Hi. My name is Pete Carapetyan, and I write this site to give normal people a little bit of my perspective living "on the Autism Spectrum"
Glad you asked!
Yes, like all issues or syndromes that are only diagnose-able by a set of behaviors, light variants of Autism could easily be called B.S. by anyone who believes (like I do) in our ability as individuals to rise above any deficits and just 'man up'.
So instead, I'll express it as a summary of my own experiences.
I'm probably as smart and certainly as sensitive as the next guy. I have feelings and love and annoyances just like you do. But after 6+ decades on the planet, I can absolutely identify a seemingly infinite series of events in my life where I just didn't "get it". This is despite the fact that everyone around me gets it, quite naturally.
I told my friend Boyd about my possible diagnosis earlier this year. His response was telling. Paraphrasing, for brevity: "Well duh, Pete." Nor would I expect a different response from other close friends.
As an experience, it can be quite maddening. So here's what I dug up on the apparent science behind it:
That's one of the books I got on the subject: "Autism as Context Blindness". Perhaps it's the easiest way to understand it?
If life - especially in a human or social setting - is about pattern recognition, apparently people like me get a score of "almost".
Let's assume you and I walk into a social situation together.
I can read a social context just like a neuro-typical can. Except I'll probably miss some key parts that you won't miss.
Since I read the same context as you, I feel just as confident as you would. But since I missed one or more parts, I'm liable to feel falsely confident that I "got it" - making you all the more puzzled because you might easily tell "No, actually Pete, you sorta didn't get it."
One could say that this is a little microcosm of the life of an Aspie.
I screw up, when reading humans. A lot. Especially in interpersonal and business situations. Kinda sad, if it wasn't so funny. And then, to miss the mark with such brazen confidence!
The above example of you and me skips by part of the Aspie reality. The truer description would be that we would both do fine in a typical situation. But I'll score just enough misses, over time, to lead me in a screwball, or confusing direction - just when everything seemed like it was OK.
So it wouldn't be you saying that I didn't get it like above. Instead, things get weird later because you and I might think we were on the same page and somewhere I make the wrong conclusion about something, and neither of us can figure out where or why.
"You mean you knew all along? I wrote the budget spreadsheet for that whole project - as if the guy was shooting straight with us!" I would ask you, surprised.
"Gosh Pete, I thought it was obvious, and you'd throw in an extra 30% just like we always do when we cover for what we both know that kind of guy does."
This is what drives Aspies to look to something - anything - for external help. Especially machines. If nothing else, you can count on machines to work in consistent and predictable way, when compared to humans.
I had been working for decades now on a more computational view of life on our planet. Until I got a better understanding of what was driving this, I thought it was a personal insight stemming from my occupation as a software developer.
Now of course, it makes much more sense - in addition to everything else, I'm attempting to compensate for my autism, or the missing part of my personal observational capability.
Let's take me and you - again assuming you're neuro-typical. We both enter a situation, we both read it, and we both have decades of experience that tell us exactly what to do in this situation.
But here's the difference. You have every reason to believe that you can judge the situation and handle it appropriately. For you, computation is a stupid concept. What would you compute? What would you automate? Nothing. "I got this, Pete. Go away, for goodness sake, if you can't see what's in front of your face."
I won't share your confidence. "Gosh, I already know that I can't feel confident, I've been in situations like this before." So I distrust every pattern and observation I'm [not] seeing, and instead look for some way of gathering more data, grinding through more calculations, comparing to more situations - anything to give me a chance to just not screw up this one situation like I might have screwed up previous similar one.
It could be a business situation such as "Should i do business with this person?" Or even "How should I engage in this conversation?" Or it could be personal, such as meeting an old friend at a bar and missing some key feelings, after not seeing him for a few years.
Maybe fear is the wrong word, because my close friends hardly fear me. But others might get to some part of cautiosness - normal people can correctly sense a feeling of discomfort around autistic people such as myself. If my good friends understand me well, others might not feel comfortable around me, even if perhaps 'fear' is a bit over-stated.
The discomfort comes from a sensation that "this guy seems 'off', as if he's scanning or searching for something that I can't identify". May I address this briefly, here?
Context blindness, reviewing again, is like me looking straight at the same situation you are looking at, but I don't see what you see. And of course, I don't know what it is that I don't see, only that I don't sense it - because others tell me so, eventually, over the decades. When we were children, we both felt fine, because neither of us knows what the other is not seeing. But it gets weird later, as we both grow up, and I begin attempting to "compensate" in odd and creative ways. You can't help but wonder "Gee, hasn't he had enough time to figure this out?"
Over a period of time, normal people can become quite aggravated being around people who can't see what they see. "What the heck is wrong with this guy?". But, of course, neither of us really knows, because I can't see what it is that I am missing, and now that we are adults, you have no patience for someone who appears to be "not even trying" to fit in.
As you can probably imagine, every situation is very unique and different, as are the people in them. But a common element to these situations, over time, is that I'm going to try to compensate in very creative ways, more out of a feeling of desperation. And you're going to pick up on that feeling, neither of us knowing quite what is going on, just that something doesn't feel right.
Again, if I get the right coaching, at the right time, it's pretty easy to keep things on track, but lots of us don't, so that's when normal people feel the best course of action is to just avoid the guy. Understandable, or in some cases, necessary. Which can feel pretty crummy, so there's a little bit of a feedback loop thing going on there as you sense that I feel crummy about not fitting in.
John Elder Robinson writes a lot about this in his many books on aspie-ness, and it's pretty helpful if you feel you need to get a handle on this type of situation. Bottom line is that fear might be too big a reaction, but knowing what is missing can be helpful.
Ahah! You noticed how I claimed above to be both over-confident, especially in my younger years, and then, the opposite. So, which is it?
From the information I have gathered so far, it is often both, in an unnerving combination. The more typical difficulty arrives when I'm feeling happy and like I'm fitting in, and then something happens to shake my confidence, like saying the wrong thing, and creating discomfort. In those situations, it my confidence won't drop 10%, but more like 10X. It can be disabling to me, but to the people around me it can be particularly destructive. Jan, my wife, speaks of having to walk on egg shells, for example.
Goes without saying that it's always my responsibility to catch and adjust such a tailspin in an appropriate way - which I'm always "working on". It's an interesting way to live - never a dull moment. For decades, I just tried to drink my way past these situations, but that didn't appear to be very effective. Dry humour, here.
So if you see an aspie toggling back and forth between confidence levels, at least you might have some idea what is, or is not, going on.
You would find me trying to over-compensate in every way imagineable, and as a neuro-typical you're exhausted just thinking about it. For me? I don't know any other way, and it doesn't frustrate nearly as much as one more failure does.
I'll compensate, by writing automation programs that help me write more automation programs :)
Screwing up social situations? That can be very frustrating. But adding more automation routine to an already over-compensated situtaion? No problem, not in my world. "Hey! What's the standard metric on ...?" Oh wait... there I go again.
So that's how the Aspie Automator site came to be.
Aspie is short for Aspergers, which is a term used for defining "high functioning autistic" people.
Someday I might write more on specific situations that neuro-typicals could find interesting.