outofstep

Chronologically Out of Step

When our daughter Jess was little, her dad and I used to take her to see a lot of animated movies. Jess and I really enjoyed them, but The Scientist often dozed off twenty minutes into the film. He slept through Toy Story and Shrek and Monsters Inc. before we all decided that a better plan was to split up when we went to the movies. That way he was free to see the latest action movie while Jess and I watched the newest offering from Pixar or Disney.

The Incredibles, Cars, innumerable sequels in the Monsters, Toy Story and Shrek series. Nightmare Before Christmas. Brave. WALL-E. Coraline. Up. Paranorman . . . Actually, I saw quite a few of those by myself. Jess is all grown up now and The Scientist still isn’t a big fan of kid’s movies. To be fair he stayed awake for the entire Lego Movie and thoroughly enjoyed Big Hero 6, but he wouldn’t have gone to see either if I hadn’t suggested it.

I imagine quite a few adults would consider my interest in animated movies that are mostly marketed to children to be childish. It certainly hasn’t escaped my notice that most of the other adults in the theater are there to chaperone children.

I’m not sure what it is about animated movies that I enjoy so much. Maybe it’s a sense of nostalgia, dating back to the time when I was a young parent and the excitement that we shared as a family going to a new movie. Maybe it’s the sly humor that the writers build in for the adults in the audience alongside the simple feel-good themes that most of the movies have. I’ve even seen it suggested that many of us gravitate toward animation because the exaggerated facial expressions are easy to decipher.

Maybe I just really like animated movies.

Whatever the underlying reason, it’s hard to escape the sense that my enjoyment of the movies is somewhat age inappropriate. I don’t know a lot of other middle-aged women who were as excited as I was about the Lego movie. I do know better than to blurt out “How about that Lego movie?” when talking with most other women my age.

Fortunately not all of my tastes in media run toward children’s programming. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Netflix created a recommendation category for me titled “Dramas with Large Ensemble Casts and Lots of Cursing.” That gives me sufficient fodder for dinner party conversation when the subject turns to movies and TV.

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Age Appropriate

The concept of “age appropriate” has been one that’s always haunted me. In elementary school, from about fourth grade, I began to get the sense that most of my peers seemed to somehow older than me. As if they knew something I didn’t.

By the time I got to middle school, that vague sense of being “behind” widened into a very obvious maturity gap. Many of the other girls in my class were developing an interest in dating and fashion and other things that marked a critical right of passage, and in which I had little intrinsic interest. In high school, most of my peers spent the school week looking forward to a weekend of drinking, partying, dating, football games and dances. Again I felt left out, having barely caught up with the concept of dating.

My interests ran more toward listening to music, reading, riding my bike, and shooting baskets in the driveway. At least the ones that I would publicly admit to. I also had a huge fascination with the TV show M*A*S*H and still liked to pull out my collections of baseball cards, stamps, and coins. Occasionally I pulled out my model train set or my Matchbox cars and Barbies were still in my closet. My bed was home to as many stuffed animals as it could hold and I still had a well-worn baseball mitt that I’d gotten in fourth grade.

Instinctively, I knew that there were things that it was “okay” for a teenaged girl to be interested in and interests that were best kept to myself. Sometimes the appropriateness of an interest hinged on gender stereotypes, but just as often it was related to age, either in the sense of something being “too childish” (or sometimes “too adult”) for the age that I currently was.

I spent a lot of years assuming that I would simply catch up with my peers, that I would develop an interest in partying and chasing boys at football games and gossiping on the phone for hours after school each night. When I graduated, without that ever having materialized, I somehow went right on assuming that I would catch up with the adults that I saw around me who invariably seemed much more adult to me than I seemed to myself.

I’m sure this is a typical reaction of many young people as they make the transition into adulthood in their early twenties, however I was still thinking this in my late thirties and early forties. After being diagnosed with Aspergers, I finally realized that there would be no magical catching up with my peers. I was simply different and that was okay.

By Whose Milestones?

The really interesting aspect of this to me, is that while autism is commonly referred to as a developmental delay, no one ever explicitly told me that I was “delayed.” Many years spent comparing myself to my typical peers and seeing the obvious differences had somehow caused me to assume that I was just a few steps behind them.

It’s not surprising to me that many parents look at their autistic children and make the same assumption, often with the encouragement of doctors, teachers, and other professionals in their children’s lives. And in the same way that I passed many years simply assuming that I would catch up, I think many parents spend years operating under the assumption that the goal of their children’s education should be to “catch them up” to their typical peers rather than to equip them in ways that are practical and useful for the child.

Ariane Zurcher recently wrote a blog post about how focusing on the belief that her daughter Emma was developmentally delayed caused her to pursue therapies that in the end she felt were not helpful to Emma. Here’s a quote from that post (emphasis is mine):

“for us it meant constantly comparing our daughter to her non autistic peers (using their development, and not hers, as the ideal).  It meant pursuing all kinds of therapies that never questioned the push for spoken language.  It meant not considering AAC devices, because she “had language.”  It meant encouraging my daughter to “use your words.”  It meant asking her to focus on things that made it impossible for her to concentrate on what was being taught.  It meant looking at her through the lens of deficits, so much so that they became blinders shutting out everything else.”

Ariane’s words hint at the danger that lurks in the idea that autistic kids need more than anything to catch up to their nonautistic peers. The emphasis, when working from that assumption, is on getting the child to do things in a way that may not be the best possible way–or even possible at all–for them.

A straightforward and common example is speech. Here are some standard developmental milestones for speech and language:

  • by 3 months: makes eye contact
  • by 6 months: imitates sounds and facial expressions
  • by 12 months: says 1 or 2 words
  • by 21 months: uses at least 50 words, names objects
  • by 24 months: begins to use 2 word phrases, uses simple pronouns
  • by 36 months: asks simple questions

If an autistic child isn’t making eye contact, smiling when smiled at, or saying a couple of words by 18 months, it’s very natural for their parents to look at the other toddlers who are doing all of these things and assume that their child needs professional intervention to help them catch up with their peers.

However, autistic language development varies greatly from the developmental norms. Some autistic people speak early, some at a typical age, others at a later-than-average age and some not at all. Some of us use speech for simple interactions and text or other means for more complex interactions, while others use AAC for all communication. Some of us never reach typical milestones and other leap over milestones at an atypical age.

We are each literally our own developmental milestone chart and to compare an autistic person’s language development to their peers–autistic or not–is both unfair and counterproductive.

The typical developmental milestones are useful as a diagnostic aid, but beyond that they are simply a distraction. Rather than focusing on meeting a set of speech milestones, the emphasis should be on finding communication methods that work reliably for the individual autistic person.

The Fallacy of Mental Age

Another potential pitfall of the developmental delay paradigm is that it leads to the assumption of “mental age” in those individuals who don’t meet developmental milestones on the expected schedule.

If a child is mostly nonspeaking until the age of 5, echolalic for several years after that, and begins to use short phrases at 12, some people will make the assumption that the child not only has the language abilities “of a 2-year-old” but also the thought processes and cognitive abilities of a 2-year-old. As many parents of children who began speaking at a later age can tell you, that’s far from true.

A person who is echolalic at 7-years-old, speaks in short phrases at 12 and uses some sentences at 22 isn’t simply delayed. They have a completely different communication ability than their peers. It’s entirely possible that they’ve been capable of typing in full sentences for a decade or more before they used any sentences verbally. Perhaps not, but unless they’re given the chance to learn to use a variety of communication tools other than speech, no one will know for sure.

Chronologically Out of Step

The inspiration for this post was in part a Facebook discussion that Ariane initiated prior to the post I linked to above and in part some comments on the Intersection of Gender and Autism posts here.

I was struck by how many of us had a sense that we were somehow lagging behind our peers when we were younger or how we still had interests that might be considered age inappropriate by people given to making such judgments. In each of these comments, there was a hint (or more) of embarrassment around these interests.

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That got me thinking about all of the ways that I’ve felt chronologically out of step over the years and, more importantly, why. As always, the what of it is fairly easy to quantify, but the why is trickier.

Sometimes the sense that I was lagging behind was tied to not wanting to give up a special interest or to returning to a “childish” special interest for comfort. My love of animated movies and the giant stuffed dog that resides on my couch are a couple of innocuous present-day examples.

Other times, particularly around adolescence, I think missing out on big chunks of social cues and being mostly oblivious to certain types of peer pressure contributed to my sense that I was socially and emotionally younger than my peers. I suspect most kids didn’t necessarily want to start dating in middle school, but they knew that socially it was important to show that they did. It made them seem mature or cool or whatever it was that meant fitting in. Which, incidentally, was exactly the thing I could never seem to intuit and obviously still can’t quite pin down.

Most likely, there were girls who made fun of me in middle school and high school for being so out of step with what was expected but I was mostly too clueless to notice if anyone was whispering about me behind my back. And really, when you have people who will outright tell you that you’re a dork to your face, there isn’t much point in searching for more bad news.

These things, combined with the ever-present sense that I was different from most other kids left, me always feeling the need to catch up but never quite knowing how to do that.

Which brings me to an interesting point that Anna raised in the comments: there is a difference between throwing out the concept of a delay and throwing out all hope of a person learning new skills. She specifically mentioned that as a child, she was left to her own devices a lot and not really pushed to learn organizational or social skills or to further her interests in new ways. She pointed out the value of a “golden middle way” in respecting differences while helping children develop the sort of executive function skills and understanding of the social world that will smooth the road for them a bit as adults.

When Frogs Fly

Finally, it’s important for parents and others who work with autistic kids to understand the difference between, for example, understanding the social world and having neurotypical social skills. The former is achievable to some degree for many of us on the spectrum; the latter not so much.

For example, my social skills are not and never will be those of a typical adult. I don’t have the social skills of a 14-year-old or a 20-year-old or a 30-year-old. It’s not as if I’m simply behind some imaginary developmental curve. My ability to read facial expressions and body language has been “stuck” at the basic level for decades. And I’m fine with that. I have coping mechanisms to make up for some of what I lack and the rest I’ve learned to live with. In the past, I’ve tried to learn how to read more subtle nonverbal communication and finally concluded that it’s not going to happen.

In fact, as I was talking about some preliminary ideas for this post with The Scientist, I told him that teaching me to make consistently natural-looking eye contact would be like teaching a frog to fly. No matter how many times you take the frog up on the roof and toss it off, it’s never going to sprout wings. And it doesn’t need to.

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A/N: While looking for photos to illustrated this post, I saw the gingerbread people photos and thought “ooh, cute!” and decided to use whimsical gingerbread people family portraits to illustrated my Very Serious Post because it felt delightfully age inappropriate. 

90 thoughts on “Chronologically Out of Step”

  1. I wish I could recognize and accept my developmental differences. I was diagnosed about 4 1/2 months ago – am 51 years old– no family. Just wanted to reach out to you. Thank you for posting your blog.

    Lisa

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    1. I’m glad you took the time to reach out. Processing a new diagnosis at a later age and getting to a point of acceptance can take a long time. Be gentle with yourself and take your time. I found that reading the blogs of other autistic adults and interacting with others online helps me to feel better about a lot of the things that I struggle with. Hopefully this will eventually be the case for you too.

  2. I found this on the Emma’s Hope Book FB, and adding you to my Feedly! This is what I tried to across at my 4 year old twins’ conferences last month, I am definitely sending this to everyone involved! Thank you!

  3. I LOVE this. I feel exactly the same way and did growing up. I hate the “fixing mentality” because it underestimates. However, I liked how you pointed out there is a “Golden Road” because we still have to teach our son a little bit of eye contact to get acceptance from others ( unfortunately) and also a few other skills that help him, but otherwise the acceptance and knowing that there is brilliance in any mind capacity helps so much with respect and parental anxiety…On a personal level, I still go to animated films and have many childish interests and gift ideas at christmas…and at 30 last year my mother suggested that she would no longer buy me stocking stuff ( my husband is not gifted that way and I loved it when she did it- it was the ONE thing about Christmas that was always a delightful surprised and she knows my interests so I was always super excited.) I felt so foolish but when she said that and said , “You are way to old now and have your own family.” and I asked if she was doing my 22 year old single sister and she said yes, I had to swallow my tears till I got home and bawled my eyes out to my husband. I felt ten and devastated. It took my months to get over that and I still do not love the idea…Especially because deep down I knew that I still need that magic at christmas…and my sister doesn’t really…and she is almost a decade younger. IT felt a little devastating on so many levels…especially the one level of “you are way too old” I didn’t feel too old. In fact, I feel younger now than I did at 22 with young kids- back then I felt ancient. Now I just feel very young at heart and soul….even body at times…So I get this and thank you so much for writing!

    1. For the eye contact, a therapist just gave me a hint – while I usually fake by flitting between eyebrows and lashes and possibly the rim of glasses, simply looking at the spot right between the eyes – or a bit above – works great, too, for faking it on those days you really can’t do eye contact. She, funnily enough, learned that in a self-defense class.

      1. I can fake eye contact okay in terms of looking at the person, but I often don’t remember unless I prep myself going into a situation and then really concentrate on doing it the whole time. And then I worry about the whole is this too much, too long, not long enough, not frequent enough, etc. It feels like there’s a fine line between faking eye contact convincingly and coming across as a super intense potential mass murderer type. 😀

        1. Oh this.

          I err on the side of too much eye contact which gets me some odd comments sometimes…but I also like looking at eyes like I look at flowers or butterflies. They’re pretty… but it’s not the same as eye contact. I’m just staring. Not quite “super intense mass mass murderer type,” but definitely walking the line between eccentric and lunatic. 🙂

      2. Heh, I was in high school before I realized that phrases about looking someone in the eye were more than just a figure of speech.

        I also have some auditory processing issues, so I have always naturally looked people in the mouth (apparently instinctively trying to combine lip reading with the auditory input), and that seems to appear like eye contact to most people. Plus I wear pretty thick glasses (despite being nearsighted) so it’s hard for people to even tell where my eyes are pointing, which helps also.

    2. Awww, I hear you about the stockings! In addition to the presents under the tree I have always had a couple of “Santa” presents, and stockings for each one of our kids, and a stocking each for my husband and I. All of our kids are adults now, 21,28,37 – and I will be doing stockings for them until they tell me to stop. I enjoy finding those special things to put into the stockings. Sometimes they are fun and silly things, like an “As Seen On TV” gadget, often a pair of earrings, or some cologne. Always some chocolate and a candy cane. We even included my husbands mom in the fun, right up to the time she passed when she was 97. She loved it and was as much a kid at heart as everyone else.

      Does your mom understand how special your stocking is to you? That it’s about the special care that you feel? I heard that so clearly in your post.

      Your never too old to love the mystery and magic of Christmas! You shared that your husband is not gifted in that way. Mine did not start out that way either. When we met all those years ago I already had a daughter (he was a bachelor) and stockings and the like were a part of my tradition with my daughter. I introduced him to stockings for all of us, and santa gifts as well as presents under the tree. Our stockings compared to the kids are more simple, but none the less fun. I pay attention to the things he admires during the year (that will fit in a stocking) and his favorite candy and that is what makes it into his stocking. It’s usually just a couple of things each, along with the candy, yet it’s part of the magic of Christmas. It’s the first thing the kids get to open and explore, and likewise what we will explore while we are still in our PJ’s. Maybe you can start your own kind of stocking tradition?

      Thanks for sharing about your Christmas Magic! ❤

    3. Oh my gosh, this made me so sad for you. 😦 That must have been so hard to hear from your mom. Nellie said pretty much everything I was thinking so I won’t repeat her wonderful words but I do hope that eventually you’re able to find a new tradition to share with your family that will evoke some of that same magic for you.

      I know what you mean about feeling young at heart. I’ve often felt like a weird combination of much older and much younger than my actual age.

  4. What a timely piece.
    This is something I can totally relate to. When I was growing up, my mental age must have seemed all over the place. I could converse with adults on their level very early on (I was reading on a college level in elementary school), but still loved my toys with a deep abiding passion. Even now, I still have “hobbies” that many consider somewhat odd. Though many adults like to build models, for instance, I prefer to keep them simple. I also love toy trains, or model trains of the sort I knew as a child. I build model rockets. I have been known to pick up a model from time to time and play with it. And if I had the money, I’d buy a lot more LEGO’s.
    Growing up for me was hard as well. Around the time I was in junior high, I was completely missing the social cues my peers took for granted. Me and my best friend chose to do our own thing, which meant playing with our model airplanes and such. Sure, we were becoming interested in girls, but we found all the trash talk of our peers to be just that, trash. In short, we were really in no hurry.
    And I wish now I could go back and tell my younger self that it was okay. After all, it was only very recently I was diagnosed with having ASD, well into my middle age years.
    I just wish I had known sooner.

    1. My childhood was very similar to what you describe. Very advanced on a literary/vocabulary level, I felt I was terribly mature and superior to my peers. Yet my social graces always made me look very immature. It was at least as confusing to me as it was to everyone else. Wish there had been more knowledge and understanding about ASD at that time. Still working on forgiving myself for being such an embarrassment to my family.

      1. Aww, what a hard feeling to have to process. Our families can make things seem like our responsibility that really aren’t. I’m sure you were doing the best you could with the tools you had to work with. 😦

      2. Yeah, it’s weird – you just read some book about and want to discuss the topic … but can’t find anyone willing to talk about anything like that on your primary school playground.

        You were not an embarassment, I am sure of that, if it is any consolation. If you’d like, have some hugs. As an alternative, I can offer waffles.

    2. I was lucky that I too had a best friend in middle and high school who was happy much of the time for the two of us to do our own thing. Though she was a lot more social and involved in some school activities like sports, so when she was off doing those things I was often on my own.

      I know what you mean about wishing to go back and tell your younger self that it was okay. After my diagnosis, I feel like I mentally and emotionally spent a lot of time doing this in my head. It was surprisingly helpful in healing those old wounds. But yes, knowing sooner would have been good, I think.

  5. One thing that has been super nice for our family is that my development – more similar to yours than “typical,” though with very different interests (sports? aaaaaaaack! tripping over own feet just thinking about it!) — was much like my son’s IS, so we are able to have a kinship and less feeling like a “weirdo” for him.

    NOT that we don’t love weirdos!

    But in Middle School…

    Love,

  6. This post resonates with me yet again. My younger sister used to taunt me with “immature baby” when I was about 11 years old. It drove me crazy because everything I was doing was things I enjoyed, and for a younger sister to tell you you’re immature hurts very deeply. Of course, once she found out it affected me so deeply, she may have said that just to hurt me as much as possible (my sister and I have a love-hate relationship). When I moved away from home to go to university, I definitely didn’t act like other 18 year olds. I bought animal toques and wore them with pride, and at 23 I still have elephant mittens. I’d given up trying to fit in by about grade 10 because the stress of doing so was too much to handle on top of everything else. I think perhaps the best thing I’ve learned since is if I just go ahead and do whatever I want, even though the average 23 year old stays far away, I’m happier and I make friends who have similar interests as well. It’s better for me to be accepted as I am, not what people want me to be. As far as communication, I think I’m fairly “normal”, but I’m noticing recently that while I can read expressions usually, if it doesn’t match a tone of voice or a given situation, I’m lost, so perhaps I’m not as developed in communication as I thought.

    1. Ouch, that has to hurt coming from a younger sibling. You know, when I was watching some old family movies, I noticed that when my sister was around 4 and I was around 8 I was looking to her for social cues and basically following her lead around strangers, which I think speaks to the huge gap in social skills and learning nonverbal cues that we experience.

      Um, I don’t think elephant mittens are strange at 23 . . . my winter hat is one that I found in the boy’s section with a tassle on top and ear flaps with long braided ties. And, you know, I’m nearly 46. 🙂

      I’m happier and I make friends who have similar interests as well. It’s better for me to be accepted as I am, not what people want me to be.

      Yes! It’s so much nicer to make friends who are accepting/similar in nature than to feel like you have to constantly monitor yourself to fit in with people.

      I’ve realized that I’m hugely dependent on tone of voice to supplement or even replace the information conveyed by expressions. The better I know someone, the more data I can gather from their voice, up to the point that when my daughter calls, I can tell almost instantly what mood she’s in and what sort of reason she’s calling for. Which is actually a handy skill!

  7. I am 20 years old and I get a panic attack if I imagine something happening to my stuffed animals, whom I cuddle and talk to regularly (and sometimes use for emotional expression)
    I can sing “Let it go” by heart – not to mention a pile of other Disney songs.
    There is a pile of children’s books here that I love – and they sit right next to books aimed at adults or young adults, and some of them I have owned since I was about eight.
    Most of the playstation games I have are aimed at younger people – I am going to get “Kingdom Hearts – Chain of Memories” soonish.

    None of that means I am “developmentally delayed.”

    None of that changes the fact that I am an adult woman – or a sexual being (as some assume based on my interests).

    Coming to that conclusion was awesome … the way there? Not so much …

    1. None of that changes the fact that I am an adult woman – or a sexual being (as some assume based on my interests).

      This is a great point! I think a lot of autistic or otherwise disabled people are automatically assumed to be nonsexual beings based on atypical interests or communication styles. I wish this was addressed more often and more openly because it’s important for people and especially for parents to be aware of.

      Coming to that conclusion was awesome … the way there? Not so much …

      Yes to both of these! 🙂

      1. Yes, that is very, very important!

        Which might be a reason why so many autistic people (only have other people’s words for this, though, haven’t seen studies) tend to lean into the direction of polyamory, or BDSM, or both – anything that is already considered atypical, because people involved in those lifestyles are usually much more tolerant of a pile of things – for the simple reason they know what it’s like to be judged for who they are.

        You think of the parents. which is a good point – but I was thinking of the prospective lovers.

        I mean, I get it, sometimes – Someone with a pile of plushed animals, or a love for children’s toys, gives some people the “Would touching this somewhat childish person make me some kind of pedophile?”-vibe.

        The problem here is that we learn to associate being diabled with being “younger” because we get descriptions like “his social skills are at the level of an eight-year-old”, and there are some disabled people who are really not capable of consent -how should a person who so far has had no contact with disabled people whatsoever be able to judge if the person he is talking to is capable of making informed decisions on sex?

  8. I love the ginger people! They are awesome. They made me smile as soon as I saw them and I think they are a great pick for this post.

    I’m right there with you on many of the things you mentioned.

    In the too adult department I had a fascination with understanding the human body, particularly mine and I remember going to the local library and finding “Our Bodies, Our Selves” on the bookshelf and taking it to the front desk to check out and being promptly told by the librarian that I was too young to read such a book (I was 12 or 13 at the time).

    I can also relate to feeling very old when I was young, ancient even. I remember asking people all the time how old I looked and feeling insulted when they would say 9 or 10 when I wanted to look and be seen as older, 15 or 16 at least (I was 11 or so). I felt so much older, why couldn’t they see that? There are many times now when I feel younger than I am, or maybe it’s that I’ve gotten to 53 and I don’t understand how it happened so fast, or where I was in the years in between? I know, marriage, life, raising a family, but still looking at me in the mirror and saying wait, there is so much more to be and do.

    Catching up, milestones, developmental Delay??? Ugh!!! I hate those terms.

    Who decides what is a delay and what is simply unique to that person, or a group of people, or a million or a billion people?

    What if being NT was actually the thing that was different?

    Not everyone is good at math. Some people would much rather solve an equation than read a book, and in some cases these same two groups could have real difficulties with one or the other or both. Does that make them delayed? By whose standards? And who set that standard? Based on what? Was that judgement of a delay ever considered a gift at some point in our history.

    Were people with sensory abilities vital to a community for it’s well-being and welfare? Like the canary in the mine?

    Could we sense a fire before anyone else. Feel the ground tremble because a predator was near?

    Have a special sense and touch with those who were ill?

    I do understand that to get along in the world there are things like the Golden Road that you mentioned that are important.

    I have the feeling that we Aspie’s, have been around as long as NT’s, the beginning of time.

    You mentioned being “stuck”.

    What if its not stuck, it’s just simply you, in your way.

    Like someone born blind, or deaf, or with a missing limb. In their own way, they are not ever going to be completely like a peer who was born with sight, hearing, and all of their limbs. It does not make them defective, it means they are different, unique, like each color in a box of Crayola’s. Beautiful, colorful, waiting to express.

    I’m feeling my diagnosis today, raw, wave riding. I hope I don’t sound judgmental. Please forgive me if that is the case.

    I read the Shame post last night, put it off for a bit because I’m feeling an ache inside and there are so many things that were shame based growing up and as an adult. Your mention of shame here in this post made me smile because I had just read the other post last night. No coincidences.

    I love what you said about social skills and being developed to some particular age. I think that’s part of the problem. It’s not an age thing, it’s an awareness thing, a wiring thing.

    I don’t read facial expressions or body language well either. In fact I am just beginning to understand how much that has been a challenge. I can see that growing up the expressions that I tried so hard to master in order to keep ahead of the next shoe drop are (what I just this morning realized) the ones that I have used as an overlay for many relationships and communications in my life. I went all or nothing – black and white. My husband makes a funny sound and I key it to one of those remembered ‘expressions’, whether it’s right or not, and more often than not I am off.

    I learned to ‘understand’ (but not really) anger, depression, rage, fear, silence and what those things meant. There were happy times too, but the other things were larger in a sensory sort of way.

    As I stood in the shower this morning I realized that in my black and white, all or nothing thinking as a child Aspie, I adapted those glasses as my life perspective. Holy freaking crap!!!

    My dad rattled on about death and dying, what he had seen in Korea, how he was going to die one day (and he talked about it with an intense preoccupation like it would be tomorrow) and then it would be up to me to take over (what??? – how does a six year old take over???) the family (I’m the oldest)?

    Unlike someone else (NT?) who might hear what he was saying, and could reason that he was talking in metaphor, or generalities, I took it as the truth, plain and simple and lived my life that way – waiting for the shoe – to this day.

    Damn, the layers just keep falling away . . . I think I shall throw out some shoes . . .

    1. Aren’t they adorable? They made me smile too.

      I had a tendency toward taking out books that were “too old” for me as well, although my intended to be horror novels. In fact, now that I think of it, I have a feeling that for a while the paranormal (poltergeist, amityville horror, the exorcist) and crime-related things like serial killers and big-name crimes (in cold blood, the manson murders) were a special interest for me. And one that was entirely inappropriate for someone who was still in elementary school.

      What if its not stuck, it’s just simply you, in your way.

      I totally agree with you here. I think the sensation of stuck-ness comes from my tendency to compare myself with others, something I’ve always been painfully aware of. There is a sense of tension between me being okay with myself as I am (which is true most of the time) and those times when I’m around people who provoke the stuck feeling through their reactions to me.

      How confusing your father’s words must of been to you. As a black and white thinker, I can only imagine what an impression that must’ve had on you as a six-year-old. Throwing out some shoes sounds like a great idea.

  9. Thank you for this. I still go to animated films and the last movie I purchased was an animated film. 🙂 Animation is also one of my special interests though.
    In grade school I was definitely the odd one out. I think my way of compensating for lack of NT social skills was to excel in areas they sometimes struggled. In this case, many people would compare their academic progress with mine; if I missed a question on a really difficult science test and they missed it too, they didn’t feel so bad since one of the three “smartest” people in the class missed it. I say “smartest” because really all of the people in my class were very smart; some of us just had an “obsession” with our grades. Sometimes when people perceive you as “smart” and potentially helpful to them in some capacity they are willing to let your lack of NT skills slide a little. I can specifically point to five other people in my class that I suspect to have been on the spectrum though; one of which was our valedictorian. (I’m not really sure how you get that many people like us in one class or school at the same time, but it happened.) There also is a big difference between my ‘passing’ interactions which are almost entirely scripted (and make me sound much older than I am), and ‘spontaneous’ exchanges which are limited to as few words as possible or perhaps none at all (and make me sound “like a four year old”). My best friend in high school can testify to this. Most of our conversations are either eloquent and tightly scripted, or strings of sounds that ended with “Uh…Words… but you know what I meant.” And I did. Whenever I see her we do “childish” things, like last year we went to the Children’s museum and the zoo. I can’t say I know many college age individuals who do that for fun, but it works for us. And thankfully, our parent’s don’t judge. 🙂

    1. The Zoo! That’s actually one of my favorite places to visit. For a while we lived near Washington DC and I made many trips to the national zoo. I also really love science museums and other places that have hands-on exhibits, which are generally aimed at children. 🙂

      It’s great that you have a friend who gets you like that. I was lucky enough to have a best friend in high school who is similar and it’s a relationship that all treasure forever.

  10. Wow, I’m reading Emma’s Hope Book on this now. I found her site a couple of days ago but had not seen this post, or Emma’s post. Thank you, thank you for including this in your post. It’s one I’ll be sharing with many people! ❤

    1. Ariane and Emma’s posts are fantastic. Highly recommend her whole blog, though you should be aware if you go back and read older posts that Ariane’s views have changed a lot in the past couple of years as she’s learned more about what Emma is capable of and about neurodiversity in general. But yes, I’ve learned a lot from her and am really enjoying Emma’s writing.

  11. When I was very little I truly believed that I was an alien, then later I revised that and instead thought that I was actually a fairy changeling. For a long time I held out a secret hope that the fairies would come and rescue me. I don’t think they’re coming. I think that I was about twenty-three when I finally came to that realization.

    1. Well that explains your username. 🙂 I think many of us had that sensation of being somehow misplaced or out of place. It’s nice to have an alternative explanation, though being rescued by fairies would be pretty sweet too.

  12. I’ve also felt like parts of both families. When I was little I would sing twinkle twinkle and gaze skyward staring at the stars and wondering why they had left me here, because I knew home was not like this.

    Later, in addition to feeling like E.T. and wanting to phone home, I also felt a kinship with fairies, and elves. The first time I saw them portrayed in Lord of The Rings I felt like I was seeing family. I know it’s a movie, but their way of being, their care, tenderness, intuitiveness, all of that and more, speaks to my heart as me.

    Since I can not go to Middle-Earth, I do what I can to create that soothing energy around my home. I have wonderful bits of wood burls, roots of trees that rest here and there on my wooden floors. I have bowls of various stones and crystals about the house. Images of woods and trees everywhere. I love, love, love the Ents in LOR too! If I could live in a tree house I would, except I would not want to hurt the tree. In spring I plant sweet woodsy flowers that I can gaze at for hours. We have a weeping willow that we planted a few years ago that is doing very well and this spring I want to put a bench under her swaying limbs and enjoy the breeze and sound as she ruffles.

    1. I could have written this comment! Some of my house is like that too and I felt the exact same way about all those movies but I samg somewhere over the rainbow instead! Wow uncanny:)

  13. Come to my family, you’ll fit right in! My granddad buys LOTS of animated movies just for him and my grandmother to watch, not just for the prospect of great-grandkids or now-grown grandkids coming to visit. My parents bought a few for themselves too or at least didn’t turn down a chance to watch them when they came on TV before grandkids popped up. Although my dad isn’t a fan of musicals, so he likes this Pixar stuff much better than the traditional 2D Disney cartoons. I prefer 2D to 3D, 3D is often too Uncanny Valley for my liking.

    I guess as somebody often labeled as an artist, there was already a level of accepted and expected eccentricness. Despite drawing well for my age at almost any given age, I never felt like an artist, but it did make for a good scapegoat. Mom had her suspicions regardless, so sometimes we’d make jokes about “artistic or autistic”. Turns out, I was both! So now we slur “artistic” just a bit with an evil grin.

    Language has always been a challenge, but especially so starting in my late teens when I started having to really communicate to more than just my family. Makes it terribly hard to have a serious personal discussions with my husband, which frustrates me and probably him too to no end, because I want to have more than just “did you see what the kid just did” chats.

    I don’t remember maturity being an issue, but looking back it probably was. I enjoyed blocks and stuff for the longest, and wasn’t ashamed because it was a mark of my problem solving, creativity, that I was enjoying my age instead of trying to grow up too fast like all the other girls, and how I must have been a rare and practical female that boys were sure to love since they wouldn’t have to listen to boring talks about fashion and stuff. It also had the benefit of pre-weeding out a lot of the dating field for me, most guys who exclusively chase girls that dress like their Barbie dolls at the time just liked to get drunk and party, and I didn’t like those guys. But it did get me noticed by the nerd and dork people, so I got to play D&D and other fun fantasy things. I also played for keeps and made many long term plans for my future, so I also felt miles ahead of those other girls that just wanted to goof off and do nothing with their life. So my love life was pretty much non-existent until I met my husband in college.

    1. Yes, I think the artist a label can account for a lot of eccentricity. It sounds like you come from a family in which people are encouraged to do their own thing, which is cool. It helps a lot when the older generation sets the tone like that for the whole family.

      Wonder how many of us never really dated much until we met our current significant others? There’s a lot made out of the whole dating game and kind of testing out many different partners as part of that. But I had much the same experience as you and I’ve seen a few other people here say the same.

      1. So long as you keep a diurnal sleep schedule, my family is pretty lax. 😉
        Didn’t go over well I prefer to be nocturnal. I wonder if I’m subconsciously avoiding sunlight since it’s prone to hurting my eyes? Hrm… Now I’m curious….

        One could almost say we have a higher success rate since we go through fewer boys finding the right guy. Heeheehee. But I’m curious now too. Are we more cautious or more picky?

        1. I could see a preference for being nocturnal resulting from not being comfortable with strong sunlight.

          When it comes to finding a partner, I think I was mostly just too clueless to manage much successful dating and was actually friends with my husband first, before any actual romance happened.

          1. That’s how mine started too. =) We were buddies in a study group in college. It eventually lead to flirting and thankfully didn’t destroy our little group.

    2. I really wish that I could see some numbers on this but there does seem to be a small contingent of aspie women who meet the right romantic/life partner and then simply stay with that person for a very long time. I met my husband in my late teens and am now in my mid thirties. I have met more apsie women online who have followed the same relationship pattern as me than I have neurotypical women who have followed that pattern. The person who diagnosed me seemed to think that my long happy marriage was somewhat unusual but I sometimes wonder if my aspie love of sameness, my perseverative nature, and my tendency to have very long-term interests in things coupled with a somewhat male-ish communication style haven’t been helpful in my marriage. I have never gotten bored of my husband much like I never get bored of my special interests.

      1. I guess if the married Aspies have the famous loyalty, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a higher chance of making the marriage work. The odds of them cheating should at least be exceptionally low. =P
        And my husband has told me many times that one of the reason why he married me was that I not only didn’t have a problem with him playing computer and video games, but also because I’d join in with him. Although my trouble with communicating verbally and a few social blunders have certainly tried our marriage, no denying that.

  14. Oh, I so relate to this. Never caught on to the dating or social intricacies of high school or even college. Now I’m all grown up (ha!) and work in an office environment where social politics is very prevalent. I listen to younger coworkers and marvel at their “savvy” and realize just how much my tastes are regressed if compared to theirs. But you are right: there is no point in making those comparisons. (My husband reminds me of this all the time.

    Also, just for the record I LOVE animated films too — right up there alongside “dramas with large ensemble casts and lots of cursing.”

    Oh, the mind of an Aspie! Whee!

    1. I actually feel the same way about my daughter that you feel about your younger coworkers. She’s much more savvy in terms of things like interpersonal politics and even sometimes about getting things done around the house, like making little crafty items for her kitchen or figuring out new ways to clean more efficiently. Some of that, of course, is just personal interest. She’s much more into DIY stuff than I am. 🙂

  15. What a great post! I am normally considered “neurotypical” (although I have my doubts at times), but now, at age 60, I still LOVE kids movies and books. My darling aspie daughter at age 17, seems to me so much more mature than her peers–even though her dresser is still covered with stuffed animals.

    1. The way you describe your daughter is much the way I was at 17. I think I came across to adults as much more mature (at work, I was given responsibilities before others my age who had been at the job the samount of time, for example) and yet among my peers I had a lot of immature type interests. It’s a very strange mix to try to reconcile inernally but I think I’ve finally made my peace with it mostly.

  16. I just love the gingerbread people! 🙂 They wouldn’t last long in our house. Evil grin!
    I love animated film too. Have you seen Spirited Away? Or My Neighbour Totoro?
    The point of being out of step and not trying to ‘catch up’ is an important one. Accepting doing things differently is actually quite freeing. Wishing that I had worked this out much earlier on.

    1. I haven’t seen either of those. I’ll check them out. 🙂

      The gingerbread people made me smile the moment I saw them. I love how the photographer put them in portrait settings like they were an actual family.

      1. My Neighbour Totoro is my absolute favourite animation. It was the first animation that hooked me in. Both of these are Japanese animation from the Ghibli Studio. (Ghibli in Japan is what Pixar is to America) There are many more titles… 🙂

        The gingerbread people have inspired me to be more creative when I make mine next. I barely get buttons and a smiley face on usually. Does this count as childish delight? I love gingerbread men. I love sweets. I love lolly cake even now at my age. My mother used to make it every Christmas until recently. I was disappointed when she stopped. I think I had mentioned I was trying to be healthier. I didn’t mean giving up Christmas treats. I think I will make it for Christmas this year myself.

        They say we should please the inner child. I do not have a problem with enjoying something that may be childish to others. If it makes me happy, it makes me smile, why not? The artists and creative people who made animation have never officially grown up in the eyes of some. And thank God they never did. We would be missing out on so much if animation/film wasn’t a medium that we were allowed to enjoy. Here’s to imagination!

        Thunderbirds! I still love this children’s series. Lady Penelope and her pink Rolls and chauffeur. There is a remake coming our next year from Weta Workshop!

        1. Oh my gosh, you just solved a 2-decade long mystery for me. I googled lolly cake to see what it is and it turns out that it’s what a childhood friend’s mother referred to as a “stained glass window roll”. I loved it as a kid and have wanted to make one for years but could never turn up a recipe under that name. Now I know why! I’m going to make one for the holidays this year. Yay!

          That, together with the post-Christmas sing-along “Sound of Music” that we’ll be attending, is going to make this a great Christmas. What were you saying about pleasing your inner child? 😀

          1. Pleased to have been of help! Our inner childs (I used to say childs instead of children when growing up!) will be running around stupid after eating the lolly cake. Bliss is just around the corner. 🙂

  17. I found this really interesting since I have never quite worked out the way the steps are supposed to work – animated films are a big positive feature of the social group I spend time with (I think its related to a geek culture of interest in graphic novels and similar) and my parents still do stockings for all of us kids (we are between 30 and 26).
    I think partly there is a slightly different attitude to age appropriate material in UK especially once people get past secondary school but also when you fail at standard ‘dating’ cues as many queer people do, its hard to establish what else you should be using as milestones..

    1. That’s interesting about there being a cultural difference in the UK with regard to age appropriateness. I think you’re right that geek culture and the popularity of graphic novels and anime and such has made animated films less age-dependent in certain circles. Not quite so much among middle-aged women but . . .

  18. I love animated films and I refuse to apologise for the fact, although I am 30 years old and ‘should be well past it’ according to some people. I think it is the fact that there are no complicated interpersonal relationships happening with all the subtle nonverbal cues that go with it, and also the exaggerated facial expressions, that make it so much easier for me to watch and understand animated films. And I don’t see why I should have to feel bad about enjoying anything.

    I completely understand about the ‘mental age’ as well. Growing up I was always assumed to be a lot more mature than I really was, probably because I always had my head in a book and spoke like a little professor. And I always preferred to speak to adults rather than kids my age, who I completely could not understand at all. I never understood and still don’t get flirting. After a few disastrous attempts I decided there was no point in even trying. I didn’t feel ‘behind’ so much as ‘lacking’ something other kids my age seemed to have. Being diagnosed with Asperger’s a year ago made so many things fall into place. I have stopped beating myself up now for things I never will understand or ‘get’, and prefer to embrace those things I do well and enjoy. And it’s nobody’s business but mine!

    1. I can really relate to what you say about being seen as the little professor type as a child. I wonder if, in part, we picked up on adult conversation styles because we prefer to speaking to adults. I know that I’m still very echolalic and will often start to mirror the speech patterns of someone that I’m speaking to.

      It’s great that your diagnosis has given you the confidence to be yourself and to embrace the things that you enjoy. Often people will ask what the point of getting a diagnosis is later in life and I don’t think they consider how big the benefit of being able to finally understand and like yourself is. 🙂

  19. Yes, very recognizable. I have also felt this idea of lagging behind, and it was mostly in my twenties that I started to realize that I felt I was about a decade ‘behind’ others in certain regards. Have been called childish on several occasions as well. It was one of the most recognizable things when I was reading certain books about autism.

    Another aspect, I don’t know if you did that too, is that I mostly chose to be around people who are a lot younger, always have. Felt more comfortable.

    BTW I love the ginger people 🙂

    1. I’ve actually always been the opposite, gravitating toward people who are older than me. Even today that’s the case. I’m not really sure why that is, although I do remember reading in Tony Atwood’s book about how aspie girls tend to be taken under the wings of girls who are mothering types.

      On the other hand, if I’m at a big party, like a family party, I’ll often end up playing with the little kids or the pets. Generally parents are so relieved to have someone take their kids off their hands for a half-hour that it works out well for everyone involved. 🙂

  20. wow.
    Where to start … I can identify with so many things …. I will keep my list as concise as possible …
    relating to my childhood development … things I have always done/still do …
    •I never fit in with any group of kids socially – every set of kids I knew seemed to be the ‘in’ group. I was not included.
    • Eye contact – I was not really aware of my extreme lack of this until recently – my entire life I stare at clothes – colour, texture, I stare at hair, physical features. I also look around at other things a lot. People think I’m not listening, but I hear every word. This seems to make people angrier than thinkin’ they are being ignored.
    I never thought of these things as a lack of eye contact – it is a matter of interesting things – I never realized how off-putting this might be to some people – staring at things they are wearing or staring at their hair, or their
    interesting eyebrows, or teeth, or hands, or strange textured material.
    I did some years ago learn to ASK to touch an article of clothing.or hair.
    My staring is not sexual.
    And if I am allowed to touch interesting textured clothing, I touch arm or a knee or dress hem etc.
    I also hone in on repetative or interesting mannerisms.
    • Misinterpret facial expressions, tone of voice, etc – only find out later if daughter or someone tells me … no tellin what all I miss otherwise lol
    • I am completely infatuated with accents. Particularly British & Scottish.
    • I whistle tunes a lot.
    • By 5th Grade I was reading on 11th-12th grade level but I was terrible in math.
    •I collected bottles – when I left home at 16 I had nearly 500 all shapes sizes colours. I now collect coloured bottles and all kinds of coloured glass. I also collect things like bottle caps with trivia printed inside …and unusual rare items and things to create art with.
    • My dad loved cars. Almost every sunday my parents went to car lots and looked around. I wandered around and picked ip every nut, bolt, washer, screw – I would have handfuls, or an old paper cup or pockets full of rusty old hardware that my mom would make me leave. I remember hiding my piles a few times and finding them again the next time we went there.
    Even after I was grown & he had a used car lot, I picked up stuff like that.
    To this day I have several cups and buckets of random hardware.
    I love digging thru it. I want to eeld sculpters with it.
    • I never had any board games as a kid. I painted a drew a lot. I constantly said I was going to be an artist when I grew up but my parents always said I could not make a living. They discouraged me in the arts. By 6-7 I would dance like I was figure skating – but was not allowed dance classes.
    I begged for a piano – got a small electric keyboard when I was 10. I memorized numbered keys with a corrosponding book. I would create my own tunes but they would not say anything.
    I finally got a guitar at 14. My mom had someone tune it. No guitar lessons, a small chord book. I had no idea how to tune it. I played along with songs on 1-2 strings I tuned to match the songs (Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Jim Croce, & even my parents albums Dorsey, Holiday, Billy Vaughn) My mom only got the guitar strung & tuned for me twice. I would break every string except the thick E string. I did finally learn to play after I left home. And I also play bass.
    I was about 40 years old before my parents ever heard me play and sing in a group. If I brought my guitar to.their house, they would not let me play it.
    • I was extremely interested in knowing how things were made. I would get broken things my parents threw out – like toaster, coffe maker, hair dryer, fans and methodically take them apart and reassemble them.
    ages 7-12.
    • I would spend hours and hours in magazines, newspapers with a pen colouring mustaches & beards on every mans face, & false eyelashes and lipstick on every womans face.
    5-8years old.
    • Also, I liked playing in the creek and wandering or exploring the huge field with some trees & woodlines behind our house I was amazed to discover at 7-8 yrs old, the streets & houses on the ouside of the field. This area was about 1/4 mile by 3-4 blocks – I remenber hearing my moms voice calling from so far away. I would be stand real quiet and hear it – knowing it would take a long time to get back home.
    I got a lot of whippin’s for this. lol

    • From 10-12 or 13 I filled notebooks with floorplans.
    At 13 I announced I was going to be an architect, but my mom said I was too poor at math.
    • I am a movie lover – I do not have cable, only rent or buy movies. I love rom/com, historical/true story, midevil documentaries, animation, westerns…
    some examples of MANY favs: Fifel, The Bee Movie, Bugs Life, Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven,
    Buffalo Girls, Rough Riders, Mickey Blue Eyes, Emma, The Newton Boys, Benny & Joon, Serendipity …
    It has recently become VERY interesting to me – I allegedly miss social cues in faces etc – but I can explain in detail every nuance and meaning of a movie? I also quote lines a lot too when relative to conversations … or I think them.
    • Conversations can make me think of things – I think almost entirely in.pictures – I can think of many times I laughed and was not supposed to. I can also be repulsed & mortified by certain things – but most ‘sayings’ I even use, I know what the meaning is – but I still see the picture. Ex: ‘Shootin’ the bull’ is ‘random chat’ but I still see a bull being shot with a gun.
    All my life I thought everyone thought like this – but at times, people would say things in certain conversations that made me realize some people do not think this way. I was disappointed in people a LOT and felt bad for them – like they were retarded. Until very recently – this past year when I discovered Aspergers – I feel my mind is a real gift.
    However, it can make me interupt a lot bc I see ahead and know what people intend a lot – but apparently, people like to drivel around the pertinent facts with a lot of unneeded info – also, sometimes, I get so deep in interesting relative info that people have moved on to other subject(s) and my idea, comment is disregarded. This happens a lot. Its only in the 2-3 years I have caught on to this …
    Sometimes I get really frustrated – usually with others bc most people do not want to talk about interesting things indepth. They hop from mundane thing to another – and ocassionally, breifly touch on something genuinely important or interesting. I am disgusted all the time with knowing almost no one who likes to engage in a subject to any length or depth.
    • Worked in my moms bookstore from about 11-21, where I was drilled: turn all bill faces one way in.cash drawer, be curteous – greet-smile-offer help, thank customer. I attribute my ability to make this kind of small talk entirely to my moms training. And my education, I attribute to books.
    • Constantly fidget, couldnt be still -still can not be still …
    constantly got in trouble at school for ‘constantly expressing opinions’
    and for talking. My mother was always being told how ‘extremely smart’ & ‘gifted’ I was but I always got an ‘x’ in ‘works well with others’. There were no ‘gifted classes at my elementary)
    • I resort to drawing my ideas on paper, or napkins or whatever, in conversations bc people can not inagine or see things . . .
    bc everyone makes fun of this, I make a joke of it first: I say, ‘Keep thst bc it will be worth a lot of money when Im dead’ ( when artists works are priceless)
    • Hated every article of clothing my mother bought or made for me from age 1 – every stitch of clothing that woman put on my body scratched & itched. I was SO thankful for random bags of hand-me-downs from couzins . By age 12 my mother mostly gave up. I had/have no concern whatever about my appearance. By junior hi, I liked baggy faded jeans tucked in old boots of any kind, with a mans baggy button shirt tail, or loose baggy T shirts.
    After I left home I discovered thrift stores . I was really into granny dresses for a while – mother earth and all that -wore a lot of pocket Ts with cut-off jeans and hiking boots (construction wear) Got fired from a
    restaurant job once bc I refused to wear horrible, itchy polyester shirt …. I actually did do ‘dress up’ a lot in my 20’s – 40’s mostly bc of church, & some jobs, but when I started sign painting (1989) I just mostly wear paint clothes & work boots all the time.
    My ‘visiting’ clothes are the same, just no paint spots.
    • was an alcholic by the time I was about thirteen …
    Was expelled from 2 Junior high schools. Quit 11th grade and got married to leave home at 16.

    I thought all those years …. that leaving home was the key to me to fitting in – being accepted- acceptable …. I was adopted and thought THAT was why I was SO different from everyone – but I met adopted people who did not seem to get reprimanded constantly – they seemed to ‘fit’ …
    I finally knew at some point in my life – I was a square peg and all around me were round pegs easily fitting in their holes …

    To this day, I am in situations where
    I just do not feel comfortable with people – unless it’s related directly to a job –
    If a social event is happening, I will not go unless they will be specifically playing guitars or doing some bible study. I avoid get-togethers where one of these things will not occur, bc otherwise, what is the point? Because I have learned by experience, I will say or do something wrong, or just be bored – no one really talks to me, If they do initiate conversation, it feels awkward – I feel self concious answering questions – but I might also get into a lot of comments & questions about something really interesting then they seem overwhelmed – bc they make comments like
    ‘… You’ve really thought about ____ huh?’
    “wow – thats too much for me to think about”
    ” I can not imagine/see/wrap my mind around that’
    “I never thought of that”
    etc etc …

    So, chronologically, & perpetually out of step. Should I live to 90 I see little change … once again, I suggest another title for your thread …
    Perpetually Out of Sync

    lol + { :ͺ¬•

    1. I never realized how off-putting this might be to some people – staring at things they are wearing or staring at their hair, or their
      interesting eyebrows, or teeth, or hands, or strange textured material.

      Yes! I have to be on guard about this, especially when I’m tired or overloaded because I’ll catch myself constantly staring at some interesting detail of a person’s clothing or jewelry or personage and it has to come across as inappropriate.

      I was but I always got an ‘x’ in ‘works well with others’.

      Oh my gosh, me too! My report cards are literally all top marks in elementary school except for anything relating to working with others or in groups and penmanship.

      And I know what you mean about the awkwardness and low reward value of social events like that. I will occasionally go if it’s important to my husband but left to my own devices I wouldn’t go anywhere that didn’t have some specific point of interest for me and I would be perfectly content.

  21. Thank you for this article, it was really interesting.

    Strangely, when I was younger, I often felt like I was too mature. Other kids’ interests didn’t really appeal to me, as I was into more serious stuff – for most of my primary school years, my special interest was animal welfare, and I couldn’t understand why other kids were into whimsical playing and didn’t have the kind of deep passion or sense of wanting to make a difference like I had. I think I abandoned it because I didn’t like being different; now I kind of miss having a special interest.

    As an adult, the only way I’m at all mature is my continual contemplation about the meaning of life. I often find it disconcerting to not have my life planned out and I have a feeling of urgency to get everything I want to do done; I feel almost as if I’m reaching middle age, even though I’m only 23. Other people my age seem to be happy “winging it” and doing what they enjoy for the time being, whereas I feel the need to think about the future and make sure I’m getting everything right, and it frustrates me that others can’t understand why I think so much.

    I am still dreadfully immature as far as dating though. Whereas most of my friends are in relationships and/or have kids now (even some of my younger cousins have kids), I’m still single. I know I would be able to love, and have the maturity to make a relationship work, it’s just getting there in the first place that’s an issue. It’s taking me a surprising amount of effort just to understand how it all works, as far as flirting and dating and whatnot. WikiHow has been great for getting my head around some things, but then there’s so many exceptions to the rules I read, and those situations throw me completely! Courting seems to be an awfully confusing game because it requires knowing what the other person is thinking and then acting in a different way from what one is themselves thinking. It bewilders me that other people naturally know how to do this rather than having to read up on it extensively (and still not always get it right). In the society we live in, where a woman’s worth is generally perceived based on her marital status and child-bearing, it feels like a heck of a pressure, and especially with family expectations one can feel like a complete failure for not being able to get these things sorted. Sometimes it seems doubtful that I’ll ever make any progress, given how little success I’ve had in the last ten years of trying. But then I try to remember that if people like yourself and other aspie women can marry and have children and have relatively good family lives, maybe I can do all that too, eventually.

    The other thing that comes to mind is your point about fashion. I’ve always dressed conservatively and with minimal decoration, I guess my dress sense never really matured in my teenage years. I’ve often been perceived as being up to 5 years younger than I actually am (even though I’m judged as older if people judge me on my speech), so I guess my dress may have been practical, but not age-appropriate. I’ve recently started making an effort to dress more fashionably, and wear jewellery (I’m slowly getting used to the feeling of heavy accessories, but can still only tolerate them for short periods of time). I’m noticing the difference in how people respond to me now that I look older… except now they respond in ways that I am still too immature to know how to reciprocate with (things like male attention). I guess I’m getting there, I’ll learn one day.

    I’ve been bewildered lately though to realise how important fashion is to other women, and it makes me wonder whether there’s something I haven’t understood. Other women seem to be so excited by things like nice clothes, jewellery and fancy stuff, while I’m completely disinterested. Maybe I’m immature for not understanding the value of those items… or maybe I’m more mature for being interested in doing stuff and knowing stuff, than in having stuff. I guess in a sense, maturity is relative.

    1. I can really relate to what you say here, about both the intensity of interest in things when you were younger and about contemplating things like the meaning of life as an adult. And I definitely need to have things planned out as much as possible.

      I think the thing about dating is that many of the people here who are married or in a relationship didn’t actually do much of it. 🙂 A lot of us seem to have met our partners through shared interest or activities rather than through the typical going on dates type of courtship. Perhaps rather than thinking too much about flirting and dating, you could just pursue things that you’re interested in where where you might meet other people your age of the appropriate gender. Then, in the worst case, at least you’ll be enjoying yourself even if it doesn’t result in any relationships.

      It seems like interest in fashion is not so much a maturity thing, but ultimately just something women are either interested or not interested in. I know plenty of women my age or older who could care less about being fashionable but I also know some younger women who feel the same way. Maybe the maturity lies in being comfortable with our interests and letting go of those worries that were missing out on something.

      1. That’s interesting what you said about how we meet our partners and SO’s. I met my first husband through a family member while on holiday, and my second husband was a blind date at a new years eve event that was held at the elementary school in in our small town. My friend set us up. After the blind date I realized that we had seen each other as volunteers at other fund raising events in the community, and I had never really paid attention to him. I never had to do the dating and courtship thing in the traditional way, thank goodness! 🙂

  22. I can see me in a couple of your comments here for sure. Whether I played by myself (dolls – paper dolls – Hot Wheels – blocks etc.) or with someone else (not often – mostly my brother) I wanted to be in charge, the leader and I would get so frustrated, no infuriated, which is more of an adult concept for a six year old, but that is what it was, when my brother, or someone else I was playing with did not respond to my direction. I realize that I thought they were being childish and silly, and why could they not see the point of what I was talking about. I had similar opinions as I got older. Preteen, teenager, I just never fit in, could not see the excitement about dating, make-up, though I did my best to make it work to fit in. As I’ve gotten older I find myself judging myself more for not knowing enough, that I have to constantly be learning. I still catch myself trying to figure out why others (NT’s?) think the way they do, and why would they think that way. The image and voice of Nicole Curtis – Rehab Addict (one of my favorite shows) comes to mind, when in the opening credits she says ” Why in the hell would they cover that up???” For me it’s like, why in the hell would you think that way??? It’s a challenge with my husband because I am with him the most and I find myself thinking why are you doing it that way, there is an easier way, same judgements I had with my brother and friends when I was little. I don’t care for that trait in me and do my best to step back and realize it is just my own feeling on it.

    As to what you were sharing about the meaning of life – yes! That is most definitely a thing and I’ve done that for as long as I can remember, like toddlerhood. Why are we here? Why am I here. I find movies like Prometheus (Sci-fi) fascinating – not for the violence (which I can’t stand in any movie) but for the idea of our species – humanity – being seeded from off planet. I love Dune for similar reasons. The Bene Gesserit- The MUAD’DIB, Usul, and Lord of The Rings and the Faries and Ents.

    I also have for as long as I can remember had this sense that I had to prepare for something. Put food away, have spare clothes, be well versed on a variety of topics, and there has been an urgency with it for a long time. Sometimes I feel like one of those preppers you hear about. I don’t have any MRE’s (ration meals) or bottles of water stored, but I can see that I could do that. Maybe it’s that ‘Catastrophic’ thinking that Aspie’s do. I don’t know but it is interesting to know that another Aspie has felt that sense of urgency, though maybe in a slightly different way.

    1. Oh, I have that same judging instinct. In the past few years I’ve learned to tamp it down a bit by reminding myself that other people have their own preferred ways of doing things that makes sense to them, even if it doesn’t make sense to me. It’s a bit of a stretch sometimes to get from that logical knowledge to squashing the urge to but in with “advice” but I’ve made some progress and my husband is pretty happy about that. Of course, I regularly point out instances where I’ve refrained from saying something, which may be just as annoying. 🙂

      I also have for as long as I can remember had this sense that I had to prepare for something.

      This is so interesting. I’ve never explicitly thought about it but I think I do this too. Maybe it has to do with, when we were younger, being caught unawares by a lot of situations. For example, I think that’s why I feel the need to do as much scripting in advance of the social situation as I do. Even if I don’t end up using the scripts, it helps to calm my social anxiety and makes me feel more prepared.

  23. I love the illustrations! 🙂

    I recently went back to read my high school diaries, and I was struck by how much of the content was simply me describing what other people had said or done to me and trying to puzzle out what exactly they meant by it. I have always thought of myself as an intuitive person, but it was obvious, with the advantage of time/maturity, that I actually was missing a LOT of what was going on. I suppose maybe I’m intuitive about *feelings* but not thoughts or ways of communicating?

    All of that is to say, I find myself wondering how on earth I am going to be able to help my probably-autistic son with social and communication skills when I am probably-autistic myself. I have the benefit of decades of experience, and I’ve always been keenly interested in people and actively studied how they are/act/etc, but there is a lot I still don’t understand or quite know how to do… sorry if that is a little off topic!

    1. Your comment makes me wish I still had my old high school diaries to look back through. I imagine that would be entertaining.

      I think your son is lucky to have you because you’ve already experienced a lot of the things that he’ll struggle with and develop your own coping strategies. You also know that while you can help him understand more about social interaction, who probably never be exactly like his non-autistic peers and he doesn’t have to be. That’s a great place to start from and one that will be much better for his self-esteem in the long run that if he had a parent who didn’t understand what it was like to be on the spectrum.

  24. … so interesting … I dont stock groceries at all – about 3-4 people who visit my house sort of regular are kinda surprised at my lack of groceries – I have an old restored metal cabinet for a pantry – only 2 shelves have anything edible – and one whole shelf is stuff like teas, a LOT of herbs/spices, olive oil, etc,
    And whatever is in my fridge/freezer its sparse- never packed to the max.
    but, I am often kinda shocked by how extremely packed some peoples pantries & fridges are.
    Meanwhile, what I DO that is similar is Im always thinking about how to create cool hiding spaces – especially if I ever get to build one of the houses Ive designed – I always thinking of ways to incorporate a space that is completely camoflauged, under something – just large enough for 1-2 people – and thinking of how to keep a tool in it so the uniquely designed entrance can be screwed closed from.the inside and the outside looks undisturbed – an example of this could be a fake gas heat unit screwed to a trap door that you lift, crawl under to the space and screw closed from the inside – I think of having a little water, flashlight, batteries & a cool air intake – I never imagine this as a long term space – 2-3 hours to 3 days max.
    I dont know where this comes from except, as a kid, I WAS very intrigued with the Diary of Anne Frank.
    I also read the book Great Expectations at least 6 times before I was 12 (theyre doing a new proper movie of it too!!! Helen Bonham Carter will play Ms Havisham!!! Excellent!!)

    I went thru a stage between 14-16 where I collected silver & pewter jewelry ESPECIALLY if it had any turquoise (& I made a lot of spoon rings) and I was very adept at spotting cheap imitation turquoise, good imitation, and the real thing.
    Im also somehow naturally gifted to be able to tell at least the decade of antiques, or if something is imitation.
    I have always been very good at eyeing particular clothes in the thrift store that are quality – my oldest daughter would say MOM this is a HALSTON skirt, or ect – lots of name clothes, I never look at the tags first, I am looking at material & cut a lot, and I will find things I love, look at the tag, and it will say Made In Italy – i have about 5 things I just randomly found in thrift stores.
    But also, ever since I was a kid til today, I am ALWAYS modifying my clothes – I will cut the neck out of a T shirt – I really like EVERYTHING about it except a tight neck. I will cut the bottom cuff-thing off a sweatshirt to make it not tight on the hips.
    I’ve added long sleeves, or a ‘skirt’ to the bottom of certain Ts bc I think they look cute longer – Ive bought skirts and cut them off and hemmed them. I by cool cargo pants with lots of big side pockets and completely remove the inside leg seams and fill the ^ spaces with teirs of lace or cammo or something and make a funky skirt.
    I will cut collars out of shirts and just hem a round neckline bc I hate collars.
    All of this exasperates my kids – and I do this with food too – I always take away a food I dont like at and add another and lots of herbs/spices – they always act put-out with me for changing things.

    Also, related to your intial subject – I am still a finicky eater – I hate a green beans & tomatoes. I have started feeling a little childish when someone contributes a dish at a gathering that I hate – On Thanksgiving, there were only 5 gathered, & a really sweet cool friend of mine brought greenbean cassarole, and I just didnt get any – I wondered if anyone was going to point it out …I get anxious about things like this – fear or dread of reprimand maybe???
    I like a LOT of veggies raw – NOT cooked til they are slimey or like swampy … except I like sweet potatos in any form …
    I guess I am sort of rigid when I eat out -bc the few people I eat out with always know EXACTLY what im going to get – at any name restaurant, or fast food, I always get a ceaser salad, & MAYBE have grilled chicken on it, & water.
    I almost always ask for a small cup & I water down the dressing til its kinda thin. My daughters watch me and say omg – why cant you just accept things as they are …
    Mexican, I always have 1 or 2 chicken flautas w/shredded lettuce, 1 bowl cheese dip, lots of chips, water.
    At a local diner I will get a tuna sandwich w/cheese, or grilled cheese, w/chips, water. People can not usually screw-up a tuna or grilled cheese sandwhich.
    If Chinese, I get the exact same items every time- sesame chicken, fried rice, 2 eggrolls, 3-4 fried rangoons, a little sweet-sour sauce.
    I ALWAYS get my water in a to-go cup if possible – if not, I have to have a straw. I do not drink out of public glasses.
    However, I cook or eat very creatively at home, or add a LOT of the extra stuff I like.
    If I bake a cake, I have to lick the bowl nearly clean – & my younger daughter doesnt even care – she thinks I’m childish …
    When I went to NYC I ‘sucked-it-up’ and went to some unusual places with
    my oldest daughter – and I did well – I love it that all these places put water in wine bottles, on the table for you to refill your own glass.

    I’ve said all I’ve said in my recent posts to say …
    I think there is a huge difference in being childish, and being child-like.

    Apparently, I AM childish in some ways – but … well, Im not a fan of children under 3-4 ….. when Im around any little school-age kid, I realize I talk to them entirely differently than other adults … I talk to them like their adults – but I often talk to adults like they’re children ..
    When I was training to be a SS teacher, I was completely stunned by the way the teachers yelled, threatened, flicked lights, and taught 7-11 year olds in a very limited, ‘baby’style as if they were 4 year olds.
    So they ACTED like 4 year olds.
    When I finally got to teach, I challenged them in all kinds of ways, and asked for their opinions and never had to raise my voice. I prepared discipline choice jars – if a kid got rambuncteous, they could pull a paper from a jar labled Proverbs and read it aloud to the class (scriptures about wisdom) OR the could pull a slip from the OFFICE jar which stated ‘I am disrupting class – please sign this slip w/ the time so I can return to my class’.
    I hardly ever had to offer a jar. The kids were engaged & challenged.
    I did not let them do ‘baby’ crafts and eat snax – we did creative crafts where they could express things they gleaned from lessons, or I created crafts that enforced paricular
    points … but they only let me teach for one year – after that kids always asked me to come back – but the adults didnt … also, kids who like you will run up to you and hug you a lot … you have to endure this and recriprocate bc they are just children & should feel accepted.

    Some people act childish, bc they’re treated childishly – I only feel childish when I’m reprimanded (always needlessly since I was 16)
    But I feel child-like A LOT because of seeing something interesting & new to discover or learn all the time. It could simply be a cloud formation, or the texture of some wood, or the shadows from grass cast on a wall that inspires me – or any one of a trillion things – people- sounds – it CAN be exhausting – so when I get overwhelmed with creativity which I can dwell on mentally or tangibley for hours, VS or combined with all the daily mundane things I have to do to keep a home, vehicle, & pay bills, I get very depressed and increase my own burdens by being imobile for 3-5 days feeling like I am immersed in thick glue.

    1. I love your hidey hole ideas! If I built a house, it would be shaped like an octagon or tower, and I’d have a lot of interconnected closets and tunnels between them. My dream house though would be completely underground with just a little patio or something above ground so nobody would know a house was there. I’m not worried about drainage issues in the house itself, but I’m still thinking up ways to deal with rain water and other liquids gathering in the passageways in. Hrm…

  25. (sorry for typis & incomplete sentences in last post)
    Would like to add, I also love to collect quotes – here are 2 of my favorites:

    “The person who is saying something is impossible, should stay out of the way of the person who is doing it.”

    “We can not expect to solve a problem with the same level of intelligence that created it.”
    Albert Einstein

    And add in.conclusion . . .
    There are a lot of paradoxes in my life… (& y’alls too I bet) …

    How can one be so enlightened in so many ways, be so vivacious in the simple acts of discovery, with a ferocious imagination, have skills, talents, & interests that most people make millions of $ doing . . . also be so inept, awkward, rigid, socially ill-equipped, uncomfortable on the planet, & so mentally overwhelmed to the point of immobility & depression . . . ?

  26. Thanx.
    I like your ideas too – I also like your ‘pic’ … its kind if midevil looking like a gargoyle which that genre is very interesting to me …

    Also, when I have time, I like to go to the library – I hate to google things … I like to feel, touch & smell books and not be assaulted by a lit screen or wait for things to load, etc etc …I may have a photographic memory, bc i f I see a solution to something, learn something, experience something, I will mentally log it & access it as needed . . .
    You can look at a book on any drainage solutions for underground homes and this will add to your imagination data – french drainage is a good one bc it can be concealed under a layer of earth grass therfore unseen – you can make it as wide as you like and taper it to any direction – it works on the same principle as fill-lines in a septic system …

    btw in typing, (as opposed the faster cadence of talking)
    I realize… I ‘hear’ (in my head) my daughters, or someone saying omg why do you have to take everything so seriously?- Im sure no one wants to hear you expound on drainage systems, they can figure that out for themselves – please stop talking.’

    At that point, I am incredulous with these people bc, often, I have only stated ONE simple concept or fact, NOT everything I have seen or read on a subject which I am aware WOULD be TMI …

    1. Oh, the serious thing! My kids or husband can crack a joke and I am either very slow to catch on, or don’t get it as a joke at all. Sometimes, more often than not I will take offense at something they say and they, “mom, we’re joking!”.

      I’m always looking at things from the practical or serious side, and when I’m not, then my humor is offbeat’ like British comedy, which I love.

  27. Hi Cynthia, I read this with interest. I like the notion of being chronologically out of step. As I have got older I have become less compliant and more confident to do the things I like or that make me feel calm. As a teenager I was aware that I did not fit the ‘norm’ so I learnt to suppress the things I enjoyed, my obsessions. I tried to behave in socially appropriate ways and to not drone on about things. As an adult I now have reverted back to the things that I enjoyed as a child. I am 48. I have a bed full of soft toys -my cuddlies. Much to my hubby’s dismay. I have a nice heavy blanky which I sit with every evening and I have several noo noo’s. My friend jokingly calls me the baby. I have regressed and I love it. It’s who I am. I never thought I was out of step but certainly I never really fitted in. Even when I tried I failed miserably to be ‘socially appropriate/age appropriate’. Now I am me.

    1. It’s so great that you’ve comfortable being yourself and liking the things you like. There’s a lot of comfort in having soft cuddly things and comfy blankets and such. And really, those of us who have spent decades trying to pass and pretend to be someone else are entitled to all the comfort we can get, right?

  28. I got all excited at your pics and thought there was some kind of stop-motion gingerbread man film coming out! 😉
    Thanks for posting this Cynthia… you really help me identify aspects of my life that I’ve been confused and sometimes unnecessarily embarassed about. I am 33 and feel like I stopped maturing at about 17. I feel like I work with ‘adults’ and I am still a 17 year old kid. I am 6ft tall, blonde, and clumsy, so I have created this ‘ditzy’ persona that covers my immaturity, but of course it is the real me, not a false persona, that gets excited about my new Hello Kitty pen, or the unicorn toy that came with my happy meal, or the new Penguins of Madagascar film (you have to see that one, it’s freaking awesome).
    Sending you a virtual fist bump for us awesome aspies that haven’t lost our childlike wonder 🙂 xxx

    1. A stop motion gingerbread film would be awesome. 🙂 I saw the preview for the Penguins movie (probably at the Lego movie, heh) and it looks terrific. Need to put it on my movie list.

      I know what you mean about feeling like other people are ‘adults’ and I’m stuck in some sort of time warp. Logically I know it’s not true, but it’s so hard to get past it subconsciously.

      In spite of feeling a bit awkward about it at times, I really do see my childlike wonder as a huge upside to being an aspie. *returns virtual fist bump*

  29. Thank-you so much for these words and self reflections. I had read Ariene’s post as well, and have gleaned from you both. I work as an Educational Assistant, and reading posts such as yours, have been far more beneficial to me in my relationships with my students (and, I believe, in my academic and social progress with them … and they with me) than any academic text. Yet, it is often an uphill climb when, all around, are those who have been “drinking the purple kool aid” of developmental delay, and of trying to differentiate between typical and non-typical behaviors, and of trying to cure those who do not fit the typical mold. Thanks so much for giving me alternative thoughts to think upon.
    Carole

  30. There are lots of NT adults who like cartoons.
    As for myself, I prefer them (and sci-fi/fantasy/horror shows like X-files 😛 ) because the voice actors always speak clearly, and I find them easier to understand.
    My little pony -friendship is magic is one of my favorite cartoons, because it also teaches about human contact, which is great. 🙂

  31. Thank you. I agree with everything you said. And what bothers me the most is that being able to describe it, the way you just did, usually leads other people to telling me things like “Everyone feels that way”. It’s like…because you know your own problems, you’re too smart to really have them.

    BTW: One good thing about being like us? I’m the cool mom cause I still like video games.;)

  32. I was/am certainly behind my peers… Much of this has lead to work issues and serious social impairment. I say things that others take as offensive, I very rarely actually intend to hurt people feelings, yet I find myself ” stepping on people’s toes” all the time. The worst part is simply not knowing what I did to offend someone. The only way I know is when someone actually points it out in plain language. I am so oblivious to the minute signals and subliminal meaning of interaction with others that I wind up with people thinking that I am a jackass. Something that I don’t understand about others is why they don’t point out that I stepped on their toes?

  33. Yes!

    I’m not an Aspie myself, but I do share this “deviation from the norm” (I use the quotes because I find that expression distasteful). It took many years before I was aware of why this was true; for a long time I thought it was “something wrong with me”. I still haven’t completely come to grips with it, but I have accepted it.

    Thanks for sharing your story; it is inspiring!

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