Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

From Another Planet

Dominique was a 24-year-old educated childcare worker who was extraordinarily difficult to work with. So when she inevitably got fired, she decided to deal with her anger issues and listed her worst traits:

“Temper tantrums, panic attacks, inability to cook more than two things at time, proverbs make no sense…”

Dominique then folded her list away and visited a shrink who quickly found a diagnosis: autism.

How did her autism go undetected for 24 years?

Because she’s a highly talented person with an IQ over 130.

For her entire life, Dominique has been covering up her flaws, allowing her to function like everyone else.

But Dominique wasn’t like everyone else. When a traffic light was moved to a new spot, Dominique drove through a red light. And once she didn’t find her way home because a flowerpot was missing.

Although intelligent autists can curb their awkwardness, they can’t curb their own thinking. 

Autists are similar to computers. They can only think logically, moving from one step to the next. Ambiguous questions aren’t understood, because the meaning is too vague. 

So context is of no importance. Which means that if their programming doesn’t account for a specific detail, it may as well be gibberish.

And if you have a chat with Dominique, she’ll probably invite you into a quiet room. To Dominique, every sound—whether it’s chirping birds, passing cars, rustling leaves, or you—is equally important.

So to properly hear you, she needs quiet.

Which is why Dominique likes to be squashed by her boyfriend, or why she enjoys his scent when he comes back from the gym. It tunes out all the other sensations.

That desire for clarity is also why many autists enjoy loud noises and even pain. One clear stimulus gives them a sense of control and peace.

The flipside is that chaos sends autists into a panic. To an autist, a hodgepodge of noise can be terrifying.

Why?

Well, when we hear “woof” we know it’s a dog, we know whether it’s a small or a large beast, and we know to spell the name of the animal as d-o-g. One bark gives us a complete image.

Most autists don’t have that ability. Plus, he or she may desire more details. What type of dog is it exactly?

Not knowing creates discomfort.

Austists aren’t only focused on details, but also often lack empathy. (As always, there are exceptions to the rule.)

When asked about the idea of her mother dying, Dominique couldn’t imagine how it’d feel. “I’d miss the practical stuff: who would I go to for coffee on a Sunday afternoon?”

Which sounds harsh, but just because she can’t imagine what it’d be like, doesn’t mean she feels no emotions. When she lost her cat, Dominique was very sad. As she’ll probably be when she loses her mom.

To come full circle, intelligent autists restrain their symptoms in public, because they know it’s not normal. They mimic others, avoid certain topics, and give vague catch-all answers.

To you, a gifted autist may seem shy and socially clumsy. But they don’t avoid your gaze out of shyness, but because to them your eyes mean nothing.

So perhaps it’s better to be autistic with less awareness of your oddities. 

Because knowing you’re different makes you feel like an alien from another planet.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach