I’m not ignoring you.
I’m just focused.
My focus doesn’t pivot to you right away; I’m not trying to ignore you.
It’s not wrong.
It’s hard to explain, but when my interest points get touched off in a certain way, we sort of bury ourselves in it. It’s a drill that bores into the earth and bedrock of curiosity, soothing our minds, its own stim, a certain kind of indulgent itch that isn’t scratched because we don’t care about—
You get it. At least we hope you do.
There are many autistic things that autistic people do that aren’t a matter of right and wrong.
My friend Josh has an autistic son. When I visit, he’s usually pretty focused on something, whether a game, task, or enjoying console game speedruns on YouTube.
I’ll say “Hey Michael” and leave it at that. Since I’m not a thoughtless boor, I don’t insist he reply or acknowledge me. If I pulled the “Son, you answer a grown-up when he’s talking at ya” card, Josh would rightly clock me in the jaw.
He’s not being rude.
He’s just focused.
He’s not trying to be rude.
He’s not wrong.
You can go back to that four sentence sequence and fill it in with your behavior and response. Unless you know someone who is autistic and malicious, we’re probably not being malicious, mean, standoffish, rude, whatever.
These four-sentence sequences will help you help us tremendously.
Try them out:
She’s not standoffish. She just doesn’t relate to the conversational topics at hand and won’t make it awkward. She’s not trying to be antisocial. She’s not wrong.
They’re not defiant. They just struggle to focus on sitting still while focusing on your lesson. They’re not always trying to disobey. They’re not wrong.
He’s not a jerk. He just relays feedback in an economical way that’s stripped down to its essence. He’s not trying to make you feel terrible. He’s not wrong.
They’re not insensitive. They’re just locked into their routine of clearing the table at this time. They didn’t throw away your papers because they hate you. They’re not wrong.
It’s not that we need a pass for everything. We work hard to figure a lot of the faux pas, awkward traps, and insensitivity pitfalls.
As we do that work, we may not always be right. We’re not always wrong either.