“Finger wagging bad.” An autistic perspective on neurotypical behaviour



(Detail from Sonia Bouè WIP of 2012)

Notes from a newbie.

Okay, so I’m still peeling that onion. Three months on from diagnosis and the layers of autistic reality keep on coming at me…

Most of the time, in my case, autism just is. It is me and I am it. Like inseparable twins we walk the road of life together. No biggie.

Then there is overload and the painful aftershocks of being in toxic environments. Last week I realised (for the first time) the consequences of exposure to air con. I can’t handle cold in any form. A day of exposure to air con and the result is a weekend of flu’ like chills and migraine. I had to put myself to bed.

Before diagnosis, I couldn’t link these extreme symptoms to their root cause. But now I know that I can’t self regulate temperature because I am autistic. Put me in a cold environment and I WILL go into thermoshock. Simple.

Other (more interesting) issues are also coming to light. The deep discomfort I feel in certain situations crystallises as autism. Aha! My unease though is often due to neurotypical behaviour, which  – I note with great irony – can be finger wagging bad.

For the first time I see that, on many occasions, I am the most patient and best behaved person in the room. Yes – I am not exaggerating. Autistic people often understand and follow the stated rules with more passion and vigour than a neurotypical person could even begin to understand. I have learned rule following like no other, when rules are clear. I’ve also learned a bucketload of politeness and know how to wait and take my turn. I can even mimic patience – I do this as well as any professional stage actor. I can act patience in my sleep.

I know that NTs do this too. It’s all part of the social game of never being entirely honest or saying quite what you mean. But NT often don’t follow their own rules. There is the override – of the quiet and polite. There is the butting in to an existing conversation at will. There is even the ignoring of the person who is first in line and the privileging of the loud interloper. No, no. Not ALL NTs do this. Some are rule followers too, but it seems in some circumstances (of higher pressure or import) that many more are not.

I reflect that, knocking yourself out acting patience, when all around you NTs are ignoring your very presence (probably because you ARE being polite) is annoying. It is also exhausting.

It wastes a lot of time, it’s rude, and in my view (I hate to say it again – no actually I enjoy it!) finger wagging bad.

Autistics get a bad press for being badly behaved (in NT terms). We famously meltdown or are abrasive and “rude” ( NT code for honest). Yesterday I realised that we are probably never given credit for our patience and politeness. That will be because the loud interlopers are too busy making noise to notice us or realise that our meltdowns come at the very end of a very long line of extremely good behaviour.

Over and out.



Published by soniaboue

I am an artist.

19 thoughts on ““Finger wagging bad.” An autistic perspective on neurotypical behaviour

  1. Rule following is deeply ingrained, at least it is once we’ve figured out what the generally unspoken rules actually are! Many times I find I will not even conceive that there might be an alternative to the “Right Way” to do something, and on those occasions when I find myself forced to stray (such as when the behavioural rules conflict) I suffer intense pangs of conscience for my transgression.

    As for patience, it is something I have long (patient – hah!) experience with. I have no trouble remaining calm and occupy myself with my own thoughts. Indeed I often become lost in woolgathering to the extent that the end of my waiting can come as a disappointment as I am forced to abandon my inner world and once again face my environment.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Brilliantly Brilliant Shiny and All! Thank you for another great one, Sonia! I’ve been so exhausted by this grand circus lately… I just want to crawl into my little Bunny Hole and sleep forever, if only Lucy didn’t need to eat or toilet! 😀 xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Well-put. Very well-put. I’ve passed it along… And yes, it’s true that our meltdowns are for a good reason — often our NT-dominated surroundings.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with alexforshaw once we know what the social rules are we follow them to the letter. I also get the pangs of conscience when you’re forced to stray from following the rules. When you are faced with loud interloper let them blow as much hot air as they want, remain your polite self and quietly prove that what your way was the best way.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I self-dx’ed 11 months ago, and am still figuring out the implications of being autistic.

    I thought not be able to self-regulate my body temperature was dysautonomia; I didn’t realize it had anything to do with being autistic. Huh.

    I don’t actually enjoy following rules that seem pointless, but I do enjoy being polite and considerate. I, too, can ‘act patient’ quite convincingly. I continue to be surprised how often (apparently NT) people will ignore me being, as you say, polite and considerate. So annoying.

    ~Mea Fiadhiglas

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Mea – I’m interested in the pointless rules thing. I think I probably feel the same way on those but having job thinking of examples. Only yesterday someone tried to barge in in front of me when I had been waiting for a long time quietly and patiently. #sigh Sonia

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I got taught growing up not to interrupt.

    But over and over and over again, it gets demonstrated to me that it’s perfectly okay for other people to interrupt me. But it’s not okay for me to interrupt other people.

    People interrupt me and no one *ever* corrects or chastises them. I interrupt…even if it’s to keep talking over someone who has just interrupted *me,* and immediately get scolded. It’s amazing.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you for self regulation on body temp. I just got home from long air con with my son with autism. He was sick before and most of the trip. He gets sick frequently. He is non verbal. I never would have thought of it.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This reminds me of one of the major things that was wrong with the experiences I and other autistic people had at secondary school, and what I didn’t like about university. The neurotypicals were behaved well were liked students and the ones who behaved badly were rebels, the autistics were either goody-two shoes or problems.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This is all very, very true! However, I have a real struggle with avoiding interrupting, butting in etc because my (atypical and unusually extrovert) autism intersects with ADHD! Then I find myself in a complete moral and ethical muddle – one part of me wants to follow the rules but the other part is twitchy and agitated and needs to say my piece – especially if I have a logical objection to something someone else is saying. Arrggh.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I get it. And you’re excused 😉 The logical objection thing is the strongest impulse to interrupt for me too. I don’t say I’m entirely innocent of interrupting but that I am far more likely to follow the rules of polite conversation especially when I don’t know people well. TY for reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Once upon a time,I wanted to be a
    neurotypical.Now? I can’t imagine anything worse.If being neurotypical
    means being a sheep forever,then I will pass,thanks. I would rather be me. Who I am. A tiger, not a sheep.

    Liked by 2 people

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