This post is a further response to an ask by someone who identifies as aspie and is struggling to making friends.
Yesterday, I addressed the burden of stigma we face, and how it can make it hard to find people who will treat us well enough to be good friends. Today, I want to start talking about other problems autistic people often have making friends. (Usual standard caveat - if you relate to any of this, it’s fine to use these concepts whether or not you are autistic. Don’t worry about appropriation.)
There are a lot of social problems that autistic people often have beyond other people’s anti-autistic hate. Some of these things are inherently difficult for some of us, and some of them have to do with how we are often taught counterproductive coping strategies.For instance, a lot of autistic people find it difficult to judge other people’s boundaries and level of interest in interacting (and that’s partly because, as kids, we’re taught that we have to interact with other kids and see them as friends regardless of what we or they want).Here’s an example of how an autistic impairment and stigma combine to create a relationship problem for some people:
- One thing that often gets autistic people classified as aspie is having more receptive language problems than expressive language problems
- People with really good, or good-seeming, expressive language can often cover for the fact that they don’t understand much of what’s going on
- This allows them, especially as kids, to pass as just socially awkward, or to pass as being too gifted to get along with other kids, or any number of variants on that theme
- There is often very, very intense pressure on autistic people classified as aspie to cover impairment at all costs and to appear as normal as possible
- This makes receptive language problems even worse, because it prevents them from getting good feedback on whether they’re understanding anything
- And sometimes, aspie spaces can make this even worse. Sometimes aspie-oriented communities are centered around helping people to deny that they have language problems, and to say that the rest of the world just communicates wrong
- (It’s true that the rest of the world needs to work on accommodating people with communication disabilities more - but autistic folks need to acknowledge that they *have* communication disabilities, and a lot of aspie-identified folks like to deny this)
- Covering up receptive language problems can make friendship really difficult. Friends need to be able to understand each other
- Which means friends need to be able to admit it and fix it when they *don’t* understand each other
If this sounds like you, it’s likely that getting better at friendship will involve looking more autistic.
More on social problems autistic people often struggle with tomorrow.
“If this sounds like you, it’s likely that getting better at friendship will involve looking more autistic.”
I’ve gotten better at a lot of things over the past couple of years and KP has been amazingly supportive of me and my mental health (which is a thing I honestly hadn’t experienced since my Dad, and I haven’t seen him in years and even then the divorce happened when I was 8 so I was only seeing him sometimes. And we came to the US (without my Dad, of course) when I was 12 so during my teen and identity-development years I was only seeing him like a month at a time over the summer.)
So now that I have the space to be myself, and that it’s okay to even own ear plugs, and to fidget with things, and to go non-verbal and ask to IM or text or something, I keep asking myself if I’m becoming more autistic or if I’m using it as a crutch.
But I’m not. I’m just in a safe space where I don’t have to keep it all in and pretend I’m normal and then break down as soon as people aren’t around.
… But I sure as hell do perceive myself as “more autistic.”
Have you read Help, I seem to be getting more autistic? It’s really helpful at explaining that dynamic, as well as other reasons autistic people sometimes end up losing the ability to pass or other skills.