Right from a young age, my family treated me the same as everyone else. Despite my challenging behaviour, everyone continued to stand by me and educate me. I recently thought that my parents just had to work extra hard in making sure I understood things. It wasn’t a case of me being stupid, it was just because I couldn’t grasp the concept of it. With my sisters, teaching them rights and wrongs was probably fairly straight forward. I am not a parent so I’m not quite sure how it works but I can imagine they get the idea pretty soon and don’t question it. But with myself, I figured that maybe with my lack of understanding ‘normal’ things, a task like this must have taken quite some time for me to learn. I guess most people even think that it can’t be taught to an autistic person. Some people say that they can’t be cured. This sort of makes it sound like a dreaded curse or something. But I do believe that you can learn just like everyone else. It may take longer and it may be harder, but I think it can be done. Which comes down to the challenges of socialising, that I face.
Like everything else, I was taught to be like everyone. And even socialising came into this. It helped that I’m from a big family and back in my old house, our neighbours had the same number of children there was in my family. So with many BBQs and days out with them, I subconsciously developed a social understanding. I also had CBT which helped me with understanding how to read people and know when to shut up, as talking too much for too long is common in us aspies. And with it being easier to converse now that I am older, it makes being around people much more comfortable and an enjoyable experience. Working at the rescue has helped me immensely too. It has given me confidence in socialising and I’ve actually made some friends.
Aside from just talking to people, socialising has many grey areas that can be hard to decipher. Things like literal thinking and sarcasm are easy to misread. With or without aspergers. But my parents taught me to understand what some phrases mean and when sarcasm is used. I do have the occasional moment where I am bamboozled, but I soon work it out and learn from it.
Things like learning when to join a conversation or knowing when it’s okay to speak, are all things I learnt during my CBT. Also, reading people’s facial expressions and giving eye contact. I’m still not great with eye contact but I was taught to look at the space between the eyebrows instead because it makes the person think you’re looking at their eyes. I’m not really sure why eye contact is a big deal. Maybe because it shows you are interested. But when I am really struggling, I make sure I am nodding to show I am still listening. I’ve also made a habit of laughing slightly after telling a joke so people know I’m being funny, just in case I don’t deliver the sarcasm very well (I am usually quite sarcastic). It’s things like misunderstanding these social aspects, that make socialising harder. It’s what I call the grey areas. I naturally think in black and white (straight forward and logical) so all these things wouldn’t come naturally to me. But as I have been educated to understand them, I am able to comfortably hold conversations with people and feel confident in what I say and how I react.