It’s An Aspie Thing. Try To Understand.

Is someone on the spectrum rude? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Being on the spectrum, I find I tend to want to communicate non-verbally. Even at times when I want to express myself, I find it difficult to do so. There is some perceivably insurmountable mental barrier that pops up in my own head to keep me from speaking. Now some of you have heard me speak several times and wonder what is going on with that. Am I verbal or non-verbal?

Non-verbal is often because I don’t know if I can trust someone and I don’t think words are necessary. I am quite sure that suffering the sting of divorce doesn’t help. This is also in public. Even before I was married, I remember working at the Wal-Mart and being asked to be a greeter. I had to be one of the worst ever. I couldn’t ever work up the nerve to greet someone.

I should point out that there are still other ways to get me to speak. One is to find a point of connection. There was a time I was at Celebrate Recovery with my ex years ago when she was talking to someone and I was across the room and could only pick up bits and pieces. Later she told me that the guy talking to her was asking about me since I don’t seem to talk to anyone. She said, “You have to talk to him about something he likes to get into his world, like apologetics.” At this, the guy started asking her about what that was and before she could respond, I had shown up saying “Did somebody say apologetics?” The same can happen if I can connect with something like books and/or video games.

The problem is sometimes, people can assume that you are rude. As I have said, autism is an invisible illness. People do not see clearly that you are on the spectrum, though I do have a bracelet I wear that speaks about autism awareness, but then someone who is just sympathetic to the cause could do that.

I am again working at Wal-Mart and yesterday a pair of ladies comes to the self check-out where I am working and one of them asks if a machine takes cash. I nod my head. She asks if that’s a yes. I nod again. As I am walking back and forth through the area I come near her and I hear her complaining.

“If I had an employee who just nodded his head, he wouldn’t have a job. It’s disrespectful and rude to the customers and to the elders.” There were several other complaints along those lines. Now for me, I find this interesting. Here someone is complaining about someone out loud while they are there and then complaining about them being disrespectful. Something I have found is that the people who make the biggest deal about manners can sometimes be the rudest.

However, i also thought, “What if I was different?” I don’t mean what if I wasn’t on the spectrum, but what if I didn’t have an inner resilience and didn’t have a strong biblical basis for identity in Christ? What if I was someone who was entirely non-verbal and heard all this stuff going on? How devastated could I be?

Now keep in mind, I am not saying that people on the spectrum cannot be rude. Of course, we can be. However, just because someone perceives something as rude doesn’t mean that it is. Those who know me know I will tend to go out of the way to help someone.

Why write this? Because you could meet someone like me someday and you could be left thinking they are rude. Maybe they are, or maybe there is something you cannot see. I can assure you from my perspective that if you try to give a lecture on manners or anything like that, it doesn’t have the effect you want. When people do that to me, it leaves me wanting to speak to them even less.

It is Autism Awareness Month and I do realize it isn’t talked about nearly as much as other history months. I guess we’re not as politically advantageous. I hope readers of this blog will be different and remember that your comments could be extremely hard on someone on the spectrum and that you can’t see if they are or not just by looking. Don’t be what you condemn in someone else.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)