Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's Only Communication

In this post, I would like to talk about something that I believe affects the lives of those on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, myself included.  It is difficult for me to understand in a social environment that when people are unreasonable or give me a hard time, it is not a result of something I am doing wrong.   They might be having a bad day and the peak of their frustration caused that reaction.  This is mainly the case in my retail job.

Through my experience, there are two types of awareness for those on the autism spectrum which impact the way that they communicate, reason, and feel.  All this is based on the environmental sensations.  When I am alone, as I am right now typing this blog post, I have free access to all my insights, thoughts, and feelings in a way that is not interrupted by pressure from environmental factors. In a social environment, it is like to fit those same ideas through a filter that strains the best parts out.  This accounts for the difference between the way I speak and the way I write.  I'm sure I am not the only one on the autism spectrum that deals with this on a daily basis.  Most of us can't even describe the sensations.  It has taken me the better part of my 23 years to first identify this, and then find a way to put it into words in a way that someone off the spectrum could understand.

The issue I have is that if I have difficulty communicating with someone, I automatically assume that it was my fault.  More than 20 years of living on the autism spectrum contributes to this response.  Going back to the idea of a social filter, it is one thing for me to be aware of this while writing and having free reign to examine my thoughts and feelings, it is something else entirely to face the hurried pressure of social interaction (oh, I can't look for what feels right, I have to answer now...) which forces the otherwise brilliant ideas through the social filter and greatly deludes the quality that the response would be if a given question had been asked in a different environment.

The pressure of the situation can cause sensory overload which can force a detailed response addressing the nature of the problem to a strained on word response.  I just do not have access to the same insights that I do typing away at my laptop than I do while I am in a social environment.  At least, not in the same way.  It was the pressure of working and communicating in a retail environment which prompted this blog post.  I hope that raising awareness will draw attention to this social filter and begin the long road of addressing and solving what I see as a communication problem to those on the autism spectrum.

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