Autistic-Style Socializing: It Exists

Did you know that autistic-style socializing is a thing?

It is, really.

So much time has been spent figuring how to ‘teach’ autistic people how to ‘socialize’, that none of the ‘experts’ ever stopped to ask the critical question. How do autistic people socialize? The ‘experts’ assume we don’t and need to be taught how.

Nope. We do, we just have our own approach.

It’s a wonderful scary feeling — realizing that you’re not wrong or broken. You really are just different. The people trying to help you spent years teaching you your difference was wrong. That the only right way was their way.

It isn’t.

Autistic people, when allowed to socialize in our own way, have several different ways of socializing. I’ve observed and experienced three, I’m sure there are more.

Parallel Interaction

We each do our own thing, but enjoying each other’s company and checking in every few minutes to share something interesting, ask a question, etc.

Especially common in our living room or when hanging out on Discord.

Cooperative Interaction

We do a thing together. Talking usually happens, but may not. The main thing is just enjoying each other’s company and sharing something fun.

Especially common on long walks and when playing board games.

“Lego” Conversation

This one needs it’s own page. I’ll write it eventually. The big thing is it’s slower paced than allistic ‘ping pong’ conversations. While people take ‘turns’ talking, each person’s turn lasts a lot longer than in allistic conversation (sometimes several minutes at a time) and pauses are a chance to search for the right word/phrase, not an invitation for someone else to jump in. When people are excited/happy, it will often include conversational overlap.

Especially common on long phone calls and when discussing ‘special interests.’

I’ve been lucky…

As an autistic person, I am incredibly lucky to have a family and social network that consists mostly of autistic people and folks with related neurodivergences. So I’ve had a chance to see how all of us together naturally gravitated towards socializing in ways that work for us. Many autistic people don’t have that.

Since I’ve noticed how we socialize, and started talking about, I’ve seen a lot of recognition. From other autistic people “Oh, I do that!”, from parents of autistic kids, “I never understood why he kept doing that. This helped so much connecting with him,” and from at least one person who (as far as I know) is not autistic “That’s my preferred style of conversation too.”

I’ll probably write more about autistic-style socializing at some point. And I talk about it in a few of my presentations. For now, just know: it’s a thing, and that’s not just okay, it’s awesome.

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Jess’ Writing on Autism