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 Autistic Routines Bend, then Break | Going to the Mattresses with Stressors

There’s only so much I can manage. And at that point, I can only hope to bend my furthest without breaking.

Unlike everyone else on the planet, I don’t look forward to three day weekends or holidays. And it’s sad, because I genuinely enjoy what I have to look forward to — truly!

But the routine break can be backbreaking.

Lemme explain this autistic trait of routine. Routine and repetition are our R&R — we thrive on predictability, reducing the mental load in adapting, and being able to “opt in” and commit in environments that mostly remain undisturbed.

So when we hit structural changes to this routine, it’s tough sledding.

This weekend, instead of hauling off to church, we instead bought the girls their new bunk beds, grilled outdoors, disassembled beds, stored beds, assembled new ones, bought new mattresses, made up the beds, and then-whew-done.

It doesn’t sound hard. But when all of that runs counter to the rank-and-file Sunday/Monday combo, it becomes hard.

Mind you, I adapt and stretch the best I can — in my mind I chalk out the outline of the day (build beds, make beds, store beds, lift things), but as soon as something falls outside of that outline, yikes.

And that happened :/

I have to draw a line between my autism and my generally-acerbic expressions, and this weekend was more of the latter. Due to my own error, I ended up having to add some extra steps outside that chalk outline and just ended the day incensed, angry, and short-tempered.

So close, H2 — so close to accounting for everything, but just short enough to light off my fuse.

That was the story: what should have been a “yay party omg labordayvibes” weekend became a sweet memory turned sour by my own rigidity and bending just a little too far and breaking.

My advice to my autistic self?

Make that chalk outline bigger.

Give a wider berth to disruptions.

And don’t buy used mattresses.

Hope your three-day weekend went well! I’ll do better on my next one. 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!

Oh, and if you like words and videos, you’ll LOVE The Life Autistic on YouTube! New episode:

Smiles on the Spectrum: Autism and Facial Expressions

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You can tell I’ve been practicing getting my daughter to “smile back.” It’s been a fun exercise, in some cases, literally.

It got me thinking about expressions in general.

People say you can tell if someone’s autistic by their facial expression or by this autistic look that they have.

That’s not really true. 

I’ve fooled plenty of people because they say I don’t look or seem autistic, but aye, if that ain’t another topic.

But since learning more and doing more with expression, I’ve discovered some strange and wonderful things about them and how they intersect with autism.

Speaking of doing more with expression, you should check out my latest episode of The Life Autistic on YouTube for proof!

For starters, smiles are inexpensive and easy. They’re unnatural for me (enough to where I joke on camera about “stop making me smile, it’s hurting my face”) and others like me, but not impossible. The fact that it’s almost always voluntary makes it powerful.

Chris Voss — one of my faves — showcases this in the concept of mirroring, and it’s been like a secret weapon for exerting a little tension on my side to erode it from the other side. So yes, neurotypicals, I’m using your “facial and emotional normality” against you to make my life easier 😉

We don’t always “face express” normally. Apparently, we can have a “facial” disconnect in emotional conveyance. I’ve had to almost practice a sad look, a disappointed look, or whatever other look (other than ‘dumb’) to consciously project that “this is how I’m feeling.”

Hunter, what kind of person has to do that?

Autistic people have to do that.

And it’s hard, because, well, when I screw up, and I feel bad, I don’t always look like I do. So you know how that goes:

“You don’t LOOK sorry.” 

“You SEEM like you’re OK with this.”

That’s hard.

I wish I knew why this was the case: I really don’t. We often come across in our own language and inflective variant, and that may be true in our unspoken communication too.

If you don’t know how we’re feeling, but you care — don’t try to read: ask.

And for what it’s worth: yes, it is fun to give my cheeks some workout to coax a smile out of a baby.

For a former frowner perpetual, I have a lot to smile about these days, even if I have to tell myself “SMILE.” 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!