Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Examining Nontypical Behaviors Part II: How To Behave In Public

Hi! See, I said I would be back, and here I am, I am getting better at this already! So again, I’m going off my own limited experience, and that of my friends, so if I miss something, or it’s different for you, please do add it in comments for me. This concerns the way non-neurotypical*, and also otherwise disabled people are talked about, and around, and most often at, and never really *to*.

Myth 2:  Non-neurotypical people don't realize they are behaving inappropriately, and if you tell them, they will stop.

Fact: Okay, this one's a bit dicey, if I'm honest. (And I always am, haha.) Imagine this for a second: You're invited to a fancy dinner party. You get all dressed up. When you get there, everyone else is dressed in their nicest clothes too. But when you sit down at the table, and the salad comes, there's no cutlery. People are eating, in their fanciest clothes, with their fingers. So you start doing it too, slowly and carefully, and trying not to look like you've never done this before. Then there's spaghetti and meatballs, and no cutlery. And then everybody starts eating with their fingers. They're all making a mess, sauces dribbling down their chins, clothes all stained with tomato. You're looking around, confused, for a minute, and you don't want to do it, you really like these clothes, but you think, "Oh well. Everyone else is doing it, must be fine." So you start eating with your hands. And you're getting into this, and getting comfortable, so that by the time dessert comes, you take one look at the big chocolate cake and you think, "Awesome!" And, completely missing the tiny dessert fork, you stick both hands in it. While everyone else looks on in horror. Because the fork is right there, and surely, you're not an animal.

That is how it feels for a non-neurotypical person all the time. Just when we think we have a handle on how things work, the rules change. We have to learn one set of rules for family and home, and one set of rules for the super-religious aunt who comes to visit once a month. We have one set of rules for the people we work with, but another for the boss. One set of rules for a boyfriend or girlfriend, another for casual friends, another for close friends. And to add to that, people who know about the diagnosis treat us different, from people who don't know, from people who actually understand what the diagnosis is, etc. So emulating other people? Is out. It is exhausting.  For you, it comes naturally. And we see that every day, but we don't see how you are doing what you are doing, and you can't tell us, if we ask, because it comes naturally to you. Just because you watch the same magic show 100 times, doesn't mean you're going to work out how to do the tricks. Some things we will remember, some of the time, but each time we make a new friend, meet a new person, find ourselves in another situation, what you call ‘common sense’ changes. Reminding us might help at that second, but it’s not likely to stick. Sorry.
This ties nicely into myth #3, which is one of my personal favorites, as it applies to any person, when they are friends with or working with, or tangentially aware of a person with ANY kind of disability or mental illness. Which I will get into sometime next week!

Still haven’t mastered actual deadlines. But I’m getting there!

* My love tells me there are better words to use than non-neurotypical, as it centres neurotypical as "normal." and so my language may offend people. I am, however, stubbornly atypical in all things, and like it that way. So the rest of you can go ahead and be typical, while I am over here playing with the fun crowd!

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