One of the things I often read about whenever I find articles discussing autistic traits is the fact that many of us are known to use too many words, or sometimes not enough, when attempting to explain things.
This very much applies to me. When at school, I was much-praised for my ability to turn a phrase and was top of the class when it came to spelling and written English. Writing at the time was and still is a special interest. I did, however, sometimes use words inappropriately.
When I discovered words that I deemed to be impressive, usually from books or dictionaries, I would often casually drop them into my speech, failing to realise that the use of these words would confuse others due to their general lack of use in everyday spoken conversation.
Case in point: I might have said something like ‘That’s a gargantuan lorry’, instead of ‘that’s a huge lorry’, which would seem to others an odd choice of words. I’d also use words without thinking about context, leading to some moments of confusion for others.
Adults were usually impressed by my wide vocabulary, but even they were sometimes a little perplexed and occasionally gave me gentle pointers to make me aware of how I might be perceived by others, especially other children.
Having said all of this, there have been other times in life where I have been rendered completely incapable of speech, usually because of Anxiety. When in a situation requiring a spontaneous explanation, I can quickly find myself on the back foot.
This is because it takes time for me to formulate exactly what I want to say; putting thoughts into words is one thing, but putting words into direct speech, at least in a social setting, is not as instinctual to me as it is to most people.
I don’t understand non-verbal social cues, sometimes misplacing the true intent behind what somebody is saying. As a result, I may sometimes fail to pick up on signs that somebody is unhappy with me or perceive offence from people’s words where none was intended.
When in situations where quick explanations are needed, I struggle to get my point across in a few words or to explain things in a way that is satisfies others. I have a deep-rooted dislike for having to explain myself, harboured over years of (often) unnecessary criticism.
I also find because of the delay forming words & putting them into spoken language, I’m likely to be interrupted. I find interruption rude, but it’s a normal component of quick-fire talk for many & not necessarily dismissive or arrogant, just that person’s way of talking.
What also slows me down in these situations is the endless list of other factors that social interaction entails. Making eye contact is difficult for me at the best of times, but when nervous I may lose the ability to look at the other person altogether.
This leads to misunderstandings as the other person may believe my intentions false or take my lack of eye contact as a sign that I’m lying. When given time to think about what I’m saying and how, my ability with spoken and written language can astound, impress and enchant.
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