Not a defense, but at least an explanation

Time for some translation work. (I hope. Please don't anyone wring my neck over this. I mean well.)

I'm sure that all of you who received an ASD diagnosis as a child were lectured endlessly on Sally-Anne and the "theory of mind". You probably gathered from all the repetition that the whole ToM thing was of extraordinary importance to allistic people, and that they considered a lack of it to be a very serious deficit, even if you didn't particularly care.

From their perspective, it would be. Allistics spend endless hours fretting over what other allistic people think. Entire industries exist -- advice columns, self-help books, psychology -- dedicated to taking money in exchange for telling people how to figure out what the bloody blue fuck other people are thinking, and now to make them think what you want them to without them noticing. "What other people think of me" dictates most of their daily interactions. It is so overbearing that there's also an entire counter-industry devoted to teaching them how to not let the obsession with other people's opinions cripple them.

The reason that allistics often deal very poorly with autistic people, especially at first, is that they do not have a Theory of Mind for you. They don't have any idea how you work. They don't even know how to start figuring it out.

This distresses them greatly. Sorting people calms them like sorting information calms you. It makes them feel like slightly more orderly cosmic beings. Like some logic has been applied to their corner of the universe, and they at least kind of know what it is. You sometimes meltdown if you're stuck in an environment where you can't predict or control or mitigate the chaos around you. They meltdown in the same way when they feel caught in an interaction where they don't know what the other person thinks or feels or wants or is going to do next. They get angry when someone does something that unexpectedly breaks their sense of social rightness in the same way you get angry when someone comes past and blithely destroys some part of your carefully-maintained personal organization. In a greater sense, the single instance of a strange statement or a toppled stack of papers doesn't necessarily mean much, but the occurrence feels like an intrusion on, and an injury to, a concept that you hold very dear, perpetrated by someone who does not understand why.

Even if intellectually you know better, it feels for a moment like the other person is being hurtful, and doesn't care.

This does not make it right for them to pull rank as the numerical majority and demand that you conform to their idea of sociability at all times. (This also, for the record, does not make it right for people to use "autism" or "Asperger's" as an scapegoat for willfully hurtful behavior, whether or not they are actually diagnosed. We all live on the same planet, and we all have to share nicely.) This is also not an excuse for allistic people to treat autistic people badly out of ignorance, real or feigned. But it is an explanation of why things keep breaking down in the same specific way, time after time.

I get the feeling not getting why these things happen drives you crazy. I understand -- it drives me crazy, too.

If autistic people are expected to patiently explain over and over that it is very important that you not move things on their desk, no there's no real logical reason it's just a me thing, yes I know you don't get it but we can avoid having this conversation another half dozen times if you just assume that it is very important that you not touch things on my desk, I feel like I should be doing something to explain the other half. Ideally in a way that doesn't assume, arrogantly, that everyone obviously has a native understanding of the topic at hand.

I keep seeing authors of both autistic and allistic varieties making -- completely accurately! -- observations about how people who follow the other social paradigm tend to get very upset when you XYZ at them, and it is therefore important to keep this in mind so that you can explain when necessary, offer help with coping if needed, and work around it if at all possible. Nobody seems to draw what is, to me, the obvious comparison. The autistic people are really great at outlining how their brains work but not necessarily great at knowing how others will react to that, and the allistic people are really great at knowing when someone is holy shit REALLY UPSET right now over something but utter fail at figuring out why and when it'll happen again. If you could all combine your powers you could probably rule the universe, but as it is you're probably just going to hang out on the interwebs making Avengers macros and yelling at each other on vent.

I really never have any idea if my attempts at interpretation are doing any good, but I keep feeling the compulsion to try.


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