How I Try to ‘Fit In’ as a Person on the Autism Spectrum

I stood there, looking around me, observing, wishing I was part of it. I so longed to be in the middle of the group, but no, I felt like I was forever destined to be on the outside looking in. I waited, hoping someone would come and speak to me and include me in their chat. But if they did, what would I say? I’d only be tongue-tied as usual and say nothing. People seem to find it easy mixing with others, but it’s a huge challenge for me.

I asked myself, “How do I make small talk?” But I couldn’t come up with the answer. If only. What should I say if I approached anyone? Except I wouldn’t. I’m not like that. I can’t do it. 

I was fed up and looked away. It was too upsetting to see everyone laughing and chatting while I watched from the periphery. At the same time, I realized I dreaded anyone coming over and speaking to me. I wouldn’t know what to say, and they would soon get tired of my awkwardness anyway. People always do.

I just longed to be different, but how could I learn the social skills everyone else took for granted. 

I wandered off, wanting to go home and get away from the world I didn’t feel part of. I wanted to hide from this alien planet. Or was it me that was the alien? Maybe I’m just a bit different — unique is a better way of putting it.

As soon as I shut the front door behind me, I started to relax. The tension just washed away. I was in my safe, familiar environment again, away from the people I just couldn’t understand, forever destined to be on the outside looking in. 

But I have discovered that Facebook is a safe way of having access to this alien world. I post whatever I like and join groups on Facebook about topics I’m interested in. I don’t have to communicate directly with people. But at the same time, there is an outlet for me. No one realizes I am different. I am accepted as I am, and it eases the loneliness. I can comment on other people’s posts, and they comment on mine. Virtual conversation is possible on my terms. My awkwardness isn’t noticed. It is a safe environment, and no one really knows who I am. In this setting, I am no longer on the outside looking in, but part of a larger, worldwide community.

I have also recently learned that a good way of trying to “fit in” is to ask people how they are. I never used to do that. It never occurred to me that I should. I’m not saying it’s easy because it isn’t. It feels uncomfortable and awkward but I try. I don’t succeed all the time, but it’s a useful tip to fit in a world that just doesn’t make sense to me.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

Silhouette of woman against purple sky and light posts

I Am Autistic. Am I Mighty?

I don’t feel mighty when I wake up in the morning, still exhausted from yesterday. Even though yesterday was a regular day. Even though I’m eating well. Even though I got nine hours of sleep. I don’t feel mighty when I walk through the crowds in the farmer’s market and the noise assaults me like [...]
Stephanie Cooper's son with ALERT autism boxes

Mom Creates Autism Law Enforcement Response Training for Police Officers

As a former police officer and mother to a child on the autism spectrum, Stephanie Cooper knows how important it is for police officers to be able to recognize autism. To help ensure safer interactions between the police and people with autism, Cooper started Autism Law Enforcement Response Training (ALERT), a training program for police officers [...]
young woman working on a laptop

How a Website Helps Explain My Experience as a Person on the Autism Spectrum

I remember many years ago, not long after I was officially diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, I had been searching for ways to explain my struggles. I was trying to be a self-advocate, but I just didn’t know how to put my thoughts into words quite yet. I turned to the internet for [...]

Real People, Real Stories: Autism Spectrum Disorder E-Book

Whether you (or someone you love) have just received an autism diagnosis, have been a part of the autism community for a while, or simply want to learn more about autism, this book of stories is for you. This book is comprised of stories from the perspective of people on the autism spectrum as well [...]