Speaker 1 (00:06):
Oh, hello and welcome to inTune Pathways, the podcast. This is the place where we explore autistic identity, culture, and family life style. I am your host. I'm Kristy Forbes. I'm a late identified autistic woman. I'm an educator. I have ADHD and I am a PDA autistic. If you're not sure what PDA is, it stands for pathological demand avoidance. Ooh. We'll get into that in future episodes. I'm also a parent of autistic children and my passion is shifting away from the medical disorder narrative and into a newer awareness and radical acceptance of the social model of [inaudible 00:00:50]. Thank you for joining me.
All episodes of the inTune Pathways podcast are recorded on [inaudible 00:01:01]. People are the traditional custodians as part of the [inaudible 00:01:07] nation. I pay my deepest respect to elders past and present. And at inTune Pathways, we are committed to the amplification of first nation voices and decolonization in our work. Sovereignty was never ceded. This county always was and always will be aboriginal land.
Well, I'm back again and speaking with my colleague and great friend again, Kieran Rose again. Kieran is a published mainstream and academic author, an international public speaker, trainer, researcher, and consultant to organizations all over the world, with a specialization in autistic masking, autistic burnout, and autistic identity. If you'd like to learn more about Kieran, check out our show notes and enjoy the episode you're about to hear.
How can we tell if somebody is autistic when we're communicating? How do we communicate as autistic people?
Ironically, even though we are told that we are not very good at picking up body language.
Speaker 1 (02:18):
What's actually being missed is that we're very good at picking up bod- body language cues from other autistic people but not necessarily picking up on cues from normal tistic people. Because the whole DSM is framed around us being broken rule people, normal people. But actually, if you look at us as whole people, our way of communicating is very, very different from normal tistic people. So they're missing that kind of trick and that kind of aspect of it.
Speaker 1 (02:45):
Yeah, and it also helps to reframe again that aspect of it being culture.
Speaker 1 (02:52):
Rather than disorder. Because if we're able to look across the room or come face to face with one of our own kind [inaudible 00:03:00] that doesn't say to me that we're very good at spotting disorder in people. It tells me we're very good at spotting a culture. And you could say the same for any culture or identity. I know within the community we joke about having a radar, an autistic radar.
Speaker 1 (03:16):
I think that's the same that any community people, when what we're looking at is a part of our inherent being. It's intrinsically who we are. So I think that's really important for people to know. I know you and I are asked a lot, by parents, "Do you think I might be autistic?" And often, they want to know what is it that you see in me that makes you believe I'm autistic? And sometimes that's really hard to pin down, because it's an essence of a person. It's the way we connect. We prefer connection over socialization. Now, when I connect with somebody very easily and we go deep very quickly, that's a pretty good indicator for me that somebody is likely to be autistic.
Yeah, I think it's what would be looked at by non-autistic people as oversharing.
Speaker 1 (04:06):
And (laughs) I've got lots of people who use me as a source of info dumping. So we might not have many conversations, not proper conversations, but every so often, someone will pop up in my messages and go blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And it's like 400 messages long. And then they'll go again, which is find. Because I've told them they can do that. Because they don't, they don't need a response from me. It's enough that they can just go bleh. And then they can go again. They just need the thumbs up from me or whatever that someone has acknowledged their existence and what they have to say. And that's pretty much it. And I don't tend to do that much with other people. I tend to be more of a listener then a splurger, but I like that. I don't feel the need to splurge, but I feel the need to listen. You're like that as well, Kristy. I mean, I know we, we talk back and forth all the time, but we talk on a very deep level most of the time when we're not making fun of each other.
Speaker 1 (05:00):
Speaker 1 (05:00):
Yeah, there always has to be a bit of that.
Speaker 1 (05:01):
But (laughs) I just like to be there for people.
Speaker 1 (05:06):
No, but it's interesting that you bring that up because we've had conversations before about autistic people who internalize.
Speaker 1 (05:15):
And, and you can be both. You can be an internalize and an externalizer, which I am both. And I love to listen like you're talking about. Otherwise, I wouldn't be a consultant. But I find something very enriching and satisfying about just holding space for other people [inaudible 00:05:32]. It's just about getting it out.
Speaker 1 (05:36):
[inaudible 00:05:37] but I think for those that are, it's about that energy exchange again. It's just that's there energy and that's their engine they need to release. And if there's someone there who's ready to catch, not necessarily take it on for themselves, but just enough to catch it, and then puts it down, I think that really, really an important aspect of our community. There are people like that who can take that role on and can be that kind of listening role. When it becomes overburdened, that's a difficult thing. If you're taking it on and keeping it and hugging it and not letting it go, then that's a very different thing. But if you're capable of listening and then just putting it to one side and just be happy that someone out there has had the option to kind of offload to somebody.
Speaker 1 (06:16):
Then that's really key. And you do get that from those parents that you were talking about before. In a way, it is a bit of a release of trauma I think. It acts like a therapy. It is a release. If someone's actually actively listening to what I'm saying, and I think quite often parents are heard but their not properly heard. People don't actually listen.
Speaker 1 (06:35):
They nod and they agree and then they go back to their agenda. Whereas, when a parent offloads to me for the first time, usually it's like exactly what you said. It is that space holding.
Speaker 1 (06:47):
And it's safe and, you know, sometimes I get wh- not sometimes. A lot of the time I get chronological emails, so somebody will send me an email and it will tell their whole life story and it will just go on and on. However, to me that's a communication that I'm safe for them. And I think this is a very big clue around how we spoke to each other. So there are people that will use other language than autistic. There are people who will say things like "rainbow people, indigo people, or gifted people, or highly sensitive persons."
[inaudible 00:07:24] recently, hasn't it?
Speaker 1 (07:28):
Speaker 1 (07:29):
It has. And I guess my thing is, I get a lot people come to my page and read my content, and then I see them share it in those groups, and they say things like, "Oh, this person thinks that this is autism but they don't know that it's just being a highly sensitive person." (laughs) I kind of laugh about it now, but this really is so indicative of how little people understand about autism. Because people are fixated on the child presentation. So they expect us to still struggle with communication in the way that we may have as children. But a lot of those struggles is that when everything you do is riddled with anxiety as a young person and as an adult, of course there are going to be significant differences in the way that we communicate with people who aren't a part of our autistic culture. Because I never know what I'm walking into.
I remember at [inaudible 00:08:25] for example, you know, it's a three years at [inaudible 00:08:28] I had a great friendship, fantastic friendship group. I look back now and I can clearly see that they were autistic as well. And the following year, I went into a different course, with different people, and I was completely shut down. I didn't fall into a group per se. I struggled to show up, because I didn't identify with [inaudible 00:08:49] people. That was [inaudible 00:08:50]. It was like a fluke. Sometimes I'd thrive in social situations and sometimes I would just not know what to do. Should I be silly right now, just usually my go to. Should I be performative? Should I seek out someone like me, autistic, and connect with them? What should I do? And if I didn't have those leads, I'd get the hell out of there straight away. I was not the kind of person that would hang in there hoping things would change. If I was in a situation where I was potentially looking stupid or vulnerable, I'd get out of there. That's probably got more to do with demand avoidance than just being autistic, I guess. I mean, I don't really know.
I think, I think you're right there. Cause I think, looking at my experiences, I would get to a certain point and then I would blend in. I would just disappear into the corner of the room kind of thing and, you know, I'd become part of the wallpaper. And so that point of leaving, I would probably never get to, because I probably, if it was, I don't know, if it was, not that I ever went to house parties, but if it was a house party, I could imagine that after everyone of them had eventually gone home and all the lights were turned off, I'd still be part of the wallpaper. You know, I'd still be there. (laughs)
Speaker 1 (10:05):
[inaudible 00:10:06] thinking about it. Like when you said that, I blend in and become part of the wallpaper, I felt cringe from head to toe at that feeling as being in that situation. For me, it's absolutely unbearable. It is unbearable and I admire any autistic person who finds a way to remain in that situation, because oh my Lord, it is painful.
Speaker 1 (10:37):
Ah, I can feel it. I'm really [inaudible 00:10:40].
Speaker 1 (10:41):
Right now. I just, I'd leave.
I think in terms of the communication aspect of that as well, do you find that it's those situations that you describe, your ability to find the other autistic person, or to be comfortable in that situation, or to do whatever you had to do, was also situational depending on how you were feeling, what happened that day? We often talk about autist.
... all depending on how you were feeling, what had happened that day. We often talk about autistic people and the things that go with us as being set in stone. And, you know, this is what you are like, and you are like that 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. But as a fact it's in flux as well, isn't it? It's that aspect of things being fluid.
And we sometimes talk about spiky profile, and I think people misread the spiky profile thing as well. Because again they assume that if you have a spiky profile, if you, I don't know, mapped out the- the spikiness of the Andes or the Himalayas or whatever, that it would remain like that, but it doesn't remain like that.
Speaker 1 (11:33):
It's all in flux, going up and down, and so many different contexts play into and it makes it so confusing sometimes, because you don't know where you are.
Speaker 1 (11:43):
Yeah. And I don't know about the UK, but in Australia we have this ridiculous concept called support levels. So now when people are assessed and diagnosed, they're assigned a one, two or three depending on their support needs, which is so... I don't even have a word for it. It is absolutely ridiculous.
Speaker 1 (12:04):
Because I can be absolutely debilitated by anxiety in one moment or one day. I can be in autistic burnout for three weeks. And then I can be like this. So having a number assigned to how autistic you are, or how much support, because it is translated like that, how autistic you are, when people hear number one they think mild autism. I'm [inaudible 00:12:29] two, which a lot of people are surprised about (laughs).
(laughs). Number two has a whole different meaning over here.
Speaker 1 (12:42):
Speaker 1 (12:42):
I think that's about the gist of it, if I'm honest.
I think it is, really (laughs).
Speaker 1 (12:43):
Yeah, it fluctuates, doesn't it? It really does.
Yeah, it does.
Speaker 1 (12:46):
I mean, when I was teaching, I could have a great day. Absolutely fine. Communicative. I could get in front of classroom, I could talk to my kids, I could do the whole colleague thing in the office. But on the days where we got, uh, I remember saying, "There's going to be a staff get together this afternoon," I'd be, oh, (laughs) out of there.
Speaker 1 (13:08):
Because at the end of the day, even though I know there's autistic people in there, my friends, my colleagues that I could go to, no, just not up for it. Can't do it. Just cannot.
Various jobs that I did, whether in schools or the jobs that I did afterwards, the only events outside of work that I would go to would be the Christmas kind of do or meal out or whatever, because... no, because it was socially acceptable to get drunk off your face.
Speaker 1 (13:36):
Oh, yes (laughs).
I mean, situations like that, if you are drinking, you're part of the crowd. You can say what you like because you're drunk-
Speaker 1 (13:41):
... and it's excusable, and you can act however you want. So it was another way of masking, but it was the only time that it was ever acceptable for me to do that. I still didn't like them, but I felt compelled and peer pressured into going to these things, so the fact that I could drink meant that I was less bothered about going to them, because I could get drunk and I could do what I wanted. Which was at the time when I drunk kind of heavily anyway, so (laughs).
Speaker 1 (14:04):
Me too. Me too. I mean, my alcohol is not for me in this lifetime.
Speaker 1 (14:08):
It played a big part of my masking for a long time, and I [inaudible 00:14:12] do. The only reason I would touch alcohol is to white myself out and to dumb myself down to shut off my sensory sensitivities, to dull my being, and to be able to just word vomit like everybody else. And that sounds really insulting to other people I just realized.
There is a truth to that. I drunk... my late teens through to my mid to late 20s, I drunk fairly heavily. More in my kind of late teens and early 20s. But that was also very much attached to the job that I was doing around that time. I was working in London, and, you know, you got on the train at 6:00 in the morning, you were at work at 7:30, 8:00. You worked all day and then you went drinking out at night and you rolled into bed at 2:00 and got back up-
Speaker 1 (14:58):
... and did the same thing the next day. But within that, it was a very clubbing scene. So I could literally be in a dark room. I could be the wallpaper in the dark room. Didn't even need to be wallpaper, because you couldn't even see the walls. You could have conversations with people, where they would yell at you and you would yell back, and it was absolutely acceptable that nobody knew what the other person was talking about, because (laughs) you couldn't hear them, you know? And you could drink within that.
And then in that as well, I was- I was very heavily into dance music. And I was stimming with dance music. I realize that now, I didn't know it then, but I absolutely was. That was me getting everything out. And I would drink, because the drink would keep me awake, it would make me hyper, and so I could dance more and I could just go on and on and on. And it would just kept me going. Looking back now at that aspect of my life, which was a really terrible time, and it was a really unhealthy time, physically and mentally, but actually I can see why I did what I did there.
Speaker 1 (15:49):
Yes, me too. Before you said about the music, I was just looking back thinking the first time I ever walked into a club, it was like heaven to me because the music was loud. For me, really loud music can be... even though I had sensitive ears, it can be a form of deep pressure seeking.
Speaker 1 (16:07):
It's sensory fulfillment.
Speaker 1 (16:09):
The bass in my body. And so, exactly what you're saying. I could dull be sensors, be with anybody and not care, and dance the night away. And it was incredible until it wasn't. It gave me the wings to fly, and then took away my sky in the end, and I just was far worse off than I began. But anyway, that's a whole other topic. Alcohol and drug addiction can be a way of masking and coping.
But it is also connected to the communication stuff, because we think of communication as an exchange of words, but it isn't just an exchange of words. To a degree, you can look at a person and they are communicating even they are standing perfectly still, doing absolutely nothing. Whether you read that communication right is a different thing, but they are communicating by what they're doing.
It's funny you saying about being sensitive to noise and stuff, because I'm partially deaf, and I think (laughs) that's through years of what I'm about to explain. I used to go to gigs and I used to stand next to the speakers at rock gigs. (laughs) You know, literally when your whole body would be bouncing, just through the bass coming through the speakers, and I needed that noise. And I hate noise. Absolutely hate noise. But loud music, I need loud music.
If I have music on my headphones, people complain because they can hear through my noise canceling headphones (laughs) and they can hear the music coming out of them because it's that loud. But I need that. I realize now, in a way it was me communicating to myself, because it was my body and my nervous system telling me what I needed, but at that point I wasn't listening to myself, I wasn't communicating with myself well enough.
And that's another thing as well, when we see, literally see through autistic people that don't realize that they're autistic, a lot of that is because we can see through the mask that they put on. It's really weird, you can't obviously see it, but it is that energy. I think again you can read the person underneath. You can see that person trying to push their way out, and being pressed down and suppressed.
Speaker 1 (17:59):
Yeah. And it's interesting, while you were speaking I was just thinking about the fact that when we talk about communication, a lot of it isn't necessarily literally about communication, it's about connecting with each other.
Speaker 1 (18:14):
And I think that's what we've been talking about when we started. So we're talking about how we connect with others. Communication itself is really interesting, because I think when people read in the DSM that there are communication deficits, they expect to see somebody who is going to have speech delay or obvious differences in the way they communicate. However, people like you and I, and many, many autistic people are very good with words.
Because for me, I mean, one of my majors at university was language. It was literature. And that's because I love writing. And we've talked about this before. I love the written word. It is the most beautiful form of art. And so growing up, because I was reading so many books, because that was my passion or my special interest, but so many words going in, in, in, in, in all the time meant that by the time I hit my adult years, even before that, I had probably a wider range of vocabulary in comparison to my peers.
And so people will often say of me, "You're so articulate," or, "You communicate really well," but what they're not understanding is that's because I'm an autistic person and I hold onto things that are really special to me, and one of them is language, one of them is words, poetry, the written form of art. So it's in there because it's my special interest, and it comes out because I've studied it.
I think also that can be used as part of masking. I've been working on masking for years, and, um, there's actually people play bingo with me now for me mentioning it (laughs).
Speaker 1 (20:01):
I'm not going to say that's a drinking game, but it could be. Um... (laughs)
Speaker 1 (20:06):
But, uh, I call that directed hyperlexia. So hyperlexia is the ability, uh, when you are effectively pre five, the ability to read at an adult level and to use vocabulary which you would assume that an adult would be able to use and a child wouldn't. Lots of people who are autistic, who are able to speak and were able to speak on time or speak early, usually it's because of hyperlexia and because we suck up written words and we can just regurgitate them.
But quite often it can be a way of fluffing your way through situations as well (laughs). Um, because if you use big words and you're able to communicate in extremely knowledgeable sounding sentences, actually people are like, "Oh, yeah, they're amazing. Aren't they brilliant? Yeah." But they don't realize, it's a lot of superficiality, because actually there can be a lot of nothing underneath.
And that's why lots of autistic people are amazing at general knowledge, but then you start digging a bit deeper and sometimes it doesn't go... autistic people are real- they're called, what I call Google ninjas (laughs). So, you know, it's like, what do you know about this subject? And you sit and you think, "I don't know anything about this subject." Pew, pew, pew, pew, straight on Google and find out, and then you know everything within a matter of minutes.
Speaker 1 (21:17):
You know, you suck it in and you become an expert in seconds on a topic that previously you didn't know anything about. And that's- that can be really quite dangerous in terms of masking, because actually, people don't realize that there is this superficiality there, and that it actually is... that intelligent fluff is actually hiding what's the real person underneath, what they actually want to say. But it's our way of kind of pushing through conversations and getting through it to the end of it, and so you can escape as quickly as possible, or that people love you because you're fascinating and they want to listen to you. It's a kind of... there's multiple thought processes that go with it, but...
Speaker 1 (21:55):
Yeah. For me as well, and I know that this isn't about [inaudible 00:22:00] but for me as well, I use it to disarm people. Well, I have, and-
Speaker 1 (22:03):
... but for me as well, I use it to disarm people, well, I have in my life, as a form of defense, as a form of keeping myself safe, as a form of keeping people at bay, as a form of never being vulnerable, as a form of maintaining some form of control.
So I remember being young and using huge words in order to disarm people so they wouldn't argue with me anymore. I have a brother-in-law who is autistic and wouldn't identify himself as autistic, but is autistic and loves to sit, and I'm not kidding, for hours, I mean it, hours and pull apart a topic. And he loves to do that with me, because we are very, very similar in autistic nature. And most people won't do that with him because they're terrified, because he gets in really deep and he can be really offensive.
But to me, I love the opportunity to get in there with him and pull things apart. And I guess my point is I'm never afraid of a good argument with somebody because language. Even if I don't know as much as they do, language is on my side, articulation.
And I say this so often with parents of autistic children who don't realize that they're autistic. They are articulate. They communicate really well. But you are so bang on about it being part of the mask, most definitely. And that's the first thing I think when I hear somebody speak like this or I get an email from a mother or a father or any carer or family member. How I know someone is autistic comes across in their writing. I don't even have to look at them or meet them. I can read something they write and go, "Okay, autistic."
Speaker 1 (23:50):
It's not just the words they use. I think it's the energy that they convey through those words as well. It's almost like, you know, we're going to wander off into the realms of woo-ness. But it's almost like part of their energy has gone into their writing, and that energy exists around that writing, and then the energy is transferred back out to us, because there's emotion around words and things.
Non-autistic people talk about reading between the lines, and maybe necessarily what they mean there is around literalism, you know, that someone could write something and there's some other aspect to it that maybe somebody hasn't considered. But actually, our reading in between the lines is very much emotionally based...
Speaker 1 (24:25):
... rather than literally based, which is quite ironic, because we're accused of being literal all the time (laughs). You know, but actually, emotion plays such a huge part in it.
And I think a lot of this comes back to the diagnostic criteria is written about non-autistic people who are broken.
Speaker 1 (24:41):
And what it's missing is that, actually, when it's talking about deficits in communication, it's talking about deficits in non-autistic communication. And actually, we're really good at autistic communication. So if you were to [inaudible 00:24:54] criteria, you could say, "Non-autistic people have huge deficits in autistic communication," and you could break it down that way as well, because there's an empathy thing backwards and forwards, isn't it? It's about looking at it from the other side.
Speaker 1 (25:05):
Absolutely. And I think, too, just touching back on what you were saying about the essence that comes from the writing from an autistic person, how we tap into that energy, I think also we identify some recurring themes. When we're unidentified autistic adults, even if we're identified, we have very similar threads that run through our lives, you know? There might be mental illness in our families, addiction, all kinds of themes that recur because there may be misdiagnoses or there may be somebody who's very controlling or because they were highly anxious and felt completely out of control because they had this backstory of never being in control and always being shamed and humiliated.
But you read their emails and you just know instantly. I know instantly if someone's autistic. And also, non-autistic people don't give you a chronological history. They don't-
Speaker 1 (26:01):
You have all the information that autistic people believe is relevant.
Speaker 1 (26:07):
Very little information from non-autistic people. Very little.
And I think what you see when you look at emails like this, and we both get them a lot, we have pattern spotting brains, we have problem solving brains that like to look for patterns and things [inaudible 00:26:21].
Speaker 1 (26:20):
... chances. And I think if you took a generalized average email from a parent who's making an inquiry and saying about, you know, "All of this has happened in my life, and what do I do?," you can look through that and it's almost like someone has taken a pin and pinned aspects of my life within their life. So I put a little flag in each, each-
Speaker 1 (26:39):
... kind of area. And it, and that's what we see and that's what we connect with. It's like you could take a photo of them and overlay it over your own photo and aspects would match up. It's really hard to put... Ironic be it for a communication piece, this is really hard to put into words, isn't it?
Speaker 1 (26:53):
It's the language just does not exist to express this. We're using non-autistic terminology to describe autistic behavior, and that's where it all falls down.
Speaker 1 (27:02):
It's really interesting, Kieran. I liken these to, because we talk about these a bit, how ... And I will say this a lot to many people. What I want to express about my autistic experience, there isn't always a language for.
Speaker 1 (27:17):
So I end up using words that are inadequate...
Speaker 1 (27:21):
... and that make it sound like it doesn't make sense or it's ridiculous. And that's how a lot of autistic experience comes to be stigmatized, because we have to make due with the words we have that are not our language.
And I liken that to sharing an office with a friend of mine who is also a past colleague, and she's Macedonian. And I find this with a lot of our friends that are European. They talk on the phone with their family or their partners in their own language. And every now and then, an English word will be thrown in there or they'll do a sentence in English and then go back to their language.
And I said to her one day, "Why do you do that?" And she said, " Because there are certain parts of our language that can only be expressed in English. We don't have those words in Macedonian." And for me, that's the same as the autistic experience. We have to take parts of the English language to describe to non-autistic people our experience. However, they're probably still not going to get it, because we're making due with what we have.
And when we're trying... You know, I've done Lives where it feels really risky to [inaudible 00:28:33]. But I've done Lives and I've talked about energy as an example. The risk for me is that there's a whole few populations of people that use the terminology energy to describe psychic phenomenon and superstition and things like that. That's not really what I'm talking about when I talk about energy. But sometimes, it kind of overlaps and there's a border there that it crosses. But again, that's because there's no adequate English language for the autistic experience in many parts. And that's why the criteria is so limited, because it's based on behavioral observation, not the internal lived experience that we don't have language for.
So I don't know why I started talking about that.
Speaker 1 (29:25):
I don't know what that's got to do... Although, it has a lot to do with communication, really.
Well, it ha, has everything to do with communication, because when you talk about energy, it is about emotional exchange. And we do, all humans exchange emotions with each other. And that's why I think a lot of people really struggling under the pandemic with Zoom calls and things like that, because-
Speaker 1 (29:45):
... when you're not in a room with someone, there's no emotional exchange. You don't get emotional feedback from people. It is the sensory proce-... It's part of sensory processing. It's actually extra-sensory perception, which again people think, "Oh my God. They're going to go in to talk about telekinesis and parakinesis and things like that."
The extra-sensory perception is about that energy, that emotional exchange between people. It's you picking up on the emotions of other people. We talk about empath, which really is a Star Trek term. It's not, not really a thing, but it is about people who are more open to emotional exchanges. And that's autistic people generally, because I think we as a people, although we are told that we are emotionless and that we can't read other people's emotions, that's not quite right, because on a surface level, yes, we do. On a very surface level, w, yes, we do.
But actually, on a deeper level, emotionally, we are feeling those emotions. And that's where that notion comes of empathy and being an empath and being empathic. Again, it's something that we do have language, which is really, really bad. You know, the fact that we, we say empath, which came from Star Trek (laughs), it's like Star Trek came up with a word which n, we know after will apply-
Speaker 1 (30:55):
Is that really where it originated?
Ori-, uh, the idea around it was from before there. But Star Trek popularized the notion that there were these empathic people-
Speaker 1 (31:04):
... that could read other people's emotions. So it's bizarre that we have to fall back on sci-fi tropes (laughs) in order to e... Again, it's that the language isn't there. But again, when you talk about energy like that, it's not woo. It's not-
Speaker 1 (31:21):
... doodles and reading auras and things like that. But I think a lot of that kind of understanding actually does stem from that, because if you think someone who is, who has synthesi-... I can't... I can never say this word. Synthe-, synesthesia or synesnesia. I can never pronounce it properly. But, you know, sees in colors, who visualizes in colors and things.
So if you are quite empathic and you pick up on other people's deeper emotions and what they're feeling emotionally, but you see that in colors...
Speaker 1 (31:47):
There you go. So, but you have people that say, "I can read auras," right?
Speaker 1 (31:53):
You kind of are. On one level, you are. But on another level, you're not. You're just picking up on the same emotions that other people pick up on, but you're actually seeing it in a colorful...
Speaker 1 (32:06):
This is brilliant.
Speaker 1 (32:07):
Brilliant, Kieran. I'm not kidding. I never thought about it like that. I had thought about all the other stuff, like when I meet somebody who calls themself spiritual or a psychic medium or a clairvoyant or they're very open-minded or however they describe themselves. I always think autistic.
Speaker 1 (32:31):
But I'd never thought about the auras being like that. I had never thought about it like that. And I don't talk about it, because I don't want to be stigmatized.
Speaker 1 (32:39):
But I don't see myself as someone who's psychic or anything like that. But you've just nailed it. That's exactly what it is.
Again going back to how we talk about autism's neurology and autistic neurology, the filters work very differently. They let more information through. So our sensory filters let more and more information through.
So you could also look at that as being we're all humans.
Speaker 1 (33:03):
... as being raw humans?
Speaker 1 (33:03):
So because we feel more, we're more in touch with the sensory environment around us because we have more of that information flowing into us.
Speaker 1 (33:10):
But you can understand when someone doesn't have the understanding of what's happening and they see colors or they feel like they can read people's minds because they can pick up on their body cues and their emotions and things like that, you can see how you fall into that pattern so, you need answers, you, we're problem solvers, like you already-
Speaker 1 (33:27):
... said. And that is an answer to the problem. It might not be a perfect fit, but it kinda fits because then you can fall into hyperfocusing about it and making it a whole thing-
Speaker 1 (33:37):
... about yourself, and it becomes an answer for the missing bits of your identify.
Speaker 1 (33:42):
Absolutely. And before I realized I was autistic, well, when I was exploring the possibility, that's one of the things that surprised me. I was reading about how many autistic adults identify with being spiritualists, which means people who dabble in those extrasensory perceptive skill. And it was in that moment that I went, "Oh wow," and then started to make the connection, like you just said. That's so interesting.
So I know we don't have much time left; we've got 10 minutes. I wonder if we could talk about ... I was just thinking how we can identify each other in a group setting, for example, and for me, it would be someone who is, like you described before, hanging around in the background somewhere, just kind of [inaudible 00:34:29] between people, saying a little bit here and there, doing their best to not look awkward, or it can be someone in deep conversation with another person. And what I often say is, once those people find someone who will sit and have a deep conversation with them, that's their person for the whole night.
I found my safe person.
Speaker 1 (34:52):
Speaker 1 (34:55):
Honestly, I remember-
Speaker 1 (34:56):
... being at a party and meeting another autistic person, and I didn't know I was autistic, and she found me, moved from her designated spot to come and sit next to me, asked me, literally said, "So what's your story? Tell me about your life." Literally said that to me and I was like, "Whoa," and then followed me to the toilet and-
Speaker 1 (35:20):
... didn't ... yeah, didn't wanna be alone, and I understood it ...
Speaker 1 (35:25):
... didn't want to look awkward. We know sometimes how hard it is to have those moments where we're alone.
Speaker 1 (35:34):
Also, I think there's ... Do you think there's a higher awareness that non-autistic people ... We have an experience and history of trauma of being targeted when we don't look like we're engaged with other people, so if you stand out or you look awkward, you become a target, and I think we carry that into adulthood.
Speaker 1 (35:51):
It's a hard one, isn't it, because-
Speaker 1 (35:52):
... it all comes back to mask (laughs) ... I'm doing it again ... Everything comes back to-
Speaker 1 (35:56):
... masking, every situation, because it, even outside of social situations, it comes back to masking because-
Speaker 1 (36:00):
... you mask this all from yourself as well. Everything you do in preparation to prepare for a social event and everything afterwards that you do kind of is all part of the same process.
Speaker 1 (36:10):
But that, that trauma of being singled out like that, it weighs on us. Have you ever read the story of The Pilgrim's Progress?
Speaker 1 (36:18):
You ever heard that before? It's based on a Bible story and it's about these children that aren't very nice. So an old man comes along and he actually is like a magician, but he gives them burdens, physically burdens them. So they have, like, a burden that's attached to them; it's like a big rock sack that's, like, stuck to their backs, and they have to go on this journey to this place where these burdens can be removed. And the whole analogy is that they lose the burdens and the burdens get lighter along the way as they help people and have adventures and do, like, good things.
We carry similar burdens; these burdens of trauma, because from right from year one, we are literally soaked in shame, absolutely soaked in it, drenched it in. It's like non-autistically, we're among the hose pipe and the hose is downward.
Speaker 1 (37:00):
And it's all framed around validation of our communication and who we are and where we go, and it's like, big Belisha beacons are flashing when we are in a social event, and other people do come, want to connect with that when they recognize-
Speaker 1 (37:13):
... that same profile and that energy that we're given off.
A couple of years ago, I was at this most horrible networking thing. I never go to networking events and I got dragged to it, and I ended up being called up by someone. And literally, what we were talking about, holding a space for someone, I wanted to hold a space for them, but I was incredibly uncomfortable with how they wanted me to hold that space, and I was literally, for the three hours that I was there, I was chased around this room, like, literally walking backwards around (laughs) the room, trying to get away. Not trying to get away, but trying to-
Speaker 1 (37:44):
... wanting to keep in the conversation, but g- have my space as well and not be backed into a corner, because the only time I want to get in a corner is when I want to be in the corner (laughs), you know, and it's not to be pushed there. And then it becomes difficult because you, someone's identified you as a safe person. You've identified them as a safe person, but because I think subconsciously they're so happy that they've found a safe person, that can be really overwhelming as well and that can be difficult.
A lot of this is about self-awareness, and that's the issue. When parents come to us, a lot of those parents do lack self-awareness because they have been masking for so long and haven't realized. And, you know, and then-
Speaker 1 (38:23):
... it's really difficult when you haven't looked properly in a mirror for 20, 30, 40, 50 years and then all of a sudden, you have to. That's a really difficult thing to do. And I mean, you have spent that whole time communicating in a way that's completely inefficient for you, isn't effective for you at all, but then you realize that there's another way that you can do things, which is more suitable for you-
Speaker 1 (38:46):
... but you've spent so long doing it the other way, you fall in a habit. It's like giving up smoking or kicking any kind of habit.
Speaker 1 (38:55):
It's a really complex and difficult thing to do.
Speaker 1 (38:58):
Yes. It's almost internalized ableism.
But it is.
Speaker 1 (39:01):
Speaker 1 (39:02):
... it ... yeah, it literally is. I still grapple with that myself, because while you were talking, I was thinking that, how we absolutely mask to ourselves 100%, but also, when I realized I was autistic, or when I was diagnosed, I had no idea what was real and what wasn't about me, and I fooled myself into thinking I enjoyed things that were actually painful for me.
And then there are also society's idea about what mental health is and what people need to obtain substantial health and well-being, and one of those is community. We must have community. We must go out. We must be with other people, and for the autistic person, sometimes that's the worst thing.
Speaker 1 (39:52):
We need a lot of downtime.
So there are things that are [inaudible 00:39:56] as good for everybody, that were terrible for me but I pushed myself into it, but as well, you know, I'd go to an event and I'd communicate and connect with people and all of that, and I'd go home and I will have hated it and it-
Speaker 1 (40:09):
... will take me weeks to recover because I'd be burned out and I'd have a social hangover. But despite all of that, I'd go, "I did really well tonight," and I'd be on a high. "I humaned tonight. I did like normal people do. I'm getting better," because my whole life's journey was about being better, doing better, getting to be this person that I really need to be, and when I was diagnosed, there was relief, there was grief and relief. I cried because I thought, "Oh my God, I'm never gonna be better. I'm gonna be like this all my life," but then the relief was, "I'm not a broken version of a neurotypical. I'm a perfectly whole autistic person and-"
I'm trying to be neurotypical (laughs)-
Speaker 1 (40:49):
... and failing.
Speaker 1 (40:51):
And I'm so sorry, but we have to end on that note. I could talk about this forever, forever because communication just encompasses so much.
Yeah. I think there's so many components and aspects here that we could just talk about, like-
Speaker 1 (41:08):
Speaker 1 (41:08):
And I do wanna keep on mutism as much-
Speaker 1 (41:09):
... because that was me as a child. And I don't want people think that because we're like this now, we must have been like this when we were kids. It goes back to that fluctuating, and there's so much [inaudible 00:41:22] and-
Speaker 1 (41:25):
... just it ... you can't keep it specific to communication because there's so many other elements.
No, but I think that's really important though, because you go to any training and it's broken down into these individual aspects that are in a vacuum and not connected to each other, but I think it's really important that although we have an overarching theme, that we draw in on all this other stuff, because it is all so connected; you can't talk about one thing without bringing in another 10 or 15.
Speaker 1 (41:50):
We're talking about human beings.
Well, exactly. I mean, we're the most complex creatures on the planet.
Speaker 1 (41:55):
I think when I break it down, that's because they're focusing on deficits, whereas, we're talking about human beings here. We're talking about how to be human, autistic human.
But I think that, again, is a very, very neurotypical thing to do, because neurotypicals love to categorize things. I know I don't think we do. I think because we see the chaos ...
Speaker 1 (42:15):
... and we see how modeled everything is, we struggle with those categorizations because they're nonsensical, they're just arbitrary.