My Atypical Autistic Traits – Part 4: Social and Relationships

Last block of traits in the list at http://p-3a-s-life-resources.tumblr.com/post/115347374289/atypical-autism-traits

Social/Relationships

“Words and actions are often misunderstood by others”

All the time. One particular one that I have run into frequently is described beautifully in Psychology Today, how social interactions that seem perfectly natural to an autistic person, like sharing similar experiences, are seen as selfishness or one-upping.

“Perceived to be cold-natured and self-centred; unfriendly”

Nope.

“Is very outspoken at times, may get very fired up when talking about passions / special interests / obsessions”

I don’t think I understand how people can not get excited when talking about their interests. I’m almost certain my enthusiasm for inventing things is the reason I’m employed by such a lovely company. I had 4 interviews, one with each of the directors. Because of being in an intern position and having to commute at the time, the final interview was held in the local pub. We did the usual interview thing, and then we got onto why I enjoy learning new things and inventing using computers. I talked about some ideas I’d had for little inventions, and I got “fired up”… I like to think of it as more of a *sparkle*. Employers like this. They want people who enjoy the work, who have an actual interest in it. I can’t imagine how dull it must be to experience such a shallow and insubstantial interest in something that it barely affects you.

“Can be very shy or mute”

I’ve got better with this, but I was a very shy child and didn’t talk much unless it was about one of my interests.

“Like people with typical autism, will shut down in social situations once overloaded, but is generally better at socialising in small doses. May even give the appearance of being skilled, but it is a “performance”…”

I definitely shut down once overloaded, and turn to my phone, or begin inspecting some aspect of my environment to indicate that I’ve had enough. It’s probably interpreted as very rude for me to let the conversation, or my involvement in it, tail off while I engage with something else, but it’s what’s necessary to preserve my social spoons. I’m definitely not, nor do I appear to be, socially skilled. There is a curious phenomenon that occurs when I communicate with strangers via the internet, though. I’ve frequently been told that I express myself in a very intelligent way, and was rather flattered that a couple of people have expressed a wish to be able to put their thoughts so quickly and precisely into text.

“Doesn’t go out much. Will prefer to go out with partner only or children if they have them”

I have a list of people I’m comfortable going out with. After a period of time I can start feeling sufficiently safe with a person or group of people that I will tolerate some mild discomfort in the interests of giving them a chance to get onto that “safe list”. I’ll take that “risk” and go out for a brief social occasion with them, and begin building a more actively social connection from there. This is my particular interpretation of “making friends”.

“Will not have many close friends, and will not conform to gender stereotypical activities with friends, or have get-togethers to “hang out” with friends”

I have trouble with the definition of “friend”… Going on the definition of people I talk to regularly and have some form of contact details for, I have a handful of friends. I do hang out with people, but not for very long. I don’t even know what stereotypical female activities are, anyone care to enlighten me?

“Will have a close friend or friends in school, but not once adulthood is reached”

The opposite, actually. In school I was tolerated at the edge of groups, manipulated and generally kept around because I was useful in group work settings. At university, I started making friends with people who I shared interests with, and my ability to form longer-term social connections has been improving. I’m developing my ability to distinguish between being positioned at the edge of a group and actually being part of the group.

“May or may not want to have a relationship. If they are interested in a relationship, they probably take it very seriously, but may choose to remain celibate or alone”

So… every part of the relationship spectrum apart from “casual fling”… I don’t even know what to do about this point. What exactly does “very seriously” mean? Control-freak stalker behaviour?

“Due to sensory issues, will either really enjoy sex or strongly dislike it”

Well it depends on the sex…

“If they like someone romantically, they can be extremely, noticeably awkward in attempts to let them know e.g. may stare or call repeatedly, “fixating” on the person. This may change with maturity”

I think I grew out of this only a little later than everyone else did.

“Often prefers the company of animals but not always due to sensory issues.”

I enjoy the company of most well-behaved animals. I don’t know why, but when animals touch me it doesn’t feel invasive and creepy the way it sometimes does from humans. I think my best example is heads. Heads bother me. Someone laying their head on me reminds me of an we see in toddlers. When parents encourage their young child to play nicely with the cat, they lay their head on the cat’s belly. The parents reinforce this behaviour with “aww” noises. The cat’s face is usually expressing some level of “oh my goodness, get this thing off me”. The toddler is oblivious to the cat’s discomfort at being used as a pillow, rather than having affection for it expressed in a way that is more pleasing to cats. The child is just doing a thing that it’s been socially programmed to do. There’s a bit of uncanny-valley thought going on there. It’s not really a person yet, but it’s acting like one.

*Ahem*

So that’s my experience of the atypical traits. I have most of them, but my experience varies because this is a spectrum of experience. Most of these traits make perfect logical sense to me, and I can’t imagine being without them. I suppose my autism really is part of me. I don’t want curing of my traits, they’re part of who I am. I would like acceptance of them, and help with the unpleasant side-effects and symptoms that are co-morbid with who I am.

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