Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Hillary, Alyssa. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Hillary, A. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Experiences with Nonverbal Communication

TW: Threats of suicide

I suck at nonverbal social cues. Always have. So I have no clue that people are joking, and I spend an unfortunate amount of time convinced that people have multiple personalities (yes, I have legitimately thought this. I am not joking here.) or something like that, and then realizing anywhere from minutes to years later that they were not actually being serious. (Yes, years happens. I only realized a couple weeks ago that the friend of mine who was joking about the *not actually sure what it is* on the ceiling of a hallway in the high school being a signal scrambler to keep us from using our cell phones back in probably 10th grade was, in fact, joking, and did not actually think it was a signal scrambler. That's somewhere between 4 and 5 years of lag time between the joke and me figuring out that it was one.)
So my teachers would joke that I should do something, and I would do it. And they would ask why. And I would answer that they said I should. (I didn't get in trouble, thankfully, because these were things that were, in fact, allowed. They were just weird, and then my teachers learned that they needed to be literal.)
In fifth grade, a "friend" of mine asked me for a knife during gym. I told her I didn't have one, and asked her why she wanted it. She said she wanted it so she could kill herself. I was too shocked to do anything at that moment, but I did tell my mother as soon as I got home, and she called the school and the girl's house. The next day, she was pissed at me, because she had been "just joking." Of course, I told her that was something you should never joke about, but I still have no idea if she was actually joking or not. I know some people claim to be joking when they aren't, and I can't tell which is which. Considering that she also said she was going to kill herself on several occasions the next year, I... don't actually know what that tells me.
On one of those occasions, definitely a very traumatic one for me, one morning she said she was going to kill herself. I went straight to my teacher, who asked me if I thought she was serious. Yes, really.
"XXXXX just told me she was going to kill herself!"
"Do you think she's serious?"
Later that day, she said it again, during chorus. I got up and told the teacher. She stood up and ran out of the room. I followed. The nurses office was right near the auditorium, and the nurse was actually coming over because my mother had apparently just called, so she was all "Alyssa! I was looking for--"
So I shouted, "NOT NOW. XXXXX just said she was going to kill herself and she went that way!" I pointed. The nurse went the way that I had pointed, and went into the next girls bathroom she passed. Sure enough, XXXXX was there (unharmed.)
I was eleven. When I reported a suicide threat to a teacher who I'm pretty sure knew about my not getting it when people were joking, she asked if I thought the person was joking. Yes, really. My school had some pretty major problems.
Or I would get asked out on a fairly regular basis in middle school. I don't know why- I'm sure the news spread that I kicked all askers in the shins. My friends tell me it was because of that, that it was a joke. I don't know if I should believe them or not.
Or just this semester. On the first day of my Econ class, I walked into the room and asked "Is this Econ?" The teacher said, "No, philosophy," so I left. Another student called me back, saying that yes, it was Econ. And yes, the teacher did make fun of me for this during the rest of the class.
Last spring, I did get an autistic spectrum diagnosis, and, well, that makes sense. This difficulty with non-verbal cues is right on the DSM, after all.
The main issue, though, is that neurotypical people also suck at dealing with people who have trouble with non-verbal communication. They really do, as a whole. It's a problem.
Yes, we who have trouble with non-verbal communication get a decent sized benefit from learning at least some of how that works. But people who do get non-verbal communication should also learn how to deal with people who don't. They really should, because communication is important and should be accessible to everyone. Meeting people where they are capable of being is important, and not everyone who has trouble with non-verbal communication is capable of learning it. (Some are, some aren't. I seem to be able to, slowly, but I'm still pretty bad at it.) Telling someone that the only way they know how to communicate is wrong and only speaking to them in ways that they cognitively can't understand is not making the world accessible for people with disabilities, and accessibility is important.
In the world we live in, yes, learning non-verbal communication is important. However, learning to communicate without it is also important.

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