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How Communication Can Be Hard for Me as an Autistic Person

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Starting a conversation — it seems so simple, right? If only it were that easy. Communication can be hard for me as an autistic person. Sometimes others interpret me wrong, such as if I look up to the ceiling and do my horse sound (a gentle vibrating exhale), others can interpret it wrong. Once, I did this and others interpreted it as me being impatient to get on the barrel, and my coach said “Do you want me to move this stuff off of this barrel so that you can practice? You just have to ask to get on the barrel.” I pretended to go along, and I got onto the barrel.

Talking on the phone is very hard for me. Because I cannot see the person, I cannot guess what they are feeling. The voice is also altered, so it can sometimes sound like a totally different person is talking to me through a rectangular screen with speakers. It also requires faster processing, because the person is waiting on the other end of the line. I process things more slowly, so this can be difficult for me. I avoid talking on the phone a lot because of these things. I also have high anxiety, so that makes it even more difficult to talk on the phone.

I am best at communicating through texting, emailing and writing. Communicating this way gives me more time to process what I want to say, and it gives me more time to process what someone is saying to me. I have started to communicate with my mentor, friends and family members through texting and emailing. My mentor has even said that I am communicating more than I did last year.

Conversations are really hard for me. I tend to just talk about my SIs (special interests) around friends and family members. Around others I don’t know well, I tend to be very quiet and I don’t talk much. Part of this is due to my high anxiety, and part of it is due to not knowing what to talk about. Obviously I can’t talk about my SIs a lot, because people don’t just want to hear about horses, autism and dogs all the time.

I try to go through conversations in my head, but they never come out of my mouth.

I feel sad sometimes because I cannot talk with others, because I struggle with starting a conversation and I have anxiety. I also sometimes get so anxious that I cannot make myself speak. This happened to me once with my mentor, and I had to explain that my anxiety made me not able to speak.

Yes, communication is hard, but I will keep working at improving my communication skills. I will take it one step at a time, and I know I have support around me to help me. It may seem like calling someone is a small thing, but really it is a big thing for me. When I have done it successfully, it is an achievement. I am autistic, and I can do things neurotypicals can do — it may just take more time and practice.

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Thinkstock image by Milan_Zokic

Originally published: April 1, 2017
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