#Aspergers and the social minefield

 

Imagine you are about to make your first ever parachute jump!

To make the experience a bit more exciting, you haven’t been given any training and it won’t be a static line jump either.

  • and you haven’t been given a reserve parachute!

Your only instructions are to pull the rip-cord handle after you are clear of the plane.

The plane is quite old and hasn’t had its mandatory annual maintenance check for 2 years.

You are flying through an electrical storm, it is raining and one of the engines seems to be cutting out.

The location of the jump is a little unusual, as it is a foreign country that is in the grips of a civil war.

You aren’t a soldier and you’ve never had military or survival training.

You haven’t been given any weapons, not even a parachute knife.

You have no food, no compass and no map.

 

This is how social situations often feel to me. Both the actual event and my anticipation of the event.

  • Particularly with larger groups and especially where there are a lot of people that I don’t know
  • But it’s nobody’s ‘fault’

 

I’m hard wired to collect and exchange information at a social gathering and if there are less than 100 people at the gathering, I am likely to be the only person with this agenda.

Everyone else is there to socialize.

Most of these people will become visibly tired, disinterested and uncomfortable if they engage with me in my fact finding and fact sharing quest.

This happens with very few exceptions, regardless of their level of intellect, because of their over-riding instinct for socializing.

 

This probably explains why I don’t really have any friends. The absence of social reciprocity due to my clinically impaired social intuition.

  • So I keep my socializing to an absolute minimum.

My efforts at socializing are far more successful in a business setting, as this form of socializing provides monetary reward and ensures my survival.

  • But even this form of socializing can be exhausting and often feels like much harder work than the intellectual effort needed to do my job!

 

Having Aspergers can also be quite unbalancing.

  • We typically have above average intelligence but our social intuition is in the bottom percentile!

I am one of the very lucky ones, as my IQ has been measured in the top percentile.

  • Despite this, there are still days when it feels like I am a hanging on by a finger nail

 

But it is what it is and I am still here, navigating the social minefield.

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Forgotten
    May 26, 2012 @ 21:51:53

    This couldn’t be any truer of an account of how it feels to be forced to socialize for me. Just this past 2 weeks we have had 2 different events at work that mingled with the public population. I spent both of them hiding behind my camera because it afforded me the option to not have to socialize with others. People are scary to me most of the time because they are unpredictable. They touch you when you don’t want to be, they say things that don’t really mean what they come out as, & they constantly judge you & expect you to look at them when they’re talking. I find eye contact to be intimidating like an animal gut reaction to a perceived threat. You were right on point with this post! I loved it! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply

    • Bill Wong (@BillWongOT)
      Dec 19, 2012 @ 14:30:52

      I used to be a wall flower in the OT conferences I went to in my first year in the field. Aside from my classmates and instructors, I simply didn’t know anybody. I rarely had interactions with people outside I knew at the time. But, knowing the social nature of OT profession, I knew that this sort of strategy was unproductive. So, I seek help to change my ways. Through a combination of therapy and the hype that people in OT community have generated for me, social interactions became easier.

      As for the touching part, I played very conservatively if I were to touch people. If I can tell the person is comfortable with me… and that he/she already made a move to touch me (given that I felt that it was appropriate and/or pleasant), then it would be in my memory bank that I could touch the person in conversations in the future in spots where touch maybe is OK.

      I will give you one example. 3 years ago on the last final of one of my OT school classes, my instructor touched me on the shoulder as the exam was going on. I was shocked because I never experienced something like that before. Then, I quickly processed what the intent was. I was struggling badly at her class at the time to a point that I might not be passing. So, I realized that she was trying to cheer me up during this pressure-packed time. What I did was smiled and quietly said thank you. I ended up passing her class. So, I really appreciate what she did to this day.

      Reply

  2. ganderingdreams
    May 27, 2012 @ 05:03:31

    Great post, the explanation is excellent ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply

  3. spectrumscribe
    May 29, 2012 @ 23:28:22

    Thanks. I hope this is helpful for those in the Autism community. For non-Autistic readers, this is an entirely true account, if anything a little understated. I would encourage you to take the leap of faith in believing the ordeal that socialising can be to Autistic people.

    Reply

  4. Peter Flom (@peterflomPhD)
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 15:29:19

    Are we twins?

    Reply

  5. Trackback: Aspergers and Emotions « Postcards from the edge of the Spectrum
  6. Lynda Young
    Sep 10, 2012 @ 10:56:23

    You certainly have a gift of word pictures that help us understand how social encounters feel to others. Thank you for making us aware- and I’d like to hear ways we can be more helpful in these situations. I have a book, Hope for Families of Children on the Autistic Spectrum- and I would like as much info as possible for follow up to the book as I write and speak. Thanks again!

    Reply

  7. purpleaspie
    Sep 16, 2012 @ 01:17:19

    I’ve found that in general, people seem to like to talk about themselves. So if I attend one of my rare social gatherings where there are people I don’t know, I might start by asking, “How do you know (our host)?” They might then reciprocate with the same question. If I know the host from work, then I can say, “Oh, I work at the same place as (host.) Where do you work?” So while I am still doing the fact-finding thing, if I can do it in a way that gets a person to talk about him- or herself, it often works well. But I usually attend only one party a year, and the same people show up every year, so there is less and less chance every year of there being people there that I don’t know!

    Reply

  8. parentsofautistickids
    Oct 03, 2012 @ 17:41:37

    Reblogged this on Raising kids with diagnosed/undiagnosed autism and commented:
    Thought this was a brilliant description of an Aspergers view on social situations. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

    Reply

    • was there
      Nov 01, 2014 @ 21:16:13

      Except that in social situations its the things we pick up on, the body language the things people say the falseness we pick up on the lack of depth in conversation the pretending, that is a lot to deal with its not that we see less it’s that we see more and need to find a way to shut off the bombardment of senses and mixed messages that don’t bother people who don’t see it all. I fear social settings because I can’t be myself I have to pretend to fit in but it feels too false or I worry it seems off enough to be misjudged. I can’t show people me on first impression, they do matter but I’m better silently drifting until I meet someone who understands me and then it doesn’t matter anymore, I have learnt so much by socialising but will always feel like I don’t belong because my senses are too sensitive. Having someone who understands and just accepts you as you are is enough to help you feel like you fit in. Just someone who smiles at you because they like who you are.

      Reply

  9. Bill Wong (@BillWongOT)
    Dec 02, 2012 @ 23:24:36

    I also agree here. That’s why I have game plans when I go to OT conferences for example. The bigger the conference, the more I am going to plan ahead- on what I would do and who I want to have conversations with. That said, surprises are common. It could be an ex-classmate I haven’t seen in a while. It could be a former supervisor. It could be someone I don’t even know.

    To counter for the situations I may not be preparing for, I at least would prepare at least a few talking points for each situation before I arrive for my first day of these conferences. That way, I can look natural in such situations when I have little or no time to prepare for them.

    Of course, I completely get that social situations can be pretty draining, too. Again, that’s where planning ahead can help. Minimizing surprises and knowing an appropriate time to call it quits will be two important skills in social situations… especially at the business functions you mentioned (or the OT conferences I mentioned).

    Reply

  10. Lee
    Dec 03, 2012 @ 02:32:27

    Although I would like to get out and socialise more I’m not very good at it. I’m task-orientated and in social situations I’m not really sure what my task is, and so I really struggle.

    Reply

    • Bill Wong (@BillWongOT)
      Dec 18, 2012 @ 03:04:50

      I am task oriented in social situations, too. If I have a chance to plan out what I want to do in social situations (a vague plan is fine by me), though, then I know I can do pretty well. In terms of OT conferences, I planned in advance on where I want to go and who I want to meet. For the earlier, I would plan no later than 1 week in advance. For the latter, I now have to plan no more than a month in advance. Of course, there would always be unforeseen situations (e.g. old classmates, someone I wanted to meet but I didn’t have time for on purpose, etc.). That said, because I knew what I would be in for, so I wasn’t caught off guard by surprises in these situations.

      Of course, as an aspie who is also a licensed occupational therapist, I could analyze what situations I struggled/could use improvements in and what situations I have aced it. On the ones I needed improvement, however, I don’t avoid the situations. Rather, I try to figure out why I struggled and try to improve on it on the next given opportunity.

      Reply

  11. Linda Scroggin
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 15:31:43

    For my 19 year old son, socializing is just not a priority, not something he misses.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: