Today I want to talk to the neurotypicals (NTs), about an experience I’ve had with NTs so. Many. Times. Autistic people are often accused of lacking empathy, but it’s the NTs who seem to truly believe that the way they experience the world is some kind of truth. That what things are like for THEM is what things are like for everyone. So they then take it upon themselves to EXPLAIN to anyone who experiences things differently about what things are “really” like.
Ok, let me get more specific. Group interactions are very hard for me. The social dynamics of groups are very complicated and it’s extremely difficult for me to keep up. On top of that, groups of people can be very intense on a sensory level. Trying to parse out everything I’m seeing and hearing is hard enough on its own, but trying to do it while also trying to keep up with the group dynamics and complex social interactions is nearly impossible. It’s just SO MUCH.
But trying to explain that to NTs is so hard. I have learned that many NTs not only find group social interactions to be easy – they find them easier than one-on-one interactions. And then they treat their own subjective experience of groups being easier as some kind of objective fact – that groups ARE easier than one-on-one. There have been multiple occasions where I expressed that actually, groups are more difficult for me, and an NT has straight up informed me that I am “mistaken.” According to them, my own experience of groups being more difficult is impossible so either I’m wrong or I’m lying. The nicer (not really nicer) ones will try to explain how groups are easier to try to get me to understand that I’m wrong. The less nice ones will tell me I’m stupid and stomp off.
I’ve had NTs confidently tell me that there aren’t even that many social rules! Just jump in and start talking! It’s not complicated! The idea that there are, in fact, MANY rules and they just know them intuitively was one they weren’t even willing to consider. I did, eventually, manage to explain to one NT about the complexity of group dynamics by pointing out rude people. If you really could just jump in whenever, there would never be that rude person jumping in at the wrong time. If you really could just say whatever, there would never be that rude person saying the wrong thing. *I* am that rude person. I don’t want to be, I don’t mean to be, I really try not to be, but it really is just that hard for me to keep up. At this point, to avoid being the rude person, I just don’t speak in groups, or at least very rarely.
I have so many examples of this type of behavior. NTs trying to inform me (or other autistic people) that loud noises don’t actually hurt. That light touch actually feels good. That the bright light isn’t really THAT bright. So many times, NTs arrogantly thinking that they way they experience the world is the ONLY way ANYONE experiences the world. That they just need to explain to me how mistaken I am when I say that something hurts, that something is hard, that I am struggling.
Neurotypicals, please listen to me. When I say that something hurts, I am telling you the truth. Just because it doesn’t hurt YOU, that doesn’t mean it never hurts anyone. There are people out there who experience the world differently than you do – believe us when we tell you what life is like for us.
Neurodiverse folks – what experiences have you had with NTs trying to tell you that you are incorrect about your own life? Please share in the comments! I would love to hear your perspective.