Autistic People Can Relate, but Only Up to These Points

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It’s not you, it’s me. But it’s you, too.

In my years on The Life Autistic, I’ve gotten good at social adaptions, situational perils, and the conversational/relational equivalents of being dropped into the wilderness with little else but a match, twine, a dull knife, and a modicum of survival skills.

But I can’t do this with everyone. I just cannot.

If that’s you, it’s not personal. I’m not as malicious, standoffish, or unapproachable as people seem to think.

It’s human to get along with some people better than others, just by dint of emotional intelligence, relatability, and conversational fluency — but when I can’t latch on to a few key elements, I’ve got nothing. 

And it gets awkward. 

Here’s some of those areas where my ability to relate, converse, and be an openly genial autistic human dwindle and winnow away:

No overlapping interests. My guard goes up when someone asks “So, Hunter — do you like to hunt?” Once they deduce that I don’t live up to that part of my namesake, nor do I fish, or do other woodspersony things, I’m basically scrambling at that point, hoping they like sports other than baseball and NASCAR. Sometimes I get lucky, and they’ll talk football. If not, I hope they just start telling fishing and hunting stories; I can listen, nod, follow along, smile, and say nary a word. Safe. 

People who aren’t talkative. I can make it through most any conversation as long as I’m not doing the talking. When people talk, they give me strands, ropes, threads that I can use to string together another topic and keep things threaded. But with a more laconic person, I’m not the best at teasing out words. That’s awkward. 

Unpredictability. I don’t drink, so my company among people drinking tends to be limited. But golly does it stress me out, not from any sort of violence or inappropriate behavior, but the unpredictability. For the most part, I can map a person’s range of mood, conversations, but when they are losing the ability to maintain course — I gotta abort. 

Concretely-mired thinkers. But I thought autistics couldn’t think abstractly.” It might just be me, but I can dig a good hypothetical deep thinker. You might not have an answer to what your dream job would be, or what you’d do with a million dollars and a time machine, but if the answer is no answer, then that’s just not fun. Creativity isn’t a spectrum/non-spectrum thing.

will try and do try — so bear with me! Sometimes, with some people, it is just hard.

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