There are two sides to every question. Even to the neurological condition called autism.
To recognize Autism Awareness Month (April), I’d like to take you on a trip to another planet. One where autistic people are the norm, and those we like to call neurotypical—NTs—are the oddballs.
Thanks to the Internet, that planet is no further away than your closest Internet-connected device on WrongPlanet.net, where the community forum responds to the question, “Do You Find Neurotypicals Rather Confusing Sometimes?”
“I don’t get this whole attention seeking thing,” writes aziraphale. “Why would anyone want negative attention? They also expect you to know what they are feeling by reading their face instead of them telling you. If you want someone to know how you’re feeling, why not just tell them?”
“For many NTs, they are their special interests,” responds pascalflower. “Aspies* like to talk about their special interests. NTs like to talk about themselves and like people to talk about them. They feel special in that way, because they are their own special interests. They are more interested in themselves than any thing else, and want everyone to be interested in them too.”
To the folks at WrongPlanet, NTs seem driven by a compulsive need for pointless socializing.
“In my last few jobs…people always seemed to want to take long tea breaks to discuss whatever it is that they discuss,” writes Magicfly. “I could never understand this. As far as I was concerned if I took a break it just meant I wasn’t doing my job.”
“I don’t understand why it’s considered so important to constantly socialize,” adds Squirsh. “There are so many people at my college who can’t bear to spend even one day not doing something social with a group of people.”
The notion of conformity doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to the community at WrongPlanet, either.
“It’s bizarre enough that people will dress a certain way because other people do, but it’s insane that someone would change their beliefs because of popularity!” continues aziraphale. “Politics and religion make massive impacts on the world and they seem too vital to the world to be influenced by something as trivial as popularity.”
“They have all these rules,” alana writes, “and they know them just by sensing them. And if you don’t know them then something is wrong with you.”
In fact, the citizens of WrongPlanet, instead of being socially detached, are, in fact, much more sensitive and respectful than NTs of the fact that each of us is unique. In the WrongPlanet community it’s called “neuro-diversity.”
“I do not really get why the need for gender roles and especially why they need to assigned so strictly on the basis of anatomy,” writes Verdandi. “It is profoundly confusing to me why more people do not see this as arbitrary. This dogmatism causes a lot of people unnecessary harm.”
To WrongPlanet’s community, what NTs call ‘spin’ is ‘lies.’ “I find the inability of most NTs to state their truth,” writes GetReal, “and the incessant social dances around even the possibility of truth telling to be crazy making.”
“The inability to step outside a situation and look at it logically and the way they will discount the best solution for a problem because it’s ‘not the done thing,'” is midnightblue’s complaint. “I get very frustrated when someone asks for advice and I give a great solution but they’re like ‘oh, I couldn’t possibly do that,’ and there’s no valid reason not to do it.”
If you want to take a step further in your autism reality tour, visit The Institute for the Study of the Neurologically Typical (angrysutie.wordpress.com):
“Neurotypical syndrome is a neurobiological disorder characterized by a preoccupation with social concerns, delusions of superiority, and obsession with conformity…There is no known cure for Neurotypical syndrome. However, many NTs have learned to compensate for their disabilities and interact normally with autistic persons.”
If all this makes you feel upside down and as if you had, well, landed on the wrong planet, that’s the point. You just had a glimpse of what all day every day can be like for people with autism.
And it’s useful to consider that the person who made the first stone tool might just have been an autistic pre-hominid with a special interest in small objects and a disinterest in the primate group grooming-fest.
*Asperger syndrome: a constellation of characteristics first noted by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger (1906-1980): high intelligence combined with traits that NTs describe as difficulties understanding conventional social interactions and expectations, intense idiosyncratic preoccupations, repetitive routines or rituals, and unusual speech and language patterns.