I’ve been reading about the need for “social distancing” in the wake of COVID-19, where the CDC defines this as “remaining out of congregrate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.”
Well, gee, if that doesn’t sum up the autistic experience in a nutshell, then I don’t know what does.
This is a challenging time for neurotypical people, where losing out on handshakes, hugs, and general human proximity is a distinct challenge. And it’s tough for most regular folks to practice social distancing subconsciously.
Unless, of course, you’re autistic: people practice it pretty well with us, and us with others.
We’ve lived a life where people definitely don’t go out of their way to close the distance with us. They just know we’re “weird” and “different” and subconsciously they’ll maintain that safe distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) without being asked.
We can be cold, robotic, and unless you’re another robot, people don’t generally look to gravitate toward that.
It’s ok, though. It’s our life autistic. We’re used to this.
I’ve grown up greeting new people with a “hello” and leaving it at that. I already try to find the least crowded space in people spaces. Handshakes and hugs? Well, OK, I’ve gotten better with those, but there’s a quota.
I’ll wave. Smile. I can project to where you can hear me across a table. I’m not going to sit close. You don’t want to either. I’ve mastered a certain kind of “bristled” expression that dissuades contact. I’m not even sure if I do that intentionally now.
So if you’re having a hard time with social distancing, ask the autistic people in your life about it.
We have a lifetime of experience and expertise with this.
When this pandemic clears, go enjoy hugging.
We’ll wave and smile.