“Finger wagging bad.” An autistic perspective on neurotypical behaviour
May 24, 2016 § 18 Comments
(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.