This is Part 3 in the “I Think I Might be Autistic” series.
Working my way through The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, I found myself revisiting moments in my life that had been confusing, painful or traumatic. Suddenly, so much of my life made sense in the context of aspie traits.
Difficulty making friends? Impaired social communication skills
Clumsy? Motor planning deficit
Poor handwriting? Problems with fine motor coordination
Massive stamp/coin/doll/baseball card/Lego collections? Abnormally intense interests
Not a hugger? Tactile defensiveness
The odd reactions I get from people? Poor eye contact, flat affect, inability to read body language
and on and on and on . . .
When I got to Attwood’s description of the little aspie girl lining up her Barbie dolls and their clothes instead of playing with them, I literally shouted with joy. There are other people like me! I’m not defective. I’m not randomly weird. I’m an aspie. One of many.
I’d found my tribe and it was good.
This process of giving meaning to experiences is sometimes known as sensemaking or creating a sensemaking narrative. It happens when our current way of understanding ourselves or our situation is inadequate. Without the Asperger’s piece of the puzzle, I was forced to cobble together incomplete explanations for my developmental history and my life experiences.
Once I had a basic understanding of Asperger’s, I could apply that knowledge to “make sense of” my life in a new way.
Sensemaking has a few key steps, most of which I found happening naturally as I processed my newfound identity.
The Sensemaking Process
- Shift in identity – identification as aspie/autistic
- Retrospection – looking back at key life events in the context of this new identity
- Building narrative accounts – retelling the story of your life in light of AS/autism
- Sharing your narratives – strengthening and preserving your stories by sharing them with others
- Reflecting – the ongoing process of receiving feedback on your stories and reshaping them as your understanding of your narrative changes
Each person’s sensemaking narrative is unique. Mine takes several forms: thought, speech and especially writing. Right now, my blog–including your comments and my replies–is the cornerstone of my sensemaking narrative.
- As you learn more about AS/autism, does it help you better understand difficult or confusing life events?
- Can you retell those events in a new way now?
- When you’re ready, share your new understanding with trusted people in your life.
- Sharing can take many forms: oral, written, visual or mixed media. It can be factual, fictional, derivative or a combination. This is your story. Tell it your way.
- Don’t be afraid to revise and refine your story as your knowledge expands or your perception changes.
Coming next week: Mourning and Healing