T Nation

Thread for People On the Spectrum

I might be crucified for this but…

I think some should just be really be honest with themselves too. Are you really like legit on the spectrum or are there just things in your attitude you have to work on? Social etiquette you just have to learn and accept? See, the problem is, once you play the spectrum card, maybe people back off and give you leeway. How will you learn and adjust then?

I’m not trying to step one anyone’s toes or offend anyone who’s really on the spectrum. It’s just something to ponder on, I guess.


I suppose this theory could be valid depending on the age of diagnosis. I was diagnosed as autistic when I was… I want to say four?

And I’m not discounting that. I sincerely hope you have good friends who are patient with you and work with you to improve yourself.

I said that because I did find myself wondering if I was on the spectrum during college. I just came to the conclusion that, either way, I gotta work on my attitude, EQ, and social skills.


Very much supporting this. It’s my take on the whole “why can’t people be more honest” thing. The counter argument is “why can’t people be more self-aware?”

Why does the onus of feedback lay squarely on the person who is being slighted socially? Why does it not fall on the slighter? Should they NOT invest the necessary time and energy to be able to “read the room” and understand when their actions are making people uncomfortable?

We often encounter people that appear to just be completely socially oblivious. Poor hygiene, rudeness as a default setting, self-entitled, lack of spacial awareness, etc etc. I often remark “How did they get this far in life without realizing what they’re doing is off-putting?” I find that FAR more remarkable than others not wanting to have to take on the burden of behavior correction.

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It seems to be a popular hipster affectation. Like an easy button for excusing dumb or oafish behavior.

It should be noted autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder. The brain of an autistic person is wired differently, thus unfortunately social interpretation, particularly within group dynamics can be tremendously difficult for an individual. “reading a room” ought to be a given, but for an autistic individual this can be a tremendously difficult concept to latch on to.

Group therapy can help, but even then… Interpreting body language and social ques will remain somewhat challenging for most. The best remedy I’ve found for this is practice… Practice… Practice…

The “tough love/tough shit, figure it out” doesn’t apply/won’t work for an individual on the spectrum. Certain shortcomings are abundantly apparent and it’s a well known fact autistic people generally have significant difficulty socialising in comparison to their neuro-typical peers.

It’s interesting you say this. I don’t like to play the spectrum card, the one time recently I played the spectrum card was when I made a “non-PC” joke about autism/neurodevelopmental disorders and got called out for it. In response I was like “seriously? You’re saying I don’t have the right to joke about autism? WeLl GueSs WhAt!”

Whilst there might be some semblance of leeway from playing this card, openly flouting a diagnosis of autism is akin to social suicide. There are misconceptions/misinterpretations within the general populace as to what autism entails.

At this point I believe I’ve managed to engrain myself adequately within the confines of our society. Now when I’m close enough to an individual I MIGHT disclose I have autism, in which case the individual typically responds “really? You don’t seem autistic”. The only que one might pick up on is my lack of ability to initially interpret subtly sarcastic remarks. However when I get to know someone better I can start to interpret whether a statement is serious or not.

Very few/none of these characteristics are typically present within those encompassing the high functioning end of the spectrum. If anything sensory/spacial awareness is heightened.

Which, in turn, is a reflection of how I wasn’t intending my comment to be regarding people afflicted with a disorder but more those that are socially oblivious demanding honesty, similar to what @whang was discussing.

“Practice practice practice” is absolutely the right call, and good on you for embracing it. I did much the same.

Yep, I was referring to people who say they’re on the spectrum as an excuse even though they really aren’t.

In school, it probably is. Outside of that, people may just back off because they don’t want trouble or guilt making fun of someone who has it (legitimate or not).

Have you been diagnosed with autism?

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Have you ever sought therapy of any type for this?

I’ve been around a couple of people a bit who were/are profoundly autistic. It was very frustrating for their parents, and my wife taught kids/oversaw young kids who were to varying degrees, which was also very frustrating.

So I wonder, what was it like for you on the other side of that?

And since you like the academic stuff :grin:


Any thoughts on that?

Yes, therapy with the aims of increasing social skills and interpreting body language/social ques helped quite a bit when I was younger. Also therapy to deal with percieved trauma etc.

At this point however I’ve come to realise there is no substitute for real world interaction. Legitimately improving social skills requires repeated bouts of interaction within dynamic, ever changing environments.

You can read up on social skills/practice interaction with a therapist/within a group therapy setting until time stands still, but this paridigim pales in comparison to the real world wherein the prospect of rejection and legitimately uncomfortable interactions is very real. Therapy can give you a base knowledge required for brief small talk or trivial interactions. To fluidly interact with peer groups and be able to come across as normal, “one of the guys”… That takes practice. Same goes for dating/hooking up on the spectrum. Even then, some will never be able to envelop themselves with normal peer to peer interactions, even the “high functioning” demographic of autism has a spectrum. I can vouch that I can find those further down the line on the spectrum very irritating. Though my peer groups consist (entirely) of neuro-typical people.

Keep in mind there is a spectrum. Those with level 2-3 ASD will require substantial support and will likely never be able to envelop themselves within normal societal dynamics. The stresses/stimuli associated with day to day living may simply be too much.

These kids (and even some level 1 ASD) tend to go to special ed schools, many don’t/can’t hold down a job, let alone get one.

Unfortunately I’ve also noted many with high functioning ASD/those on the spectrum tend to turn to substance abuse as a means to help them socialise. Drugs/alcohol, particularly depressant substances lower inhibition, marginally increase sociability/confidence, dull senses/spacial awareness. What more could an autistic person look for? It’s unfortunate as such a relationship with any substance/activity (using as a crutch) is a very slippery slope than can quickly lead to dependence.

Interestingly enough though, MDMA is currently being trialled (a fair bit of clinical literature on this) to treat social anxiety associated with ASD. Granted this doesn’t overlap with recreational use as the environment differs (i.e under the guidance of a licensed psychiatrist), it would appear as if the drug can induce neuroplastic alterations within the autistic brain that may predispose one towards being more sociable. That being said, I doubt there will be a “magic pill/treatment” for ASD within our lifetimes.

  • repetitive behaviours
  • being unable to branch out from one particular hobby
  • crippling anxiety
  • intolerance towards sensory stimuli
  • being socially inept.

In my opinion these are the pet peeves autistic individuals need to work on (as much as possible) in order to successfully impart themselves as productive members of society.

I was actually diagnosed

My three youngest boys have all been diagnosed as being on the spectrum, although I think the youngest just had 2-year-old asshole disease (and verbal apraxia) when he was diagnosed. My 10-year-old twins are definitely on the spectrum, though. They spend a lot of time in school working on “social speech”. Simple things like answering questions when someone asks you one or not just walking away from a conversation when you feel like it. Technically, they are my step-sons and I honestly wasn’t fully equipped as a parent when I met my wife. The meltdowns over seemingly little things were really hard for me to deal with, but as time has gone on I’ve become more understanding and they’ve grown more resilient. They have really bad anxiety and that’s such a tough way to live. One of them is REALLY rule bound to the point where he kind of bosses other kids around to try to keep them in line, which makes him somewhat of an outcast.

God, yes. I work with people on the spectrum occasionally, and one woman for years now, and the relationship becomes one wherein they run events or encounters by me and I help interpret so we can discuss responses.

“Honesty” applied broadly would make for a very, very unhappy world. “Christ, you’re boring!” isn’t going to be particularly helpful. I do push people - women especially - to stop making excuses for not wanting to go out with guys and simply offer “I don’t think it would work” or “I’m not feeling a lot of chemistry.” Because it’s painful to watch someone trying again and again due to mixed signals.

@jskrabac, you came to the group recently specifically asking for honesty about your dating issue and received what I thought were very honest, albeit kind, responses. If I accept a date with a guy I’m under NO obligation to fix his life or school him in dating (which really would be to school him in dating me alone, since I’m one person). We’re all welcome to broach the subject, e.g. “I understand you don’t want to go out again, but could you offer some feedback? I really want to meet someone and move forward into a relationship.”

Spectrum people, same. “Teacher, I notice no one picks me for group work, but I’m a good student, so I don’t understand. Can you advise me?” And then you have an opportunity to discover that you talk over everyone and don’t allow for other points of view, or whatever.

Again, a world run honestly would be a nightmare. Even nice people have deeply ungenerous thoughts, and these should (must) be filtered. I would better call this “diplomacy” than “dishonesty.”


These have been really big ones for me. It’s especially bad when it comes to time.

I remember having big meltdowns as in 3rd or 4th grade when my mom was sometimes late (even if by a couple of minutes) in waking me up and I still get extremely anxious to the point of not being able to sleep when I have to change schedules because it means that I have to reconfigure where to “fit everything in”

I also have some pretty arbitrary rules that serve no purpose (ie only 2 mints a day)
Other rules have been incredibly useful (ie no sleeping in, get work done as soon as possible, do hard things first/save the best for last)
but even these useful rules have sometimes backfired/applied in useless scenarios (ie spending a good 1-2 minutes figuring out which piece of toast to eat first based on size, degree of toasting…)

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I can’t speak for them, but for me, “loosening up” causes more anxiety, so it’s like living between a rock and a hard place

Used to be this way, until I realised my prior patterns of though left me paralyzed in fear from time to time over the silliest of events. You need to live, learn, experience new things, get out of your comfort zone every once in a while.

It can seem daunting, frightening even yet I’ve anecdotally found leaving my comfort zone and loosening up has done wonders for allowing me to make friends, go out, talk to girls etc.

I used to have a tendency to plan every single future event out in meticulous detail. Took a while for me to realise what goes on during my day to day routine isn’t a rigid structure. Events are amenable to changing, people cancel plans, injuries occur (gym), sometimes we can’t make certain deadlines. With meticulous planning over even the smallest of details any and all brief changes towards our daily routine can serve to throw off our entire continuum. “Life” is akin to a fluid medium, it’s good to have an end goal, but you’ll hit a few bumps/make a few turns down the line.

For me, getting out of my comfort zone started with tiny, tiny changes a whiiillle back; like making my own doctors appointments, going out to semi crowded environments (movie theatres etc), briefly talking to members of the opposite sex within professional, controlled environments. Over years this progressed to me attending concerts and festivals (sometimes even going solo), going on dates/hooking up, going to bars, clubs, academic functions and private gatherings, being able to introduce myself to strangers etc. It took YEARS, and even now sometimes I can slip up and say something awkward! But I’m MUCH better than I used to be.

I’m aware not all on the spectrum are identical to one another; but it’s food for thought. Practice, practice, practice… Thats more/less what worked for me.

Initially my baseline levels of anxiety shot through the roof. After repeated bouts of purposefully making myself uncomfortable I came to realise my fears were at times… slightly irrational.

Keep in mind, I’m not one to exactly be taking life advice from. I am by no means a saint, nor do I have my “shit together”, though I do believe my approach has mitigated a lot of unnecessary anxiety (for me). That being said I am employed, I’m going to university (and will soon be living by myself). I have a quasi end goal in mind career/profession wise. At the moment I’m taking things one day at a time; a motto of “relative indifference” towards the little things has reduced my affinity towards ruminating, procrastination and obsessive thinking substantially.

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I wasn’t referring specifically to you or unreal, I was merely putting the idea out. The “you” there isn’t specific

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Not on the spectrum, but I’ve taught many kids with varying levels of autism (martial arts coaching). There’s three particular scenarios/students that jump out in my mind.

The first kid was, without a doubt, one if my favourite students. Absolutely garbage martial artist, but holy shit was he ever a hard worker and genuine ray of sunshine. Super friendly, always willing to help out new students and be anyone’s partner, very receptive to critique, but VERY adverse to striking sparring. Grappling, happy to train with anyone, but nothing involving punches or kicks, unless it was with an instructor or his brother. I think part of his success was that 1) he was fairly mild on the spectrum, and 2) his parents worked really hard to make him independent.

The second student was… not as easy. She was clearly a little higher on the spectrum, and I don’t think her parents gave a fuck about adjusting her to society, as she clearly had never heard the word “no” before training with us. Frequently rude and too rough with her training partners, had mild meltdowns when there was guest instructors, and did NOT handle critiques about technique and form well at ALL. Got very frustrated when she didn’t get something correct the first time. Had to spend a lot of time working with her 1-on-1.

The third student wasn’t even a full-time student, he was a kid who had had one trial class, then the manager asked me to assess him in a second trial class. Now, this might’ve been a case as @whang talked about where they were using labels as an excuse for unaddressed behaviour and poor parenting, because I was warned he had ADHD and autism. The kid was a little hellion and jackass. Endangered his partners, didn’t listen, wandered off, messed with equipment, until I’d had enough and told him to sit out the rest of the class. His mother asked when he’d be able to start training, and I said I’d have to discuss it with the manager. She lost it on me in front of the entire studio, claiming I was discriminatory, that I was too hard on him, “How dare I…!” Ugh. Only time I told someone to get out and never come back.

Anyways, just my experiences. Don’t have many observations or insight.


Thanks for this post!

I did this too, Now I plan out “blocks” of time (ie. math 11-12, research 3-4)
Has made me a lot more flexible

this is the most anxiety inducing of all, which is why I never procrastinate

Something I’ve noticed is that some of my “useful rules” are precisely what articles/experts/life coaches… recommend to improve life/productivity, so I feel a pressure to continue or even tighten up