The One Where I Talk About Why Talking is Hard

Today, I’m interrupting the sensory processing series to do something a little different. Okay, a lot different. I had originally planned to make a video blog about sensory diet to run today. What happened instead was a video about why talking is hard.

About 45 minutes into a very frustrating attempt at speaking on video, I gave up. I was ready to walk away from the process when The Scientist asked me to describe what I was feeling. Mostly I was feeling frustrated and angry with myself, but I eventually got past that and managed to talk a little about why I have so much difficulty speaking in this type of situation.

The short answer: The thinking and speaking parts of my brain seem to compete for resources, making it harder for me to organize my thoughts when I speak versus when I write. When I see how much I repeat myself in this video, I cringe, because if I were writing these thoughts out, I would use 1/3 as many words and probably be able to convey twice as much content.

If nothing else, I think you might find the contrast between my written communication and spoken communication interesting. 

(Both videos are close captioned.)

If you’re still with me, there is another video clip that followed the one above. The Scientist ignored my declaration that I wouldn’t be videoblogging and asked me if I could describe the difference between what happens in my head when I write versus when I speak. The result was some thoughts about the strong disconnect between who I am in my head and who I am “out loud.”

I’m not sure how truly illuminating either of these videos is in terms of actual content. In fact, I’d be interested to know what your impressions are as a viewer, especially of my ability to convey whatever you think it is I’m trying to convey.

So that was my grand adventure in video blogging. I have a few more clips that might be usable–including one on regulation that, if nothing else, I’ll write about. I’m not sure how much more of me you’ll be seeing on video though. Talking is hard.

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Alex at Married, With Aspergers has a related post on thought styles that I recommend reading if you found these videos interesting: Thought Transference

214 thoughts on “The One Where I Talk About Why Talking is Hard”

  1. You are brave putting yourself out here like this, thank you. Your website is so helpful, and inspirational. It’s very useful to see this. And yes the contrast between verbal and written communication is really interesting. Does the squishy thing in your hands help? I twiddle my hair and my fingers are always tapping out rhythms.

    My verbal communication looks different I think. I talk and talk almost incessantly with no pauses, and repeat the same things 5 different ways, because my brain somehow thinks I didn’t say it already. Some other part of my brain is thinking “seriously, you said that already, stop talking” but I keep going.

    As I get older and wrap my head around this thing better, I am learning to recognize the signs that I’m confusing people verbally. I used to think I was a great verbal communicator, and now I get why I’m not. I still find it amusing that I’m a creative director, and brilliant at distilling 1000 words of blurb into 5 succinct bullet points.

    1. Thank you. It’s been a while since I was terrified of hitting the publish button. But I think it’s important for people to see how much of a contrast there is between my written and spoken communication and hopefully to understand a little about why that happens.

      I do the talking and talking thing too at times. It tends to be on either special interest or perserverative-type subjects for me and only when I forget that I’m not supposed to do it because it makes people uncomfortable. 🙂 And like you, I’m recognizing a lot sooner when that’s happening and I should just stop talking.

      I’m curious whether you feel like you’re stronger at text communication in general (since you mentioned being good at summarizing text). It seems like as a creative director, you’d have to be very good with words in some form. 😉

      1. I can relate totally, when I’m talking about something I’m knowledgeable or passionate about, I get really into it, and I’m less likely to realize I’m offering way too much detail, or repeating myself. Until at a social gathering for example, somebody excuses themselves to talk to someone else. It used to upset me when that happened, I felt stupid, bad, offended, etc. Now I laugh, because I realize what’s going on and what can I do but laugh, and learn from it… feels better.

        I’m much stronger at text communication if it’s 1) professional not personal, and 2) if I have time to consider and edit my responses. So with texting and Facebook for example, I have said some things where I had no idea about until I read them back later. My sister currently isn’t speaking to me because of a text exchange where I misunderstood her, panicked, and then began the texting equivalent of saying the same thing 5 times. Not so long ago this would be upsetting, but since I recently explained to her I think I may have Aspergers and she’s a Psychotherapist, I think she’s being rather unkind. (“I’ve worked with Aspergers Clients, I don’t think you have that”… etc… sigh)

        If I have time to work on copywriting and editing professionally, that’s where I shine. To me it’s like pruning a rose bush or something. (I’ve never pruned anything, but it seems a good analogy). Let’s say I’m given 1000 words to describe a new product/service. I can ask a series of logical questions to make sure I understand the objective of the brand. The answers then help me keep pruning back the text until it describes the product/service in 5 short, short bullets. I could NEVER do this verbally, because I’m overwhelmed by so much other sensory overload, and stuff happening in the moment.

        Oh, and I can get really wordy if I write unchecked like this. I’ve written responses to your posts in the past, come back and reviewed them before posting and thought… nah… too long… you sound like a nutcase.

        1. I forgot to answer your question about the squishy thing! It does help. Without it, I would have literally jumped out of my seat and fled. Stimming helps me stay focused and physically settled when I’m anxious, which I was to a huge degree while doing this.

          Your strengths in communication sound very similar to mine. Things like Facebook drive me bonkers because it all moves so fast and we’re expected to be witty and on point in replies and even things like not replying to something can be a social faux pas. *sigh*

          Your (and others) mention of repetition in speech has inspired a new post! I’ve been thinking a lot about why I repeat myself so much and now I literally have a 5-point bulleted list to base a post on. I’m doing your job in reverse. 🙂

          Long replies are very welcome here and wouldn’t be at all out of place. But I know that feeling of hesitating to hit post on a comment. I do it all the time, agonizing over every word on comments on others’ posts and then half of the time just abandoning it altogether.

          1. I wish blogs had a multi-quote function. I want to comment on the part about talking to much and repeating oneself. I have a very strong tendency to talk way too much when it comes to my obsessions, and I often delve into technicalities and technical jargon which the listener rarely know or even understand.

            Sometimes when I’m trying to explain something, I’ll also repeat it several times over in different ways and using different words. The reason I do this is because I don’t feel like I’ve explained it clearly enough. It feels like my explanation is confusing, so I try to explain again using simpler words and terms. My girlfriend gets very upset with me when I do this. She says it makes her feel like I think she’s stupid, that I need to explain it several times over to her. This, in turn, hurts me, because that isn’t my intention at all. I’m merely just trying to make it as easily understandable to her, as I can.

            While typing this, I decided to add that I am also much better at written communication, than at verbal. I sometimes stumble over my words or can’t find the proper word to describe things. Somehow when I’m typing, the words just come to me, but when I’m talking it’s almost like I’ve hit a blank and nothing really comes to me and I sometimes end up sounding like I’m unsure of what I want to say. It also doesn’t help that English isn’t my native language.

            If it wasn’t apparent enough, I also tend to write long-winded replies to short questions or enquiries. If I reply just a sentence or two, it somehow doesn’t feel right, like I [b]have[/b] to add more to it, or like the other person would expect more from me, so I try to cover every aspect in my reply, so the other person can’t feel like I’ve excluded something.

            1. I’m writing a post about repetition because the comments on it here plus my own tendency got me thinking about why I (and others) do it. And yes, people do seem to get insulted by it at times. :-/

              The uncertainty that you describe around verbal communication is something I can really relate to and as you say, it often makes me sound uncertain, which can provoke some unwanted reactions from others.

              I’m curious if you have the same speech patterns in your native language as you do in English?

              1. I’ve been meaning to reply earlier, but I’ve been a little preoccupied with other things.

                I’ve never really thought about it, but I guess I do, yes. Generally I’m a little more fluent in my native language (Afrikaans, I’m from South Africa), than in English, but when I become a little overwhelmed or experience a sensory overload, then it’s like I completely forget what I wanted to say and I find myself horribly struggling to find the right words.

        2. I get what you are saying, totally. I really try to edit, edit, edit even on facebook and definitely in emails. But of course this is impossible in real life. In business meetings it is the worst because I am trying to process what the other person is (or is not saying) and remember to be ‘professional’ and get across what I want to say. Hard.

          The other problem I have is knowing where to beginning to explain something. Like you I’ll say it several times, but I also have to start right at the very beginning, perhaps before the beginning, so that I don’t feel that I have missed some vital piece of information that will help the other person to understand. And it drives people crazy. Ho hum. 🙂

          1. I’m infamous for my prefacing. It can take me forEVER to get to the point that sometimes people move on to other conversations before I get there. Ironically, since I also have ADD, I cannot stand this in others and will cut them off or interrupt them.

    2. I agree that you are very brave to put this online! Thank you for your bravery and all you have contributed to this area. I have also found your book to be very helpful.
      It’s interesting that you say the physical act of talking derails your thoughts! I totally get this and wondered if these word finding difficulties were due to the motor pathways of the brain competing with the language pathways. I avoid most public speaking, because I also struggle with this; indeed. my preference is to write!

      1. Thank you for saying so. I’m glad you found the book helpful as well.

        I really do think that the motor pathways and language pathways are either competing or not syncing up the way they do for most people. It feels like more of a motor cortex problem than a linguistics problem because in my thoughts all of the words feel like they’re there and assembled before I start talking.

    3. wow, that sounds like me when I was younger, it took me a really long time and purposefulness and discipline to get out of that and I am not an aspie, I started following this blog to see if my adult daughter is an an undiagnosed aspie, your comments really ring true for me though, I would talk non stop and I would twirl my hair too. I got alot of criticism and judgement for it.

      1. I’m 46 this year and still twirl my hair, and talk non-stop without realizing, lol. I don’t know if I’m an Aspie or not, and go back and forth with whether I want to find out. I think it’s about awareness though, at whatever age it surfaces… I’m only just becoming aware of these things, so they are changing in positive ways.

    4. And you just described me perfectly. Wow.
      I think most people would rather others be able to crawl into their heads, if just to make them understand this *one thing* at this *one moment*. But there is a difference in the way Aspies struggle. When I write I practice the same method of articulating one thought in a thousand different ways before settling upon the best version for my readers – but with swift strokes on a keyboard, I erase the other more cumbersome versions, self editing the barrage of redundancy that you’ve noticed breaks through in verbal communication.
      If I try to self-edit verbally, I either have major pauses in my speech or I error on the extremely curt, blunt side of things and offend everyone in the room. I find that the people who understand me the most are the people who take the time to watch me draw or write out my thoughts for them. The people who understand me the least are those who try to read into my verbal interactions, “between the lines”, or impatiently try to interpret my pauses in conversation through my facial expressions, which are never close to what I think they are.

      1. I swear I erase at least twice as much as I end up keeping in any piece of writing. I’m a ruthless self-editor. And yes, it’s very hard to self-edit verbally. You summed this all up perfectly.

  2. I think what watching that has made me realise even more strongly is how difficult I find it to take in information when it’s spoken rather than when I’m reading it. It’s like I have to process the sounds into pictures before I can then process those pictures into information. I know that’s probably not remotely relevant to what you were talking about but…

    1. I think it’s actually very relevant, especially to the second video. I’m not sure if I process receptive speech as conceptually as I process expressive speech, but I’m going to pay more attention from now on because that’s an intriguing possibility.

  3. Does anyone else watch TV with the Closed Captions on all the time? I’ve done this for years. When my husband asked me to explain why I couldn’t, other than to say… I don’t understand what people are saying unless I see the words on the screen at the same time.

    1. I read the captions if they’re turned on (and closed captioned the videos here because of that) but I also lip read when I watch TV. Which can make watching streaming videos really annoying if the sound and video get out of sync.

      1. Interesting. I can’t lip read, maybe that’s why I have the captions on. All I know is watching TV without them is stressful and distracting, and watching it with them is pleasant.

          1. I can lip read but have no idea when I actually picked it up. I can’t remember a time in my adult life I couldn’t. I am sure I subconsciously picked it up so I could understand conversations in loud, crowded situations. I have trouble filtering out noise at parties & can not hear an individual speak but I keep track by lip reading. It helps me focus.

              1. I think it’s one of the reasons why I’m so fluent at English. Foreign language TV programs and films are always subtitled in the Netherlands. It’s helped me enormously, because it turns TV into a (mostly) visual exercise. I wouldn’t have been able to do this if I had had to start out learning by listening to spoken English.

    2. I will occasionally do this. If so, I will read the captioning instead of watching the action. I also enjoy listening to TV while knitting, instead of watching it.

      1. How interesting Kashi, I love listening to TV while doing other things too. I don’t read Closed Captions consciously, they just somehow help the audio make sense. If there are no captions my attention span is very short and I can’t watch for too long.

      2. As a kid, I did all of my homework in front of the TV. I didn’t watch the programs, just listen to them in the background. Are you able to follow the program by just listening? I think for me is was more of a way to keep part of brain occupied while the rest of it did math problems. 🙂

        1. I can’t even listen to the radio in the background. My (probably autistic) parents love having the TV on, hardly ever watching it, just for the background noise. Especially talk shows! But it drives me to distraction.

          1. I dad somewhere that TV is like a modern day fireplace. It flickers warmly in the background, creation a feeling of non-aloneness. During Christmas, I tested this by putting the Yule-log “movie” from Netflix in non-stop…and still true!
            I usually have TV in, but didnt need it when I had the Yule log playing and crackling!

    3. I used to read lips too, I totally forgot about that, I found it helpful, I thought it was a game I played, I dont read lips any more.

  4. You know, as I listened to you speak, I was struck by what to me felt like a kind of integrity in the pauses – the integrity to find the thing you wanted to say, the thing that felt worth saying. Some of the apparent “fluency” of speech, in the “average” person, is maybe just a lack of inhibition about saying inexact things (plus verbal filler like “um” and “uh” and the all-too-ubiquitous “like,” to say nothing of expletives that are now used like MSG in processed food). Yes, there was a difference for me in the experience of listening to you speak vs. reading what you write, and the difference was perhaps more pronounced than it would typically be – not just a matter of thinking, “Oh, my – so-and-so’s voice is so squeaky! I never would have guessed!” Your writing does, indeed, feel fluid to me, but also notably thoughtful and efficient, in the sense of not dallying about in extra verbiage. And I would have assumed that was simply a gift for writing, but now, having heard you speak, I add to that impression this other impression of integrity of thought. If people are ever impatient listeners, I’m sorry and can sympathize. In France, I often spoke too slowly for people, and it clearly bored them to stay with me to the end of a sentence. What a gift it is to meet good listeners.

    1. Thank you for this insight and for the kind words. I hadn’t thought about the pauses in the context of integrity of speech/thought but that feels like a part of it. There is so much going on in my head during those pauses that they feel incredibly noisy to me. And I place a high value on precision and exactness in communication, which is odd because my spoken communication is anything but precise or exact. Okay, so I guess that’s not odd all, when I think about it. Writing gives me the control over communication that I generally lack with speech.

      It is a gift to have people in our lives who are patient listeners. Especially the sort of patient listeners who don’t feel compelled to finish our sentences for us. 🙂

      1. I liked the pauses, to me it comes across like you are considering carefully what you’re going to say next. The pauses also give me time to think and absorb what you’ve just said. Reading some of these comments, I’m beginning to understand suddenly why I find it so distressing when people interrupt me, yet I myself am a terrible interrupter.

      2. First of all, your videos were brilliant! I love that you were organic and went with it. I got so much out them. My daughter does the same thing and I think you just put into words what she experiences. I am going to show her the videos. She would rather text than talk, often she texts me and I call her and she doesnt say much then we hang up and she starts texting again, being that I am a verbal and written communicator I would rather speak on the phone and write full emails that texting. So our styles are so very different we struggle to connect with each other.

        I think Video blogging would be great for you, would give you a chance to speak outloud not in conversation, a great way to practice your verbal skills. I got so much out of your videos I would love to see you do some more.

        I am not an aspie but I suspect my adult daughter is and so I went looking for some ways to help her. But so much of what you say is directly relevant to me and many of my struggles too. I used to want to say so much and could not get it out fast enough before I forgot or someone else interrupted me. As I got older, I would write down my thoughts to share after a conversation and either tell the person later or write them an email. I think our feelings and our thoughts have waves and dont all come at once that is why writing is good in stages to add to it. My daughter is always striving for this perfections you talk about and she would rather not do something that do it imperfect. I went to Toastmasters and cultivating my public speaking has been very helpful. They focus on performing written speeches as well as impromptu speaking. Both have their own learning curve.

        I think you like writing cuz you have control over what you say and it is more thinking than feeling. Interacting with people is messy and uncontrollable. Plus verbal communication is imperfect, even if we say exactly what the are thinking and feeling people will reinterpret it completely different than we intended, annoying and frustrated but most often true.

        Thank you so much for your contribution to my life and understanding of communication not just from your aspie perspective but from your human perspective. You are stimulating much in me.

        1. Also what you said in your videos came out making complete sense, much eloquence to what you said, no rambling, you worked through it to say something of substance, life is not a 1/2 hour tv sitcom running along at warp speed.

        2. Thank you. I totally get the texting over talking urge and I bet she texts after talking with you because she’s thought of more things to say after hanging up. That happens to me a lot.

          It’s interesting that you say writing is more about thinking because to me it’s the opposite. I have to think a lot when I talk but when I write, I feel the words. In fact, recently I’ve been having some language processing problems and I’ve noticed that some days I just can’t feel the words, which means I can’t write. Everything will feel very flat and dead as I try to write and I’ve learned it’s better to just close the document than to fight it. And each piece of writing that I do has a bigger feel to it as well, sort of like a meta-shape and I know a piece is done when the shape of it in my mind is just right.

          But yes, there is a certain aspect of control too. Interacting with people is not only messy and uncontrollable, it also moves a bit faster than I’d like most of the time.

          I’m so glad you found this blog and I hope you and your daughter continue to find it helpful. 🙂

          1. Your response is very interesting about feeling your writing more and the visual meta shapes you see or sense when you write. You can control the pace of a conversation and you can control how your respond, you dont have to take someone elses lead.

            1. I know that’s true in theory. I have a lot of difficulty with it in practice. There’s so much effort that goes into simply keeping up with responding, that I often take a passive role in conversation, especially in conversations that don’t especially interest me.

              1. that is such a helpful thing you shared with me, I think alot of people I know are the same way. They give me a blank stare or just silence at the other end, no response, no interaction, like they are out of it.

  5. Very informative and courageous post! Aspiehubby and I watched going uh-huh the whole time. We also reflected on how it manifests differently between the two of us, and male/female differentiation. Like you, I tend to have long pauses as I scramble for words, which are there, but a valve has closed in my filter, and are now out of reach. My husbands filter opens completely, and each thought pours out in its entirety, and is then repeated.

    1. Thank you. I can relate to both the hesitancy you see in these videos and also the nonstop rambling, which I do occasionally. And it does feel like filter plays a big role – like we tend toward either under or overinhibitied speech.. What you say about a valve closing and the words being out of reach is a great analogy. It’s so hard to describe that barrier to speech.

  6. I agree completely with EA. Integrity and a need or desire to optimize word choice. Listening to you was extremely rewarding as a listener, no matter the pauses. I sincerely appreciate your effort to describe how you process words. This is so valuable.

    My seven year old has always struggled to find words. I will never forget the first sentence he stated all the way through without halting to think: “My cookie fell!” He is diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder, and I’ve always wondered if word finding is part of that. The comment about reading the captions while watching TV made me think of APD too. Processing spoken language is extremely taxing for him. Barriers, yes. One of our on-going struggles is his inability to either know,or be able to say, what he wants to eat, like there is a barrier between what his mouth or body needs or wants and his ability to put it into words.

    Would you say that verbally expressing or describing physical sensations elicits similar difficulties or barriers for you as expressing more complex thoughts? Could it be something that will get better for him over time, but he may always struggle to find the words as quickly as others expect? He listened to your videos with me, and I asked him if he sometimes has trouble getting words out. Here is what he said.

    “It’s hard to remember the word that you know. I was sitting there and sitting there [in class] and I couldn’t think of the word. And it was almost recess and the teacher said to try to go faster, but I couldn’t think of the word that I know, and I felt dumb.”

    1. Thank you. It’s so reassuring to have these positive comments. For the longest time I couldn’t stand seeing or listening to myself on camera, but this project has been an of self-acceptance and it feels good (and scary, but good).

      I think describing both physical sensations and emotions is also very hard for me, as is expressing my wants and needs. Having an emotional conversation with one person is as hard for me as standing up in front of a thousand people and speaking (well, as I imagine it would be). There have been so many times when I just wished I could invite someone inside my brain so they could access all of the words that I couldn’t speak.

      I think it can get easier with practice. Your son is still so young and he has you to support him in learning to express himself, which is a big advantage for him. When it come to eating, have you tried any sort of visual communication system? It might be that he has trouble finding the words (in which case being able to choose from pictures might help), but it might also be that he has trouble with decision making. This is a huge problem for me. So often I don’t know what i want to eat because the number of potential choices feel so overwhelming. There’s an old blog post here called “When All You Can Draw is a Blank” and it explains this in a lot of detail. Maybe give it a read to see if there’s any resemblance to your son’s experience.

      And to your son, please tell him this: “I know how hard it can be to find the right word and I know how bad that can make us feel. I’m all grown up and it happens to me all the time. It doesn’t mean that we’re dumb, it just means that we think differently and sometimes our brains have trouble with finding the words, even when we know exactly what we mean in our head. The next time that happens, maybe you could tell your teacher that you need time to think about it and when you remember it, you’ll tell her.”

      1. “I think describing both physical sensations and emotions is also very hard for me, as is expressing my wants and needs. Having an emotional conversation with one person is as hard for me as standing up in front of a thousand people and speaking.”
        This is so true of me. What I feel seems to have no verbal expression, so I hunt around in my vocabulary trying to find some fitting word and often give up. And what I want is also unidentifiable similarly.

        And YES, I began crying as I read your soft gentle words to Renee’s little boy!

        1. I have that problem a lot too, not being satisfied with the word I’ve had to settle for when I feel like there must be a more precise one.

          And it makes me so sad to hear kids say that they feel dumb because of the way another person treats them.

  7. It was very interesting, because the videos, your speaking, are demonstrating what you are talking about. In that way you convey your point even better, I suppose. Especially for allistic people it may be more clear how it works, rather than reading a perfectly well-structured piece on the same subject.
    It was not more difficult to follow per se, but in order to write a comment I need to be able to look back, and now I would need to listen back. I wrote the comment in Word, going back and forth between the screens and pausing the video sometimes to write about what I just heard.
    I loved being able to watch your hands with that thing, btw 🙂

    “When I’m talking I can’t see what’s behind me and in front of me. I’m stuck here.”
    Very recognizable, I can only focus on what I’m saying now, and have difficulty remembering where I was coming from and where I’m trying to go. That’s why I much prefer writing things out. In that way, I can write out the subject, go back, check, read, add to what I wrote, make sure the structure is right, make sure I’m not coming on too strong, that my point comes across, etc. When I talk it’s just … trying to get my point across, cringe over what actually comes out and then come up with what I should have said later.
    I’m not sure if it’s the physical act of speaking that derails my thoughts. I usually don’t have the right structure yet when it’s in my head either, most of the time it needs outing (be that written or spoken) to be properly processed, it seems. When I speak out loud, in my home with no-one around, it’s already better. There I also have the possibility of repeating, and changing the words. No audience helps. But it’s best when I am writing.
    When I’m talking I’m very occupied by the pressure of not having gaps, because then people can step in and say something, and then I lose what I was saying. Definitely a performance thing, which I suppose is not much different when you’re facing a camera.
    I also think I think in concepts, that are closer to writing than spoken word. Definitely not images, sometimes words, mostly concepts.

    1. “When I talk it’s just … trying to get my point across, cringe over what actually comes out and then come up with what I should have said later.”

      Yes! This is it, in a nutshell. I so often feel like I’m using an axe to slice an apple when I talk. It’s all blunt basic communication and very little nuance. What you describe as the editing process is exactly why I prefer writing. Often it takes me hours or days to find just the right way of saying something and when writing, I can keep going back and massaging the text into the shape I want. MKW used the pruning analogy and I’ve always used a sculpting analogy, like the way a sculptor chisels something into a rough shape and then refines and refines with more and more delicate tools to get to a final piece.

  8. I also lip read when listening to people, to understand them better, but it seems an ‘avoiding the eyes’ thing. When watching films and tv series I much prefer caption/subtitles, whatever the language is.

    1. I’ve wondered whether I started watching people’s mouths to avoid their eyes or because I found it useful in understanding speech. Either way, the mouth provides a lot more data for me than the eyes when it comes to in person conversations.

      1. Well, actually, yes, it’s also to understand it better. It’s another set of input, and together it’s easier to understand than either of them. It’s one of the reasons phoning does not work so well: it’s only through the ears.

  9. I completely understand. I am far more eloquent when I write compared to when I speak. When I speak I have the same pauses and hesitancy as you do. I read once that in the autistic brain, information from different parts of the brain arrive at different times to the destination point (while they all arrive at the same time in the NT brain). I think this is behind the pauses. It is like a webpage where not all the bytes have arrived and the page won’t load until all the final bytes have arrived.

    1. Yes! I so often feel like my cache is way too small. When I was trying to record the information that I’d prepared, I would get through one or maybe two sentences fine and then go blank on what I wanted to say after that. Whereas when I’m writing, I often have sentences unspooling one after another, so fast that I can barely keep up with typing them (and I type really fast!).

  10. Wow. I am just like that. I would hate talking to mean people because I could never respond back in a way I felt appropiate. I lost all forms of speech, especially when frustrated, angry, or humiliated. Taunting would do me in and I would just have to walk away silent. When I got to college I discovered something that really helped me out. I had a 20-30 minute car drive home alone and I would use that time to work on my verbal articulation to an imaginary passenger. I would cover everything that was bothering me or topics I wanted to talk to others about. Practicing out loud is the only way I can move from “in my thoughts” to “in conversation”. I also cannot have a real audience at first. Words, once spoken, are permanent. It takes me a while to sort out the phrasing I need to use to not be misunderstood. Once I am able to verbally express myself satisfactorily, I will move on to the next bit, saving my response in my mind for real use.

    1. Practicing is definitely helpful. When I had to make presentations at school, I would practice a lot by myself in the days before. It definitely didn’t make me a fluent presenter, but it reduced some of the stress. And when I started teaching martial arts, I used to spend an hour before class running through the warm-ups and other drills out loud, to an empty classroom, just to get comfortable with leading a class.

      Spoken words to feel permanent, don’t they? That’s such a funny concept to me because they’re also so amorphous.

  11. I love this. I don’t know how often I have to give a caveat when I’m having a conversation with someone…I try to make it lighthearted and funny, and I’ll say something like, “Sorry, I’m having a hard time talking today!” I hope that somehow that will help them be more patient with my looong pauses, repeating of words as I try to string together a sentence, and my constant stopping in the middle of a sentence and starting over as I try to get something out that makes sense. Writing is so much easier for me. One thing I love about writing that aligns with something you said in the first video, is that I can go back and look to see what I’ve said so far. I can’t do that when I’m talking. When I talk, I end up saying so much less in much longer space of time.

    I have actually had people get upset or annoyed with me for my long pauses. They think I use them to filter my words instead of saying exactly what I want to say. They don’t understand that I pause for a long time simply because I have to do that in order to get the words out of my mouth. I have to try and arrange them in my mind first. They’ll tell me, “Just say exactly what’s on your mind!” and don’t understand that that’s what I’m trying to do, but there’s a bit of a hiccup between my mind and my mouth. 😛

    Anyway, thanks for this very real and authentic post. From skimming the comments, it appears that clearly so many of us can relate to this.

    1. Yes! Talking feels a lot looser and less economical, which I guess it is by nature, but some people are so good at speaking extemporaneously. I especially noticed this in some of the professors I had in college. They could talk on a wide range of subjects and seemed to have great control of their ability to say enough but not too much and move on.

      “Just say exactly what’s on your mind!”

      If only we could! Duh. 😀

  12. Thank you for this. Very brave. I am a fast talker and I fill spaces with nonsense words if I can not find the “right words” or similar words and people often will either laugh or ignore it and get my point. I have to slow it down a lot…you are very good at keeping a normal pace. I can’t do that. So if I wanted to convey “condescending” in a sentence I would maybe fill it with “condemnation” even though it is not quite the appropriate word for the sentence structure. My family mocks me a lot for using interesting words:) …but the funny fact is that most times my audience follows along and knows what I meant and I convey my point…which is what I want. In school I had to present, memorize and read a lot so I think that enabled me to have practice for the verbal. I still dont love it and it takes people who are willing to follow fast along, and I do not have the right words…but I can seem like I can do it. ( When inside I am scrambling to keep up with the wording.) I love it when I have an easy going person who is good with words and in tune with what I am saying, sitting next to me at group presentations, because I will talk say “what is that word?” they will fill what I want in and I will keep on trucking. One man I knew would pick up my grasping for a word within my two second pause ( since I am a fast talker I do not seem to pause otherwise) and he would fill in the words I wanted for a full 45 minute talk without breaking the continuity. It was perfect:) Unfortunately, that does not happen often. I don’t usually like to use TV examples because they are often so off but when Sheldon speaks on the Big Bang Theory…I speak like that ( fast, to the point and a tad monotone or chimpunky.) If I think about it I can lower and slow down my voice but then I loose my words even more:)

    1. I’m a fast talker at times, but much less so than I used to be. I remember once I was interviewed for a book related to my job and afterward the person who had recommended me emailed to say that the interviewer had to listen to the tape of conversation multiple times to figure out what the heck I was saying because I talked so fast. In the end, she quoted me quite a bit in the book, but I felt bad about how much work it must have been for her to sort it all out. Good thing she taped it!

      That’s pretty amazing that you’ve found people who can fill in the blanks for you. What cool people to have as work partners.

  13. I understand this problem with inarticulateness well because I’ve experienced it. When a topic is emotionally fraught and/or confusing to me, I have a much easier time writing about it than I do verbalizing what I’m thinking. I’ll talk quickly, with more words, when I can’t seem to explain a concept.

    There’s been quite a few times when I’ve handed my therapist or chaplain friend a note with what I’m experiencing described on it because I can’t seem to find the words. For a while that was one of our goals, learning to express emotional states verbally (especially when I’m feeling sad or angry – vulnerable state). It just feels so deliberate sometimes. I saw in the video how you were slowing yourself down to describe verbalizing vs. writing – I could relate and it made sense to me.

    1. Blogging has actually helped me talk about a ton of difficult subjects with husband and daughter because they can read what I’ve written and ask questions as a conversation starter. My husband told me he was stunned by some of my early posts because he had no idea that I felt the way I did on some aspects of our relationship and family life. It was very healing and therapeutic. So I can see why using the same technique with your therapist or chaplain would be so effective.

    1. Hello! 🙂 I was rather worried as I was doing the videos that I’d ruin the “voice” that people have assigned me in their head. Sort of like seeing the movie and deciding it’s not nearly as good as the book.

  14. I’m curious if this is the same way you speak when not on camera. Like for instance, speaking to “the Scientist.” My son the Aspie would be very much like this on film, or in front of almost anyone, but has no problem having a conversation with me or certain other people.

    1. My speech fluency varies a lot. The first video is very representative of how I speak in front of a group, in a class, with a stranger or in an emotionally difficult conversation. In fact, if a conversation is very emotionally hard, my speech will become much worse than what’s on the video, with the pauses stretching to minutes or me just stopping talking entirely and being reduced to single word answers. And that’s talking to my husband, so it’s not necessarily dependent on the person I’m talking to.

      The second video is more representative of a casual conversation. In fact, I nearly slipped into the “too loud, too fast, very rambly” thing that I do when I get excited about something.

      But yes, in general, my routine daily speech is marked by a lot of pauses and some accidental wrong words and repetition and echolalia. I’ve also recently developed a problem with direct objects, where I start a sentence and it’s fine until I get to the direct object, which I can’t find the right word for, even though I can see the thing in my head and know exactly what I mean. So there’s a 10-20 second pause while I wait for the word to “arrive”, then I finish the sentence.

      On the other hand, there are situations where I’m very fluent. Work situations, usually, where I know a subject really well or have a script to fall back on. Mostly, though, I’m more of a listener than a talker and have learned to camouflage my difficulties by keeping my side of the conversation to a few words or sentences at a time. I ask a lot of questions. 🙂

      1. Thanks. Yes, his fluency varies a lot too. I guess I wanted to see if that was the case. Because my poor son gets caught (by others) with the “well you speak in blob blob situation, why can’t you just do that here?” business. If his conversations get too complex he starts shutting down completely into silence sometimes. It’s funny, even some of the relatives that give us the most problems with not believing in the difficulties of Aspergers have learned that if my son starts rapidly blinking, he is in a processing loop and things are on their way downhill.

        1. If you watch my eyes in that first video you can see that I tend to slant them off to one side or the other when I’m thinking, which is I guess my own “tell” that I’m only partially online, like your son’s rapid blinking.

      2. I’m glad you said this because I have this problem too, but at 43 and with a mother with early onset Alzheimer’s, I was getting scared of dementia.

  15. Good morning. Talking about talking: I shared this with my son (teenager) this morning. What precipitated my doing so was the common experience for me of telling him something, which as often happens with me was ‘not exactly accurate’. He was patiently explaining to me how I’d gone astray. I asked him to read your blog and he did. He definitely understands me better now.
    When I have other stresses or sensory inputs talking becomes next to impossible. So the fact that you talked on camera is, to me, adding a whole different level of communication but there’s a wordless something too: in its vulnerable aspects sharing the actual struggle and effort in real time. Showing/experiencing the connection one makes when talking and engaging with someone is difficult – anxious – for me.
    Hope this made some sense.
    I think you are courageous, you look great, and thank you for this post today. 🙂

    1. Oh, I so glad this helped your son understand what you experience better! Thank you for the kind words. When I was deciding what to wear and how I should look on camera, I realized that was a silly question and that I should just wear what I would on any regular day.

      What you said makes a lot of sense. I was concerned that some people might find the videos hard to watch because of the pauses and difficulties. But to have edited them out would have defeated the purpose, which is, as you said, to experience something more than the content of what I’m saying.

  16. Ironically, your video was very eloquent, though I know that talking “eye-to-eye” with someone (as opposed to a camera lens) is a whole lot different.

    Sometimes, it helps when I look away from people when I talk, or when I chew gum when I’m talking to people, or when I’m talking about something I’m really passionate about. Otherwise, the communication becomes stunted and strained.

    BTW, I think you videoblog very well 🙂

    1. Thank you. If you noticed, I looked away from the camera a lot while I was talking. When I tried making the videoblog segments about the topic I’d prepared, I was very conscious of having to look at the camera and that made me feel stiff and uncomfortable. Looking away helps me collect my thoughts and stay focused on the conversation, especially if it’s a one-on-one conversation.

  17. One thing I really like about watching people on the spectrum video blog is how normal they are. And by ‘normal’, I mean ‘like me.’
    Everything you said made perfect sense. Including the pauses. I get so frustrated talking to people because it seems the rule is if you pause, you’re done talking. So I never get a chance to finish my thought. With writing I can pause as many times as I need to and take as long as needed to remember the word I want to say.
    The way I describe my problem to people is it feels like English is not my native language. I know what i want to say in my language (I see it as a movie or sometimes see the literal word spelled out) but I can’t figure out how to say it in English. I’ve found people who speak more than one language completely understand at that point and start giving me more time to speak.

    1. Yes! I especially have difficulty on the phone because I’ll pause to collect my thoughts and the other person just assumes it’s their turn to talk. Even my husband will occasionally say, “are you still there?” and he’s used to my pauses. 🙂

      The foreign language analogy is a good one. I never thought of it that way, but it makes sense and is easy for people to understand because so many of us have experienced how much more slowly we speak when learning a second language.

      1. This is fascinating stuff for me, to read everyone else’s experiences. I find phone conversations quite stressful. Either I’m interrupting incessantly, or the other side says “are you still there?” because I’ve gone quiet. These days I actually put a finger on my lips to stop myself interrupting until I’m sure the other person has finished speaking.

      2. Thomas says it’s more like trying to listen to song lyrics. You know you know what they’re saying, but it’s just not easy to completely grasp, and plus there’s all that distracting other stuff.

  18. Talking is hard indeed. I think in concepts as well (Never thought of it that way, so thank you) and making these concepts ‘right’ in speech is sooo haaardd. Sometimes (especially when I’m stressed/or indeed pressure/having to do it right now) it feels like my speech is contained (I guess like that barrier you talk about), while my thoughts are so much more complex and all over the place? But these thoughts don’t have words linked to it immediately/simultaneously.
    I know that if I have time to think about what I want to convey (as one can with writing) what comes out is way more structured and (feels) ‘right’ (but still not completely, because I can’t find words for all concept in my head it seems, it’s never as ‘perfect’ as it is in my head, it never makes the same amount of sense?).

    I’m a linguistics student and I am actually doing my thesis on ASD and word-finding/lexical access (actually for the reason it always felt conveying what is in my thoughts is difficult for me and other Autistics I know said that they had the same experience).
    We did a picture-naming test and tests that are used for diagnosing with the participants (RAADS-R and AQ, although I *hate* AQ, because of the ignorance it’s based on, theory of mind etc, but I had to use it).
    Afterwards we looked for correlations. Sadly enough, we didn’t have enough participants for the experiment, which is why it might have shown no significant results, I think..
    Anyways, our theory/hypothesis was based on (linguistic) inhibition in Executive Functioning. For example a study showed that bilingual people react slower in naming-tasks (Linck et al. 2011), because they have to inhibit the lexical concept of another language. But also non-bilingual people use linguistic inhibition. The idea is that when you’re conveying a lexical concepts, other similar concepts (concepts in the same category for example) are also activated, so to convey only that specific concept you’d have to inhibit all the others that are activated.
    I hope this made sense (related to this subject: English isn’t my first language), I thought you might find it interesting 🙂

    1. I only got around the “thinking in concepts” realization recently. I was always confused by “thinking in pictures” because that feels too flat and too one dimensional (visual only) to me. What you say about thoughts not necessarily having words immediately linked to them is how I feel when I speak but not how I feel when I write, which still baffles me. Perhaps, in my head, I’m understanding thoughts as words but they aren’t actually equivalent to spoken words.

      I’m absolutely blown away by your description of your research! Thank you so much for sharing it. Is there any possibility that I could read your thesis when it’s done? This morning I started writing a post about repetition in speech and poor inhibition was one of my theories but what you’re saying here about inhibition is kind of blowing my mind. It makes so much sense. I very strongly relate to the idea that when I speak I’m needing to inhibit a lot of “nearby” concepts to find the right words – that’s what I was trying to get to in the second video.

      1. Thanks! I will take some while before it’s finished (probably a few months or so..), but when it is I can share it with you. Actually I’m thinking of uploading it somewhere.. =)

  19. You seemed like how I talk when I’m not around people I know and/or when I’m trying to discuss something difficult to articulate. This may be me projecting my mannerisms onto you, but the pauses seemed intentional. As if you were considering the best way to word what you were thinking. I recognize the “Must word thing precisely but can’t think of right way to word!” pause.

    1. Also: YES about the block and the chasing the words and how that’s not possible in speech. And yes about the stopping to think and like everything is happening to me and nothing is happening to everyone outside of me and gah. That’s the one that’s the most annoying, when people think that because you’re not saying anything right away, you’re either not going to answer or have nothing to say. That is really annoying.

      If it helps: in public speaking, I’ve found it useful to write myself scripts. So I write it out as if it’s an essay I’m writing with my slides as graphical aid, and then I rehearse the scripts, and then I’m just scripting.

      Only works, though, if nobody interrupts. If people interrupt, it’s hard to get back on track and continue.

      1. It always startles me when someone interrupts me during a pause because it’s so noisy in my head when that’s happening and I forget that I’m being silent externally. It was interesting to watch myself on camera. At one point, my husband was asking me a longish question and while I was listening to him, I was visually stimming on the pattern on my putty container. When I saw it later on film, I was startled to realize that externally I look frozen, even though there was a very rich amount of activity happening internally and I was completely engaged in that internal activity. It was disconcerting.

        I have good luck with scripting when I’m in a professional persona. Less so in my personal persona. And yeah, interruptions will derail my scripts easily.

      1. “I have actually had people get upset or annoyed with me for my long pauses. They think I use them to filter my words instead of saying exactly what I want to say. They don’t understand that I pause for a long time simply because I have to do that in order to get the words out of my mouth. I have to try and arrange them in my mind first. They’ll tell me, “Just say exactly what’s on your mind!” and don’t understand that that’s what I’m trying to do”
        ME TOO

  20. I’m not sure if this is related directly to the videos you posted, but the following has occurred to me since. I watched them early this morning, and then a little later had a meeting with my husband (and business partner) about a project. I noticed I often ask him to clarify the meaning of non-specific words such as it, them, this, that, etc.

    For example he might say “I think we should leave it the same, just change the background color”. I will say “what does “it” in that last sentence refer to?”, and he will clarify that in this case “it” means the DVD Cover design we are looking at. I can’t connect words like “it”, “them”, “this” or “that” to their actual object, if that makes sense. Even though it should be pretty obvious, because we’re probably in the middle of a conversation about it.

    Not sure why, but I just became super aware of this (“this” being my inability to connect non-specific words to their object, I’m sure there’s a more grammatically correct way of putting it)… after reading all these very useful comments today.

    1. That makes sense. I think this might be related (linguistically) to the issues that a lot of us have with pronouns. I use I, you, and interchangeably. I/me and you are especially interchangeable.

      1. I didn’t realize Aspie’s have issues with pronouns. Actually I didn’t really understand what a pronoun is, until I educated myself just now, which is hilarious for somebody who does copywriting as part of her job. Have you written about the pronoun thing specifically anywhere on your blog? I’d be interested in reading more.

        Lots of interesting stuff shared, great feedback and positive reaction to your videos yesterday, and you kept up admirably with responding 🙂

        1. One of the early signs of autism in children is confusion about pronoun usage. I haven’t written about it, but I could . . .

          I got a little behind on responding today and now there are like 27 new comments in my inbox. Yikes!

          1. Is it just confusion with pronouns or other forms as well? I can barely remember the difference between verbs and adjectives and anything more complicated, forget it. Also, word association. I have never been good at this part of English tests because I can make associations out of thin air and would always pick the wrong answer.

  21. YOU ARE MY KIND OF NORMAL.

    Seriously. I am trying to determine what it is about the way you speak and the way you try to verbally organise your thoughts that just seems so natural to me. The cadence, the way you explore your words, how you structure your sentences, even at what points you pause. It feels normal and natural. I would feel so comfortable talking with you in person.

    THIS IS MY KIND OF NORMAL.

    With regards to public speaking: I’m pretty good at it. And I know why. Because I write out everything I want to say beforehand. I’ve tried that whole “write down your speech keywords and go from there” approach. It doesn’t work for me. I need to write down everything. Even anecdotes. Once I’ve done that, I hardly even need to rehearse, because I know that how I’ve written my sentences is how I want to say them. And they feel natural to me that way.

    The funny thing is that when I talk off-the-cuff, people remark/complain that my speech is too bookish, my sentences too structured, like writing instead of talking. Whereas when I WRITE my speeches, people say I’m a very engaging and empathic speaker, touching and engaging (to wit, the number of times people have asked me to do an eulogy at someone’s funeral – no joke). It works when I write it all down, even the jokes. It doesn’t work when I don’t have a written script.

    1. 🙂 I suspect that the autistic people who watched these videos are more likely to be comfortable with them because I’m looking especially autistic, including making almost no eye contact with the camera.

      I still haven’t found a method of public speaking that works for me. One of the biggest problems is that if I have to speak in front of a group, my heartrate skyrockets so I tend to talk really fast and get all sweaty and flushed and probably look like I’m having a panic attack. Or a heart attack.

      It’s interesting that you have a sort of reversal of the expected naturalness versus formalness in your speaking versus talking. Maybe having everything prepared head of time allows you to relax into the speech because you’re more confident that it will go well.

    2. My kind of normal too. I dont think you need to look into the camera either, people have different styles of filming. Matter of preference and comfort and what works.

  22. I had just done a Skype interview for the first time last week, and I had a similar issue with speaking. For me my words go way too fast…..and then, long pause. That’s it. I revert back to repeating and empty words such as ‘like,’ ‘so’ and ‘yeah.’ Writing for me helps me to slow down, but the downside is that I can end up writing a lot at first (when I started blogging, I blogged nonstop twice a week and it wasn’t until around November that I slowed down).

    “Speaking it out loud makes it hard to chase that train of thought.” Yep. Not only that, I end up focusing on the act of speaking, not thinking.

    I second the public speaking: I couldn’t do the whole speech keywords and go from there. I have to write it ALL DOWN. The issue of speaking vs. writing is the exact reason why I have a huge problem with Q&A’s and am very, very terrified of anything that requires improvisation.

    1. Yes! The act of speaking can be so distracting.

      I think I’m less afraid of Q & A’s than prepared speaking, if I know the topic well. I had to give a 20-minute presentation for an upper level econ class and then hold a 10-minute Q & A and I was much more relaxed for the Q & A portion because the questions were really insightful (yay for a room full of geeks) and allowed me to talk about things I’d researched that weren’t in the presentation and I got really into it. But I can see where if the questions or situation had been different, I might have had a “deer in the headlights” reaction. In fact, I was thinking that if I kept videoblogging, it might be interesting to answer questions that people have rather than trying to talk on a prepared subject. That feels more doable.

      It’s hard to sustain blogging on a regular schedule over the long run so don’t be hard on yourself. I need regular breaks and have given myself permission to post on an irregular schedule. I think once we get past our original inspiration for starting to blog, there’s a bit less fire too. I’m blown away by people who blog every day for years and years.

  23. Very quickly before munchkin tackles me for the ipad….I think this was a very interesting explanation both verbally and visually as to why there is often a gap between spoken and written word w autistic ppl (including my nonspeaking 4yr old)..well times up lol

  24. That is a very good explanation, that your thoughts and talk compete… I think that is my problem too. Even when I speak fluently, I often sort of have lost contact with myself and continue as inertia, pouring out pre-scripted content while I feel like my mind is left behind somewhere far away and all that’s present is a robot.

    I can also very much relate to “thinking in concepts”… I think that’s what I do too. I think mostly visually, but I can’t identify with “thinking in pictures” because my thoughts aren’t detailed pictures but parts of pictures, shapes, and outlines of relations, movements, comparisons, relative positions et.c., with other physical sensations mixed in. It needs translation to words, and that translation is difficult for me too to do while talking and trying to process face expressions and what else happens in the surroundings in the same time. When writing, I can usually much better shield out the surroundings and focus oncretingthe words. I need that i order to really express what I had in mind and not just auto-associate to some random cues in the situations or words I hear – what I say in that “inertia mode” may sound plausible but it is really just “filler” and may even be factually incorrect so that I wonder afterwards: “why did I say that? It is not even true”.

    Something about the way you talk and your body language in the video reminds me of myself in talk therapy. I don’t know if it is in any way similar to how I present (I don’t look like you), but that’s how I feel… struggling to find words, looking out and up to the sides to “see my thoughts”, long pauses… I am not stimming that much though and not in the same way, it is much more subtle (I think… I haven’t been videofilmed). In my case, when I force myself to talk when I’m expected to, such as in talk therapy, then I may say things that aren’t necessarily true in a general sense, but automatic talk cued by what the therapist say, as described in the previous paragraph. Not because I want to lie or mislead – but because I’m disconnected from my mind and what I am saying, I’m saying something that sounds right and doing my best, but really just putting words out there to meet expectations (like you said… someone is waiting for an answer). In order to do that after having lost connection with my mind, what I let out is associations from cues in the word I hear or things I have read, that seem in some way relevant to the situation. I’m not lying, or to be more precise I have no clue what that is in “disconnected mode” – just auto-manufacturing talk that sounds right while feeling confused. (It doesn’t happen so much now when I’m aware of it and also have a therpist who understand me better. I now more become aware that I’m exhausted, can’t think clearly, feel disconnected “unreal” and need a break and then say so, which is more honest and useful than continuing to say a lot of words after having lost connection with their meaning)

    Thanks for your courage to put yourself out here as a “live image”. It was interesting inspiring to see your video.

    Ps. I’m sorry I haven’t replied to your other comment yet, I read it and it was inspiring but I found it hard to formulate my reply and postponed it. It will come.

    1. (Just clarifying: I’m well articulate and usually speak fluently, although I loose the fluency sometimes, in some situations, and “turn blank”… I don’t know if that was clear. I was through a period with major communication problems when I was young that lasted quite some years, where I barely talked at all and when I did, often got stuck in communication failure and strong tension. During that period, I was in several types of talk therapy, and it basically didn’t work because I didn’t talk (heh). Later, in similar situations, I would talk (sometimes a lot) but feel confused and alienated from what was being said, both by the therapist and myself… I couldn’t relate to the words, but tried to produce what I felt was expected from me, “fill in the void”, basically just associating in the way explained in my comment. That was what I meant. Sorry for not being very clear).

    2. I cold only have time (well I have ADHD, to be honest) to read your first paragraph, but I did this most of my life. I was raised in an intensively talk-therapy oriented household: psychiatry, EST, counseling, etc. and so learned what I was “supposed” to say and when to say it.
      Very good for “getting along with the natives”, but not so good for knowing myself.
      Then again, what else could anyone do? Aspergers didn’t exist as a diagnosis in the 70s and 80s.

      1. Thank you for your input, that makes good sense too… I’m suspecting that a person with an ASD growing up in such a household could very much develop into a “talk therapy robot”… Which would probably please the natives but render talk completely meaningless as a therapeutic tool…

        1. Yes. For years I thought iwas so insightful- and so did everyone else. It turned out I was just parroting back all the psychobabble I’d learned. Not to say this wasn’t helpful, to a degree, but then I couldn’t understand why I was still so messed up- if I knew myself so well- and I also thought I knew more about people than they knew of themselves. They didn’t appreciate that.
          I had a very domineering, though well-intentioned, mother who thought all of my myriad problems were due to psychological trauma. She was verbally and at times physically abusive, though not really by the standards of the day, but she told me that my difficulty with motor skills and knowing where my body was in space, and my now-identified place-blindness was PTSD. That my inability to clean my room (due entirely to executive function problems) was repressed anger at her. That not completing homework assignments was self-sabotage because I wanted more attention. That my inability to get along with peers was a refusal to grow and mature because I didn’t want to leave the nest. That my refusal to bathe, brush my teeth and hair etc was also repressed anger at her (rather than sensory related) and e fact that i stole her clothes and makeup were evidence of my desire to be her/be closer to her, rather than a lack of understanding of the current styles. I would wear what she did because my own choices got me teased relentlessly.
          Later, after reading certain self-help books, I was led to believe my difficulties with boyfriends were because I was “co-dependant”- but I wondered why I always seemed to be the dependant one.
          In the end, I was sent away to a group home for troubled youth- even though I had no criminal or substance abuse problems and no history of running away- and when that one didn’t work out (couldn’t keep up with schoolwork or room cleaning) I was sent to an even more structured home for troubled teens. Interestingly, due to the extremely rigid structure, I excelled there. But anyway.
          All of this is to show how painful and utterly damaging it can be to misunderstand autism/Aspergers syndrome.

          Has anybody else had any experiences like this?

          Ps
          Also, because I can parrot that stuff so automatically, no one I know except my husband, since he’s with me daily and probably also on the spectrum, believes me at all. Because I’m too “insightful” and empathetic. Little do they know that my empathy, though there, is not what they’re seeing when I’m talking about psychological stuff with them. It’s what I feel later, when I’m thinking about them and they’re not there to distract me with my own words.

          1. Thank you for the reply, it is very interesting and insightful. What you write about parroting psychobabble… I recognise some of that for myself as well (long time ago, mainly), but actually also from some other persons I’ve heard talking in a very psychobabble manner, on one hand apparently analysing their feelings insightfully (a lot), but on the other hand seeming quite superficial and inattentive to anything but their own words, and especially to the feelings of less verbal persons (and animals). Psychobabble is a cultural norm, it doesn’t have much to do with real self-insight I think.

            I had a very domineering, though well-intentioned, mother who thought all of my myriad problems were due to psychological trauma. She was verbally and at times physically abusive, though not really by the standards of the day, but she told me that my difficulty with motor skills and knowing where my body was in space, and my now-identified place-blindness was PTSD. That my inability to clean my room (due entirely to executive function problems) was repressed anger at her. That not completing homework assignments was self-sabotage because I wanted more attention. That my inability to get along with peers was a refusal to grow and mature because I didn’t want to leave the nest. That my refusal to bathe, brush my teeth and hair etc was also repressed anger at her (rather than sensory related) and e fact that i stole her clothes and makeup were evidence of my desire to be her/be closer to her, rather than a lack of understanding of the current styles. I would wear what she did because my own choices got me teased relentlessly.

            (I hope it is OK I quote that whole block)

            When I read the above passage I felt like sending a rescue boat [not literally;-] It sounds very creepy and intrusive. No parent has the right to psychologise a child like that and put themselves in the centre of the kid’s world and cast themselves as the source of the kid’s behaviour and emotional problems, as if nothing else matters but themselves. It is a sort of psychological abuse I think, almost like a personality disorder where they themselves need to be in centre of the universe of their child at all times.

            My mother tends to have some similar tendencies. She is well intentioned too (helpful, friendly), but she tends to, first of all, misunderstand most of what I say and do as if it relates to her or circumstances that involve her in some way. Second, whether it is on purpose or not, she tends to keep annoying me until I snap, and then my irritated outbreak apparently shows that we have some sort of volcanic love-hate relationship going on. Well we don’t, not from my point of view and that is what the plot is supposed to be: that I am fixated on her, and my life is somehow trapped in my failed relationship to her (because it is failed, no doubt about that… I’ve failed to bond to her from the start, but my life doesn’t evolve around that and I didn’t even know something was amiss with that when I was a kid). I have generally minimised (and dreaded) contact with her most of my life to avoid being sucked into that sort of destructive emotional projection games and don’t really desire contact, but on the other hand she is my mother and I don’t want to reject her more than necessary; I just want to find a balance everybody can thrive with.

            When I told her about my aspergers diagnosis she responded positively and constructively, asking questions and relating anecdotes from my childhood and what else she knows about my life to the diagnosis while reflecting about it, and I think it has improved our relationship and taken a burden off her mind. She has always (like your mom) assumed I had psychologic problems due to psychological damage in childhood, caused by her probably – she is quite guilt-ridden about me and for a while in my confused past I also bought into that (it does have some elements of truth in it… None of my parents have great parental intuition or social skills, so that hasn’t helped of course). Your list of psychological problems your mom misinterpreted have many elements that also applied to my situation and have been misinterpreted in similar ways. actually most of them,

            1. Hi Cynthia,

              Can I kindly ask you to delete the last part of my comment above, from the paragraph that starts: “Anyway, shortly after I told her about the diagnosis”… I came to think after writing it that it isn’t OK to quote an email on the Internet like this. Even though it isn’t sensitive for me, it is sensitive topic in principle and that I don’t understand someone’s feelings and find them irrational, doesn’t give me the right to expose them to others.

              Just whenever you have time… Sorry about the hassle. Alternatively, it is also fine to delete the whole comment. Thanks.

    3. Yes, that filler mode makes sense. I don’t think I experience the disconnection that you describe. It sounds like you rely a lot on echolalia and scripting in those situations, to keep up your end of the conversation or meet situational expectations. Are you aware that you’re doing it at the time or is it more like the kind of thing that you recognize happened after the fact?

      I have a lot of “why did I just say that?” moments around strangers or acquaintances. I think a big part of it is nervousness, too. Like a vicious cycle of saying something odd, worrying about saying something odd, then saying something even odder because I’m anxious.

      Talk therapy sounds like torture in the context you described when you were younger. Though I guess talk is the basis of most kinds of therapy, isn’t it? Perhaps another reason I’ve avoided it.

      1. Are you aware that you’re doing it at the time or is it more like the kind of thing that you recognize happened after the fact?

        I’m aware in the situation that something is wrong, that I’m feeling disconnected, weird, unreal, confused, but usually can’t pinpoint the source of the problem, except that the person in front of me is saying too many words too fast, looks too relentlessly into my eyes, and has too many moving parts… especially the face:-)… and I wish I had an ESC button that worked in real life. Like in this cartoon: “Buttons you wish would work on real life”… (couldn’t help myself… I know I shared it on facebook too:-).

        It is not echolalia. I don’t repeat other’s sentences, just fill answers that seem relevant into whatever template is provided, following the cues I pick up from the words and context… In a complex way people don’t suspect. It is more like “mindless auto-pilot” or inertia than imitation. Maybe it sounds too dramatic when I explain it, maybe everybody has this problem to some extend in some situations, I’m just conscious of it or it can get more extreme for me. Perhaps it is an extended version of saying stupid things due to being nervous (where one may also say pretty much random things that just “shoot off” in response to cues from the surroundings). Except in my case the trigger isn’t necessarily anxiety, but acute social over-stimulation in the situation… Too much talk too fast and having to look too much at someone’s face that moves and changes too much in ways that all supposedly mean something. I guess what happens to me it is a kind of secret mental shut down:-) Replacing the more blatant tendency to “go blank” I suffered from sometimes when I was young.

        And yes, talk therapy has been quite torturous and I’m surprised I have kept trying it out a number of times, perhaps because I knew I needed to change and understand what was wrong with me, and that’s what therapy is supposedly for. Probably also because I disconnected from the stress as soon as I was out of there, so I didn’t really remember how stressful it was until I was in the same situation again. And now long after I remember it more generally and have a sort of overview.

        The current talk therapy I’m in has been very helpful some of the time, although at other times I’m still battling the same old issues with overload and disconnection. trying to ground myself and find ways for it to work out, and sometimes that works and other times not. It is also difficult to come into a room and suddenly relate confidentially with another person for 50 minutes, then leave and come back a month or more later to the repeat setup. Something about that seems very unnatural. I need much longer time to re-familiarise myself with the room, then the person, then the communication – which in a perfect world would have long breaks built into it and be more gravitating around things and less face to face orientated, less intensive but longer… Such a model would just not work for any therapist as a viable business.

        That said, this current therapy has been helpful as I said, and overall not torturous:-) Some of the reasons are: the therapist get how my mind works, I’m much more mature now and communicate much better than in the past – obviously important for how well talk therapy works out… The therapist has strategies to try to take off the pressure of face to face talk, for example with the way he positions his chair at an angle instead of straight face to face. And it isn’t just talk: there is a whiteboard to explain things by drawing models and he has given home work (to be done in writing). Writing supplements and inspire talk, some of it in the form of home work but some of it just because I came with it. I can recommend such a more integrated approach for talk therapy:-) or at least it works much better for me. For example, reading something out loud that was written at home is very different and can be feel much more emotional and honest than “live talk” and is not in risk of being derailed by overload and inertia but is still “live communication” in a sense, and the talk inspired by it (questions, clarifications etc) tend to be focused and important.

        1. Written homework! That sounds like such a good idea.
          I recognize many of the problems you mention with therapy. I did have a long bus ride through a green landscape on my way to therapy, that really did help me mentally prepare for the session, and I would write down things to discuss. But then actually discussing them derailed quickly.

          1. Yes, homework can definitely be helpful, and it also integrate the therapy more in real life beyond the actual sessions.

            I’m glad that you can relate to my experiences. For a long time I presumed I was the only one in the world with this sort of difficult, which I thought were so weird that I couldn’t even define them and figure out what was going wrong.

        2. This is so interesting to me. It sounds like a very complex conversational adaptation that you’ve developed, though one that’s counterproductive if you need to do something other than keep the conversation going in a casual way. I asked if you realized it was happening because I’ve noticed that I often feel discomfort in that sort of situation but I can’t identify what’s going wrong until much later and it’s therefore impossible to change course mid-disaster. That’s very frustrating to me. Like being on a rushing river and not being able to do anything but avoid capsizing.

          I can completely relate to how hard it is to shift into and out of a comfort zone with another person. Even with my husband, if he’s gone for a few days, it takes me a while to shift back into feeling close to him when he returns. It seems very much like a “familiarity” issue, if that makes sense. Like my brain needs to take him in and remember all of things about him and then it settles down to being familiar again.

          The integrated approach to therapy is a great suggestion. I hope that folks who work with autistic people will see your comment and take it into consideration. The chance to write things on the white board sounds especially helpful.

          1. I can very much relate to this and have more to say, I just have to go now because the evening time is up. I will return and reply to this and the other comments later.

          2. I can completely relate to how hard it is to shift into and out of a comfort zone with another person. Even with my husband, if he’s gone for a few days, it takes me a while to shift back into feeling close to him when he returns. It seems very much like a “familiarity” issue, if that makes sense. Like my brain needs to take him in and remember all of things about him and then it settles down to being familiar again.

            I also have this problem, although it has become milder over the course of being married. My husband travels as part of his work and have also travelled home now and then to visit his parents in Europe. It used to be that when I picked him up in the airport and for the first week after or so, I saw him differently – like a stranger, someone I didn’t know and felt very awkward about him and sort of ignored him most of the time (just like if he was a stranger… I’m not usually much interested in strangers:-). Gradually over the next week or so, I began to get used to him again and began to re-learn and enjoy our usual jargon and shared routines, and through that the relationship re-grew and was as usual. He was so used to it so he didn’t expect anything else, saying things like “I know you need a little while to get to know me again” or something like that. It still happens every time he has been away for a while, and it is still equally unexpected and unsettling, because I don’t imagine it will happen. But somehow my memory of him loose its grip of reality while he isn’t there to reinforce the relationship, and I need time to gap the discrepancy and recalibrate the relationship when he comes back. I also can’t really remember his face while he is not around… I don’t know if that has anything to do with it. (I rarely remember people’s faces accurately, my imagination creates a crude caricature out of the memory of their face which sort of slightly evolves on its own over time, and then when I see them I have to spend time getting used to what they really look like).

            1. Yes, exactly this! My husband also says that when he comes home, I look so calm and peaceful and he used to think that I was happy to be rid of him. 🙂 Now we both know that it’s related to me using alone time to recharge and how much more relaxed I am when I don’t have to talk a lot.

              It’s great that your husband takes it in stride. I also rarely remember faces and have a sort of “through a blurry glass” memory of most people visually.

              1. Hm, no that is a different thing. Being freshly recharged by having had enough solitude, that’s nice…. What I was describing is a troublesome phenomenon… Loosing the emotional connection with someone I’m close to just because they are out of sight. So that the relationship need rather long time time to reactivate and recalibrate itself through the daily interactions, once we are together again. But yes, I am happy that my husband is easy going about it and just wait until things normalise.

                I also don’t have a “through blurry glass” memory of people. More like a loose visual compilation of their physical characteristics, many which are slightly exaggerated like caricatures, put together in a rather patchy way. Perhaps that is normal. Maybe it is my idea that I ought to have an accurate visual recall of what people look like that is unrealistic and irrelevant.

          3. The integrated approach to therapy is a great suggestion. I hope that folks who work with autistic people will see your comment and take it into consideration. The chance to write things on the white board sounds especially helpful.

            It is… And yes, perhaps it should be standard to try a variety of non-verbal approaches to supplement (or sometimes perhaps replace) verbal therapy for people with ASDs in order to work out an integrated approach that works well for the person. Just because even autistic people who are highly verbal tends to have issues with face to face talk that cause exhaustion and tension and worse, may make the words being said somewhat unreliable. It was very interesting to read what Kashi and Petra wrote in their comments… Clearly I am not the only one who has experienced such partly masked difficulties with talk therapy.

            It sounds like a very complex conversational adaptation that you’ve developed, though one that’s counterproductive if you need to do something other than keep the conversation going in a casual way.

            Yes… although I don’t really feel it is complex, perhaps because it has developed involuntarily, “automatically”.

            I asked if you realized it was happening because I’ve noticed that I often feel discomfort in that sort of situation but I can’t identify what’s going wrong until much later and it’s therefore impossible to change course mid-disaster. That’s very frustrating to me. Like being on a rushing river and not being able to do anything but avoid capsizing.

            That is also how I experience it, although I’m much better now at interrupting “the river” but that doesn’t necessarily mean I can solve in and embark on a better track.

    4. I really recognize the filler and the disconnection mode, in therapy and in other conversations. It’s also in those moments that I tend to go sideways, in the sense that I’ll start talking about something that I associate with what was said, but actually has nothing to do with what we’re talking about. (also related to not remembering what went before anymore)

      I’m still quite unaware of it, it’s only later that I realise I was rambling, and it’s actually only now that I read this description from you that I realise this is exactly what happens. I’m tired and overstimulated and too busy trying to perform correctly in the conversation to actually be able to think and feel. In therapy this really doesn’t work, because I’m too disconnected. Then later in the bus home I get upset about all the things we didn’t get talk about or the things I didn’t manage to say.
      Obviously I need more breaks in these situations. Or not sit opposite the therapist so that the eye contact thing doesn’t distract me. Unfortunately the therapy has stopped anyway, but this is good to know for the future.

      1. Thank you for your input, I’m happy you can relate and what you describe does sound like what is going on is quite similar.

        It’s also in those moments that I tend to go sideways, in the sense that I’ll start talking about something that I associate with what was said, but actually has nothing to do with what we’re talking about. (also related to not remembering what went before anymore)

        I do that as well…

  25. This all is very thought provoking. Like many others, I liked your pauses. They gave me time to process what you had just said, and think about whether I could relate and agree. Your pauses actually reminded me of what some of the best public speakers do. Think of Martin Luther King. Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    Most people don’t interrupt me during my pauses. I often will do something to keep my status as the speaker, like say “hmmm,” or gesture with my hands to show that my brain is working. However, I have one fast-talking friend (who I often can’t understand and wish I had closed captioning for) who will interrupt my pauses with “What!? What!?” or she’ll guess (always wrongly) at what I’m trying to say. I can’t STAND it, and I much prefer emailing with her than talking with her.

    It was interesting to see your stimming. If you and I were having a conversation, my eyes would be drawn to your hands (while listening to your words!)

    When I was watching your videos, I was thinking “Well, she may not feel comfortable speaking for this video, but that awesome Mickey Mouse shirt looks super-comfortable and worn in. 🙂

    1. That’s true, great speakers do pause a lot. 🙂 I had a great conversation with my husband this morning about those verbal ways that people hang on to their turn as speaker and how I don’t use them. Realizing that has helped me clarify why I sometimes get interrupted when I’m not done speaking, so that’s been a good realization.

      People interrupting to hurry you along is just rude. Why don’t they realize that?!

      My Mickey shirt is at least ten years old and very comfy. Sadly, the cuffs are falling off and there’s a hole in one elbow.

      1. When I was in toastmasters they had a specific number of words per minute that was the best cadence for speaking for people fully follow along as you speak and understand what you are saying. I don’t remember what that number is right now. I remember women speak faster than women.

        I come from a family that all talk fast and talk over each other so I would interrupt and talk fast because I had to fight for my attention and hurry up and speak before someone quit listening. I have since spent much time slowing down my speech and surrounding myself with people who do listen to what I have to say and I have become a very good listener.

        I also think people are not good listeners and rush a conversation because we have hurried up our lifestyles and made manners less important. Because I love quality time with people, I go out of my way to take time with others when we are talking.

        I was looking at the neck on your sweatshirt while you were speaking and was thinking how I wish I had a sweatshirt like that, it looks so comfey and well loved.

  26. By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth’. George Carlin.

    Just ran into that quote. Thought it was relevant or cheeky consider the conversation going on today.

  27. Wow this is brilliant. Thank you for being brave enough to share it…I identified with it enormously. I have to write my own thoughts down because left in my brain, they just spin in a constant circle and I cant get any further than the original thought. When I write them down, I find I can expand and develop them to the point that they are helpful. I hate speaking out loud…I’ll say the most ridiculous thing and then be like “OMG brain why did you say that” …the fear of doing that just turns me into a stammering incoherent verbal mess lol. If I know I am gonna need to talk about something important…like when I had my autism assessment…I write all my thinks down first and then edit them…that way some of the most important stuff stays in my head for when I need to actually say. Anyhow, now I’m waffling… thanks again for having the courage to post this 🙂

  28. It’s a curious coincidence that I was thinking only yesterday about cognitive styles, verbal vs. non-verbal. I’m starting to move away from describing my own experience as “thinking in pictures” because I find that misleading and overly simplistic.

    I pause in the same way when both speaking and writing, but when writing it doesn’t matter. Writing is easier because I can backtrack, read my words again and carry on. The way you describe it, especially in the second video, is something I can really relate to.

    It was only on reading some of the comments here that I discovered you often weren’t looking into the camera, which surprised me because I thought I was looking at your face in the videos. Guess I was subconsciously avoiding eye contact. 🙂

    1. I thought it was a coincidence too when I read your post. The “thinking in pictures” never resonated with me so I assumed I must automatically be a verbal thinker, but clearly not.

      And you didn’t have to avoid eye contact because I was already doing it for you! 😛 When I see myself on video like this, making no effort to pass, I can see how disconcerting my presentation must be to some people. This was really the first time I watched myself on video without cringing though, so that felt good.

  29. Could it be possible to adore you even more? Thank you for the time and pain you took to publish this. I am teary eyed, touched, flattened, absorbed, and clenched with emotion. You are still incredibly eloquent. Sometimes it is not the smoothness of words, but the content.

    Something that will stay with me, everyday is how you describe speaking as not being able to see in front of you or behind you. This is the perfect description. I KNOW this feeling and it washes over me when I write. The horror of holes, pockets in your communication is something that trips me up continuously. It is why I do art. No matter what I say or write, it is not representative of my thoughts, but I can show a feeling or thought with completeness, even if it is only to my own satisfaction.

    I am book marking this post, to re-visit, and to share with my dad. I am proud to know you and leaving fist sized holes in my expression of respect and affection.

    Lori D.

    1. Awww, thank you, Lori. ❤

      Your art is incredibly beautiful and so is your writing. I often read your posts twice because I find your use of language so beautiful. It's somehow spare and rich at the same time, which is magical. We sound like a mutual admiration society, don't we?

  30. Thank you for being so brave, so vulnerable and putting yourself out there. I would cringe, and freak out if I saw myself on video, and put it out to the world but this is so very very important to adults with ASD-this type of visual understanding of communication. So much focus on children (good reason) but so little for adults. This is very moving. And I relate to so many many many parts of your videos today.

    This is what I notice, mostly in relating to my self. Round and round and round we go, trying to get that middle part out. It’s like trying to verbally get that middle point,part out and we try so hard to get there, express it. It’s so difficult. The other thing I notice is that you look to a space away from centre alike to me. Except mine is to “the left”. For me, it’s like I am “seeing” the concepts/pictures/ideas/thoughts and trying to go from that to a different part in your brain that tries to find words to express that. With road bumps along the way. I notice you use analogies, very much like me. And how describe pictures, diagrams like concepts. It’s very difficult to have people understand this and my biggest block. But you have described it very very well.

    I am very fast talker, then I stumble, pause, long pauses, grasping…trying to discover how to verbally put out there what is in my head. Then, I get anxious, and my flow is like a mountain range. Up, down, flat, up up up down, way down, flat. (pause, pitches). But, I can’t think aloud these things when I’m trying to express them if I’m focused on looking at someone-I look to the left, in space in front of me, like using a direct memory, recall…something I can’t quite describe yet.

    I have questions. You don’t need to answer. Part of my thought process. Are you synesthetic. Do you see your concepts in a certain place. Where are they? I use the same hand movements almost drawing them. I posted a blog post (more like my journal) yesterday that described a tiny bit of this. Are you gauging your talking in the videos-does this resemble “real life” or is this a “better” (hate that word) version (improved, I guess) because you are being recorded?

    I’m curious. Can you set up the video. Get the Scientist to ask a question without a yes/no answer …that you wouldn’t have immediate recall of. So, abstract. Not sure what yet but trying (me) to get an idea out right now lol. Then, a question that you would know. Like, remember that time at____. Tell in your words, even point form type talking…what happened. I’m curious to hear the differences, and if there is a pattern I can see between what I am trying to describe to my therapist but don’t have an example…lol. I’m going on a presumption that you may respond similarly to how I would, or others.

    I can’t tell you how much this page is fantastic, and moving, and so very very vital to the knowledge and understanding of ASD in adults.

    1. I’ve always cringed at seeing myself on video and can’t stand the sound of my own voice when it’s recorded. But oddly, making this video was very . . . healing, I guess is a good way to describe it. I think it’s the first time I’ve allowed myself to be me on camera or any sort of recording and it feels much more authentic to me than when I’ve tried to be what I thought people expected.

      I don’t have synesthesia. The concepts are not in a specific place, but the one(s) that I’m thinking about a given time is very tangible, like it comes to the forefront of my mind. I do have a very strong sense of my thoughts and memories being stored in a web-like fashion, so that I often have to jump from point to point among similar concepts to get to the exact one that I want. That occasionally makes me sound like a walking thesaurus.

      The question about how typical of my speech these videos are is something I answered in detail in reply to someone else so I won’t repeat myself here. I think you’ll see it if you scroll up a bit – it’s one of the very long replies.

      I don’t think I know what you mean about the yes/no – recalling a memory type question. :-/

      1. Thank you for your response. In terms of the confusing question I asked -I guess I mean more of an abstract thinking question or open-ended question vs a question with a simple yes/no answer or something you can immediately relate to. I have trouble when someone asks me something like ” tell me how your experiences have shaped who you are…” On the outside (verbally) I have some sort of the same patterns and difficulties are really shown versus if someone asked me “when did you get your dog”. Not sure if this makes sense.

        1. Oh, I see. Thank you for clarifying. Questions like ” tell me how your experiences have shaped who you are…” absolutely kill me. I go completely blank. If I was doing a job interview or something that had these types of open ended questions, I would need to be highly scripted in advance to have an hope of getting through it with reasonably good answers.

          More direct questions . . . it depends. Like if you asked when did you get your dog, I would need to think about it because I have mild time agnosia. And instead of a date, my reply would be “right after we moved into our new house.” If you ask me what kind of dog she is, I’d reply with my script for that because she’s unusual looking and I get asked that a lot. if you ask me what she eats for breakfast, I’d answer pretty quickly. It really varies a lot depending on the question and who is asking it.

  31. I find I have the opposite problem. I can talk, adlib, and do improve very well, but it is so painful for me to write. My thoughts are almost gone before I can get them down on paper. I am so tied up with the physical part of writing that all my articulate thoughts are reduced to babble if they have to become the printed word. It seems if words just pour out when I open my mouth but trying to organize them coherently is hard for me mechanically. That’s why I much prefer a phone call vs an email or text. It takes me much less time to say so much more vocally than writing. It’s hard these days since everyone wants to email, text or tweet. I am kicking and screaming into the new century.

    I do some acting from time to time and find that it is difficult to follow a script word for word or give a speech from written text. However, if asked to speak “off the cuff” I am your go-to person. I too feel like my written and speaking words are in competion for the same time and space. Any one else have this problem? Or am I just wired backwards?

  32. I wrote this recently in an explanation letter to my boss of 18 years, in a request (which was granted) for sabbatical. It’s just an excerpt, since the other things are related to my particular job stresses. What I’d like to know is, is this just stress or is it an aspie stressed?
    “i have to admit that changing gears seems to be very much more of a burden to me than for most people. while i value my time alone, i have none. people wear me out, but i’m surrounded constantly. when i’m stressed, my coping abilities become non-existent. i cannot focus, cannot prioritize, cannot remember basics like old friends’ names and common phrases and why i just entered a room. i lose physical coordination and have trouble processing others’ words quickly. to complicate matters, my “quizzical” and “thinking” visage appears angry to others. i become primitive in speech, using simple construction and trying to get to the point as quickly as possible so i can devote all my very limited mental energy to processing all input again instead of trying to give output As Well. i process out loud, but i don’t have a sense of volume, so sometimes my thoughts sound like attempts at interaction, but too quiet to understand, and other times i yell without realizing it. all the while, important decisions are being made around me and i’m not hearing them.”

    1. That all sounds very much like aspie stress to me, especially the loss of coping abilities under stress, the difficulties with voice volume (and processing out loud without realizing) and the difficulty dealing with people.

  33. I find writing much easier to edit, and say things with meaning. It’s like my mouth has its own brain, that just happens to be connected to rest of me. I tend to speak a lot, but say stuff with little real meaning. I tend to think in pictures and metaphors, layered together over the years.
    Increasingly over the past few years, I’ve lost speech due to migraines. I use an AAC app when that happens, and my communication is far more thought-out and meaningful. Sometimes I wish I could communicate almost entirely through writing and AAC…but the others in my life barely accept what little I do use it.

    1. It’s interesting how much contrast there can be between our spoken communication and communication by other means. I’m sorry to hear that people in your life aren’t accepting of your alternative communication options, especially since you are more comfortable with them. I think people sometimes assume that because you “can” talk (at any time, regardless of how much that might vary in reality) then you should and end of story. :-/

      1. its funny cuz i am not an aspie’s and my friends and family are not aspie’s and they are terrible verbal communicators so I try writing long emails to express myself and they dont participate, so at least you are making effort to understand yourself and how you interact with others and what you and they both get out of it. The rest of the world isnt trying worth a heap and consequently they are not growing and not saying much worth saying. While verbal communication may be difficult for you, atleast you are communicating brilliantly in other ways and connecting with many people in the process. Maybe I need to just have all aspie friends lol

  34. This is a very interesting article and ties in with things I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, so thank you for sharing your experience and opening up discussion.

    You said in a reply to a comment that you were anxious doing the recording – it didn’t show at all. I’ve done a lot of presentations in university and am always terrified but get told I look confident and relaxed. I wonder if this is because of the vast experience of trying to “fake it” in uncomfortable or bewildering situations? Perhaps that’s a plus side we can enjoy. I took every opportunity to do presentations because I find them so hard, and practice along with asking for lots of feedback really does help. I don’t think it got any better on an automatic level, but I learned tricks and techniques to make it work. The hardest part is answering questions quickly enough so it’s fortunate I tend to get obsessed with the subject I study. I suspect there’s an element of priming that makes it easier to talk about an obsession – priming to find the information more easily.

    What I really wanted to comment on is the idea of translating thoughts into words. I always used to say I didn’t think visually at all and only think in words. In the last few months I’m starting to suspect I think in non-verbal ways at lot then translate that into words. It’s hard to describe because the picture or concept or what ever it is dissolves the moment I try to find words for it. Also when I see something I get a sort of commentary in my head that lags slightly behind the initial awareness. This can get stuck in a kind of loop repeating in. Y head and intend to say things out loud whether I should or not. I can remember this from early teenage, I can’t remember before that.

    In conversation I very often can’t find the correct words. Sometimes I’m aware if it, sometimes not. I say something wrong and the person responds in a surprising way because I didn’t communicate what I thought I had. It’s very hard to go back and explain/work out what’s wrong, and maintain the thread of the conversation. I get very frustrated and annoyed. I say things like “I meant X, forget the words I used”. But when listening to people I take the words at face value and apparently don’t get the context properly. I know it’s a double standard but I can’t seem to do any better. I had an ex who didn’t believe I had trouble saying things correctly and thought it was an excuse for being mean. I did wonder if I said unkind things and tricked myself into thinking I hadn’t. It’s easy to doubt yourself if people tell you you’re bad all the time. I find it hard to follow what another person is saying, and organise my side of the conversation simultaneously. It gets very confusing. But it’s more complex than that because I can chat happily for hours about certain subjects and familiar things. Some people are easier than others to talk to as well.

    That’s quite an essay so I’ll stop myself here, this is such a huge and emotive subject. Thank you very much for putting yourself out there. Once again you help me find ways to think about my own experience and feel like I’m not alone.

    Oh nearly forgot- In answer to your question I thought you expressed yourself well in speech. It wasn’t as neat as your writing but the content was there and edited writing may not have captured that difference so well. I think it was slower paced. But I’m told my speaking is often full of pauses and not very fluent so I’m probably not the best judge. My mind wandered a lot during the videos, thinking about what you were saying but I have no idea if that was due to your difference in talking to writing, or my difference in listening to reading! It was interesting and helpful to me.

    1. “In the last few months I’m starting to suspect I think in non-verbal ways at lot then translate that into words. It’s hard to describe because the picture or concept or what ever it is dissolves the moment I try to find words for it.”

      This is very close to what I experience too. It’s hard to describe in words because it’s so intangibly feeling-based. I also experience the miscommunication that you talk about. At least in part, I think I assume that the other person knows things that I know but they actually don’t know. So I give an answer or say something and in reality they have only part of the information they need to interpret it correctly. And that’s probably why I find it easier to talk with people I know well because we have more of a common knowledge base and they can make the leaps more easily, without me having to explain a ton of background information.

      Thank you for the feedback on the video. I feel like my ability to convey content in speaking is so much less economical, but I guess in this context, the pauses and such illustrated my point as much the content of my words.

  35. Yes! You’ve shared this so eloquently, even if you don’t think so!

    Do you feel it’s almost like putting your concepts out into the world and having another person *actively* forming an opinion about them, without all the details laid out, while you are talking, that throws you off?

    I feel like written words are still in my head, I’m just putting them over there in a box, which happens to be a bit of paper / blog post etc, but when the words fall out and make sound they come alive in the world and there’s simply no time for my regular instinctive but unnoticeable stop-to-check mechanism to be activated, because a person there in front of you is taking the words in quick and fast, like pulling up an anchor or something (weird analogy, but you know what I mean), and you’re stumbling to get to the point or accurately convey what you want to because there’s this sense of urgency with verbal communication?

    Thanks so much for sharing, it feels fantastic to know that I’m not alone in this frustrating inability to shine as the confident and awesome person I know I am simply because I can’t express myself verbally. I have linked your post to this one of mine; I have just started my journey of realising I am an Aspie (at 32) and am at the point where I’m replaying everything from the past and reframing it (with relief I might add) as valid, normal behaviour for me.

    There is nothing wrong with me, I have just finally found my tribe and it feels great!

    Leonie xo

    http://thiswholesoul.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/i-think-i-might-be-aspie-part-1.html

    1. Thank you. I think I’m somewhat conscious of the other person forming an opinion based on my half-formed speech. Less so in casual conversation than when I tried to video blog. For me, what I write here carries a certain amount of responsibility – I want it to be as complete and accurate as possible. Doing that on video turned out to be impossible for me.

      But I see what you mean about the other person taking in the words and kind of making them their own before you’re even finished speaking. I suppose that’s the nature of verbal communication, that urge to parse things quickly and gain an understanding so we can respond.

      Welcome to the tribe! I’m off to read your post after I hit the reply button on this. I spent a couple of months reframing my entire life so I have an idea what you’re experiencing. It’s so validating to finally have an explanation, even if the process of looking back through everything is somewhat painful at times.

    2. I recognize this, the anxiety of another person already forming their opinion, while I haven’t yet laid all the facts on the table, and I might not even manage to, because I get sidetracked halfway. Another reason why writing is better, you can first make sure you have put everything down properly and in the right, most understandable order and then give it to another to form opinions on.

      I read your post a bit and it sounds like we have a lot in common, and a lot of it sounds ASD. Welcome to the tribe! 🙂

  36. I could totally relate to what you were saying! It made complete sense to me and helped me understand myself as well as my son. I have always said I can write very well but speaking what I write very well about never works out for me! And people usually cut me off or look at me like what I just said was terrible. I appreciate the fact that you did this video blog (in which by the way you did very well) and shared it with us as you helped me understand more about this!

  37. Wow! I just found your blog this afternoon. For a few months, I’ve been practicing trying to make a public speech. That’s because one of the classes in my degree program requires it. Not only that – your entire presentation can’t last more than 7 minutes. What I’ve discovered is that my speech has the same cadence as what you showed in the video. There are bursts of words, plus pauses, and it gets frustrating. How many people will ever have that type of experience (either to live it, or even to empathize with the difficulties you are describing)?

    (Off topic) I thought all of the ASD diagnoses were supposed to be less common in women? On YouTube, and in the comments section, I can remember seeing more females than men posting videos or leaving comments.

  38. I have a very similar thing happen to me. I’m not sure if your experience is an exact match or just sounds similar, so I’d be curious if I could get you to try some things and see if it’s something that might be wider in the Aspie community or maybe is just my quirk.

    I can’t speak and think at the same time. My constant stream of thoughts is quite literally cut off when I talk – I can be carrying on exactly as I am now with the voice in my head talking in a single stream, and choose arbitrarily a point to open my mouth and say words – and instantly, the voice in my head stops. No more internal narration. Just blankness.

    Doesn’t matter if it’s just myself sitting alone in a dark room, talking to no-one. Still happens.

    I’ve been experimenting with it to find a way around it – since it’s a pretty significant freaking hang up.

    I’ve noticed that I can mouth words, move my lips but not make audible sound and my thoughts sort of keep going. They slow but aren’t completely stopped. The moment I make noise though, I get to the end of a sentence and listen for my next words, the next thoughts in my head, and there’s complete silence. Nothing there. It’s eerie.

    I wanted to know if it was my thoughts being affected by my throat or my ears. Basically to get into a relaxed state where I’m thinking along happily and deliberately get someone to speak and see if it was possible to think during it. I know from being a teenager having arguments where I listened silently as I got told off that I can have plenty of thoughts I don’t say amidst someone else’s speech – replies to their comments that I never give – but I can’t recall if I could think things during someone else speaking or if it was cut off and I had to work around their talking.

    Unfortunately I don’t have anyone I can ask to do this with me at the moment. So I guess I was wondering if your experience of making vocalizations interrupts your thoughts in the same way, in which case you could test it for me.

    Or possibly the almost physical barrier you’re talking about is a different one entirely to mine. It’s hard to tell with these things. They’re so personal no-one ever speaks about them.

    Also I had this page loaded for too long and it wouldn’t let me post this, so I’ve been hitting back and forward getting my comment to re-load so I could type it up in a different screen and c&p it. For some reason it wouldn’t just let me highlight and copy what I’d written, although it didn’t delete the words.

    So if you have like 19 copies of this comment, that is why, and please god feel free to delete them because there’s nothing quite like posting the same thing seventeen times to let you know just how socially inept you are.

    1. Sorry you had so much trouble with commenting. Sometimes WordPress is uncooperative it seems.

      I’m having a lot of difficulty with receptive language the past few days so I’m not sure if I’m getting the gist of your question but I’ll take a stab at an answer. I don’t see any correlation between thinking and listening. I can completely tune out another person in favor for my thoughts if I’m deeply engaged in thinking about something. But I can also go totally blank in response to someone asking a question or telling me something. Usually, it’s somewhere between the two. It’s situational for me, rather than a universal response to another person talking. I hope that helps some.

  39. So illuminating and interesting.
    First to give feedback and I think you already know this- to the nonASD viewer, you working with the playdo is soooo distracting. I missed most of what you were saying in the first video because the playing was so intense. I don’t know if you were uneasy, but I translated it into you being uncomfortable and I almost stopped the video because I couldn,’t handle letting you put yourself through that level of scrutiny. I’m not sure that is the best word. But when I watched it I felt pain- mostly pain from you that was then causing pain for me.

    Back to the video, I think you should keep doing them. I got the message loud and clear, talking is hard! So in my eye, it was an effective video blog.
    More to say but getting tired of typing on my phone!

    I’ m not exactly neurotypical though, so this may not be what others feel. I’ve mentioned before that I have ADD. I do what you do verbally- such as searching for that right word, but I also do it when I write. I find the writing more frustrating because I’m impatient and need to get it done quickly and I can’t because the word does not come out.It is like it is sitting behind a wall. I can feel it but I can’t see it or free it to flow down into my thought. Its like brain constipation!
    The solution that I have come up with, which drives people nuts sometimes, is I’ve learned to talk fast, so if you are lucky enough to keep up with me, my message will be heard. It is also how I control the ADD. with ADD your brain is like a subway station with many thought zooming by at wharp speed. By verbalizing the thought I remove it so that I can locate the one I really want, the most effective one.

  40. I think for me the problem is that I process my thoughts as auditory information, even when not thinking out loud (thought there have been times as a child where apparently I was actually saying them without realising, causing lots of awkwardness!). For me, to physically make speaking-noise overrides the ‘noise’ in my head and leaves very little room for thought; somewhat like trying to hold one conversation when a louder conversation is being had next to you.

    *I am quite easily overloaded by auditory input, which might be a factor in/from this

  41. I think there would be a lot I would want to say about this, such as, I almost feel like when I’m talking, I’m talking over the voice in my head so it’s like a train that is zooming along merrily, exploring all the twists and turns and picking up thoughts along the way and letting them run along the inside of the train and getting off happily at a different station if they don’t fit, but when I speak, it’s like another train crashing into the side of the first one, a train that doesn’t go anywhere after the crash but just crashes constantly along the sides and pushes the first train off and over and into nothingness and I keep having to stop just so I can pick the first train up, every part of it, all the carriages hanging and smooth them into place again, each one and make sure the wheels are all on the track only to have it be crashed off again when I start to speak. That’s a long sentence. I wasn’t going to write all that but I warmed to my theme.

    What I really wanted to ask, though, is what is that squishy thing in your hands? It looks awesome and I would like one. Also, you have a nice smile at the end; it made me feel like I like you, as silly as that may sound.

    1. A few other people mentioned similar things about the conflict between talking out loud and train of thought. I definitely have a similar experience where it feels like speaking competes with thinking and I have to choose between the two to do them effectively.

      The blue thing is Thinking Putty. I got it from ThinkGeek. A bit expensive but it was my Christmas gift to myself. A few packages of regular old Silly Putty would have a similar effect if you’re looking for something less pricey.

  42. I was also thinking (you’ve started me off!) that when you said you think in concepts, that resonated with me. I don’t know if I see it the same way as you do, but when you said it, I started to think, yeah, I think in concepts in that, I almost think in a mind map or a branch. As if the central thought is in the middle and the other parts are shooting off, all of its connections and meanings, all connected to make a whole branch of thought that you can see all at once and keep adding to and it’s supremely difficult to take that branch and all its connections and transform it to spoken words because spoken words are linear.

    With writing, you can write one part and then a different part and then the end and finish with the beginning if you want to, and fiddle with the layout later. But with speaking, you have to start at the beginning and keep going with no alterations because the people listening might think you’re backtracking and being dishonest.

    I think I always think that people can see the whole branch and its connections as I’m speaking, so they realise that I’m starting on one twig and we’re going to go up and down the branch and explore each connection as it comes while still seeing the whole, rather than, actually, they can only hear the linear words coming out of my mouth, one at a time and that’s it.

    1. It’s interesting that you bring up dishonesty. I hadn’t explicitly considered that but it’s true, people do sometimes perceive dishonesty if you keep backtracking and saying the same thing in slightly different ways or adding in more details as you remember them.

      I love your description of speech as a branch and how you start with one twig and travel around the tree. That’s quite similar to how I approach writing and probably why my writing and speaking abilities are so different.

  43. For me, when I think, I’m actually “talking” silently in my head, so I can think and write at the same time, because I’m just taking notes on what I’m saying to myself in my head. It’s like taking notes in a lecture, sort of. If I’m talking, it’s harder because I have to say the words out loud while saying them in my head at the same time. It’s kind of like playing a game of telephone with the voice in my head and the people I’m talking to. That means I need to think it, pause the thinking voice, say the thing, and then think the next thing.

  44. You sound just like me in that video! Pauses, rising inflections, the whole thing. Like a lot of others have said, it’s the speech ability I go to when I’m handing a difficult subject, either stressful or hard to put into words, or sometimes with people I don’t know well. I have gone what I think of as one level less articulate, speech wise, where it’s much more halting, thoughts are very fragmented, and my hands are involved a LOT more. My personal language in my head is made up of pictures, music, math, general senses of things, analogies and pop culture references, and words in whatever language seems right at the time. It is unbelievably hard to translate all of that into spoken English!

    One thing I particularly related to was the idea that when you’re talking, it’s much harder to go back and pick up a thread and you can’t see the landscape of what you’ve said. I actually lit on a really nice analogy last week that I think you might appreciate: When you’re expressing things like fractals or Fibonacci numbers, a number system that builds on itself and branches, you can see it like a tree, starting at one and branching out, each branch splitting into two at some point. That’s how I feel when I talk, except I start near the top of the tree and try to work my way down to the trunk, the point, and along the way I get distracted by other branches, and more branches, and I keep getting distracted and following things and trying to find my way back to where I was. But the same kind of thing can also be expressed as the Golden Ratio, or Golden Spiral: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fibonacci_spiral_34.svg where the same things that would normally be branching off of each other are laid out in an expanding rectangle, and a spiral can be traced through it that will hit each smaller rectangle. When I write my ideas out, I can resolve threads and arrange everything in a way that makes sense. It might take a really long time, but being able to follow the spiral through the whole idea is worth it!

    I may have gotten some small technical things wrong in there, but please bear with me, recreational math is a new Special Interest! And the basic idea still holds up even if I got a name wrong. I love your blog — I’m new-ish to the idea of being on the spectrum and I’m working on getting a diagnosis, and so much of what you write rings true with me. I’ve been collecting a list of my own ideas to hopefully start a blog myself soon.

    1. Your tree analogy makes sense to me. I’ve always thought of writing as being similar to sculpting–starting with a chunk of something and refining it further and further until it arrives at a shape that feels “right” to me. But I think that’s a similar concept to the one you describe.

  45. Thank you so much for these two videos! Wow… within seconds of watching the first one I squealed because holy crap! I’m not alone! I’m not a weirdo! This is actually a thing that other people experience and it’s my brain wiring and not just me being a jackass who can’t speak well! “When I’m talking it’s like I can’t see behind me or in front of me” THAT’S EXACTLY IT. “It occupies so much of my brain that I feel like there are going to be a lot of gaps if I try to present the topic by talking” YUP. And listening to you speak in these videos is the same as my speech pattern. Lots of gaps of silence, and then a string of great information, but then trying to figure out what exactly I mean, and back tracking, and gaps, and then clear information. I started “stimming” at first because I was so excited, and then I just started bawling my eyes out haha…. it’s cathartic to know this isn’t unique to me. This will also help me moving forward explain this to people, and I recently went back to school to finish my BA and it is so good to have this information to explain to professors who hopefully will be understanding and accommodating.

    1. Your comment made me so happy because you seem to really get it.

      I’m not sure what field you’re doing your BA in, but I found some departments to be much more open to neurodivergence than others. I majored in Econ (very neurodiverse, including the professors) and minored in Business Management (not very nuerodiverse, lots of emphasis on normative communication which I fail at and had to fake my way through to get decent grades). I also really struggled with sociology classes because I seemed to always have the “wrong” answer but I have a friend who did an MS in social work (her lifelong career) and excels in that area. I loved math classes because I had great teachers who encouraged creativity and though I was terrible at Intro to Architecture (elective) I think I got a pity A because I tried so hard and the professor insisted that he could teach anyone to draw (though he might have since revised that opinion 🙂 ). At any rate, good luck with the BA!

      1. Thanks! I’m actually going to be majoring in communications, hahaha. But in mass media/media production which is writing/behind the camera not speech-based Right now I’m mostly just fulfilling gen ed requirements and it’s interesting to see how I fair in each class depending on the subject, the professor, and how it’s presented. (I’ve learned I’m terrible with online classes, I need the motivation of being in a classroom to do academic work.)

  46. I do this too and lately I have become more aware of it. It bothers me because I am smart and I have a clear picture in my head of what I want to say but when it comes to expressing it I lose my train of thought, thoughts that I do have come out disjointed, I cut sentences off. My speech doesn’t flow. I am up frustrated because people don’t understand what I have such a clear picture of in my head. My sister also does this. She also has a hard time reading in front of people. You can’t even understand her when she reads aloud. I am also better at writing.

  47. Reblogged this on My Everyday Life and commented:
    This is a good article about how it’s hard to talk. I also tend to have more trouble talking versus writing, sometimes for the same reasons, other times for different reasons.

  48. It can be really hard, sometimes, to put thoughts into verbal form in a concise and precise way, and it’s even harder when there’s a thousand or more thoughts happening all at once.

  49. Thank you SO much for putting these videos out. After spending some time googling, I stumbled on this page and I am so relieved. Relieved because you have described exactly what goes on in my head whenever I try to tell a story to a friend, I try to explain a concept, I try to articulate an idea or a vision.. The worst happens when I go into an interview and I have these long pauses where so much is happening in my head, and at the same time “nothing is happening”. Then I get flustered and end up talking nonsense and the interviewer looks at me questioningly and waiting for me to elaborate.

    Have you found tricks to overcoming this?

  50. Hi again! Sorry I’m just really stressed out and dont know what to do. So I’m an aspie mom with a 10 and a half month old. Remember your “you can do something about that” article? Well, i have no idea how I’m supposed to recognize my feelings or even work at recognizing my feelings when they come to me when i have this ever constant and demanding baby that takes up all of my focus. Like u know how hard talking is, because of all the mental energy it requires, well how did u survive having a baby? Lol! It used to be that when my son was crying and or fussy i could soothe him and now he’s just inconsolable…….so I’m really lost. I say this light heartedly but honestly-trying to identify my emotional feelings as they come to me when i have this demanding pre toddler is really impossible. And my partner also has aspergers so its not like that fact makes anything less stressful. And funny enough, it was only two months ago that we fully learned all the struggles that came with our disabilities. We’ve known about our aspergers for years bit didnt know what the symptoms entailed unfortunately. So now we’re both just feeling in the dark, we start therapy in two days but learning and trying to cope when u have a baby is really hard

    1. Allie,
      I am not a parent, so I can only imagine how challenging this is for you and your partner. I don’t have any advice to give, but am wondering if since your child has 2 parents on the spectrum, maybe he has sensory issues himself. Might swaddling or something similar be beneficial?

  51. Wow, just … I’ve got the same issue with trying to express my thoughts out loud even though I am pretty good at writing them down. I frequently feel like I know the facts, it’s there in my head but when I talk I ramble and use the wrong words and get the strong impression that the person I am talking to is not understanding the thing that I meant to say. I’m not aspie (as far as I know) but you have really given me something to think about.

  52. THIS IS 100% ME AS WELL!! Talking vs writting, the physical barrier sensation, the feeling of gaps if spoken vs written, the inability to go fowrard/backward when speaking simply being stuck and frustrated. The brain as concepts and having to translate that to words that are nearby. Having to go through 5-6 words near it to find the correctly intended one. That is EXACTLY how I experience this too! The having a response later but struggling verbally in the moment and accidentally communicating nonsense or being off track and physically having a derailment vs written where I fuction incredibly well. Getting over the self conscious and yet still finally realizing its just like… a thing. A physical barrier thing. I totally know exaclty what you mean. So frustrating!! I thought this was just me. Thank you for posting this!! I feel far less alone and strange now!

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