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!

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.

The Best Days in The Life Autistic

I was once a big lad.

“Well I brought some harðfiskur with me. Would you like some?”

“Wha—I, uh, sure?!”

Autism has its good days and its bad days. And then on extreme occasions, I have a “best day.”

I’ve blogged about and talked about my worst days on the spectrum, and those don’t take much doing to happen. A few apples fall off the cart, the whole thing wrecks, and there we are in the ditch.

The “best days” are a rare event, an earthy syzygy; I had one about seven years ago, nearly unrivaled since.

(Mind you, there are those ‘event-level’ days: my wedding, birth of my kids, Tim Tebow upsetting the Steelers in the first round of the NFL Playoffs, high scores in Wii Bowling, but those are different.)

My wife and I went to Coohills, a French-styled restaurant in downtown Denver, for their Taste of Iceland event, featuring guest chef Þráinn Vigfússon. Having grown up in Iceland and having also been deprived of fine-dining opportunities, I’d been—gulp—getting autistically eager over the opportunity. The fact that this was happening made me giddy enough.

I speak a little bit of Icelandic, so I began hyperobsessing and imaginatively projecting that I’d be able to reel off a little islensku, parlaying my ability to actually say the chef’s name properly into a glittering conversation, and then—well, I didn’t get too far beyond that. I just wanted to be the cool one for a night. The grand imaginings, these.

Course after course, we were treated to Icelandic-infused haute cuisine: the langoustines and Scandinavian breads echoing with this faint imagined memory of what I ate back “home.” At the table next to us, two boisterous businessclowns tried to regale Chef Þráinn in vain (note: that’s a sight rhyme – those two words don’t actually rhyme) as he went table-to-table to serve up dessert, a liquid-nitrogen-frozed skyr ice cream concoction.

Since I observed him going through this tableside service, so I had ample time to rehearse (nervously) my lines and line of conversation. It’s taxing enough in English. Try it in Icelandic.

So when Chef Þráinn came to our table, I was ready.

“Er þetta skyr ís?”

I asked if this was “skyr ice cream” — he obliged and responded back, keeping in Icelandic.

I was thrilled. He asked if I spoke it.

Bara pinulitið,” I confessed. But that was enough to make his night and get him talking beyond just the superficial level — with me, the fine-dining novice.

We got to conversing, and I joked about how each course was way beyond expectation, and how I thought this would be more traditional, like with harðfiskur (a favorite, hardy snack of mine).

And he had some on hand. His own personal chef’s stash!

It was a joyous treat, replete special treatment, culminating with a pic and some charmed memories of the evening – plus an invitation to stop by his restaurant at the Blue Lagoon next time I visit.

So what made this an ‘autistic best day?’

The reality matched even my wild, specific expectations. Being able to imagine speaking Icelandic and making ‘fast friends’ with the chef was a bizarre daydream — but it happened.

My rehearsal paid off. I pride myself on autistically navigating myself through social dilemmas with pre-practice, and in this case, even doing this in my second language – every box was checked, and I felt 100% validated in my preparational oddities.

I felt different and special. While Chef Þráinn mingled and small-talked with the rest, he was genuinely impressed in our common ground and devoted a little more to the conversation with me — and that was awesome. It’s a great feeling.

We have our good, our bad, and our best. I could use a lot more of the best!

I’ll write more about the bad days later, but this was a good reminisce to put a smile back on my face.  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.

If you like stories, I’m still making more of them and recording ’em along the way. Check out my latest below; it’s a funyun.