There is another type of chaos for those with autism.
It's us typical, ordinary people. In contrary to the
usual daily activities we can organise and predict, another
human being is much more difficult to understand.
People are unpredictable. During an interaction, with
another, you can't often predict what makes them laugh,
what might make them angry or indifferent. Even more
puzzling is the reason of the actions taken by others, which,
lets face it, sometimes might seem pointless or illogical.
An autistic person thinks very literally and very logically.
The rules of social interaction are learned not innate. When
Cirwen became more verbal, we had to teach her that you
take turns while having a conversation and keep to the
original topic until it is exhausted. Otherwise, her idea of
a conversation was a long, long monologue on her chosen
subject without an expectation of a response from us. She
just blurted out what she wanted to say and walked off,
leaving us rather stunned. If one of us asked a question,
it was answered with another monologue often not even
relating to the question. We also had to teach and explain
that interrupting someone else is rude and she should wait
her turn to join, or comment on what was said.
There is no "small talk" with an autistic person as well. The
idea of the usual "what a lovely day we have!" is completely
baffling. The day is nice, everyone can see it, and what is
the point to talk about it if it's not leading to any conclusion?
We had to teach Cirwen to listen to what others have to say,
even if it didn't involve her current obsession. You see, her
conversation was always one sided. I would start talking
about the film we watched yesterday, but because she didn't
really like it, she would answer by changing subject to the
latest fairy doll she was obsessed with.
It would be something like this:
- Did you like The Toy Story we saw yesterday, Cirwen?
- Mum, I called the fairy Bianca.
- Oh, that's a nice name for your fairy. But what do you think
about the film?
- Bianca said she would like to fly with me to see flowers in the
As much as it was frustrating I had to give up and talk about the
fairy. For Cirwen, there was no reason to talk about something
she wasn't interested in. Toy Story didn't have fairies in it and
that's what she wanted to talk about.
It took long several years for her grasp the idea, that some people
might be offended.
Another problem she faces, is the reason why people say or do
things, and recognising a joke or sarcasm. She like many other
autistics cannot read facial expressions. If you say something
nasty with a big grin on your face she won't think it's a sarcastic
remark towards her - she will think it's a joke.
Since she became more aware of others and their feelings, Cirwen
is a very gentle and warm hearted person and understands not
to say or do hurtful things. Now, another problem occurs, as she
finds it frustrating and difficult to understand why other children
are mean to her. She dearly wants to be accepted by her peers,
yet children are cruel. They laugh at her and tease her, because
she is different, because she cannot do things they can, because it
takes her longer to understand the lesson. She isn't bullied, it is
what normally happens between the kids at school. I must say she
made three wonderful friends who are literally looking out for her
and always stand up to defend her. She does that for them too.
Point is - people are unpredictable, ambiguous and cruel. They are
scary, confusing and hard to understand. It will take a lot to tame
this chaos. To be comfortable with the unknown, unpredictable
when she is left alone.