I’m not rude, I have Autism

Maybe the weekend before last, I’m not even sure, I had to go to a cat handling class for work. I was told it was to be very casual; don’t even wear your scrubs, just come in whatever you have on. It should only last about an hour, just some basic information about cats.

Jack (I figure that’s a generic enough name I can use it in its entirety) was the guy who ran the class. It was just me and 2 other people. If I’m with just one other person I try to feign eye contact and smile a little bit, but when I’m with a few others I usually do my usual no eye contact, no facial expressions, no talking. I listen as best I can and try to blend into the background. I don’t like to call attention to myself, so I stay quiet, and that’s what I did there. I did notice that the other two people were very talkative and asked lots of questions. I had already done cat volunteer training, so between that and the fact that the training was very basic (this is a cat, it has 4 legs and a tail, it says meow…), I already knew everything Jack told us and just listened quietly.

I thought I did fine. I didn’t call out. I had no outbursts of echolalia (common at work because I’m anxious). I interacted with the cats Jack brought out and talked to them. I didn’t interrupt anyone. I didn’t say that I was kind of bored when asked how the training was. All those things I’m supposed to do that take work on my part, right?

Well, until yesterday. My boss called me into her office. She checked that I was at the training. I said that I was. She said, “Jack said that you were really rude and didn’t care at all what he was talking about.”

What! I was shocked. He was talking about cats! Of course, I cared! Even if I already knew the information, I still listened and heard everything he said.

My boss asked, “Did you know everything he talked about?”

I told her that I did, but that I listened. She said I must have said something offhand. I said well, to be honest, I don’t think I said a word the entire time. She said “That’s what I said. Lydia doesn’t talk; how can she be rude?” I told her that the others there were asking questions and interacting and that I was just quiet, and maybe that’s why he thought I didn’t care. She told me not to worry, that I wasn’t in trouble, and to go ahead and start feeding cats.

This frustrates me immensely. First of all, when my mom tells me if that if I just try hard enough I can “blend in,” these are the situations I’m talking about. My lack of eye contact, odd mannerisms, and lack of speech (or odd questions, when I do talk) make me stand out. This is a perfect example. People thinking I’m rude and inattentive is a very common occurrence for me. I’m a lot of things, believe me, but I really don’t think I’m almost ever rude.

After thinking it over and talking to Leigh, I emailed my boss and asked if she would tell Jack that I have autism and that sometimes I come across in ways I don’t intend. Of course, she never responded, but that’s to be expected.

I hope she does tell him, though, and between you and me, I kind of hope he feels like a jerk.

Lydia on FacebookLydia on Wordpress
Lydia
I'm 23. I love Jesus, my service cat, and my mom. I have usually-high-functioning autism, though it depends on the day. I'm trying to figure out how I can live the life I've dreamed of with autism in it.
Lydia

Lydia

I'm 23. I love Jesus, my service cat, and my mom. I have usually-high-functioning autism, though it depends on the day. I'm trying to figure out how I can live the life I've dreamed of with autism in it.

22 thoughts on “I’m not rude, I have Autism

  • June 9, 2010 at 4:04 pm
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    I was hoping this blog was going to be about something like this. There’s an autistic girl at the college I used to attend that would hang around our group from time to time, but she was ACTUALLY rude, like using people, not saying please or thank you, or even complaining about food someone picked up because we didn’t get the sauce she wanted (btw, we gave it to her for free. Who complains about free food?!)

    I was really lenient for a long time about it until she started dating this guy and telling everyone it was just because he bought her stuff. I sort of lost it and so did the rest of our group, and we kindly asked her to stop hanging out with us (I stayed silent the whole time, knowing I had a lot to say that wasn’t very nice).

    So no, I don’t think you’re rude at all, and I’m super glad that you don’t use Autism as an excuse to be rude and mean to people.

    Reply
  • June 9, 2010 at 3:53 pm
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    @TalithaKum88@xanga – but outgoing isn’t who you are… so why would you want it any different? People come in all shapes and sizes and never fit inside little boxes. At least not in my experience… and I intend to only surround myself with people who accept me for being exactly who I am. I spent far too long trying to change myself… and all it did was make me more depressed. It felt so wrong and against nature. Going with the flow is just easier and people will have to get over it. 

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  • June 9, 2010 at 2:34 pm
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    That’s really not fair to you at all. He’s a jerk; being quiet does not make you rude. It makes you quiet. Possibly shy. I hope he does find out that you autism and feels like a huge butthole. And then apologizes. Of course. lol.

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  • June 9, 2010 at 8:06 am
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    Whether or not Jack knew you have autism his assessment that you were being rude was well out of order and entirely based on his own prejudice. Just because other people don’t behave as he does doesn’t mean their behaviour is wrong. On the other hand I do tend to assume that other people should know anything I do and am surprised when they don’t – a shortcoming my wife keeps pointing out to me.

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  • June 9, 2010 at 2:22 am
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    it must be frustrating i’m sure, but it’s not jack’s fault that he didn’t know. it’s just something unfortunate that you are forced to face because you have autism. but don’t get so angry at the guy.

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  • June 8, 2010 at 7:00 pm
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    @kayoobi@xanga – Yes, I was diagnosed with selective mutism at around age 5. My teacher was the one who recommended I see a psychologist because I wasn’t talking at all in school or anywhere else outside of my home. I started to really overcome my selective mutism in middle school. Ever since then, however, I have struggled with social anxiety disorder. Thankfully, my social anxiety does seem to be lessening a bit as I grow older. This makes sense because as I grow older, I am exposed more and more often to anxiety provoking situations. Exposure is key in treating anxiety. 

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  • June 8, 2010 at 6:44 pm
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    @FallingSafely@xanga – Ah Chelsea, I wish I viewed my quiet nature as a gift. I’ve always hated myself for not being outgoing enough.

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  • June 8, 2010 at 12:56 pm
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    I can relate in many ways.  I have indescribably severe O.C.D.  I
    mean, Monk?  That guy’s got it so easy.  I’ve had it for as long as I
    can remember, and it’s always caused me to do things that end up drawing
    attention to myself.  To this day I’ll be walking back down the street
    and need to abruptly backtrack, and just walk sort of shakily back and
    forth for five to fifteen minutes before I can move on.  Very often,
    it’ll take place when I’m crossing the street and I’ll have to wait for
    the light and go back out and just stand in the crossing in front of
    cars for what feels like WAY too long.

    I’ve had to run up and
    touch people’s shoulders, not once, or twice but five times.  I even
    have to draw attention to myself at the gym, have had to ask employees
    and trainers to keep an eye on me because, let to my own devices, my
    O.C.D. will make me go way too far, to a dangerous extent.

    It
    sucks, feeling like you blend in and then just having that snatched
    away.  I think people like us are more sensitive to it, because we’re
    not-ordinary people with not-ordinary drives interacting with people
    with completely different processes.  It’s hard to forgive people for
    putting us in that situation, by reading our actions and acting on them
    like that, but we just have to remember that they really have no idea.

    Reply
  • June 8, 2010 at 11:30 am
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    Most certainly not rude. Cats are clearly much cooler than this Jack character. I’d be the same way.

    @TalithaKum88@xanga – I’ve read up a bit about Social Anxiety Disorder. It frightens me to think that I probably have it, but I don’t know for sure. Were you diagnosed by a doctor or something? I dunno, I feel like if I were to be, it might be too late. I’ve been working on ways to not be anxious around everyone for years (because I know there really is no reason to be, I just am) and it’s only been slightly better.

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  • June 7, 2010 at 11:01 pm
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    Like   @TalithaKum88@xanga – I have social anxiety disorder and it comes across similar to autism. Poor eye contact, I don’t understand normal social cues and my talking is kept to a bare minimal. I too am called rude or inattentive at times. But I know that’s about them.

    Anyone who chooses to think someone who doesn’t talk is rude has obvious self esteem problems. They have some insecurities that they need to be acknowledged by everybody. I find that they aren’t worth my time. It’s those who take time to get to know people, despite them being quiet that are worth it. Because I don’t personally want to be near someone that’s going to be needy and want to be acknowledged 24/7. Because life doesn’t work like that.

    Being quiet to me is not a flaw… it’s a gift. It’s a very special gift that very few people in this world possess. I don’t ever want to loose mine.

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  • June 7, 2010 at 10:14 am
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    I have a friend who has autism. It’s pretty controllable, but he randomly gets mad about really small things. I’m the only one of our friends who knows – and I just found out these past couple of weeks. We all just thought he was an angry person and that it was just him. We had no reason to believe otherwise.

    It’s not Jack’s fault that he didn’t know. I’m sure he would feel bad if he found out. I felt bad when I found out about my friend. But then I had to explain to him that we didn’t know and that he couldn’t blame us for not knowing.

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  • June 6, 2010 at 1:50 am
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    Well to be fair, you don’t have to be so angry since he didn’t know.  Some people just don’t think that great of really quite or seemingly unfriendly people.  I don’t think it was anyone’s fault.

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  • June 5, 2010 at 12:08 pm
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    My son is only six, diagnosed with Asperger’s/HFA last year, and he has been in this situation SOOOOO many times. I think I might print this blog out and show it to his Kindergarten aide. It seems not a week (or even a day sometimes) goes by when I don’t hear about how “rude” or “disrespectful”  Mikey is. As his mother I fully acknowledge that sometimes he says and does things that could be interpreted as rude or disrespectful to those who are not “in the know”. I have come to understand that when he says things like “I want it right now!” this is not the same as when a neurotypical kid is just being impatient, it is merely how he communicates that he is in a hurry. Yesterday he told the aide he wanted his backpack “right now’ at the end of the day. Of course he wanted it quickly, it was a half day and he was anxious that he would be late for the walker call. He doesn’t read time well yet, and only understood that they were leaving “early”. Pretty vague for an Aspie.  She got very upset, and wrote in his parent/teacher journal about how rude and disprespectful he was to her. I guess my point is I wish more people would stop  to think where “rude” and “disrespectful” behavior might be coming from before they badmouth people. A little tolerance could go a LOOOONG way.

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  • June 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm
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    You did a great job and should be proud of yourself!  Don’t give a crap what Jack thinks or said.  You did what you were supposed to do and in the fashion you were supposed to. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • June 3, 2010 at 11:22 pm
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    @TalithaKum88@xanga – when i was a kid, i had either autism or selective mutism as well.  not sure what i have now, though!  i constantly have experiences like those described in this post, though. 

    Reply
  • June 3, 2010 at 6:10 pm
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    I feel like I should write a journal entry entitled “I’m not rude, I have social anxiety disorder”. Maybe I will…

    I’ve always been an extremely (mostly socially) anxious person. When I was little, I had selective mutism (SM). People sometimes mistook me as having autism. There are some striking similarities between autism and selective mutism. I actually wrote a paper about the similarities and the differences of the two disorders for a college class of mine.

    Anyway, throughout my entire life (especially when I was a little girl with SM), I have had some people mistake my silence/social anxiety as rudeness. It is SO frustrating! I feel like I can relate to you so much. 🙂

    Reply

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