Social Interaction Experiment

I have been in a bit of a quandary with my life lately, as there have been a few changes of my own choosing. This got me thinking about whether it’s just me being Aspie or if an NT would have these issues as well  –  and if so, how badly would they feel it?

Starting your first job (or beginning any new job) can present a number of challenges for an Aspie, or anyone on the autism spectrum.  There are big decisions to make, like whether or not you choose to disclose your disability. This is a very personal choice and one that should not be taken lightly.  Previously, if a form had said: “Do you consider yourself to have a disability” then I would always answer “No”, because I never felt that I did.  If it said: “Are you registered disabled” then I had to answer “Yes”.

An employer who’s recruiting staff may make limited enquiries about your health or disability.  (

As I’m actually really high functioning, there might seem no point in putting people off employing me, as there still appears to be a huge stigma around these types of disabilities that wouldn’t happen if I were, say, in a wheelchair. The flip side to this coin is that if you don’t disclose it on an application form or when you go for an interview, the prospective employer cannot read minds and make any necessary adjustments to fit in with you. This has also happened to me where I didn’t disclose my disability to a prospective employer and failed the second and final interview.  When I asked for feedback as to where I could improve, I was told that I was the better candidate, but I needed to make more eye contact. This was frustrating because as an Aspie, it’s a difficult and somewhat painful thing to do.

Then there is the job itself.   Will people like me? Will I be able to get on with them?  What happens if they have an out-of-work social event (ARGH!) which terrify me. I’m sure an NT would find all this a little daunting too.

I’m not saying any of the above to put anyone off the idea of working, or changing jobs, although I can see how new jobs can seem nightmarish! I think it’s important to appreciate the reality that jobs are going to be demanding at some points, but hopefully they are not always stressful. In my own experience, however, I have found that just giving myself “some slack” and accepting that I might not be the only one that finds certain situations stressful can be very helpful, even if it doesn’t help me solve the problem. It would be wrong to focus solely on the negatives of work.

Working can be rewarding for so many different reasons. It can be really satisfying to see how much progress you have made during your time within a particular job.  I guess that no matter how scary or daunting a new job, or even your first job is,  give it time and remember it’s a learning curve or as I see it, a scientific experiment into social interaction.  But above all, relax and give it your best shot. That’s what I intend to do.

Stay Safe X



The Family Dynamic

I have had a very busy four day Easter weekend – Mrs Bob’s mother is back for a while and we have had her around for a meal and vice versa. This alone has meant elevated stress levels for us, alongside Mrs Bob’s big **th birthday on Easter Sunday.  I began to wonder (as I often do) about things that I, as an Aspie, don’t quite fully understand.  Yes, I’m aware that you are likely to say “Bob, as someone with ASD there are lots of things this could mean, so be specific please”.  This is something I have noticed with lots of people’s interactions with their families – fortunately less so with my wife’s, but certainly rife in my family. It’s the unwritten rule of game playing.

“It’s as if everybody is playing some complicated game and I am the only one who hasn’t been told the rules.”

There are several types of games that can be played, and if my limited understanding of this is correct, it’s a basic form of manipulation.  It’s almost like using someone’s mind like a puppet to get something, without them knowing it and clearly this is more effective with Aspies like me who just don’t understand game-playing. Playing games and not actually addressing what people really mean or want must be somewhat confusing for most NTs, but for someone with autism these unwritten rules and expectations can be a nightmare social situation for the following reasons.

As an Aspie there are certain things that I will miss that an NT can pick up on, which means that they can understand and maybe play this game. These things are taken for granted by most people, but for us it’s almost like a foreign language.  Take these particular things for example: body language is a huge one and can give off lots of subtle and not-so-subtle clues to how someone is interacting with you. Facial expressions – this is one I really can’t read (ask Mrs Bob) and is arguably the most important non-verbal form of communication between people. Vocal communication i.e.pitch and intonation. I have barely scratched the surface of things and already I’m sure you can see that we are at a disadvantage, even in general social and family situations. Now take into account the fact that people can and will use the following tactics while playing games.

Sarcasm – this is the art of basically saying the opposite of what you mean, and it can be detected by other cues such as vocal tone, facial expression and body language. However, when you can’t read the other cues, this is dangerously confusing. Sarcasm is the very slightest form of game-playing; guilt-tripping, when someone does something and then makes you feel guilty for their own actions; lying – this one is straightforward enough.

I could go on listing the ways in which people use certain tactics to elicit the response they are after, but there are far too many. These tactics can make even the toughest NT feel like they have been put through the psychological and emotional wringer. I’m sure if you look back in your life you can remember someone doing this to you. These people might be your colleagues, your friends, or worst of all, your family. NTs will at least have been able to understand some, if not all of the rules of this very complex and stressful game.  They therefore have the advantage of being able to understand a lot more than we do, ano this puts us on the back foot, meaning that more often than not we end up saying the wrong thing as we have not understood the game properly. So please bear this in mind when we can’t quite follow the game in progress and maybe upset great-uncle Theodore by correcting him on something, or we can’t quite read the body language of Princess Amelia when she refuses to apologise for her words or actions and we are left feeling that whatever it was, was our fault. Throughout all this, we are trying to understand the game but it’s so difficult without the rules, or even knowing there’s a game to play!

Stay Safe X

Pleasure/Pain Theory


Today I have been thinking about something that I find fascinating, which started when I went back to my local tattoo studio this morning to get another piece of ink. I know that tattoos aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but all of my tattoos have a very special meaning to me. I really enjoy getting them and I actually find them quite relaxing. This may come as a shock to you guys, but I don’t think they hurt at all; in fact, I enjoy the feeling of the needle on my skin, This was one of the things I started to wonder about.

First of all, I’ve come to think that there are at least three, but maybe more, different types of pain. Emotional pain aside, as that’s a whole other subject, for me there’s physical pain and sensory system pain. I’m somewhat sensitive to the latter. When something assaults my sensory system, it can really hurt. On that front, the only issue with my love of tattoos is the noise. If you have ever had one, or been to a tattoo studio, you will know how noisy the tattoo machines are. This was not really an issue today, as this one was on my forearm. While it was slightly noisy, it wasn’t an assault on my ears. However, the one before this was a cover-up on the top of my arm, right next to my ear and it lasted for an hour or so. I hardly felt the needle, but the pain from the noise was almost unbearable. If it had gone on any longer, I would have had to stop.

I have begun to wonder whether this high tolerance to physical pain is just an individual thing that I have been gifted with, or if it’s a common aspie trait? I have looked into this and it seems that there is a link between ASD sufferers and pain thresholds. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be in a world without physical pain? Everyone feels pain to some degree, including us aspies. It doesn’t have to be a huge pain to be felt, So where does the “no-pain” idea fit in? Aspies are very good at ignoring pain, particularly if they’re engaged in their special interest. The sorts of pain most commonly “ignored” by aspies are things such as muscular nerve pain, rather than wounds. This does not mean that every aspie is a superhuman when subjected to pain, although it does raise the interesting paradox:  That some people with autism can tolerate extreme heat, cold or pressure and seem relatively insensitive to certain forms of physical pain. Paradoxically, they may experience intense pain from the most obscure of sources, but they may struggle to be able to communicate it properly.  What do you think?

Stay Safe X


Fear Factor

When you are asked to think of something that truly terrifies you what springs to mind? Bungee jumping? White-water rafting? Maybe a parachute jump? While each one of those things are probably equally terrifying to most people, for those of us on the spectrum it’s a completely different story.  I myself have done some of the things on the above list, and they didn’t scare me half as much as some of the things that the average garden variety NT person might take for granted.

I mean, does the thought of going down to the local shopping mall or out for something to eat and socialising scare you? “Of course it doesn’t, don’t be daft” I hear you say. The reason I bring this question up is that this morning, while getting ready to attend an important meeting I got really anxious.  I normally do so with these things, mainly because you only get one chance to give the right first impression. I wondered how an NT would deal with the same situation? I think, but cannot say for sure, that they must get very nervous too, like that adrenaline rush moment on a rollercoaster as it reaches its peak and just before it drops.

Well imagine having that adrenaline type feeling as a base level all the time. That  neurochemical ‘fight or flight’ response that we all get as humans when placed in a (sometimes perceived) dangerous situation. For example, feeling that anxiety just at the thought of going down to the paper shop to pick up a paper and a pint of milk. That applies to me, although as an Aspie. I must confess that after many years, I have got better at dealing with this problem through various coping mechanisms and support. In fact, I now only really have problems with strange places or people. This doesn’t mean that every person on the spectrum is the same; in fact, I know some people (one who isn’t Aspie) that are frozen with fear if they get a call from an unfamiliar number, so I count myself lucky.  Do please spare a thought for those unfortunate ones that are just trying to get through what is, to you, a seemingly normal situation.  To them it might be a living nightmare. Try to put yourself in their shoes, and imagine that you’re about to face your fears and, say, do a 60-foot bungee jump.

We all have different fear factors.  Do keep that in mind.

Stay Safe X

9 to 5

In this day and age of agency workers, zero-hours contracts and apprenticeships, it occurs to me that you do everything in your power to make your manager happy and spend your weekdays dreaming about, and living for, the weekend because the rest of the week belongs to your manager. You can be at your desk half an hour early every day for six years; you can push yourself to the point where you are mentally and even physically exhausted to make your bosses more money, but where will all this dedication get you? Nowhere at all.

In fact, I’ve heard that some employers are now adding yet another get-out clause to the ever-growing list of obscure reasons to throw you on the trash pile when they’ve finished exploiting you… This new clause states that should you become unwell mentally (which covers a vast multitude of things) then your employment will be terminated without notice.

This makes me sad and angry simultaneously: Sad that we allow corporations to treat individuals in this appalling way, with seemingly little or no defence against this practice. Angry because someone who is diagnosed with a condition on the autism spectrum could be released without warning from their servitude, simply because their face no longer fits with the corporation’s vision or brand.

The only lifeline that autistic people have is the Disability Discrimination Act, which I must admit is both a blessing and a curse. The upside is that people who are registered disabled have a safety net to protect them. The down side is that to use this act to safeguard them, they must ultimately admit to themselves and others that they are disabled.

That is sometimes the hardest part for me. “Why?” I hear you ask.  Well, if you met me in the street or in the workplace and you didn’t know me, you would probably not realise that I have a disability at all, I may come across as shy, weird or perhaps rude, but because I’m not on medication or in a wheelchair or some other stereotypical thing, you would be forgiven for thinking that I’m normal. But I do have a disability

If you take just one thing from this tale, please let it be that you can’t always see the disability and we are all human beings at the end of the day.  Shouldn’t we all be treated with respect?

Stay Safe X