Having friends.

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When I first got involved with the autistic community, I heard of all these wonderful stories of autistic people visiting each other and doing all kinds of things. I was quite envious and also worried that I would never get the chance to do any of those things. The fact that my initial visits to meetings and conventions of autistic people were fairly disastrous from my perspective (especially in terms of what I got out of them versus what I lost from them) confirmed my impression that I was just somehow not the sort of person this happened to.

It should be understood that at that time in my life my sense of self-worth was, like that of many auties, somewhere lower than dirt and I honestly had no clue why anyone would even be interested in me. So it was a natural conclusion that these interesting and cool and exciting meetings happened to other people, not to me.

Now I live near an autistic friend that I’d visited more than once before moving here. I have been to places where autistic people gathered for various events. I’ve met several parents I like. I have had several autistic people stop by my apartment, some of them traveling long distances to do so on the basis of Internet friendships. And now people are coming to see me during Autreat season and such: I’ve finally gotten to meet Kathy Grant (who is very obviously autistic and very cool), and a couple people I met at Autreat a few years ago are stopping by next weekend.

In other words, I actually have somewhat of a social life. The people who hang out with me are interesting people and they are not using me or messing with my head. They seem to show up because they like me and I like them. Not all of them are close friends, some of them are acquaintances.

Even when I used to dream what I thought was a futile dream of meeting people who understood me on certain levels most people didn’t, or who could at least tolerate these aspects of me, I never expected this. I was told in so many ways never to expect it, even prevented in many ways from forming bonds that might otherwise have formed, that when it happened I almost didn’t believe it was happening. I didn’t expect to have both close friends and friendly acquaintances. Meeting one person would have been more than enough for me. This was simply not in any of my predictions, and in seeing those stories of meeting people I had no reason to believe anything like that would happen to me.

The interesting thing to me, is that my getting to know people has happened outside of the formalized group settings I was told to expect this from. I have never experienced these things at a support group or a convention. I have a lot of trouble getting to know people in places like that. Even when I’ve met interesting people in groups, it’s tended to be things like a local public book signing with prior Internet warning, or small numbers of people converging on where I live or me being one of small numbers of people converging on where someone else lives. Something relatively unstructured and without clear edges and rules and so forth, or where we can make up our own structure as we go along.

I’ve written before about the few friendships I sort of managed in institutions, but the truth is that most potential for friendship was utterly destroyed by staff before it even started. I was incredibly, incredibly isolated, living among a lot of other incredibly, incredibly isolated people. A friend with similar experiences said, “It’s amazing how they can put all these people in one room and make every single one of them feel alone.”

People were encouraged by staff not to speak to me. They were also encouraged to loudly proclaim that I clearly had no interest in, or sometimes awareness of, other people. I had almost no means of combatting this, since I knew nothing of my outside appearance, which I now recognize included not talking, not looking at anyone directly, not responding to people in ways they understood, and not moving a whole lot, much of the time. The few people I got to know were people who made an immense effort and ignored staff, and most of that didn’t last long before being forcibly broken up.

There was the girl who sat next to me and chattered at me for hours and got excited at even minimal response. Staff told her off. There was the roommate who developed a secret code with me and helped me raise hell. Staff separated us and made sure we both heard that we had nothing in common. There was the autistic boy who ran into my room and grabbed my hand whenever staff wanted to tie him down to keep him from sitting up and rocking. He got tied down. There was the girl who made a strong effort to talk to me and include me in activities at the group home. I was explicitly told by a psychologist there that I was disgusting, totally inappropriate, definitely not friend material, and that she only talked to me because there was nobody else to talk to. And then, of course, there were a few guys who wanted sexual relations with me, I tried really hard to actively avoid them, and staff couldn’t see why and viewed not wanting to be groped as deviant behavior on my part.

These were, on the whole, tiny bits of interaction in a very long sea of non-interaction. That non-interaction was reinforced by the environment, reinforced by staff, and reinforced by the fact that most people viewed my appearance as meaning that I had no interest in, possibly no awareness of, the fact that they existed.

And I was sometimes painfully aware of that isolation, despite anything anyone might claim about what I was capable of at the time. I could not understand what it was that made people not want to be friends with me, nor could I even appear as if I was interested in making friends. When I finally was able to ask a few questions about that stuff, I was told, almost accusingly, that I was clearly totally happy alone and clearly didn’t want things like friends in my life. One person told me I just gave off an aura of aloofness. I was baffled. In many ways, I still am.

This, by the way, is why I think that measuring social desire by appearance is a bunch of crap. It is true, there have been times when I was much happier on my own. There have been times when I could not conceive of “social,” or of “people,” or of a lot of things that most people find obvious (not just in the social realm).

But I read things that classify autistic people based on how we appear socially, and I know that I don’t fit. People talk about one kind of autie “wanting to be social and making odd social approaches but bungling them,” and another kind of autie “not wanting to be social and maybe not even understanding ‘social’,” and I see myself sitting there being described as being in the second group because unlike the first I could not even translate my social desire into a social approach that anyone could see. Merely staying in the same room and people and thinking about them does not apparently make a person “look social,” but that is what I thought for a long time, and I was shocked to find out that I was regarded as very asocial during times when I was more socially engaged than I’d ever been in my life.

At any rate, when I got out, much of my social interaction was with people who abused or exploited me. Even my entrance to the autism community involved run-ins with people who, whatever their intentions might have been, valued me as a textbook rather than as a person. I was barely starting to figure out who I was and how to fit writing around myself instead of around stored brainwashing, and there were people asking me for answers I couldn’t give them. I found out the extent of the gap when I started becoming more myself than I had ever been in print, and people were telling me they didn’t much like me anymore. Now that I had opinions, now that I was becoming marginally happier, now that I was not presenting as simply a swirling mass of confused things that I’d been taught to say and do, I was far less acceptable to many of the people who had liked me as a human textbook.

All that is to say, that going from that background to having friends and friendly acquaintances was an enormous leap. I didn’t really believe it at first. I kept wondering where the catch was, what they were going to expect me to do, or what they were going to do to me. I even wondered at times whether they were people I used to know pulling an elaborate prank on me, because they knew things about me I never had to tell them, and because some of the people I’d used to know had pulled far more elaborate and cruel pranks than that on people.

Many of the friendships started with a kind of eagerness on both sides that I’ve come to associate with people who are deprived of friends for a very long time. Interacting with each other until one or both dropped from exhaustion or went into shutdown was not uncommon. I think a lot of us were afraid that if we stopped to take a break, the whole thing would disappear.

Also, many were used to a different kind of social interaction required of them from a non-autistic world, such as at their jobs, or institutions, or school. One man said he enjoyed coming over because it was “autistic space” for once even if it was only two of us. Another man, who has since been prevented from contact with the majority of his friends, was so frantic to drink everything in before the inevitable return to the very restricted life he lived in an institution, that he didn’t fully experience them until he got bad to said institution. He often cried and asked us if we were a dream. Many people viewed being around auties or autie-friendly people as a refuge from more typical demands on interaction.

I think I’m finally at the point where I rarely ask my friends, “Why on earth do you like me?” I don’t think, though, that I’m ever going to lose the kind of gratitude I have for the fact that something like this exists. It’s not something I’ve ever been able to take for granted in my life and I don’t think I ever could. I’m also learning a lot about how to be a friend that I never had the opportunity to learn before.

I worry a lot though about people who are in the position I was in a few years ago, going “How on earth do these people all get to know each other?” or, back a few more years, “Am I ever going to meet anyone who remotely understands how I operate?” I’m afraid that loneliness among autistic people, including among people considered too severely autistic to want friends, is rampant, more the rule than the exception.

I’m afraid that many autistic people will never be able to use the Internet to get to know each other. When I was interviewed for NPR and asked about the role of the Internet, I actually gave a much more detailed answer. I tried to point out that some autistic people can’t read, or can’t write, or can’t use any particular standard mode of language. For a long time I would not have been able to consistently use language to connect to people, and I was still lonely: “I am reaching out to you/Through the walls of my body/But my arms are not my heart/In the end you must find me.” I knew autistic people who may or may not have had typical language but certainly had loneliness. Only the part about the Internet being good for a very specific kind of autistic person I mentioned made it onto the air.

I worry also that for many such autistic people, things will become mechanized the way they do in systems. “Here’s your friends program.” “Here’s your social skills program.” “Here’s your recreational program.” “Here’s your support group.” I know that I have never thrived in such environments, even when they are created by autistic people. There’s something about the structure that wears me down and switches me off. There’s something about the social conventions, even of other autistic people, that wipes me out and gives me very little in return, allows also me to give very little to anyone else. For the most part I no longer subject myself to such things, and I cannot imagine being alone in that.

So that does make me wonder, how all those autistic people who were in roughly my position before, are going to end up in situations like I have now, where I have a lot of people who seem to know and like me because I’m me, not because of some use they have for me. Or whatever other social situations they might want, or might want if they had the chance to experience it, given that if they’re anything like me they may have little idea what good social experiences even look like until they stumble across one.

In the end, this is not a “Wow, I’ve come home, I’ve found this wonderful community” post, even though it’s definitely a “Wow, I can actually make friends” post. I’ve read about those experiences, and I respect them, but they are not mine. I will probably never feel ‘at home’ in the autistic community, or the disability community, or the gay community, or any of the other communities I’m supposedly part of. And I am too aware of how many people are shut out by these communities, to become fully comfortable in them, although I will continue trying to broaden them.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

15 responses »

  1. Regarding not feeling as though you fully belong in any community – that’s both common and a difficult blessing. It means you’re always an outsider, which is an excellent position to write from.

    I think you might find some commonality of spirit with the Combahee River Collective Statement (excerpted here: http://www.buffalostate.edu/orgs/rspms/combahee.html ). In 1986 a group of Black women activists made a formal statement that they would not be absorbed into white women’s lesbian-separatism because they were battling racism in solidarity with Black men. At that time (when I was involved in the “community”) there was a lot of excitement around the idea that women could do everything themselves – live on woman-owned land, for instance; or patronise only women-owned businesses. As this movement developed, there was some concern that white women were overrepresented among the women doing all this women-only stuff, giving rise to a lot of accusations and soul-searching.

    The reality is, of course, that very few people are solely defined by belonging to only one group and that multiple afilliations cause tension. That’s just the way humanity is. And that’s also what lets us learn from one another.

    And I never made any friends at a rally or parade either. Just in small groups.

  2. Yeah, I often found that particular situation a weakness of the worldview that makes this into all these individual groups with their individual struggles, each one somehow able to adapt just enough (as a group) to meet their own (perceived) needs but nobody else’s. I don’t feel much tension as to where I belong in the real world, not anymore, but I certainly notice tension between myself and these artificially-created communities and the worldviews created by them.

    It’s very common, not just in the autistic community but in many of these other communities, for people to describe these massive “coming-home experiences” they have, whether it’s at an ADAPT rally, a psychiatric survivor’s meeting, some sort of LGBT event, or an autistic support group or convention. I don’t deny the power or meaningfulness of such experiences for an individual, but I do have some worry that they create a political stance based on social ties in a way where if new political stances (even if they’re better ones to take, and even if there is a serious problem with the old one that needs fixing) appear to threaten those social ties, the social ties win out and people become very defensive against anything perceived as threatening those social ties. And I’ve seen that over and over in all kinds of communities, and read about it even more than I’ve seen it.

    So while I’m glad, amazed even, that I’ve got friends at this point, I don’t have that same sense of getting to know people or “come home” at these kinds of events, whether they be rallies, support groups (and I dislike support groups in general anyway), or conventions. And I’ve become skeptical over time of the politics of anything where this “coming-home” experience is put forth as the reason people should show up.

    This is one example of a Deaf woman and a woman with an immune system disability facing this sort of crap at an ADAPT action. A later article in the same disability-rights magazine that was originally published in, said that anyone who “felt excluded” (or something like that) at an ADAPT action hadn’t been to some kind of initial speech given to everyone there (a speech that justified that exclusion, I wonder?).

    I don’t feel on any basic level like I have multiple affiliations. I’ve always looked at that as one of those by-products of a kind of thinking that I don’t tend to engage in. (Same reason I feel like I have a basic place in the world but it’s these movements that are artificially constructed in ways that make it look like I don’t.) But when I interact with the ideologies of all these movements, I can see how it would be an easy conclusion to come to.

  3. The “coming-home experience” as it pertains to organizations is alien to me also. There were a few times when I wanted, I think, to believe I was experiencing it, but actually wasn’t.

    Most of the autistic communities I’ve been in online have made me quite uncomfortable, to tell the truth, and I sort of drew back from wanting any association with them after reading the average level of dialogue in them. They actually made me uncomfortable for a lot of the reasons many communities aimed at non-autistic people have made me uncomfortable– well, that and the fact that many of them had “Asperger” or “Aspie” in the title, and the idea that they *were,* no matter what they claimed to the contrary, prioritizing recruiting people labeled in one way over people labeled in another way, some clinging to the myth that the fundamental experience was a really different one, made me uncomfortable.

    But I didn’t make any friends there, or feel like I’d “come home to my kind,” nor did I ever feel that way in communities aimed at writers, video game fans, or any of the other groups about which I’d once cherished an ideal of finding lots of others just like me. My general impressions of all the above-mentioned groups ranged from flaky and shallow to hostile and competitive. What tended to happen was that there would be perhaps one person or maybe two whom I turned out to share a lot of ideals with, and we would end up taking our friendship beyond the community in the end. (That was, mostly, how we got to know Astraea.)

  4. I’ve wanted to believe I was experiencing it too. And I have wondered at times how many people who’ve supposedly had that experience, are really just desperately wishing for something to the point where they think maybe if they repeat it enough it will come true. Or they think that if everyone else is saying it, then if they don’t say it, they’ll be seen as weird. Or something. I’m sure it exists, I’m not sure if it’s as common as is advertised.

    With autistic communities online, have you ever by chance attempted to explain in any of them that auties really can fall prey to the same destructive group dynamics as non-auties? Because I’ve tried, a lot, and I basically get told that, no, they’re different, that auties don’t even have the capacity for it. (That’s part of what my Barnard post was about. I think that’s the one anyway.) And then trying to explain that these dynamics can work in the absence of particular social capacities… it’s not a fun thing to try to describe.

    All I know is that I’ve heard it all before. I’ve heard it in things written by people in every group I’ve ever heard of, from women to psych survivors and auties and gays and whatever, that this kind of person is above all that, and that the only reason it happens to that kind of person is because the world is dominated by some other kind of person. “If we ran the world it’d all be different” sorts of things, to which my response is “No, it wouldn’t. It really wouldn’t.”

    That one or two friendships thing is generally what’s happened with me. Or else since my writing is fairly public, I’ve had people approach me over that. Actually almost every friend or friendly acquaintance I’ve made, that I remember, has had to approach me first, I’m not good about starting friendships online either. It’s just been, some people have approached me mainly after reading what I wrote on autistics.org or something (and then getting into a conversation over the content of that), some people have approached me on the basis of conversations in forums, and some people have just sort of been a situation where neither one really approached the other but we got to know each other somehow anyway. I also remember one instance where I got my staff to approach someone who also had (visible) trouble approaching people and I wanted to talk to him, so she kind of dragged us together somehow.

    The trouble I’m having now is that I have trouble remembering friends. Even my closest friends, I can forget they exist if they aren’t in contact with me. I can remember one or two friends at once on my own. This has nothing to do with how much I like someone, which fortunately they seem to understand. I’m obviously still not a social butterfly (which isn’t exactly my ideal, not that auties can’t be social, but it sounds exhausting), but I’ve got more friends and friendly acquaintances and such than I ever thought I’d have.

  5. I also used to believe that “the discrimination thing can’t happen to auties”. Unfortunately as we have discovered, it happens to ANY kind of group. I’m writing this both for this post and the next one….the one about who is autistic….I read both, but I read this one afterwards. I want in on this posting board too. I want to find autistic friends. But I have so many things to think about and I live someplace right now that isn’t near anything really, without being driven somewhere…and I daren’t tell my parents this wish to meet other autistic people because they’ll tell me “why? why don’t you want to meet typical people instead? They will be much more useful for friendships to you. Do you know where Autreat will be held next year? I am so bummed that I missed this one, as Baltimore is not terribly far from Philly and I’m at my parents’ house in Baltimore….my parents wouldn’t have wanted to spend the money for it anyhow….to get me there I mean…..how do the organizers decide which city Autreat will take place in? Is it around the same time each year? I also feel that highly structured socializations can be difficult because it may feel unnatural at times.
    I’ll leave my email here in case someone wants to write to me. I’m hoping someone will. I have only met one other autistic person and it was so cool.

    athenivan_the_wise@yahoo.com

    Hope its okay that I posted that on your blog….

    AI
    ps. ballastexistenz do you use aim? or anyone else here? I have it…..
    I’ll post my screenname if anyone is interested later on

  6. I don’t use AIM often. I don’t know if anyone else does.

    Autreat is usually held in the same place and roughly the same time every year, although there have been a few moves. The exact location isn’t given out much because there’s a guy who has stalked members of the autism community before. Unfortunately there’s predatory people even here, and I know some of them read this blog, so be careful — I’m not in much position to be hurt by them anymore, but there are people who do that (emotional manipulation, physical threats, sexual exploitation, etc) specifically to autistic people they view as lonely, vulnerable, whatever (to the person who emailed me about this statement:  if you have to ask, I don’t mean you). But yeah, Philly area lately, haven’t heard complaints about that site yet (and it’s way better than the only other one I was at, I can attest to that).

  7. The only “coming-home” experience I had was when I started university and all of a sudden I was surrounded by bright, curious and politically-opinionated people. (Remember I’m NT.) It was so cool.

    That was 25 years ago.

    I liked meeting people in various LGBT groups, but there were always a few dogmatic central agendas and it would be so personality-based that I never felt unquestioningly “home.” It was just neat to know I’d be easily understood when I talked about A, B or C. Tedious to know that talking about M, N or O would open a rancorous debate with lots of background politics that I didn’t understand. And distressing to know that talking about X, Y or Z would get me immediately kicked out and shunned.

    The university experience was not about meeting a group of people like me in politics or experience or sexuality or brain-cooties or anything; it was about meeting people who I was free to talk with about anything because they were curious and they cared about knowing things. Not about who was right, or about proving that certain things were right, but about finding out.

  8. I find Harry Potter and the Allure of Separatism a fairly lucid piece of writing on this coming-home stuff.

    As far as LGBT groups go, they lost their appeal for me long ago after about the fifth person who spontaneously brought up how they’d either wished people like me dead in the past, worked in institutions with people who looked like me in the past (and just brought this up to bring it up in order to say how horrible or grotesque people like me were or something), or thought that people like me were in some way worthless, drains on society, or better off dead in the present (or some combination of all these things). I couldn’t stomach the rampant barrage of flagrant ableism.

  9. With autistic communities online, have you ever by chance attempted to explain in any of them that auties really can fall prey to the same destructive group dynamics as non-auties? Because I’ve tried, a lot, and I basically get told that, no, they’re different, that auties don’t even have the capacity for it. (That’s part of what my Barnard post was about. I think that’s the one anyway.) And then trying to explain that these dynamics can work in the absence of particular social capacities… it’s not a fun thing to try to describe.

    I don’t believe any of us have ever tried pointing it out in communities, but we have occasionally taken a crack at trying to point out to individual people that they were displaying the same sort of elitism and us/them thinking that they claimed were characteristic of everyone who wasn’t autistic. It always ended in an ugly way, or, at best, in our pointing it out to them being met with complete silence.

    A few of the things you said in your original post remind me of our experience in the “gifted” school we attended for four years. There, it was made clear to us in a variety of ways that people who behaved as our friends were actually doing so only out of pity. (That, or we would end up befriending the people who had even lower social standing than ourselves, which would lead to our status basically being dropped to the same level as theirs.) It was exactly what you spoke of in a post you made some time back– most of the “gifted” kids thought of themselves as outcasts, low in the pecking order, etc, and this was their chance to set up their own hierarchy in which they could be “cool,” and because they had been bullied themselves, they believed they somehow couldn’t bully others. Some of the teachers tried in various ways to break up what friendships we did managed to form, usually by doing things to provoke us or latching on to some fact, like our not having done our homework, to “show” the whole class what an awful person we were, and by doing things that were essentially set up to make us look bad.

    And I have definitely seen bullies in the autistic community, bullying other auties, launching flamewars against those in the community who dared to disagree with them, using what are generally agreed to be below-the-belt debate tactics, etc.

    It’s funny how often I’ve seen people in various communities insist vehemently that absolutely no comparison can be drawn between their behavior and school bullies or their hierarchies, when it’s plainly obvious to outside observers that they’re doing exactly the same thing.

  10. “I’m afraid that loneliness among autistic people, including among people considered too severely autistic to want friends, is rampant, more the rule than the exception.”

    I think you are probably right about that. It is very sad and sometimes it seems like there is no way to fix it. I have been lucky to have friends and especially to have a partner that I am very close to, but aside from my partner, it is very hard to have the kind of social energy necessary to make and keep friendships, and nearly impossible to have any kind of close friendships.

    It leads to a kind of loneliness that is sometimes unbearable, yet also self-imposed. It is very hard to find people to be with where you don’t always have to be “on”. I used to live with a lot of people, and that kind of thing happened naturally. It doesn’t anymore. Now having friends takes work and a kind of energy that i don’t have or even understand.

    I think that it is likely that many autistic people who appear to not want, or not be interested in having friends may be lonely and might like to have friends if they were allowed to be themselves and not have the usual expectations of what it means to be a friend. I don’t mean that they would be “bad” friends, just that friendships would operate under a different set of rules.

    I have noticed that trying to make friends within the autistic community is in some ways so much easier because of some things that many of us seem to have in common (less bs, no games, less random lying, etc.), but in other ways, the things that make it hard to have friends in general can be multiplied and make it even harder!

    “There’s something about the social conventions, even of other autistic people, that wipes me out and gives me very little in return, allows also me to give very little to anyone else.”

    Um… yeah, i think that is what i was trying to say ;)

  11. It’s hard to express friendship without sounding patronizing…even amongst autistics and many are rightfully wary of that kind of thing. It has to be experienced over some time I guess of seeing the consistency of a person or “personality” or nature come up. Actually, that doesn’t seem correct. I expect randomness in people…good, bad, ugly and cute. I accept it.

    Yesterday, I went to a conference hosted locally on the other side of town. http://www.aspieinfo.com I was invited and went because they mentioned an autistic adults only thing and I had never gone. I felt amongst friends and saw the diversity I come to expect. It’s kinda fun to observe others and wow, it was the same kinds of body language everywhere that I understood. I got to meet three people from the journals. We hung out afterwards and fortunately, I was able to think like a lot of them. Strangely, our discussion went into the metaphysical but I enjoyed every minute of it. I sometimes want to talk more about experiences and compare “autistic life” out of interest. Not a big deal. I sometimes worry about being the kind of person I detest most and that is the manipulative type. There were times when I might do something nerveracking to someone. I know I did but I was able to read the response and stop. Well, it was exercise but not as exhausting as NT classroom per se. I feel like everyone there was real.

    Occasionally, one worries about the faker who infiltrates and becomes a pain. It hasn’t happened yet. I sometimes worry about how others think of me but I hope they think like I do that functioning or appearances should have nothing to do with acceptance or belief of autism. So many of us have gone through life undiagnosed and neurotically normal. It’s apparent sometimes which are which when those who are neurotically normal sometimes allow themselves to be a bit more autistic. Hehe. Sometimes, I’m thinking of trying a stim another autistic is doing ie: looking at a particular object. I wonder if people will think I’m more autistic this way. It was a silly thought that many of us have….esp those of us who grow up being told we are normal but just need to try harder. Some of us are tempted to get in the mode of acting autistic. (even though we already are, we may act moreso). I try to be myself FTMP but I’ve done a few things for fun. Being deceitful isn’t my cup of tea but testing perceptions is. ;) I do however understand that some people will behave a lot different and look different. I was surprised, pleasantly at the diversity which made me feel comfortable that me, as unusual as I was in that group was allowed to fit but I worry that some autistics don’t think I am because I do some neurotypical thing. I don’t worry again and try to hope they don’t and accept me anyway and I find most do. It’s a baseless worry.

  12. I never got the “coming home” feeling in environments that supposedly gave it.

    I could warm up to an environment to where, by the time it was time to leave, it felt like I was leaving a home, but it never felt like “coming home” when I first walked in the door. Even on return trips it would take some warm-up time, except in college in the dorm, where I managed to have the same room for 4 years. (The third and fourth years, I felt the “coming home” feeling as soon as I walked in. But not the second. Make of that what you will.)

    I do best if I’ve made connections on-line with people beforehand. I go to camping events with my husband where he has met more people there, but I knew more people on-line before I got there and it’s more putting a face to a name (as best I can, anyway) than meeting someone totally new. Meeting someone totally new can be a bit much, depending on who they are, or at least who they are presenting themselves as at that time. And there are people I just don’t like, and I’m never sure how to handle that. I can ignore them online, or flame them if I think it’s worth it (and I’ve written up 2 flames in the past 2 months, I think), but I have no idea how to handle it in person.

  13. “I don’t deny the power or meaningfulness of such experiences for an individual, but I do have some worry that they create a political stance based on social ties in a way where if new political stances (even if they’re better ones to take, and even if there is a serious problem with the old one that needs fixing) appear to threaten those social ties, the social ties win out and people become very defensive against anything perceived as threatening those social ties.”

    That to me, seems very close to how I would define ‘identity politics’, whereby the identity of the person, as gay, or female, or autistic, or whatever, then defines that person’s politics. Their politics then get reduced to just demanding that everyone else respect their identity, and also to banding together in ‘communities’ that seek only to celebrate their identity because they see that as ’empowering’ in itself. Of course, that kind of actvity is valid and I would see it as a good thing, but I don’t think anyone is going to successfully fight discrimination that way.

  14. Hi! Im murphy. Im the the mum of an 11 year old autistic his name is Ryan.Simply Im trying to show him he not alone with his autism and encourage him to develop friendships with others like himself.Anyway if there are any kids out there whod like to say hello. Say hello. Murphy

  15. Hello!
    My grandson is in a class with a little boy with autism. This little boy likes my grandson. He pokes him and we’ve had to let my grandson know that he does not mean any harm. He finally stopped doing that. But my grandson can not handle the little boy trying to be his friend because he does things to him. How do I help my grandson to understand and be a friend to him. I’ve told him to be kind and treat him nicely like anyone else. Do you have suggestions.

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