Socialising 101: The Aspie Way

Hi again, Dale here.

It was interesting reading Alli’s thoughts on yesterdays BBQ. We hadn’t really discussed it, so it hadn’t occurred to me to make any kind of connection between the face painting and a kind of, “I’ll hide behind this so I don’t have to talk to people”. Now when that happens, I’ll hopefully recognise it and help Alli be more sociable – as long as she’s okay with that challenge.

It’s quite good to know I can help her and it’s not just one way.

A lot of people might think Aspie’s are antisocial, and it’s worth noting that I can kind of see why. We retreat into our own little world sometimes. When I used to visit my grandparents in London, my family would engage in animated conversation with them, and I would just play chess on my Nintendo DS, or read a book. I was told numerous times that this was antisocial, but I never could understand why. I still don’t know why it’s antisocial…. surely if I can’t contribute to a discussion, I can just do something else right? Seems perfectly logical to me. I still do this today. When I’m in the pub with Alli and my parents, I’ll play around with my phone while the rest chat amongst themselves.

Can I just note here that I am profoundly Deaf as well as autistic, so that is definitely a contributing factor.

But Aspies aren’t always like that. For a start – not all Aspies are the same. Some of us are extremely outgoing. And it’s something I’m trying harder to do. But I’ll focus on my own experience as it’s not the case with me, really.

It all depends on two things: Who am I talking to? and What am I talking about?

There are people in my life I feel comfortable talking about virtually anything with. Not many, I could probably count them on one hand. Alli is one, but I shall refrain from mentioning others. I could talk about themselves, or the weather, or what they did, small talk or the big important stuff, and most things in between. It’s not necessarily that I love or even like these people any more than the rest of my friends, just that I feel safe in their company, and I feel I have an avid interest in the details of their lives. Compare this to some others, who – and this is horrible – I have almost no interest at all in their daily lives, their past story, or their future aspirations. I can engage in small talk, but in all honesty, I’m probably trying hard to think of an escape route. If I want to avoid conversation full stop, I might get out a guitar from nearby and noodle about on it for a while.

Lesson #1: There’s often a guitar SOMEWHERE…. Child-size guitars are still guitars

…It’s not quite the same as Alli and the face painting kit, but is it not similar? It’s not only Aspies!

If someone is in the middle ground, I can talk but really, I only want to talk about something I’m into. It’s a well known trait in Aspies: The Monologue. Get one of us talking – heck, we’ll start it for you – and it’ll be a good while before it occurs to us that the other person has almost no interest whatsoever on the subject. Trains, chess, comics, computers, physics and theology are all key topics with me, and I’m sure I incessantly bore people around me with some or all of these on a regular basis, even without knowing.

But while this is a part of my Aspergers, and I’m not ashamed to be an Aspie…

It’s not a disorder.

…it’s still something that I should probably change. So like Alli, I need to take steps. At the BBQ, I deliberately left Alli for some moments a couple of times to go mingle…. unsuccessfully somewhat, but it’s a start.

So if you know an Aspie, help them out. Talk to them, listen to their monologues, but also gently push them to talk about other issues. But be respectful. If they don’t want to talk, it’s not nice to force them.

There’s another topic here: stimulation overload, and social burnout, but I shall perhaps leave that for another entry.



Author: Dale

Dale is a Christian, computer science graduate, and a lover of all things geeky. His interests range from theology, programming, gaming, chess, manga/anime, comics, music and a whole bunch of other stuff. He is the sole author and maintainer of mobius-strip - an as-yet incomplete engine implemented in Mono for the creation and execution of roguelike console games. He plays guitar and piano for a band in it's early stages, and doesn't like brussel sprouts.

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