Autism · Informative · Opt Ed · Stigma · Student

My Autistic Experience: Socializing – an Intellectual Exercise

When I was little, I did not understand socializing. I enjoyed my own company and found less enjoyment in the company of others. My parents and teachers enforced upon me the need to be social, rewarding me with stickers. A smarter me would have asked for something more tangible and useful, but as a child, stickers were alluring enough to me to get me to play with other kids.

Very specific things were required of me. I was to ask a kid in my class if they wanted to play with me, and then I would play with them. Often I’d ask the same person every time. After all, it was easy to do that.

I did talk to other kids in my class, of course. It was expected of me. However, I never remember being included in the group camaraderie. I did not understand the group, filled with unspoken social rules like “don’t tell on people in the group.” It took me a long time to understand that one because even as a kid I held the truth in higher regard than the group.

I tend to fluctuate from wanting to be part of the big social group and wanting to be left alone, but when I was little it was not really a choice. I was pushed into the group, sometimes kicking and screaming, and other times without resistance.

I remember one friend in particular that I had who was also my bully. It was a rather unconventional friendship, maintained by the fact that this ‘friend’ was the only one who gave me the attention I expected from a friend. We would play card games together, and do projects together. He would also make up exercises that often involved tripping me, annoying me, sometimes even ignoring me altogether. I was the only one who was friends with this kid, and the others knew it to.

Everyone warned me about him. My parents and other students knew better than me, but in my child mind they tried to separate me from my only friend. Why would anyone do that, especially the other students who would of course offer nothing in return for the lost friendship?

Today the social game is more clear to me on an intellectual level. I don’t understand every rule, but as I get smarter, I get better. One of the main problems I still have is that people still manage to obtain a negative first impression of me, all without even saying hello. I don’t know what I am doing to cause this.

I tend imagine that socializing is an instinctive exercise for people without my condition. I don’t know if this is so because I only know my own experience, but I do know that I have trouble where others do not. I know that when I socialize, I am using my head. The smarter I get, the better I socialize. The more I know about socializing, the better I socialize. The better I get at analyzing, the better I socialize. I don’t imagine that is how it works for other people, though. Other people do not depend on their analytical intelligence to socialize the way I do.

Today I have a small social circle, as I am comfortable with. Sometimes I want more friends. Sometimes I want to be left alone. It depends on the day. This is the only area in my life where I am fickle and indecisive. It is the only area where I do not know what I want.

I know there is more to be said on the topic, but this is what comes to mind at the moment.

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