The Rarest, Best Thing Autistic People Want to Say

Sometimes we talk too much. Sometimes too little. Sometimes not at all.

But for those of us verbose and wordy autistic people, I think I found it. The one phrase that—when we can say it honestly, truly—makes a world of difference.

The other day, I had to employ a self-hack, something I call “My Own Best Friend.” It’s like when you talk to and think of yourself as your own worst enemy, but in reverse. Weird, huh? It works, and sometimes it’s a revelation. Sad that it often has to come to that, but whatever.

So in triaging how a recurring scenario has been affecting me negatively and compounding in its specific impact on “autistic me,” I walked through a couple of less-than-helpful admissions before arriving at the one that unlocked it for me.

“You’re right.” This one is a defeat. It’s what you say as a concession to someone browbeating or otherwise twisting your arm into a truth — irrespective of whether it’s not true, it’s like you’re the horse being led to water, then dunked straight in. It’s just…not the best. If someone gives you this answer, then you’ve dropped the proverbial ball and need to do better.

That’s right.” This one is better, but not there yet. One of my favorite Chris Voss tactics — where you get someone to acknowledge the larger truth-behind-the-truth, aligning on a key, deep-rooted motivation for what you’re doing. It’s clever, but it still falls a bit short of where we autistic people yearn to express.

So here’s the phrase:

“I know, right?”

Yes.

That’s the phrase.

“Come on, H2, people say that all the time.”

I’m sure people do.

But among autistic people saying this about uniquely autistic things? That’s not common. That’s rare.

It’s rare that people can articulate and echo back why things affect us the way they do. The unique stressors. The specific pain points. The otherwise unexplainable emotional toll of otherwise inoffensive situational toll bridges.

To be able to spin it back, validate, elucidate, and distill in a way that makes not just sense universally, but specifically for us: getting an honest, true “I know, right?” is liberating.

Bizarrely, people have found my content “relatable” for this reason — and I had no idea anything I felt, said, did, or expressed, was relatable! But apparently that is so, and very so to a very select few.

The few who rarely get to say and mean “I know, right?”

In the neurodivergent experience, “relatability” is hard to come by. But when we find it and lock in, it’s a world-changer: in those moments we are less alone. To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram.

Hey, if you’re still here, would you consider subscribing to my YouTube channel? It’s quickly becoming one of my more impactful vehicles for autism advocacy. It’s unique, fun, and it’s going a little way to help people better understand the ‘different normal’ of autism. Thanks so much!

Escape Rooms in Autism

My friends visited here in Denver about two years back. For fun, we tried out an ‘Escape Room’ downtown.

In we went. Two indolent teens were already in there, so I felt the need to assert command, precision, direction — y’know, all those extroverted hyperfocused mission-oriented skills that we autistic people have. I coordinated comms, got everyone thinking out loud, delegated explorers, logically ruling out possibilities, navigating clue by clue.

We did not escape.

I had to leave, but my friends went back afterward to try the rest of the rooms. They escaped from each one and set records along the way.

The lessons for me:

  • I am a part of success when I am apart from it.
  • I’m the rare friend whose absence is appreciated more than my presence.

It is the life autistic. And that is what I am.

Anyway. That’s the snarky angle, a little more scathing than true.

Aside from that, ‘escape rooms’ are essential for us.

I appreciate this fast-closing baby phase with Jo, my youngest. As a veritable scamp, I often whisk her away from the action, as it doubles as an excuse for us to just “find quiet space.”

And I need that.

No, not to escape forever. To pause. To ruminate. To unplug.

I can endure manifold stressors, torrential downpours of noise pestilence, and cavalcades of chaos — as long as there’s an “escape room” to escape to. It resets and benefits, lets the distress seep out, and balances back the unbalanced quiet. It’s why I’ll sooner agree to host than to be a guest or selectively opt into segmented loud and awkward places, as long as I can find a way to tunnel away.

It’ll be nice when we build more “sensory friendly” corners and spaces by design — I don’t think people realize that we need places to pause without it being seen retreating.

We’re normalizing this, turning riot into quiet, making space to rest overspaced minds — and this is good. This is beyond an autism thing, but I’m glad we can lead the way on the why and the where.

For now, I’m at least glad I can take a fussy baby out and find that solace.

With the renewed focus on mindfulness, mental peace, what’s to say that “sensory friendly” can’t be the new “friendly?” Maybe we should be leading the way here? To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram.

Hey, if you’re still here, would you consider subscribing to my YouTube channel? It’s quickly becoming one of my more impactful vehicles for autism advocacy. It’s unique, fun, and it’s going a little way to help people better understand the ‘different normal’ of autism. Thanks so much!

When Every Road is Uphill | Autism and Resilience

I know that feeling.

I’ve been waiting to use this perfect picture of Zo for a long while now.

Though small, my middle daughter has BIG feelings. There are no in-betweens with her. To my knowledge, she’s a neurotypical toddler, so as an autistic dad, I overlap with her on a few things, but not everything.

This instance here: it reminded me of where I have to be more “dad” than “autistic dad.” Zo didn’t want to trike back uphill. She’s great at it, but she just quit before starting.

My first thought: “Zo, just pedal – let’s GO.”

My second thought: “Wait, let me get a photo.”

My third, best thought: “It’s OK, Zo. This is kinda tough. I understand.”

Isn’t it weird giving the kind of advice that you yourself struggle with?

The hills are always, and I mean — ALWAYS — 100% UPHILL in The Life Autistic. If it’s ever easy, it’s because there’s a dip in a hill that’s still going upward.

But as she sat, as I reflect on this image in time, and on what has been a brutal uphill and disappointing season within seasons at work and in even in this creative endeavor, some truths of the autism experience echo here.

It’s OK to process a disappointing road ahead. I get upset at the efforts spent, the effort I’ll have to spend, and the efforts wasted in trying to do my best and make it. Sometimes you just have to sit on the edge of the trike, work out the sadness, and see it to its end. Sometimes this is not forever.

It’s doable, but it’s hard. And THIS is what y’all need to get. Acknowledge the difficulty. Hard isn’t impossible. I’ve traversed miles of literal and figurative rock, muttering “this is hard” all the while. Keeping focus, enduring awkwardness, working to futility, pouring waters of life into gardens that don’t bear fruit right away — just. because. it’s. hard. doesn’t. mean. we. won’t. do. it.

An upset finisher beats a happy quitter. We can’t always be upbeat when we’re beat. When things affect our sense deeply. When we’re melting down and around along the way. The autism spectrum is an odd thing. But the more authentic we can feel along the way, with each footfall forward, the better off and away we’ll be. Maybe we’ll evince a hint of smile after the finish line.

Five minutes later, Zo charged back up that hill.

Autistic resilience isn’t about holding your head up or grinning through the pain. Despite depression and disappointment, we can still make a routine of “DO.”  To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks.

Speaking of resilience, I don’t know how I’m still managing not to quit at doing YouTube videos. Here’s my latest adventure back in time and school grades as an autistic student. Interesting times, those.