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Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Saturday, June 6, 2020

On Being Asexual

I couldn't find a good picture to go here... but apparently
this ring is a symbol of being asexual. According to
Wikepedia, anyways! 
This is sort of an awkward post to write for me, because I don't really talk about this sort of thing usually, and because I know it might make some of you uncomfortable. But I'm going to write it anyways. Sorry if this gets long and weird.

I have never had an actual boyfriend. Or girlfriend, for that matter. And I have never wanted one.

When I was a small child, I used to say I had crushes on boys, or say that boys were my boyfriends. A large part of this was because I had an aunt who was about 8 years older than me, so she was a teenager at the time, and she was always bringing home boyfriends. And of course she would ask me if I had boyfriends. I wanted to be just like her. She was sort of a big sister figure to me. So I would say, yes, I have boyfriends! Because that is what girls did!

I remember one boy I felt that I loved was named Victor, when I was in first grade. He spoke Spanish and I didn't, so I got my friend Angela, who also spoke Spanish, to talk to him for me. I forget what he said. My across-the-street neighbors once tried to set me up with their cousin, at around the same time, because we were both 6 years old and in kids' minds that is enough.

In second grade I had a mad crush on a 5th grade boy whose last name was the same as mine. I figured this would be a good idea, because if we grew up and got married, I wouldn't have to change my last name. There was a boy in my class who I liked because my teacher said he lived near me.

A lot of the girls in my class loved to sit by the football field at recess time and watch the older boys play football or soccer. I preferred to play on the playground or in the sandbox, but sometimes I Went along with what my friends were doing.

When I was ten and my family was on vacation in Wisconsin, I was playing with a boy and girl who were staying in another cottage. The boy, who was the same age as me, pulled me aside and asked me, "Do you want to go with me?"

I asked, "Go where?"

He said, "No, I mean, like boyfriend and girlfriend."

So I said, "Sure!" And we were boyfriend and girlfriend for the rest of the week... which basically meant I still played with him and his sister and nothing changed. After we went back to Chicago,  I never saw him again.

But once I got to junior high, where boys and girls were actually starting to "go out" with each other, I realized I wanted no part of it. I had no interest in hugging, kissing, holding hands, or otherwise kanoodling with any boy or girl. I was pretty unpopular, so boys weren't exactly lining up to go out with me anyways... but just in case, I planned out how I would say no without hurting their feelings.  I thought maybe I would have a boyfriend in high school.

High school came. I still had no interest.

My best school friend and I made friends with a boy who was as unpopular as we were. He was fun to hang out with. All three of us knew the ASL alphabet, so we would "talk" to each other silently during study hall. After a few months, the two of them came up to me one day and told me, in ASL, that they were going out. They rode on the same bus, and he had asked her out in ASL on the way to school.

When I told my mom about it, I said, "I'm so happy for them!" I was happy. My best friend had always wanted a boyfriend.

My mom said, "I would think that you would be jealous. Don't you want him to be your boyfriend?"

I said certainly not. I still was not "ready" for a boyfriend. I figured I was just less mature than my friends.

When I was 17, I was sexually assaulted multiple times, over the course of 3 months, by a 36-year-old man that I thought of as a father figure. If you want to read the entire story about what happened, I wrote about it in this blog once here.

Afterwards, everyone somehow assumed that the reason I didn't have a boyfriend was because I was traumatized from the sexual assault. But it was really because I had always been grossed out by the idea of having a boyfriend (or a girlfriend, or anyone) and still was. If anything, my experience just confirmed for me that I wanted no part of touching, kissing, or God forbid, sex.

When I was 18, a guy who I had been friends with for a while, who had moved away a year earlier, moved back into the state. We had written letters back and forth to each other constantly, and sometimes talked on the phone. (This was before every child and teenager had a cellphone and a tablet. Some kids had pagers, but I did not.) I thought of him as a friend, but he really, really, really wanted me to be his girlfriend. In fact, he somehow thought that, if he just started referring to me as his girlfriend, I would go along with it. And I sometimes did, a little bit. I would hold his hand sometimes, although it turned my stomach. Part of it was because I wanted to be seen as "normal."

He told me that the reason I didn't want to be his girlfriend was because of the fact that I'd been sexually assaulted. It made sense to me and I went along with it, because it was a more simple explanation than, "I've never wanted anything to do with this kind of thing." I still thought I was just very young for my age, and that somehow as I got older my feelings would change.

Eventually that guy sexually assaulted me too, but that is yet another story. His reasoning was that he thought I just needed to "get back on the horse." But I had never been on the horse in the first place, so... yeah.

ANYWAYS... he was my final "boyfriend." I never had even a pretend one again. Over the years, there were many guys and girls I was friends with that I had extremely strong emotional feelings for. I could easily say that I "loved" these people and that I wanted to be around them as much as possible... but I never had any desire to be touched or kissed or anything else.

I began thinking it was because I was autistic. Yet I knew of many autistic adults who had significant others, who even got married and had kids and other "normal" things.

It wasn't even until recent years that I heard the term "asexual." Well, I had heard the term, but only in reference to worms, not to people. When I read about it, I realized it made sense, and it might actually describe me. But I didn't necessarily want to identify myself as asexual.

Why? Because I was still trying to figure out my autism and other mental and developmental disorders. I have a whole slew of them. Basically my brain is a disaster area. I was still having trouble getting my parents to understand that many of my issues were caused by my brain, and not by my just being a lazy, annoying, childish person. I had sought out my own diagnoses because the one I had been given as a teenager, Psychotic Disorder NOS, did not seem right. My parents had been very reluctant to believe that I had several developmental disorders that had existed since I was born.

In fact, only in recent years have they started to acknowledge that I'm autistic and have other disorders. They were eventually able to read stuff about it, with some convincing from my Auntie Em. They now can somewhat view my current problems, and my childhood issues, through the frame of autism. But I feel like if I try to add "asexual" to the list, their brains might explode.

I mean, they know that I have never had a significant other. But they've always liked to think that I had "crushes" on all of my male friends. And whenever I so much as talk to a guy, my mom starts to playfully tease me about flirting. Once when we were staying at a cabin near where my brother lives, I found a dog, and I decided to go ask one of the groundskeepers if he knew whose dog it was. My brother lives in a tiny town, so everyone knows everyone, and I had met the groundskeeper a few times. So I and the dog went to find the guy. and then we went back to our cabin to report that the guy had seen the dog and believed he was a stray. My mom said, "Were you fliiiiiiiiiiirtiiiiiing?" No, mother, I was seeking information! (By the way, the dog turned out to not be a stray. He just liked roaming around and meeting new people. In fact he once got in a car with some people and rode all the way to Washington, where a vet scanned his microchip and figured out that he really did have a home. But that is yet another story!)

The other issue is that Asexual is technically part of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. (It is the A, obviously.) But not all LGBTQIA+ people believe asexual people should be part of it. And I'm kind of nervous about identifying myself as part of a community that doesn't exactly want me. Currently, I'm just tiptoeing near it.

So... all that to say, I'm asexual, but the only thing that has changed is that I now have a word for what I have always been, and I can add that word to the long list of words that I haul around with me every day. Also I sort of wish it was a different word that didn't remind me of worms. But, I digress...

If you read this whole blog entry, thanks! You are awesome! Now go take a break... you deserve it!

PS... if you are on Tiktok, I'd love it if you followed me! I'm AngelNicki111.



Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Autism And Social Media

A few nights ago, in a TikTok live I was watching, someone was predicting that the Internet would eventually crash and that we'd all have to go back to living like we did before it became a huge part of our society.

In some ways, the world might be a little bit better without the Internet! I sometimes feel sad about the new generations of kids who are growing up with their eyes constantly focused on their phones or tablets, missing out on the rest of the world going on around them. There are kids out there who could be given a free trip to Disney World, and they'd complain the whole time because they just wanted to go home and play Minecraft or Roblux.

My generation was probably one of the last that grew up playing almost exclusively with toys or using our imaginations. We did have some video games, but they were just games... not the immersive experiences that they are now. Player One and Player Two had to take turns, and our parents told us when it was time to turn the games off and go play outside. The world seemed more magical back then. Today it seems like kids are bored by the things that seemed amazing to us... like riding your bike all day long or going Trick-or-Treating! Without the Internet, kids would have to discover the world around them again.

On the other hand... I would really miss social media. For me, social media has not been a way to avoid having to interact in person. Instead, it has built a bridge between me and the world... a bridge that I really struggled to cross when I was younger.

Although when I was little I was always outside playing with the neighborhood kids... who were  a few years younger than me but whose maturity level I was about even with... once I got older even the younger kids began to see me as strange. I sometimes had friends in school. You know the group of unpopular kids that get forced to hang out together because nobody else will hang out with them? I was often in that group.

But once I became an adult, it was a lot easier for me to become socially isolated. I had people I talked to at work, but I was never in their inner circle, and on the weekends I was usually alone. I didn't know how to make new friends. I didn't know where to look. And I am notoriously bad at small talk, so when I did spend time talking to someone new, they usually thought I was a little strange.

When Facebook came along, I had a way to express myself clearly. I could join groups that were based on my interests, and "talk" to people all over the world. Facebook also let me rekindle and rebuild the few fragile friendships or acquaintances that I had had throughout the years. I was  even able to forge stronger relationships with relatives I had never had the chance to be close to.

I could also use the Internet to scout out opportunities for real-life social activities. I have social anxiety, and often would have just stayed in the house rather than go by myself to a new place to spend time with new people. The Internet allowed me to scout out places, and people, before I went, so that I could create a picture in my mind of what was going to happen.  That made the new people and places easier for me to deal with.

TikTok may be the best thing that has happened to me as of late. Instead of just reading about people's thoughts and feelings, I've gotten the chance to peer into their lives (as in, actual lives, not "live chats.) I've also gotten the chance to show people what I'm like.

There are some of you out there whom I've come to think of as real friends, even if we've never said anything to each other. I look forward to seeing your videos in my feed. I get excited when you open a live chat and I can be there. Mingling is a lot easier when I don't have to worry about making eye contact or stopping myself from stimming because someone might give me That Look. (Autistic people, you all know That Look, right?)

If the Internet disappeared, I think I would be perfectly happy to go to the library to get books instead of reading on my Kindle, and to go to actual stores instead of ordering everything online. But I would really miss all of you.  So I hope it doesn't go away any time soon!

Monday, May 18, 2020

I Want To Start Blogging Again

Me with my new friend Story at Odd Man Inn! 
Hi everyone! It has been so long since I have written in my blog! But I want to start writing again. This is a good time for me to start blogging again since I am at home so much now... but it also may be more difficult for me to blog since nothing really happens!

Updates for the past year that I've been invisible...

I don't remember if I blogged about it (I'm sure I did) but I was non-renewed from my job as a special education teacher at the end of my first year. For those of you who don't work in education, basically being non-renewed means that, if you have worked at a school for less than 2 years, they are able to discontinue your contract at the end of the school year without giving a reason. For me, the principal did give me a reason, and it was everything related to problems with my autism, rather than with my teaching. It broke my heart and my spirit, and I was pretty much just existing sadly for a year.

I did try starting my own small school, but it didn't work out, which pushed me into more depression. The hardest thing about my particular autism, for me, is that I have a lot of dreams and I have so many things I want to do, but problems related to my autism, or people's perception of me, get in the way. I do always try. My mom even said that she's never met anyone who tries as hard as me. But... obstacles pop up. Sometimes the obstacle is my own anxiety, and sometimes it is a stubborn principal who believes that teachers should look, think, act and teach in a very specific way. (The principal literally said that, even.)

So. I felt pretty defeated at that point, after also being non-renewed from another school the year before that for similar reasons. In the back of my head, I had always been thinking that if worse came to worst I could always get a job in a child care center, because I could easily qualify. But I was reluctant. I struggled my way through college to get a bachelor's degree, I worked SUPER hard to earn my teaching degree, and I felt like going back to a job I had when I was 19 would be squandering all of that.

Finally, worse did come to worst. So I looked for, and found, a job at a child care center. In many ways it was my dream job! I was given a classroom of children ages 2 to 5, and the freedom to do just about anything I wanted. In the past the classroom had pretty much been just a daycare, where the children had free play with toys all day long but not much else. I worked really hard to start making it into an actual preschool program, while still making sure children had plenty of time for open play.

The director was awesome... and she actually appreciated me! It had been years since I'd had a boss that encouraged me and listened to me!

But then Coronavirus hit, the center was shut down, and it may or may not open again. They keep changing their minds. So I've been home.

In the meantime, I've been staying busy with two things. One thing has been painting rocks. There is a Facebook group in my town where you can post the rocks you paint or find. I've been painting rocks and then hiding them, mostly in the park across from my apartment building, or around the neighborhood.

I also joined Tiktok and started making videos.

I was really just doing that out of boredom... but then awesome things happened! I made a few videos about autism, and people really loved them. I started getting a lot of followers. I made more and more videos. And I am still making videos several times a week! Some are about autism, and some are just for fun. People's favorite videos seem to be about my sensory things and fidget toys. So I'm hoping to do more of those types of videos.

If you have Tiktok, you can find me! My name on Tiktok is AngelNicki111.

I'm going to end this blog entry for now so it doesn't become too long... but if you are reading this, please comment to say hi so I know someone is still here!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

How I Feel About the Show "The Good Doctor"

People sometimes ask me whether I like the show "The Good Doctor." If you haven't heard of it, it is a show about a young autistic man who becomes a surgeon resident at a hospital. (I'm not sure if I'm saying it right, but he's a resident, almost a full surgeon but not entirely. Like the people on "Gray's Anatomy" in the original season.) I have been watching it since the first episode came out last year. 

Whenever there is a show or movie featuring an autistic character, everyone always debates whether the show portrays autism realistically or not. My answer to that is, it is impossible to say for sure, because autism is so different for everyone who experiences it. Some people who are familiar with autism have criticized "The Good Doctor", one of the reasons being that he is not only autistic but has savant skills. He can perfectly visualize the organs of the body and how they work together, and can often come up with crazy solutions that save the day. Critics complain that it will make people assume that all autistic people have savant skills... sort of how the original famous autistic character, Rain Man, made people assume that all autistic people can instantly tell you how many toothpicks you spilled on the floor. On the other hand, when shows or movies portray autistic people as having severe disabilities, people get mad that it will cause viewers to assume that everyone with autism is nonverbal or that everyone with autism needs full time assistance. 

The truth is always far more complicated than it appears on TV. At the same time, medical dramas always exaggerate. Otherwise nobody would watch them. Every hospital in every medical drama just happens to get the weirdest and most difficult medical cases, and someone in every medical drama has to have an uncanny ability to solve all of the cases by thinking of something that has never been done before. The uncanny person usually has to go up against some sort of hospital authorities who argue that it cannot be done, and then they either give in, or the person goes against their wishes and does it anyway, and everyone learns a valuable lesson that they will forget by the next episode. "The Good Doctor" is really just a typical medical drama with a twist: the magical doctor's uncanny ability is due to his being autistic and having savant skills. 

That being said, I do identify with a lot of the things that Shaun Murphy goes through. 

Shaun's autism serves as a sort of screen that blocks people from seeing his abilities. In the beginning, his father figure and mentor, who was then the head of the hospital, had to work hard to convince the other top people at the hospital to give Shaun a chance. They were like, "Yes, he's a genius. But he's autistic, so he'll probably mess up at some point, right?" Every resident in every medical drama does mess up at some point, but Shaun has autism, so he has this metaphorical red flag attached to him. The head of surgery was originally so much against Shaun being there that he said Shaun would never get to participate in a surgery. There were people who seemed to be hoping for Shaun to do poorly, just so that they could be rid of him. 

But Shaun, like many autistic adults, is very talented, and extremely dedicated to what he does.  He has difficulty not thinking about a case he's working on, and will often jump up in the middle of unrelated conversations because something new has just occurred to him and he needs to go follow through with his thought, right away. Over and over, Shaun proves himself to be a great surgeon.

Plus, he has a kind heart. Shaun truly cares about people. He sometimes says things that seem insensitive, or does things that seem rude, because he doesn't realize they will offend or upset people. But when someone needs help, Shaun will go out of his way to help them. One by one, everyone around him realizes this. He ends up with a group of loyal friends and supporters who appreciate him and stick up for him. Whenever someone new joins the crew, it takes that person a while to see the full picture of Shaun, but they eventually grow to feel the same way about him. Basically, either you love Shaun Murphy, or you are sort of an asshole. 

In episodes 15 and 16 of season 2, a new chief of surgery joins. He is critical of all of the residents, but particularly notices Shaun's shortcomings. He complains that Shaun does not communicate well, and that his "meltdowns," though very infrequent, are a liability. He decides that Shaun should transfer to Pathology, where he will study illnesses and help diagnose people, but have no contact with patients or with surgical residents. Shaun's heart is set on being a surgeon. But when he appeals to the new chief of surgery, he is told that he will never be able to be a surgeon. The chief explains, "Your talents are immense. Your challenges are just as significant." 

I relate to that last part especially well. I have been told this same thing by principals at several different schools where I've worked. Their messages can always be summed up as, "You're an excellent teacher. Your ability to connect with the children is amazing. You are kind and patient. But your challenges are just as significant." In my case, they site communication as being one of my problems just like it is one of Shaun Murphy's problems... although if they would let me communicate important things in writing, rather than on the phone or in person, they would see that I am actually excellent at communication. My major shortcoming, though, seems to be more vague and more difficult for them to put into words... they, who find communicating so terribly important, cannot find a polite way to tell me, "You just don't fit into the jigsaw puzzle of our school." 

People don't expect a surgeon to be autistic. They don't expect a teacher to be autistic. We are expected to fill supporting roles, rather than be major characters. 

The truth is, most autistic people don't have savant skills. (I definitely don't.) Yet Shaun Murphy does represent many autistic people, whether those people are able to live fully independently or whether their challenges cause them to need round the clock care in a group home setting. Many (I'm not saying all, but many) autistic people have kind hearts and a lot of empathy. Many have strong interests and passions that occupy a lot of their time and thoughts. Many are stopped from pursuing their passion because either their interest is considered abnormal or they don't fit in well with others who have the same passion. Many want to feel like they are important, accepted, and contributing members of their setting, be it a workplace, their family, or society as a whole. 

So I will continue to watch "The Good Doctor," hoping that he gets to go back to being a surgeon... because if Shaun Murphy can find a place to belong, maybe someday we all will. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want!


This comic was shared on Facebook, and was originally
 published on
the Tumblr blog "Growing Up Aspie."
I saw this picture shared on Facebook this morning and it immediately inspired me to get my butt out of bed and write a blog post about it. 

The picture illustrates weird, ghostly looking being telling someone, "The trash needs to be taken out." The other person has a blank look on his face, as the words don't really register. But when the ghostly being says, "Please take out the trash in a minute," the person smiles and says, "Sure."

What it means is, many autistic people are not good at taking hints or responding to non-direct requests. This often gets them in trouble with others, who assume that the autistic person is being selfish, lazy or rude because they do not do what was vaguely requested of them. 

As an adult, I have gotten better at realizing that, if someone says something like, "The litter box is pretty messy," it is a good idea for me to clean it. It really only works for me if it is something that I usually do. At my aunt's house, I often help clean up the litter box, which is something I offered to do back when I used to live with them. I don't mind cleaning the litter box, I actually like to do it as an act of service to the cats and because sifting the litter is sort of fun and satisfying for me. I know, I'm weird. So if someone says, "The litter box is dirty," I would know that I should go scoop it out. 

However, if someone mentions something that isn't usually part of my routine, such as, "There is something sticky on the floor," I will just take it as a statement. You're just telling me there is something sticky on the floor. It is mildly interesting, and I might comment on what it might be, but it wouldn't always occur to me to wipe it up.

If someone says something like, "This (insert some sort of task here) is really difficult," I may hear it as a statement, but still keep doing whatever I'm doing. 

If someone says, "Could you grab a mop and wipe up this sticky stuff on the floor?" or "Would you mind helping me with this?" then I will do it.  But you have to say it, not just hint around at it. 

It is hard for me to understand what the benefits of hinting around, rather than just asking for help, are. If you are hinting around because your expectation is that the person will take the hint and do what you want them to do, then why not just say it? 

Some hints are even more vague. I remember a specific incident from when I was a teenager. I was in some sort of group therapy thing that parents and behaviorally challenged teenagers attended at the hospital. My mom was complaining about a time that she had left the vacuum cleaner out when she went to work, with the expectation that I would vacuum the living room. But when she had come home from work, she'd seen that I hadn't vacuumed. 

At the time, vacuuming the living room was not one of my usual chores. She hadn't asked me to vacuum, or left a note. She'd just put the vacuum there. I tried to explain this. "You didn't tell me to vacuum, so I didn't know you wanted me to do it."

One of the staff members running the group replied, "So you feel like you need to be told to do something in order to do it?" (She wasn't being supportive, by the way... she was more or less pointing out that I was selfish. Even through my autism, I could understand that implication!) 

Well, yes. Seeing the vacuum cleaner out in the room did not mean to me, "Mom wants me to vacuum." If anything, I would have thought, "The vacuum doesn't belong there," and I would have put it away. But I probably just noticed it for a brief moment, thought nothing of it, and went about doing whatever I usually did. 

The lesson here is, if you want something from an autistic person (or anyone, really, because it is probably just simpler this way) just blurt it out. 

The comic also suggested that people include a time limit in their request. 

This has gotten me in trouble at work a few times, because if my supervisor said something like, "I need you to  do this," I would say, "Okay." But I would usually have a giant pile of other things I needed to get done, so I'd intend to get to the requested task eventually. And then a few days later, the supervisor would be like, "Why didn't you do this?" I would be thinking, "I didn't do it yet.

Autistic people could train themselves to constantly ask for more information. For instance, I could just learn that, any time I hear someone make a comment, I should volunteer to take care of the problem, or ask, "Do you mean you want me to do this?" And whenever I  am asked to do something, I could try to remember to say, "When do you want it done by?" I'd have to become hypervigilant about it, constantly asking for more information, constantly volunteering to do random tasks that someone mentions. It might be easier if people could just be direct and specific when they want me to do something. 

People can even use this idea when talking to anyone. Parents, do your kids not clean their rooms when you say, "This room is a pig sty?" Why not just say, "Please clean up your room by the end of this week." Spouses, are you frustrated because your spouse doesn't fix a broken object because you commented, "This object is broken?" Try saying, "Could you please fix this object?" Friends, are you frustrated because your friend didn't volunteer to come bring you hot soup when you told them you have a cold? You could just ask them, "I need you to bring me some hot soup this afternoon." Give it a try, and see what happens! 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Angel's ADHD/Autism/Sensory Processing Gift Guide

Hi, everyone! A few years ago, at around this time of year, I created a whole new blog dedicated to gift recommendations. I've decided to create an updated version. However, in the interest of possibly making some money (because I am really working on making a living with writing as much as possible latey) I am going to be writing my articles on Vocal.

So far, here is my first installment: 11 Best Sensory Jewelry Gifts

I will also be posting the links on my old gift guide blog. The benefit of looking there will be to use the cloud, on the top of the screen, to find gift ideas by category or by age group.

Let me know if you have any gift recommendations you'd like me to include!


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

You Don't Seem Autistic!

Do I seem autistic to you? 
"You don't seem autistic!"
I'm guessing that many autistic people who have told someone about their autism have heard this phrase in response. In fact, this is a topic that many people have blogged or vlogged about in the past. I thought I'd throw in my two cents.
The scenario: You are meeting someone for the first time, or this is your first time talking with an acquaintance for more than a few minutes. The subject of autism comes up.
For me, it is often when I mention that I have only lived in Washington for a few years, and the person wants to know how I ended up out here. I explain that I always had a hard time in Chicago, partially because of the fact that I am autistic, and that I came out here to visit my aunt a few times, and she thought that I would be more successful out here in the relaxed, accepting environment of the Pacific Northwest.
Then they say it. "You don't seem autistic!" Or, "Really? You have autism? I would have never guessed!" Or, "You must have gone through a lot of ABA therapy in order to be able to function this well."
Me: "Uhhhhhhhhhhh...."
What they are really saying is, "When I think of autism, I think of a person rocking back and forth, screaming, and needing to be restrained all the time. Or I think of Sam from the show 'Atypical' who seems to have no clue about social skills... for example, in one episode, he breaks up with his girlfriend during a dinner at a restaurant with her whole family, by announcing loudly that although she fits all of the criteria on the list he made, he just doesn't like her that much as a girlfriend... and later breaks into his therapist's house because he doesn't understand why that might be frowned upon. Or I think of Max from 'Parenthood', who sometimes comes off as unkind, like when  his cousin was in a car accident and all he could think of was going home even while his whole family is frantic. Or I think of Simon from the movie 'Mercury Rising,' who solves 'the most sophisticated cipher system ever known,' which for some reason is hidden inside a word puzzle book, yet who is unable to speak except for a few words in a monotone and who, in the beginning of the movie, disappoints his mom by not seeming happy to see her when she greets him at the door and just ringing the doorbell anyways even though she's standing right there. Yet here you are, talking to me pretty reasonably, not screaming or rocking back and forth, not breaking into houses, appearing to have plenty of empathy, and not being a genius. So, you don't seem very autistic to me." 
They might also be trying to give you a compliment, which is pretty much, "I imagine that you don't want anyone to know you have autism, and that you try very hard to appear normal, so I just want you to know you are doing pretty well at it." 
I am never quite sure of the right response to this, mostly because I'm not always in the mood to give a lengthy dissertation about autism. Plus, I don't want people to think I am trying to convince them that I am worse off that I am, or that I'm trying to get attention. 
And then, there's always the simple fact that, you always think of the best responses five hours after the conversation has ended. 
If I could remember to use this canned response, this is how I might explain it. 
When you are at home, relaxed, with your family, do you act a little differently than you are doing right now? Do you ever just lounge around in your pajamas at home, whereas you'd never be seen outside the house without your hair done? Do you ever snap at your spouse and children in ways that you would never talk to your co-workers? 
Autistic people often do have an understanding of what is "expected" in public. Many of us, especially if we were diagnosed as an adults and grew up just being thought of as strange, annoying or disobedient, can be hypervigilant about not drawing attention to ourselves. We don't want to get stared at, or bullied, or questioned about whether or not we are on drugs. (All of these things have actually happened to me when I was out in public.) Those of us who have jobs are aware that we can lose our jobs if we don't appear "normal" enough. (I did, didn't I?) So we hold it together when we go out. This is also a big reason for why many autistic people become exhausted more easily than others, Besides the fact that we may be going into sensory overload from spending too much time in the stinky, noisy outside world, we are also concentrating on blending in. 
I am really not sure if I am capable of seeming just like everyone else, even when I try. I can go to a job interview and remind myself to make eye contact (although sometimes I concentrate so hard on making eye contact that I forget to blink, and my eye starts spasming, and I have to shut my eyes for a while, which definitely probably looks a little odd) but I still mix up my words and stutter and sometimes can't get words to come out of my mouth at all. People may assume I'm very shy or introverted and never guess I'm autistic. 
When I'm very relaxed, on the other hand, like when I'm hanging out with animals, I may not do any rocking or flapping at all, especially when I'm getting a lot of calming sensory input from petting the animals or having them sit on me. If you are a fellow animal lover, then you might not think I'm weird at all when I constantly talk about animals, but in another place it might seem odd. 
When I know exactly what I'm supposed to be doing, and I'm in a familiar place, I may appear calm and collected. But when I am unsure of myself, like at a job or volunteer position I've just started, or in a crowded grocery store, you may spot me flapping, covering my ears, talking to myself, or just standing with my knees locked in a terrified position. 
If you are around me long enough, you'll begin to see my autism more frequently, You may see it when I have a meltdown and become nauseous after the smoke detector goes off several times in a row while you're cooking. You may see it when you hear me ask you, "Do you like Lily?"or "Does Lily love me?" fifty million times per day, for reasons unknown even to me. (It may be just because saying Lily's name is calming to me, and because hearing the things I know for sure being repeated is also reassuring.) You may see it when you notice me jump and flap when I am excited, when you see me barely being able to get through the security line at the Chicago airport because the yelling people freak me out so badly (especially the mean one named Moo) or when you realize that I have not done the forty fun things I planned to do this month because, when the time came, my anxiety about new situations sucked me back into the apartment like one of those old shows when someone uses a cane to grab someone else and yank them backwards. 
I am autistic all the time, even when I don't appear to be. When I manage to hide it, it is not so much because I am embarrassed of it and want to seem "indistinguishable from my peers," but because I am protecting myself from pain inflicted by people who are not accepting of others' differences. I maybe more socially aware than the fictional Sam and Max, and I will never be able to solve sophisticated cipher systems like Simon. But I am still autistic. Even right now. 

So, to people who tell me I don't seem autistic,  I guess my response is, "Maybe you should read my blog!"