Aspie or NT? The Pros and Cons of Acting Neurotypical

Maja Toudal

I met Maja (and a lot of other cool aspies) while speaking in Århus, Denmark at the AspIT conference. This is her first column:

Hi, I’m Maja and I live in Copenhagen, Denmark and I’m a 25 year old woman diagnosed with Asperger’s. I’m a singer/songwriter and a student.

I always knew I was different and started learning social skills before I was even diagnosed. When I was 12, I realized that I wanted to be a part of the world and started to mimic and learn social skills from others. Most of my social skills, however, come from character based roleplaying.

Many other aspies say that I bend to the will of NT society, by acting as if I am an NT. I, of course, don’t think so because I only act NT when the situation calls for it. But let’s start at the beginning. . . .

Read on. . .


Listen to a song by Maja entitled “That Moment”:      


I’ll keep my story somewhat short, in order to get to the point. Like many other aspies, I’ve known since very early childhood that I was not like the other kids. I ‘ve felt different, weird, and it truly does feel like being on the wrong planet. For everyone else, the expectation that I behave as them was natural, and for me, impossible. I’m fairly sure that any aspie will know what it’s like.

Maja Toudal
Maja Toudal

I think I first realized this when I was three or four years old.

I never went to special schools, or had any help. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 16. So not only did others expect me to act “normal”, I expected it of myself. It wasn’t until I was 12 or 13 that I realized that I would have to really work for it, if I was going to achieve it. Also, it wasn’t until then that I started wanting to be a part of society, after years of being bullied by classmates and teachers.

So I worked at it. I observed, tried to repeat what the others did and I failed miserably.

When I was 17 or so I got invited to play a roleplaying game, which has since become much more focused on character play than anything else. And that is where I really learnt something.

I see it as speaking two languages. To use a metaphor, I speak Danish and English. Danish is my native language, it’s the language I grew up speaking. Danish is good to be able to speak, because even though it’s a small country, it’s where I live. The relatively small number of Danish-speaking people, mostly prefer to speak Danish. And many of them don’t know English very well.

But lots of people in the world speak english, and most of them don’t know how to speak a word of danish. However, because I speak english so well, I’m able to share ideas with other people who speak English and befriend them. I’m able to translate danish for them, and even – with those who are willing – am able to teach them a bit of danish.

It’s exactly the same with the languages “NT” and “aspie”. There are lots of aspies in the world, but most people are NT’s. What I want to do with my life is reach out to the NT’s and teach them to speak a bit of “aspie”.

I’m aware that many who are on the spectrum, have had horrible experiences with NT’s, and many see non-autistics as horrible people. We want to avoid them as much as possible. But the reason we have horrible experiences with NTs, isn’t necessarily because they or we are horrible people. It’s just that we have such a hard time communicating.

And that’s what I’m doing. I’ve learnt to communicate with neurotypicals. It gives them benefits – because I’m slowly teaching them a new language that will make a few situations (or many) much easier, because they now understand a bit of what’s going on. And it gives me benefits – because I’m able to tell them what I want, and need from them. I’m able to make friends with them.

And the NT friends I’ve made, have learnt to speak so much “aspie”, that I no longer have to speak “NT” with them if I don’t want to.

So it’s not about conforming to the NT way, it’s about communicating with them. And being able to communicate makes my life easier.

Maja Toudal Bubbles

Maja started writing songs when she was 9 and released her debut album, Live, Acoustic & Stripped less than a year ago. She has also released quite a few singles, available online.

Listen to Maja’s Music on Myspace and check her out on Facebook. and check out her music channel on Youtube.

Maja also has a youtube channel where she talks about Asperger’s and Autism.

10 thoughts on “Aspie or NT? The Pros and Cons of Acting Neurotypical”

    Comments

    • broombie on March 8, 2016

      I’m considered to be NT and dealing with other people is probably the hardest thing I have to do. There are times when I say something and it just blows up in my face. I have gotten to the point where I just try to create scripts in my mind and rehearse what I have to say before I say it. I have also figured out that the less I say, the better. I don’t need to over-explain things.

      Also, many people like to hear themselves talk. Just asking them a question like “Are you ok?” when they are coughing a lot often leads them to open up and talk about themselves. Nodding my head and saying things like, “Oh.” “Really?” and other things make it look like I’m a good listener, even though I might not be.

    • dentman2075 on April 6, 2016

      From an early age I too knew I was different and I wanted to fit in (I think a lot of that was due to bullying). I have to agree with you broomie, I at times have to create scripts on what to say and how to say things. Part of the “script building process” (I think was signs of echolalia, I guess) when I was younger always repeated back instructions or question before giving or responding with an answer (Before long in my preteens my dad got sick of it, he just started calling me out on it, and would say something like “Yes, or no, don’t need a story”) eventually it stop. Even into my teenage years I still sat outside a conversation and just listened (with or without a listen check), mostly absorbing the conversation. From there I learn different movies and actors, just so I can converse (became familiar with shows that peaked my interest).

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    • affablestranger on November 19, 2016

      I’m 46 and generally pass for neurotypical at first, but as we all know, the truth will always comes out. It comes out over time always, which is good… ish… sometimes. The key for me is observing and keeping boundaries and judging when the be flexible with them over time. I admit it’s absolutely exhausting. Socializing is exhausting. It’s consciously working simultaneously on efforts to track body language, vocal tones and inflections, word choices, eye movements, often of multiple people, and monitoring the environment and all. I originally thought everyone went through this, but I was wildly incorrect. These days I really pick and choose my interactions, far more than I used to. (And yes, pre-scripting does help a lot.)

    • Oddcat on November 19, 2016

      Okay so exactly *how* and *what* does she teach? How about an example that doesn’t require the need to learn or speak Danish. We need hard info which we can put into action!

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    • Azul.Infinito on March 17, 2017

      Interesting… i never saw it as “acting”. I saw it more as a cause and effect type situation. Ive learned over the years a method of socal causation. If Person does X initiate response does this, then initiate sequence A , If person X does this action or that action, then initiate respond sequence B3 , If person X says _______ , theninitiate response sequence F2
      And so on.

      New situation: beep boop beep. No protocol sequence available in data banks. Abort , Abort Abort. Beeep boop boop beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

    • Valinbean on July 26, 2017

      Azul.Infinito: lol, yes! I Often do pretty much the same thing, except not quite so much like a computer program as you put it. For a long time I thought that certain situations required certain, and exact, responses, so much so that I often found myself in situations where I felt I had been backed into a corner by being forced to give certain responses in a certain order, effectively forcing me to verbally trap myself (my brother likes to play mind games). But that isn’t really how NT’s communicate, is it? They are much more random and spontaneous, often giving replies that may have never before been given in such a situation.
      I doubt I will ever be able to do that, but knowing that there is never a “right” answer, even if there is an expected or socially acceptable one, that is a helpful thought to me.

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