A(n absent) social moment.
While I was volunteering over the weekend, I spent several hours with a mom and her #ActuallyAutistic son.
I'm #ActuallyAutistic also, to different degrees, in varying ways.
The old, still somewhat pervasive, idea that people whose autism looks like his – that they live in some private, unknowable world? It fucking KILLS ME. I understood every second of the time I spent around him, because he was visibly, expressively reacting to events. There was no filter to soften things when the world around him stuck its proverbial hand through to his inner world and jiggled things about, and there was no filter to soften things when he was happy, or frustrated, or hurt by those intrusions.
All he was doing was living without words.
I think about living without words a lot. I think about body language. (I think about how utterly nonsensical most "widely recognized" body language is.1)
I spent a fair bit of those hours quietly hoping he'd take a greater interest in me, hoping we'd have an opportunity to communicate. Hoping I could offer him some clarity he might not often get. Y'see, part of being #ActuallyAutistic – for me – is having a constant subprocess running, trying to ensure I'm "correctly" expressive enough for others: that my eyelids, eyebrows, nose, mouth, arms, hands, neck, shoulders, ears, are doing things to portray social engagement and appropriate emotional responses. Some times, it's a background process that uses few resources. Other times, it's definitely a resource-intensive, foreground project.
To keep my eyelids, eyebrows, nose, mouth, arms, hands, neck, shoulders, ears, and all the rest, doing the things others expect them to do, things that make sense to other people.
Goddamn, did I want a chance to make all those parts of myself do things that would hopefully make sense to US.
The chance never came up, and I wasn't going to manufacture it. The world sticks its grubby fuckin' hand into my own life more times each day than I enjoy.
Missed opportunity or no, it was good, worthwhile time in my eyes. It cemented, indubitably, that many of the differences between he and I were solely differences of scale. "Five" steps along a few different axes might make us twins; I didn't need to take those steps to recognize my sibling.
1An easy example: The widely recognized pose for "I'm harmless; please don't harm me" is to stand with arms wide, hands up. Standing, it's possible to run at someone; arms wide, it's easy to grapple someone. Better body language would be to sit cross-legged, head down, palms on the floor/ground. Someone in this position is actually less of a threat to those around them.