How to explain social aspects of AS to extrovert NT?

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10 Sep 2012, 4:42 pm

Got a NT friend who is trying to help me at the moment, which is great and his support is making a big difference though one of the things he keeps bringing up is related to engaging in conversations with people, like how a couple of guys might have a half hour conversations about the rugby or anything else that happens to be going on. He is an extrovert and talking, chatting etc is things that come easily to him and he enjoys, how do I communicate what it is like from an AS and ADHD point of view?
He knows about:
- Sensory aspects
- That I can't read body language
- That I find it hard


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10 Sep 2012, 5:12 pm

Perhaps compare it to socializing in a foreign country where you don't know the language or customs well, but were foreigners get no slack for being foreign. Kind of like being in the USA really.

You know most of the words, but they don't always add up. You know what some gestures mean in some contexts, but not in all. You're constantly on edge, trying to simultaneously gauge the situation while still following the content of the discussion. Trying to figure out how often to make a comment without appearing withdrawn or without changing the subject and dominating the conversation. Dealing with actually having a relevant thing to say while someone else is talking, and you either talk over the person to actually get it out, or risk losing it in all the business in your mind as you try to pay attention. Trying to directly control your face in reaction to the conversation because it doesn't just smile and frown on its own like it does for others. And all of this knowing that if you make a single mistake, you'll be judged on it, and a big enough mistake can lose you friends, despite your best efforts and the best of intentions.

That's what comes to my mind when you say having a half hour chat with a couple of friends. Of course, for some of us, you also get to ad ADHD to that. So you're trying not to fidget with things, bounce your leg, twist your fingers, play with your hair, look off into space, or lose the conversation entirely. And double that if you're a chronic stimmer and have less socially acceptable stims. If I don't keep my hands clasped on the table or in my lap, I will be popping my knuckles, playing with my hair, my face, ear, tapping the table, etc. My hands won't stop wandering around. And if I do concentrate enough to keep my hands still, my legs start, or I might start swaying, bobbing my head, chewing my lips, humming. And if I manage to sit completely still, it's taking so much concentration that I can't focus well on the content of the conversation, let alone all the social rules that go with it.

Aha! The perfect metaphor. Have them play QWOP, a game where you manually control leg muscles in an attempt to walk. It's insanely hard, but walking is easy for people who do it automatically. Normal people perform social skills automatically. Aspies are playing the social skills version of QWOP. That's why it's stressful for us in social situations.


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10 Sep 2012, 5:44 pm

Thanks for that :D , that is a good explanation.
Though he is the sort of person who enjoys the challenge of trying to relate to a new person, so ill need to find some way to negate that in my explanation.
Regarding QWOP, I think that is a good idea to have some comparison, however I think using that as an example may seem too extreme.
Quite a few people in my life could probably benefit from that explanation.


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10 Sep 2012, 6:03 pm

I thought it was too extreme at first, but it isn't really. If you had played QWOP regularly for 10 or 15 years, you'd be really good at it. But it'd still be really hard. And I think people need some extreme examples to understand how bad it can be because it will be lessened in their mind. If they're only really understanding 1/4 of the difficulties you're explaining, then the explanation needs to be four times more extreme than reality for them to get the right idea.



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10 Sep 2012, 6:44 pm

Help, I just posted in the wrong topic!
(oops)

... Okay, so here's how I would describe it.

Imagine wearing a hearing aid cranked all the way up, so that you can hear pins dropping two rooms away and out in the hall, plus everybody else's conversations, all at the same time. Now
What Did You Say? I know you're standing right in front of my face, but I couldn't hear you because my ears are too good.

...


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