The Life Autistic: I Walk Through the Uncanny Valley

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Ok, if you’re not familiar with the phrase and concept of ‘uncanny valley,’ go read up.

Back? Cool.

Being autistic is like being living in an uncanny valley.

Why?

We humans are most comfortable with humans who act like humans and robots who act like robots. Mixing the two together creates an eerie revulsion that jars our expectations and freaks us out.

And of course, how do people describe us higher-functioning autistics? Monotone. Focused. Cold. Rational. Unemotional. 

Robotic.

Instead of thinking it was always personal, or that it was my weight, acne, whatever, I should have just rationalized it as “Oh, duh, these people have a reflexive avulsion to humans with robotic tendencies!”

If only.

We’re not robots. We’re just different.

Where many would become derailed by emotion, we won’t. Where others make poor decisions based on anger, spite, and hate, we don’t. Where some bask in the warmth of others and feel the benefit of feelings, well, sometimes we can’t.

We’re no less human. I’m no less human.

I might not look you in the eye. I might flap and jitter while walking and waiting. I probably won’t get worked up about hot-button, emotional topics. And my elevated prosody isn’t your computer’s dictionary talking.

I can’t help that you’re revolted. And I also cannot pretend to be a normal human the way normal humans don’t have to pretend.

If you can, try to see beyond the uncanny valley. 

The Life Autistic: Why Handwriting Sucks

IMG_6384.JPGI remember taking notes for an absent classmate back in 4th grade. That was a mistake.

While I thought I was doing her a favor, it turns out that she spent more time decoding my hieroglyphic scrawl, consulting forensic experts, and soliciting translation assistance for my poorly handwritten notation.

She probably failed the test and never spoke to me again. Typical.

My handwriting sucks. It just does.

I used to think that it was due to an early bait-and-switch in my second preschool, where, as the only leftie, I was forced to comply with the “right” way to write along with the class.

But no, while that may be part of it, it turns out that it’s common for us high-functioning autistic folks! It’s like there’s something that gets lost in transcription there.

“So what, H2? It’s 2018. Get over it. Nobody uses pen and paper anymore.”

You’re right about one thing: it’s 2018, not 3018.

Kids like me still write in school. Visit an elementary class sometime and lemme know how many of them text and type before learning to write. We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet.

You try being one of the sharper kids in class who could be out trying to learn about socializing during recess, but no, he’s stuck miring through a penmanship worksheet. It’s a struggle at a young age. And get this:

Handwriting is a struggle for us autistics at any age. 

And sometimes it does matter.

I don’t like putting down more than just my signature when writing in birthday cards.

I’m not the one you can count on to jot something down.

And my wife would appreciate a love letter once in a while, but I’m embarrassed and taxed in writing her one that doesn’t look like it came from a 1st-grader.

So yeah, if we insist on texting or emailing instead of writing: trust us, it’s for everyone’s good.

The Life Autistic: OMG LOUD NOISES – What Now?

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 8.24.09 AM.pngFireworks. Who wouldn’t love them?

Well, lemme tell ya . . .

We spent the July 4th with some of our friends whose son also happens to be on the autism spectrum. He’s got a bit of a different symptom set than I do.

For example, he’s way more coordinated and active than I was as a kid, and while he’s not as hyperverbal, he has an almost uncanny talent for sound mimicry.

He’s been doing exceptionally well with therapy, support, all that good stuff. So, I was surprised and not surprised to see him walk out with these awesome noise-cancelling headphones.

“Yep,” said his dad, “If he’s bothered by a loud noise, he just grabs the headphones and deals with it.”

But here’s what’s interesting:

Loud noises are different strokes for different autistic folks.

 

It’d make sense for us autistics to be noise-sensitive, but apparently it’s more of an all-or-nothing deal.

Me? I now enjoy loud noises.

Weird, huh? I might not be for commotion or a gaggle of people in my kitchen, but I’m drawn to BOOMING sound.

Fast-forwarding to the fireworks show, there was my friend’s son, jumping up and down, hands to headphones, getting a KICK out of the show, the lights, and the (manageable) noise. It was amazing to see him manage his senses to better enjoy the sensory load.

But I’m all about that feeling – the resonating waves kicking into my sternum, rattling my bones, heaving me back with sonic oomph. 

The firework sound doesn’t bother, move, or otherwise delight me. But the splintering crack whipping through the air and cascading down to bump me back into my chair? Yeah, man, bring me more of that.

Just another quirk of the Life Autistic: even the things that’d seem unmanageable can be enjoyable.