My tires were crap on my car so I was having them replaced at my favorite shop. They drop me off at work and keep my car. I always let them drive. It is quite funny to see these giant men cram their bodies in the space I have created for my 5’1″ self In my little car.
As we were driving I was telling the young man, early 20’s, about teaching my 16-year-old to drive. I started out saying we didn’t even know if it was possible because of his autism. The young man interrupted – I have autism. I squealed – That is so cool!!
We talked about how important it is to watch TV, movies, youtube anything that shows people interacting. Watching how they dress, hold their face and body, how they walk & sit. My son would practice in front of mirrors until his expressions, voice modulation, and clothes looked like what he was seeing.
We shared also how hard it is with sarcasm and teasing. When the person you are watching appears serious and their words sound serious and you are processing the words themselves. The words either do not fit the serious, flat expression or the content is the opposite of what you know to be true. It takes a very high level of cognitive reasoning to put this all together quickly.
In autism, for my son and this young man, because the words sometimes are impossible to process they have to rely on the inputs – tone of speech, body language, facial expression, smell. Then they have to remember what a person with wide eyes, slightly open mouth, hands fluttering, fast breathing and a scent of Irish Spring soap means. It is exhausting talking to people. Then try dealing with your teacher, your boss or a lunchroom of noise and smells.
The young man said – I have high functioning autism, I guess. Obviously someone has told him that they couldn’t tell he has autism, like they do my son. We just laugh. They have no idea how much work it takes to appear that way!
My friend from work brought me eggs from her chickens yesterday and I shared that I hadn’t had a drink in four months. She said why? I laughed I just figured everyone knew. I was “high functioning” too.
For this young man, after I shared how hard it was for my son to have a sarcastic teacher, he shared that he has the same issue with his boss. He is not sure if he is getting teased or in trouble. He can’t rely on the words, he has to use all the other clues that can be processed quicker. It makes these boys appear a little cold, flat and distant. They are concentrating.
I asked if he watched comedy shows so he could repeat the funny lines? He really smiled and said yes! My son practices the phrasing and timbres of how the lines of comedy are spoken. He became known as a funny kid and is amazing in the school plays. To make people laugh and share in the laughter with them, and have it feel real, is such a gift.
You can’t imagine the joy I felt meeting my son’s future yesterday. He is going to be a productive part of this world. I told him about the young man who helped me. His eyes lit up and he laughed when I told him who else but me would say – You have autism, That is SO cool!!