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10 Things to Know About My Autism

1. I find many social situations around me overwhelming. I might seem quiet, aloof or simply not interested. I’m not stuck up and difficult to approach — it takes me a while to be comfortable around people, and it’s easier just to observe from a distance.

2. I’m not an Autistic savant or “extraordinary,” and neither are most Autistic people. I’m only good at writing from years of practice and constructive criticism from people who read my work. Autistic people are known for being intelligent, but not all of us are — some Autistic people have learning difficulties. Don’t assume I’m really intelligent just because I have autism. I am not my diagnosis.

3. Don’t approach me if I’m wearing headphones and reading a book. I probably don’t want to be bothered, unless it’s something really important. I put on my headphones to block out noise in my surroundings and listen to music that’s comforting to me. Music is great to listen to and I can happily zone out while playing my favorite songs. It also startles me when people approach me when I’m wearing headphones. Being abruptly approached is not a nice thing.

4. I might talk too much about my special interest or a certain topic that is important to me. I might find it difficult to move on to a different topic of conversation. If I get an opportunity to mention my special interest, I’ll take it straight away, and I don’t always realize people are bored of discussing it.

5. I say what I mean most of the time and I rarely give out clues. Subtle social cues and hints aren’t effective when socializing with an Autistic person. Say what you mean clearly — it’s less confusing and isn’t awkward for both of us.

6. If I haven’t met you before, don’t expect me to automatically take the lead in the conversation. I’m not a good leader in social situations unless I know the person well. I prefer for the other person to take the lead, and so do many Autistic people. This also helps avoid awkward silence.

7. Be patient with me. If you have a question to ask me that’s fine, but be patient and allow me to process stuff properly and answer your question. Don’t suddenly ask me lots of questions at once. It’s frustrating and it takes up a lot of time to process everything you’ve asked. I’m already taking in sounds, smell, things I see around me. Getting too much information is not an enjoyable experience and can lead to sensory overloads.

8. Avoid sarcasm. It can lead to an uncomfortable social situation for Autistic people. Sometimes I get when someone is being sarcastic, but not always.

9. If I’m uncomfortable around you or other people, don’t force communication. Autistic people often need time to be alone with their thoughts and do what we need to do. Forcing me to communicate makes me feel annoyed and anxious. I will socialize if and when I need to. I don’t appreciate being forced into any kind of situation.

10. Respect my personal space. I don’t enjoy being hugged or touched. It’s just the way I am. It can increase my anxiety levels quite a bit. If you want to show me your appreciation, tell me verbally. I don’t need or like a physical pat on the back.

Getty image by Antonio Guillem.