Autism, blogging, community, Mental Health, reading

Time for the Autistic Reader Disclaimer

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For those of you who are new around here, you may have noticed that I write a lot about autism and how those of us on the spectrum view the world. Mostly my goal is to bridge the gap between awareness of medical symptoms, and awareness of real life experience, in the general population.

My whole life, I knew I was different from my peers, but could never figure out why; it turned out this was because how I experienced the world and how they did was vastly different, neurologically and physically. (It’s called “sensory perception disorder”.) But I honestly didn’t realize until I’d spent several years learning specifically about the Autism Spectrum — after my oldest child was diagnosed on it — that most of my struggles (social anxiety, extreme sensitivity to loud noise or sudden occurrences) also fell under the “umbrella” term.

Anyway, I’ve posted in the recent past about how certain things just really make my skin crawl, or just don’t click with my mind or emotions, and how this affects what I read. It means that I won’t read particular genres or styles to help avoid triggers, and I’ve tried to make it clear that while this does limit my possible choices of reading material, it’s purely a personal preference, and it doesn’t mean I think anything I decide not to read is rubbish.

I am currently having a big, intense feeling of guilt over this issue. The fact is, I’m starting to feel bad over opting not to read novels recommended to me, or written by people in my community — or maybe I do read it, and I appreciate the skill, the amount of work the author clearly put in, but it may not move me emotionally. And when there are other people in the community — people I respect and like — flailing over these novels… Well, that creates this odd, twisty sensation inside me.

Often when I explain things about having autism to people who do not have it (also known as Neuro-Typicals), I find it necessary to defend myself (and my fellow ASD-ers), because we have so frequently been persecuted and struggled against the prejudices society has developed regarding our natural state of being. But today I feel the need to apologize for something that I can’t change.

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And what my preferences/triggers are will probably be different from another (or 10 other people) on the spectrum. That’s just what a “spectrum” means — a range of things that have certain core issues that are the same, but otherwise can vary greatly in how they’re experienced. For example, some autists may not get bothered at all by horror novels, knowing it’s just fiction and that any of the violence or gore involved isn’t actually happening. Then there’s me, who faints when I get a hangnail that starts bleeding.

Most of what bugs me when I read is stuff that bothers me in real life. If I’m around people who swear profusely, the harsh sound of constant profanity (or in “music” or as part of movies) gives my ears fits. Too much blood and gore makes me squirm. Too many emotions — yes, emotions — do my Vulcan soul in. Do I understand the basics of love, empathy, compassion? Yes, of course (I’m part Spock, not part Khan). But some of the more intricate details, and their relevance, are lost on me.

There are women who simply adore a fictional man who proposes to the heroine by renting a whole restaurant, strews rose petals on the floor, lights a million candles, and then gets down on one knee with an elaborate speech about how amazing she is to him, and a diamond ring the size of Gibraltar. If I read or watch a scene like that, here’s what I’m thinking: “Good grief, how much did all of this cost? What if she slips on those flower petals and twists her knee? They could burn the place down with all those candles, for heavens’ sake!”

Here’s something displaying a lot of emotion that I will totally get and appreciate: A heartfelt monologue about the beloved’s traits and why the hero needs her in his life, about why having her by his side makes him a better person. And then they proceed to attack the spaceship about to destroy a whole planet of innocent civilians.

(Sorry, guys, I am married.)

And now I’m getting slightly off track…

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But my biggest point here is this — I really, really don’t want anyone in the blogisphere to think that I thought their work or recommendation was rotten raspberries just because I failed to connect to it on a deeper level. I have a very specific set of standards for what I give 5 stars, purely due to how my neurotransmitters fire. And maybe it’s the result of this “unusual” programming, but I can also separate the quality of work from what I prefer, and establish that something is quality, although I am not getting all mushy over it.

(I just don’t do mush. Not very much. Small animals and truly exceptional people break that rule. By truly exceptional, I mean someone like Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley, or Firestar and Yellowfang, or the Death of Discworld. So please don’t feel bad if you don’t see yourself among the mush-making list, either. There are tons of people whom I honestly love and feel deeply for, even if you don’t see the gushing — just remember that one time Spock actually smiled at Kirk in the original Star Trek series.)

So, I have probably confused you, but I hope that I at least gave you a little something to laugh over. With any luck, my apology makes the smallest amount of sense. Have a great day, moths.

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7 thoughts on “Time for the Autistic Reader Disclaimer”

  1. Great post! I’ve been meaning to let you know that I have a brother on the autistic spectrum. He has severe language difficulties which leave him unable to converse, as well as life-threatening seizures. I know everyone’s situation is different, which is why I often hesitate to say “I understand” to people with such experiences for fear of seeming presumptuous. But I feel I can identify with some of the struggles that you and your family go through. It’s very complicated, and the world often fails to grasp what it’s like for both those who have autism and those who have loved ones on the spectrum.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This may seem a bit presumptious on my part, but thank you for saying you can relate but you don’t want to say that you do. (If that even makes any sense.) That’s the major thing about a “spectrum” that a lot of people don’t understand — that it means a variety of experiences, based on how severe the condition is. My 14-year-old is very high-functioning; he does well in school and has friends, and will probably be a programmer. (He already is unpaid staff on Minecraft sites.) But he may never be able to work in a “regular” job or live without at least a roommate or service animal, and while I totally accept that, a lot of folks can’t even imagine that. With a situation like your family’s, obviously your experience includes things that I never have to deal with. I really feel that being able to relate at least on some level is very important — and it’s why I really appreciate hearing from people who have had circumstances that mean they have compassion for mine, even if they can’t directly empathize.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re very welcome. 🙂 I know I find it frustrating when somebody who has very little or very different experiences with autism, or just mere acquaintance with exceptional people in general, talks as if they can perfectly understand what my family and I go through, so I never want to do that to anyone else. But I also hate to see the struggles of people on the spectrum sidelined in favor of other, far less important issues, which happens all too often in today’s society. So reaching out (with tact and sensitivity) to others with these experiences is important to me.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I knew I liked you. 🙂 Some of my biggest struggles have been with people thinking that autists “need” to become this or that, and the (terrible) misguided notion that we “should” strive to be like everyone else one day. Often tact includes not assuming you know just what’s best for somebody else.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is the most relatable post of ever. ahhhhh. I actually noticed just recently that I avoid books that I know I’m going to care about a lot because the emotions. THE EMOTIONS. It’s actually really exhausting to feel things. *retreats into Vulcan cave* (I also like how you said “Spock not Khan” because that is the best.) Also I don’t think you need to apologise for not taking recommendations or not loving what everyone else does!! And you definitely don’t need to apologise for being you. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. *We need the cave.*
      Pretty much I’ve given up reading contemporaries, because they focus SO MUCH on the feelings, and I simply don’t relate past a certain point. I did watch the movie of “Me Before You,” and really enjoyed it, but I never could’ve made it through the novel. Recently there have been certain new releases (especially in YA) making the rounds, and “everybody” says they’re just great, but I know I will have to skip them.
      *Retreats to blanket fort, and honestly isn’t that unhappy about it*

      Like

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