Dispatch Mismatch

I have echolalia, which means that I repeat what other people say after they say it.

Usually, someone says something, whether to me or someone else, and I repeat the last word or two of their statement, several times.

Someone: Have you seen this new band, Bunny Bot and the RoboCats?

Me: RoboCats, Cats, Cats…

Someone else: Oh yeah! That’s my new favorite band! I went to their concert last weekend!

Me: Weekend, Weekend, Weekend…

Someone: There’s another concert this weekend. Wanna go?

Me: Go, Go, Go, Go, Go, Go, Go…

Someone else: OK! Let’s go! RoboCats and Bunny Bot!

Me: Bunny Bot, Bot, Bot…

My whole life, I have been doing this, and it is usually not a big deal, except that people usually think that I am talking to them when I am just saying what I heard with no intention of communicating anything at all.

When I am at home, I often echo the statements of people on TV, and whenever my mother hears me echoing something, she automatically thinks that I am talking to her, when I am not even aware that I am saying anything at all. With echolalia, I usually say the words a few times in a row before I realize that I am saying anything at all, at which point I can stop if I choose.

However, my saying of the words, even once, seems to make people think that I am talking to them, because most people have such a strong communication instinct that they are super duper primed to receive the incoming communications of everyone around them, whether those communications are actual communications or not.

In a thousand words, the situation looks like this:

The mutant three-eared bunny says “hoodoo”, and the bunny bot on the hover rock gives the tilted anvil one little poke with her finger to drop it over the edge, yikes…

But what happens if we turn the tables?

What happens when I hear someone say something, someone like me, repeating some words that they just heard on a YouTube video playing on their laptop?

I am autistic, so my brain is not super duper primed to receive incoming communications and respond to them by instinct. When someone says something to me, it takes me a little longer than most to realize that someone is communicating with me, and it takes me a little longer than most to think of the words that I am going to say in response to them. That is why there is sometimes a little delay in my verbal responses to other people. That was why I usually didn’t respond to people at all, when I was little.

For me, the thousand words look moar moar moar like this:

In my mind, the anvil is not placed, tilted, or ready to drop off the rock. Instead, I have to expend extra effort to push it to the edge of my hover rock, tilt it up, and shove it over the edge to fall on top of the unsuspecting three-eared mutant.

In the meantime, the mutant has the chance to say “hoodoo” many times in a row, at least the four in the picture, but likely moar moar moar. As soon as she says “hoodoo” two or three times, my brain automatically knows that she is echoing, not communicating, so my brain automatically shuts down my process of responding. Responding to a communication costs a lot of effort for me, so if there is no communication, then there is no need to waste energy.

The thousand words can be saved for this:

I completely ignore the echolaliator and continue my happy snappy Internetzing in effortless comfort.

Or moar moar moar for this:

Either way, whether I ignore the echoes or start echoing them myself, there would be no miscommunication between the three-eared mutant bunnies. There would be no communication at all, because the three-ears have the same theory of mind, autistic theory of mind that is not super duper primed for communication, does not respond by effortless instinct, and does not misread the echoes of others into communications or the intention to communicate.

Only when the bunnies have different theories of mind and different numbers of ears is there a dispatch mismatch, a general pattern that holds true in real life eggswell.

By the way, just to let y’all know, my anvil is back from the shop, but I am still waiting for my hover rock to arrive in the mail. I don’t know when I’m going to get it, because I lost my SpaceEx tracking number.

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The Way To Relate

Often, when autistic people talk about their autistic traits, other people relate to those traits.

For example, I might say that socializing exhausts me, and before I start saying how exactly socializing exhausts me, someone else jumps in and says that socializing tires them out too, that they relate to me by having the same trait that I have.

Or I might say that I am hypersensitive to noise, and before I start saying how exactly I am hypersensitive to noise, someone else jumps in and says that they don’t like sudden loud noises either, that they relate to me by having the same trait that I have.

Or I might say that I sometimes have difficulty speaking and conversing, and before I start saying how exactly I have difficulty speaking and conversing, someone else jumps in and says that they sometimes can’t find the right words either, that they relate to me by having the same trait that I have.

In a thousand words, a summary of the above:

When people say that they relate to me before I start relating any of the details of my traits and experiences, what they seem to be saying is that we all have pretty much the same traits, that we all have pretty much the same experiences, that we are all pretty much the same, except just a little different in detail, and that I could be just like everyone else if I just swam harder and faster with my school of fish in the direction in which all the other fish are swimming.

Relating is a common phenomenon in social interactions. People often relate to each other, and for most people, having other people say that they relate often helps them feel better about themselves and less alone in their lives. Relating is considered a generally good thing, and people generally do it with good intentions.

However, it doesn’t work for me, and I don’t like it when people do it to me.

To the relating, I don’t relate.

I don’t relate, because I am autistic, and I think verry merry berry differently from most of the people around me. Unlike how most people are different from each other, I am not just different in the small details, verry merry berry many of them for each different person. I am verry merry berry different in the big picture too, and my traits and experiences are not nearly the same as everyone else’s. They are not the same, and they are not similar either. In addition, I can’t be just like everyone else no matter how much I try, no matter how hard and fast I swim with my school of fish in the direction in which all the other fish are swimming.

Another thousand words to summarize:

When I say that socializing exhausts me, I mean that I feel physically ill after spending a few minutes around people at a party where I can’t hear anything that anyone is saying to me, because I am hypersensitive to noise, and I can hear every little clink of glass and scuffle of shoe in the room, so all these little noises everywhere are taking over my brain, which is processing far more sensory stimuli in the form of noises and lights and sights and sounds at a far more amplified and detailed level than everyone else’s brain, and that is why I am having difficulty speaking and conversing, because I think in pictures, not words, and I am way too overloaded and braindrained right now to do my usual overloading braindraining translation of pictures into words to communicate with other people in a way that is still verry merry berry different from how most people communicate with each other.

Or I might say that I feel sick whenever someone comes into my room when I wasn’t expecting them.

Or I might say that I can hear people sniffling in the kitchen downstairs and on the opposite side of the house from my room with my door closed.

Or I might say that I used to be a non-verbal child who had zero words in my mind and therefore never said anything to anyone who said anything to me.

Once I get a chance to describe my traits and experiences in detail, most people don’t relate, and that is exactly what I wish for them to do. I wish for most people not to relate to me, because I know that many of my traits and experiences are not relatable for people who are not autistic or even autistic people who have an expression of autism that is significantly different from mine.

When people don’t relate to me, I can be my normal natural self, without having to swim too hard and too fast with my school of fish in the direction in which all the other fish are swimming. That exhausts me quickly, and I can’t do it for long without sinking.

When people do relate, I can’t be my normal natural self. When people relate to me, what they expect from me is that I relate to them as well. Well, I don’t, and I can’t. In addition, they expect me to do what they do in the way in which they do it, because they think that I am not that different from them. After all, they relate to me, or they think that they do without waiting to hear any of the details of my traits and experiences that make mine verry merry berry different from theirs.

The opposite doesn’t hold true. I don’t relate to other people, and I don’t think that I do, because I know that they are verry merry berry different from me. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t ever relate to anyone else ever. To relate to people who think verry merry berry differently from me, I have to hear many of the details of their traits and experiences that make theirs verry merry berry different from mine. Otherwise, I don’t know what their traits and experiences are, and I don’t know if I have any that are at all similar to theirs.

In many cases, I don’t, but that still doesn’t mean that I can’t relate at all.

I can often find a way to relate.

For example, when someone tells me that they are upset about a social slight that they received from someone else, I don’t and can’t relate. I don’t and can’t relate, because I am not as sensitive to social cues as most people are, so chances are that a social slight that someone else perceived as a strong offense against them is something that didn’t even register in my mind. To me, these social perceptions are like hypersensitive overreactions to hallucinatory delusions about things that are not real, and I have to remember explicitly that they are real to other people, that other people get upset and feel bad about them all the time as well.

In my mind, the feeling is unmutual, but I know what it is like to be upset by other things that are real to me, but not to others. I know what it is like to be upset by a sudden interruption or eating noises or the noise of the phone ringing or the noise of the doorbell ringing or too many people talking for too long or just one person going on and on and on in an excessively varitone voice.

I know what it is like to be upset about the things that I get upset about, and I know what it is like to feel bad about the things that I feel bad about, so I can draw a line between my feelings in one situation and someone else’s feelings in another situation. This doesn’t require that we feel the same way in the same situation, but it still relates our feelings to each other’s, so we can understand a little something about each other.

If someone knows that I can’t stand to hear their eating noises that drive me crazy and shut down my brain, then they know that I am not eating with them for a reason other than me disliking them and wishing to avoid them at all cost.

If I know that someone else feels neglected because I am not eating with them, then I know that they wish to spend more time with me and need me to spend more time with them doing something other than eating.

Even amongst people who think verry merry berry differently, relating can be done, as long as it is done in a different way. The lines for relating can be drawn, and the ways built up from listening to people when they say a little something about themselves.

Listening, whether the people are autistic or not, whether their experiences are different in the big picture or the small details.

Listening to relate, not speaking to not relate.

I think that everyone likes to be listened to and told that they are different in certain situations, that they really are different from everyone else in the specifics of their ongoing life experiences. Sometimes, the best way to relate is to admit the differences, figure out what they are, and go from there.

Other times, relating is purrrfurrrtly effortless, even amongst people who think verry merry berry differently in the big picture and the small details.

All of us fish in our school wish to avoid the big bad anglerfish dangling its light to lure us in and eat us. That is why we seek safety in numbers.

The Light Of Day And Night

I have sensory issues, many many many of them, and the greatest of them is my hypersensitivity to light.

I am verry merry berry hypersensitive to light.

One of the lights to which I am verry merry berry hypersensitive is the light of the Sun.

I have issues with the light of the Sun.

The light of the Sun hurts my eyes, my eyes in the back of my head.

The light of the Sun hurts my brrrainzzz, verry merry berry much.

To me, the light of the Sun is like a vampire, a brain-draining vampire that drrrainzzz my brrrainzzz of my brrrainzzz, of it being its normal healthy happy snappy self.

The light of the Sun makes my brrrainzzz not work, so I must limit my exposure to it, if I wish my brrrainzzz to work, today, tomorrow, totomorrow, and for months and years to come.

To limit my exposure to it, I wear sunglasses, which I don’t really like to wear, or a hat, which I do really like to wear.

This summer, I have been wearing my Red Sox cap.

It has a big B and a big brim, and it keeps the light out and my brrrainzzz in.

While wearing it, I feel like my brrrainzzz are being stored safely in my head by its comfortable consistent pressure around my head.

I like things that place a comfortable consistent pressure around my head.

I like bike helmets, and I would never go biking without wearing one.

I like bunny ear headbands, and I often wore these in college.

I like chemistry goggles, and I always wear these when I fly past the Sun on my annual magic carpet ride to celebrate the official end of summer, the season of the Sun and its light.

I love the Sun, but I hate its bright light, light too bright.

In the morning, I hate the bright light that shines into my face and makes my eyes water.

At noontime, I hate the bright light that beams on my back and makes my head droop.

After noon, I hate the bright light that fries my forehead and makes my hair heat.

In the evening, I love the twilight and its long slow flight into the night.

Ideally, it would always be twilight or night, eighteen hours of twilight and eight hours of night, eighteen hours of night and eight hours of twilight.

Below the horizon, the Sun would light up the air of the Earth, a built-in filter that filters out the harm and in the charm.

The light would be golden and glowing and soft, the sky orange and purple and red.

The dark would be furrry and purrry and warm, the blackness gray, the grayness blue, the blueness true.

It would be a photographer’s dream come true.

Every twilight, I would fly across the sky on my magic carpet ride to celebrate the end of the day.

Every night, I would sleep by starlight, the bester to wake for a bright new twilight, an old beloved sight, the just right light of day and night.