has no eyes.
It has no ears.
I don’t exist.
It’s not their fault.
It’s just what is.
I hate it so.

~Michelle

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Connotations and Communication

How do you use connotations in your communications? To give you a sense of the autistic world vs the neurotypical world, let’s look at a fictitious text, without emoticons or punctuation: “where were you last night”. If I just read the words, I would answer where I had been; the autistic answer. But in our complicated NT world of emotion, I have to consider who is asking, what had happened in the past between us, and the possible connotation(s) behind the question.

Let’s say the person texting was my band leader. The question could be expressing genuine concern over my well-being. It could also be surrounded by annoyance and disgust that I missed a rehearsal. Perhaps there are sarcastic undertones, hinting at being let go. I could go on and on with the emotional possibilities behind the text.

When communicating with autistic people, we must remember that they are only getting the words of the text. To communicate better, we have to say our connotation as well as the words. Our new text would be, “I am really disappointed that you weren’t there last night. What happened to you and why did you miss?”; “I am really angry that you missed rehearsal without telling us. We are considering finding another person. Where were you last night?”; or “We were really worried that you missed last night. We didn’t know what happened to you. Where were you?” These sentences are tedious, but that is what is necessary to avoid confusion with your Autie. In my experience teaching NTs and Auties, I use many, MANY more words with the Auties. Emotions are a much more efficient way to teach, but only if they can be received.

~Michelle

From Meltdown to Cooperation in Twenty Minutes

I had an autistic trumpet student whom we will call Joe. Joe frequently walked into his lesson in a foul mood, mumbling obscenities, and griping about hating trumpet lessons. He was in 6th grade and was the most difficult student I had had up to that point. Most of the time I coerced him to play for at least 20 minutes of the 30 minute lesson. I remember his utter disgust when he discovered that I didn’t have perfect pitch – this woman is teaching ME?? Autistic children can be very difficult to take when one is an extra sensitive neurotypical*.

One day Joe walked in screaming. His dad looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and walked to the waiting room. “I hate (expletive) trumpet lessons! I (expletive) hate you! I want to kill you! I’m going to burn this building down! Don’t talk to me! I hate you!” This went on and on. -This dad expects a lesson from this??- I had no idea what to do.

It suddenly occurred to me to do what he said. Don’t talk to him. So I didn’t. After 10 minutes of ranting vehemently, he began to slow down. After 15 minutes he started looking at me and wondering what I was doing. After 20 minutes he finally asked, “Why aren’t you talking to me?” I said, “Because you told me not to.” A few more minutes went by and he said, “Ok. I will play now. What do you want me to do?” I was FLOORED! He had become a sweet, malleable person. We had a productive 10 minutes and never had another lesson that horrid again. There were times he would come in grumpy and I’d ask, “Do you need me to not talk to you for a bit?” He’d always say, “No, I’m ok.”

This scenario made me aware of how my emotions affect an autistic person. I didn’t just stop talking to Joe, I turned off my emotions. My autistic husband explains that any emotion causes confusion and overwhelm. That confusion leads to obsessively trying to figure out why they are confused. Then when more emotion is thrown in (whether positive or negative), it short circuits the brain, causing rage, stimming, meltdown, withdrawing, etc. In the situation with Joe, it was very difficult for me to pull my emotions inward, but I chose to find a “happy place” and leave that “room” for a while. This shut down the emotional feed to Joe and he was able to regain his non fight-or-flight brain.

Most of us think that our emotions ARE us, but it is a learnable skill to separate from our emotions. Like learning a musical instrument, it just takes time. If you would like to try this with your autistic loved one, but have no idea how to separate yourself from your emotions, contact us here or at happyrobotcoaching@gmail.com.

~Michelle

*Neurotypical: “a term coined in the autistic community as a label for people who are not on the autism spectrum.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurotypical

Welcome to Happy Robot Inc!

We specialize in communication between neurotypicals (emotional beings) and high functioning autistics (logical beings).

As a high functioning autistic/neurotypical couple, we have a lot of experience in communicating across neurological barriers. We have formed this organization in the hopes that we can help other NT/HFA people understand each other. We are available to answer any questions you might have about your NT or HFA.