Being a high-functioning autistic has several drawbacks, one of which is that in conversations I never have any idea how the other person will react to my actual words. From observation I can quite decently predict what type of person I have in front of me, and so what their intentions are; aggressive, shy, seductive, but in actual conversation it is basically swinging a baseball bat in a furnished room, just hoping to hit the ball coming at me and even then hoping it will go back out the window it came from. Most often I hit air though, my comment completely missing the person by a mile, or hit something unintended, which most often annoys the person speaking to me.
It is either this or shut up completely, knowing I will probably miss the target, and this shutting up is what I have seen with so many autists I have encountered. Through being told time and time again that their logic doesn’t make sense, in the end, or especially at a young age, the autist decides to then not speak again. With me this was a conscious decision, but quite quickly made it’s way into my subconscious because it had a positive effect; people didn’t think I was so weird anymore, basically because they had nothing to react to.
And this is a problem.
When an autist shuts up, he or she cannot learn reaction patterns and will forever stay that child-level of awkward when actually talking to people. That awkwardness will always be there, it will probably never go away completely because it will always come from a conscious awareness what the proper answer is and not heart-felt, but this learning appropriate responses is what helps an autist get by in life.
Now, having said that, I do have to add that nothing is worse for an autist, at least it was for me, for someone to keep harping on of trying to make you talk. But when the autist talks, put away what ever you were doing, turn towards them, and show (not fake) interest to what is being said. Try to follow the path of logic the autist follows getting to their conclusion, even if it is an uncommon one, and through putting your own opinion and thoughts to words compare that to what you think about the topic. And if an autist asks a question, answer it, no matter how strange or silly the question may be. If you laugh about the question, then please, explain why you think the question is funny or strange. A simple: wow, I never heard that question asked before’ or ‘it is not something I usually talk about, but OK, I will try’ helps a mile for the autist to learn the tricks and possibly even understand the art of conversation.
If the autist attempts to make a joke and nobody laughs, it is not logical in the autist brain that they might have said something strange or even offensive. The most logical conclusion in my mind when this happens is that people were not listening or didn’t get the joke, and I am likely to repeat myself and add harm to injury.
Speaking for myself, I do not mean to be offensive, ever. When I open up and speak what ever is on my mind or in my heart it means that I am trusting you with my most precious commodity: myself and what I believe to be true. Don’t shut the door on me by saying ‘wow, that is so offensive!’, but explain WHY it is offensive, and I will most likely explain to you why I don’t think it is.
If you don’t then, quite quickly you will find yourself on the outside of the circle I dare to talk to, after which I ban you from my heart, then from my mind, and after that for me you don’t even exist and I wouldn’t think twice of stepping over your bloodied battered body if I ever came across it and move on. And that is not me trying to be offensive, that is just basic fact to me. I have to divide the world into people who matter to me and people who don’t matter, and people who don’t matter I don’t want in my life because they make my life difficult. I divide the world into people who are dangerous and people who are not dangerous, and guess what, I don’t keep people who are dangerous to me around me.
But the choice to be my friend is all up to you. All you need to do is listen, then talk, and then listen again.