How to make a phone call, in 70 easy steps.


This is one of those archive posts I do now and then. From 2001:

How to make a phone call, in 70 easy steps (or, why it takes me so long to get anything done around here) :-)

1. While sitting at the computer, realize that you have to make a phone call.

2. Continue to read the document you were reading on the computer.

3. Eventually, remember the phone call long enough to get up.

4. Stand up.

5. Go into the kitchen, since the phone number is on the refrigerator door.

6. Stare at the refrigerator door for awhile and the orange slip of paper on which the phone number is located.

7. Congratulate yourself for remembering to look at the slip of paper.

8. Open the refrigerator.

9. Stare inside the refrigerator for a few minutes.

10. Close the refrigerator.

11. Go back to the computer.

12. Sit down.

13. Stare at the monitor for a bit.

14. Realize you were trying to make a phone call.

15. Stand up.

16. Go into the bathroom.

17. Use the toilet.

18. Wash hands.

19. Congratulate yourself on remembering to wash your hands while wondering how you got soap on the mirror.

20. Go back to the computer.

21. Sit down.

22. Realize you’re supposed to be making a phone call.

23. Stand up.

24. Sit down on the couch next to the phone.

25. Stare at the phone for awhile.

26. Realize that the computer’s still connected to the net.

27. Stand up.

28. Go back to the computer.

29. Sit down.

30. Tell the computer to hang up.

31. Stand up.

32. Go back to the phone.

33. Sit down on the couch.

34. Congratulate yourself on having actually looked at the slip of paper with the phone number on it.

35. Connect LINK to phone line.

36. Adjust LINK volume.

37. Put on headset.

38. Pick up receiver.

39. Hear dial tone.

40. Wonder if computer is still connected to the phone line.

41. Process dial tone.

42. Hang up the phone.

43. Stand up.

44. Go back to the computer.

45. Realize that you already hung up the modem.

46. Go back to the couch.

47. Sit down.

48. Put on headset.

49. Pick up receiver.

50. Hear dial tone, and process it this time.

51. Stick fingers on keypad.

52. Notice that while you stared in the general direction of the orange paper you were so happy at having looked at, you did not read the telephone number.

53. Think about going back to the refrigerator to get the number.

54. Space out for a few minutes.

55. Stand up.

56. Go to the refrigerator.

57. Grab the orange piece of paper.

58. Take the orange piece of paper back to the phone.

59. Sit down next to the phone.

60. Put on headset.

61. Pick up receiver.

62. Look at paper.

63. Notice that there are two separate numbers on the paper.

64. Figure out that the bottom number is the one you want.

65. Read the number.

66. Put fingers on keypad.

67. Look back at paper.

68. Look back at keypad.

69. Dial number.

70. Get busy signal.

(Then by the time I typed that into the computer, the person I had been trying to call showed up at the door.)


About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

64 responses »

    ok for me it’s about 20 steps that’s if i remember to make the phone call in the first place. so those are laughters of recognition…

  2. 1) Realize a phone call needs to be made.

    2) Look up number.

    3) E-mail information to husband and ask him to make the call, unless it’s a situation where I have the script down pat.

    (I can call a friend who isn’t connected to the ‘net for whatever reason, and I can call the pediatrician about a sick kid. Calling to make a well-check appointment is much more problematic for me.)

  3. I have a difficulty making calls on my behalf… can do it for someone else, easily.

    For me… no chance.

  4. This is why spouses with differing traits are beneficial. lol I can’t make a phone call to save my life, my husband is gifted. He has a hard time with face to face, I can do that no sweat.

  5. The ironic thing is that the spouse who is better on the phone has CAPD. :P

    Right around Christmas, my husband got very, very sick, and the thing I minded the most wasn’t missing E.’s party or M.’s party, it wasn’t having to get him to the ER after 11PM on a Friday night, it was that he asked me to make phone calls for him.

  6. In my family, I make the “cold calls”, while my husband gets to call friends and acquaintances. I find it much easier to phone a complete stranger than someone I know a bit – perhaps this is logical in the sense that the interaction with the complete stranger is entirely transactional, and there is no requirement or expectation for complex social behaviour.

  7. Oh, and that many steps is what it takes for me to fix dinner for myself if I’m eating alone. (The kids and I don’t agree so much on what’s yummy. I have no problem with making sure they’re all fed, but if I’m not having dinner with another adult, and there’s no other adult in the house that evening to remind me repeatedly that I need to be working on my dinner NOW, I’ll forget, get sidetracked, do laundry instead of preparing food, etc. I had ice cream after 11PM last night, having had a reasonable lunch around 12:30 in the afternoon.)

  8. I used to have to write down exactly what I was going to say and then read it as though off a script. But I don’t do that anymore. I just spend hours building up to the phonecall, picking the phone up, putting it down, rehearsing what to say in my mind, getting diverted by numerous tasks, realising I can’t find the number, realising I don’t NEED the number as it’s in the phone book, trying to find the phone book, getting upset because the phonebook is not where it should be, giving up for the rest of the day and then trying again the day after.
    This is why I don’t tend to do social calls unless they’re to my mum and even then it’s only a couple of times a month, with her usually initiating the call.

  9. I wrote a similar list as a comment elsewhere last year, except it focused on what I have to do mentally for non-social calls (like ordering a pizza) since the “social” calls are exponentially harder:

    1. Scripting out, word for word, everything I will say, and making sure it’s memorized well enough (complete with planned vocal intonations) that I can do it fluidly.

    2. Charting out in my head everything that could be said back to me, and coming up with (as well as memorizing, with intonation) responses — then what the other person might say, then how I should respond to that…

    3. Ensuring that I am calm, in a quiet environment, energetic/rested enough, and not distracted by anything. I need to be able to give my *complete focus* to the phone, otherwise none of this will go right (I’ll end up unable to respond, or give completely unintended replies).

    4. Making sure that I’m hearing and processing the meaning of words spoken by others really, really well — it’s harder to make cognitive sense of what I hear through the phone. I also have to be absolutely sure that I am doing really well at judging NT vocal tone shifts. All of this also must be able to be done at an extremely high speed. The end result is similar to using a computer to transcribe every word of a mathematical word problem that somebody is reading to you at high speed (perhaps a very verbose one at that)…

    5. Making sure that my ability to speak (including both reciting my “script” and coming up with alternate words if I forget bits of it) is at top notch. That includes having NT-faked vocal intonations if my literal words aren’t getting the message across. Combined with comprehending the other person talking, it’s not only like transcribing a math problem, but also solving it in my head (again VERY quickly, can’t have more than a second or two of silence with NTs on the phone or they get the wrong idea).

    6. Making sure that when I call, there is no chance that I will be interrupted. (Not easy with a number of cats and a sporadically-attention-demanding housemate.)

    7. Making sure that when I call, there is little-to-no chance that I’m interrupting the *other* person. This is in part because I don’t want to bother them — but it’s also because the person might respond in a totally unpredictable way if they are on the way to do something else, or have a guest, or otherwise not fully available. In fact, I often do take the “they’ll call me if it’s important” approach simply because I can’t manage to call them because of this (and an NT just saying it’s okay does not fix the issue).

    8. Spend a lot of time zoning out, getting ‘stuck’ staring at something (not zoned out, just not up to redirecting my focus), have snacks, get a (non-alcoholic) drink, finish drink before being done plotting things out so I need another drink, worry repeatedly that I’m going to interrupt someone despite my planning or they’ll suddenly be upset with me or something, intermittently forget “how” to do all of this (everything past “pick the phone up”) as stress makes my verbal skill wander off…

    9. Realize that it’s now too late in the day, so I have to start the process over tomorrow.

    As a side note, I’ve been trying to call for a doctor’s appointment for over a week now. :-p I can skip all of these steps if it’s a genuine emergency (like my cardiac kitty having signs of trouble) but only because the results of being near-incoherent actually won’t be as bad as what happens if I don’t call. Also, the people in those cases either know me (so I don’t have to explain much) or are used to dealing with people that are too distraught to communicate well.

    I sometimes use the AT&T Relay Service for calls, but I tend to have problems remembering the rules/commands/protocol for how to use it and (having had things go wrong once) am usually afraid to even try.

  10. Amanda, it’s amazing, but no scientist type really likes to phone for pizza. Everyone always tries to push it on to someone else, but eventually they get hungry enough that someone says, “OK! I’ll do it!”.

  11. Moggy said: Making sure that when I call, there is little-to-no chance that I’m interrupting the *other* person. This is in part because I don’t want to bother them — but it’s also because the person might respond in a totally unpredictable way if they are on the way to do something else, or have a guest, or otherwise not fully available.

    That makes a lot of sense, and my issues with interrupting people are based on similar things. If the other person isn’t fully available, it’s pretty much useless for me to even attempt having a communicative exchange with them at that point. One annoying thing that’s happened in the past as a result of interrupting someone who is in the middle of something is that I’ll manage to “use up” my verbal capacity in that effort and then not have it handy when the person actually does become available, so it seems much more efficient and logical to just wait until they are available. It’s got nothing to do with social phobia or anything like that.

  12. Oh my gosh!!!!!! I sooo love this post! Even somewhat, so-called “NTs” have our moments. Like, once, someone asked me my phone #, and without even realizing it, I gave my grandparents # instead!! (I must of been thinking of them)

    Then, i had to call back and correct that, tempted to pretend that i’ve never called before in my life. OK, so it’s not exactly the same as what you go through, but yeah, I relate ^_^


  13. Maybe I should write down the steps I’ve gone through tonight, in trying to sit down and do studying for school…

    But, I haven’t been writing them down as I went along, and I think I’ve gone through too many at this point to remember them in order correctly… :(

    (apparently, though, one of the steps at one point seemed to involve watching something on youtube, and a chocolate bar being bought from the drugstore across the street. Because of things like that, it’s hard to explain the difference to most people between when we do this and “procrastinating,” even though sometimes it involves useful things, like cleaning up trash, somehow getting done along the way, deliberately or accidentally. The chocolate bar thing was partly trying to take advantage of a mostly involuntary desire to start walking.)

  14. Right around step 51 I was thinking, “Man! I wish I could remember a phone number for that long. I’d have to have to be looking directly at the slip to dial the number.” There are very few numbers I can remember well, I forget numbers so easily.

    I can’t compete for level of difficulty, because I have DSL and can talk on the phone while the computer is hooked up, and I don’t need to use a computer voice to talk for me… but I do the other things a lot. Sometimes I check my mail a couple time a day because I can’t remember if I did it already. My episodic memory sometimes has scary blanks in it, like I can’t remember if I took an antihistamine a few minutes earlier. I don’t want to go ahead and take it, because maybe I just did. Usually, if I pick up the bottle I can remember if my hand hurt in the last ten minutes from taking the lid off the bottle. Like by opening the bottle I will remember if I body had done it recently, but I can’t tell just by looking at the bottle. I can’t tell by looking for cups of water or anything else like that.

    I have a habit of making serial cups of tea the way a chain smoker will light a cigarette when he has one or two burning already.

    1) Make a cup of tea (hot water in mug & tea bag), 2) set it down on an end table. 3) Get up for some reason, 4) decide to make a cup of tea. 5 Go sit down again and find I already had made a cup of tea.

    I can feel by the temperature that it hadn’t been that long since I made the previous one. ugh.


  15. Excellent! In my own personal case, I think it’s ‘phone phobia’ or simple prevarication, but I’ll bear it in mind if any of mine ever show the slightest interest in the dratted machine.

  16. I laughed out loud at this — but also am struck, once more, at some of the similarities between autism and ADD (attention deficiency disorder) … because even though I’m not autistic, I’m not quite NT either because I do have ADD. So part of why I laughed so hard is because I could relate :-) Although it doesn’t take me quite as many steps to complete a phone call (ignoring the fact that I often procrastinate for hours or days before I try), I do still have similar experiences of getting sidetracked on the way to doing something.

    I also relate to Misu^Amorpha — I can remember so many occasions when I was younger (child, teen years, college years) when I would be struggling to get myself to not just sit in front of the computer, not just look at the computer screen, but actually get my brain to stop bouncing around from one thought to another for long enough to actually start FOCUSING on the paper I was supposed to be writing. Often I’d end up reading a book or something in front of the computer, and the whole time I’d be struggling with myself to put that book down and try to focus on my homework. Or sometimes I would read because I was so frustrated with my utter inability to get myself to focus that I was simply giving up for a while. Then Mom would come in, catch me reading, and yell at me for procrastinating instead of working. So my own attempt to focus on my work didn’t look any different from “procrastination” or “taking a break” or “relaxing” from the outside either. (But, trust me, it absolutely was NOT even REMOTELY “relaxing.” Even when I was doing something that would be considered “relaxing” in more ordinary circumstances.)

    I still don’t have a full handle on this ADD thing, more than a decade after I was finally diagnosed (in my 20s). I still struggle a lot. I’ve tried various medications, none of which helped. But I try to be more patient with myself when it takes me a while to buckle down and start working. I give myself “permission” more often to take REAL breaks (breaks where I actually do relax, not faux breaks where I read a book or whatever not because I actually want to read it but because I’m so fed up with the struggle to pay attention). And I think I’m a little better (though not perfect) at figuring out when I really do need to take a break and when I’m just getting distracted and need to pull my attention back to my task.

    I wonder if there is any connection between ADD and autism (at least in the area of executive functioning).

  17. My list is very similar to Moggy’s, but I would have an extra two steps at the beginning.

    1–persuade myself that it is absolutely necessary to make this call.
    2–persuade myself that it is absolutely necessary that I make this call NOW!

    1 is a very simple one, but most of my phone calls die out at step 2.

  18. andreashettle, i think ADD (as well as Dyslexic?) people are widely considered “cousins” of the autism spectrum and are definitely part of the “neurodivergent” or “differently-brained”. i could be wrong about dyslexic, but i thought that was a cousin dx, too. Then there are the PDD-NOS which means different things depending on why they gave a person that dx.

  19. PS: plus there seems to be a big overlap of ADD and autistic: people who are actually both at once… but i only noticed that from anecdotal examples.

  20. Thanks, n. — I hadn’t known that ADD and autism were “widely considered” as “cousins,” but given what I’ve now learned about autism in the past month or two, it certainly makes sense to me.

    I can believe that the overlap between ADD and autism is high. (I hadn’t heard this before, but maybe that’s because autism is still, presumably, relatively low incidence among people with ADD as opposed to the other way around.) I can also easily imagine that some hyperlexic autistic kids who have learned to fake NT social signals could initially be misdiagnosed as having ADD instead, even if maybe they actually don’t.

    I don’t know about dyslexia either. But a pretty high portion of people with learning disabilities in general (including dyslexia) also have ADD, and vice versa, so I suppose there must be some link between the relevant areas of the brain or in the neurological wiring. I’ve heard that in the UK, they don’t even distinguish diagnostically between ADD and dyslexia — if you have ADD, you get the label “dyslexia.”

  21. Fledchen: *And then there’s the ‘fun’ of dealing with the actual interaction of the phone call itself.*

    Seriously. And I imagine if it’s a non-social call, half the folks who don’t know who’s calling freak out when they pick up and find someone using a LINK system on the other end, and think it’s a solicitation or something and hang up.

    And yeah, I’ve always dreaded the order-a-pizza call myself, and will try to push it off on whoever’s around. Funny thing is, the only friend I know who *doesn’t* get panicky at the idea of telephoning for dinner is a guy who stutters. : P

  22. That sounds like me, and I’m fairly NT, though I did learn a lot of social stuff the way other Texas girls learn math. (Arithmetic – easy; how to pass a plausable little white lie to spare feelings or save face for a third party – hard). I’m starting to believe in autism taking up part of one end of some sort spectrum that we all sit on, and I’m further toward that autistic end than most American women, but not so far to that side as to have serious interface issues with the majority of society.

    But back on point – I spend a fair amount of my work day doing that if people don’t comply with my simple request to kindly send me a quick email about what it is they want fixed. Burst into my office to tell me while I’m in the middle of working on something else, and I might get around to it sometime next week, if I remember what it was exactly.

  23. i meant “neurovidergence” (or “a part of neurodiversity”). uggggh i hate how contagious some misnomers can be!

    like when puertorricans call themselves “spanish people”, i find that confusing. spaniards are spanish people. puertorricans are hispanic (or latino/latina/etc) people. like i’m not “english” just because that’s what i speak.
    but that’s just now and in the u.s.a. in some places and times, “latin” meant anyone of french/italian/portuguese/spanish/(romanian?)-language origins.
    and wherever people are from before immigrating or moving here to become “hispanics”, they often see themselves as from their village or city or even neighborhood, so that’s relative too.

    and yes i realize that such tangents could get me called ADD, and have already. in secondlife i have a warning up: “96.8% RANDOM, 24/7”

  24. Other than the fact I talk and you type, our process to make a phone call is about the same. I have two bills I have to pay by phone and the process can take days, so they are always late.

  25. Thanks, n.! I started exploring the links you suggested last night and can see there’s a lot more left for me to explore.

    I noticed as I was browsing around the first blog you list that, in addition to autism and ADD, the author also has face-blindness (I know there’s a term for it starting with p but I can never spell it) — I don’t have anything remotely like the complete form of face-blindness where the person can’t recognize even family members by face alone. But I think I might have a *mild* form of it, which means I seem to take longer than most people to learn what a person’s face looks like. So I found that interesting too.

  26. Having to talk to someone on the phone is my worst nightmare. I’ve called and left rambling messages on answering machines telling people to communicate with me in some other way. I don’t feel like I can tell anyone what I need to tell them over the phone (luckily I’ve worked out a script for repeat calls like ordering pizza)…it’s just hard in other ways too. My boyfriend won’t let me not call people, he thinks it’s good for me. :(

  27. Amanda, I was hoping you could tell me how I can become an Autism Hub member. I have two boys with autism age 5 and soon to be 8 and have so many questions but find that most sites I’m a member of either don’t truly answer my question or Give too many technical terms thus becomming too overwhelming. I figured if maybe I can join a site made for and by autistic people and families, I could get advice ahnd input to better understand and learn for my children. Thanks again for all you have done ahnd continue doing. I enjoy reading as much as I can from your site. It has been very informative. Very overwhelming too for you have so much info but greatly appreciated. Thanks again.

  28. Jennifer S.

    If you mean that you want to set up your own blog as part of the Autism Hub network … then that’s a question I would have to leave to someone else to answer.

    But if you are simply looking to read various blogs by autistic adults and family members of autistic people (and to leave questions and comments on their blogs as a reader), then simply go to:

    and you will see a list of the most recent blog posts by Autism Hub members. Or you can view a list of all Autism Hub members and link to their blogs from there.

    You may also want to go to and scroll down to see comments #56, #92, #105, #133, #134, #138, #147, #158, and #161 — all of these comments have a bunch of links that might be of interest to you. Some are simply links to other threads of interest at this particular blog (ballastexistenz), but other links will help lead you to blogs by other autistic adults.

    Also, another reader of this blog (who goes by “n.”) recently suggested the following sites on Neurodiversity — these might lead you to still more resources:

    n. Says:
    March 20th, 2007 at 16:44
    Try (uk autie/activist blogger) & (blogs of family/advocates of autistics) (forum of autistic users mostly)

  29. Wow, that’s pretty much how I do it, except drop the issues due to dial-up, and add several tens of steps for typing in the number and thinkng about how much I don’t want to press “SEND” while the phone resets itself. Fortunately, my only issue with talking on the phone per se is that speech turns into gibberish a lot more often

  30. Misu^Amorpha – procrastination in boringly average people also often takes the form of ‘useless’ activities like cleaning and tidying; voluntarily though!

  31. Unfortunately, a case of the crazies tends to preclude someone’s impressions of you (I talked to a woman the other day who said somebody wrote “BIPOLAR” across the top of her *knee* X-ray, for Frith’s sake), even, and perhaps especially, if that someone him/herself happens to be devoid of logic, in constant need of emotional affirmation, toadying, hateful, a lousy speller, hypocritical, committed to the propagation of nitwitted theorems, interested not in seeking real information but in simply goading you into spilling more personal information, and, um, an “intelligent person”.

  32. I sincerely doubt that there are many people who are exactly the same now as they were 10 or 15 years ago. At 15 I was spending my lumnchtimes staring into space unable to respond whilst being verbally bullied. I’m now 31 and married with two children. You don’t need to explain every detail of your life ballastexistenz, it’s who you are now that matters.

  33. This is my first time on a blog site. This is embarrasing considering that I am a teacher, young, and living in the Computer era. Anyway, I was curious as to how I could get in touch with you. I’m sure that you get questions all of the time…yet, I still have a few questions for you. Again, being a teacher, I’d really love your insight on a few things.

  34. Ya, I’ve been to about step 40 on that list with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The way I personally tell who is a hero, and this is just my opinion, is by who can make something totally not funny, into something funny. And you’ve done that really well there.

  35. Dusty

    If you look up at comment #33, you’ll see that earlier I posted some links that can take you to particular posts at this blog that tend to be of interest to parents and teachers, and also links to other blogs by autistic adults (Autism Hub, but also some of the comments over at link to lists of still more blogs, some of which I think are not on autism hub). You may want to pursue some of these resources for answers to your questions. Whatever your questions are (I’m assuming here that they’re related to autism in some way), odds are fairly good that at least one autistic adult has already answered it somewhere in a blog–it’s a matter of spending a little time tracking it down.

  36. With people like —– ignorance is bliss. They will find any reason to not accept that society comes in many shapes and colors. YES people are different. And though “Average” people like dividing others unlike them into categories it does not mean they are anything less then equals. If I had to pick who I’d like to be with on a deserted island , Amanda beats you —– by far.

    now to change the topic briefly and forgive me Amanda If i’m overstepping boundaries but I wish to ask you what you think of a situation I’m facing. As i’ve stated previously I have 2 autistic boys. Age 7 and 5. I made the decision to show the boys your video. Well, I was amazed by their reaction.

    My youngest acted as he wasn’t paying attention but proceded to hug and be overly affectionate with me. Now my eldest was another matter all together.

    he was linked instantly with you. Moving as you did. Joining his hands to make a pyramid shape while opeing and closing and looking through his hands. Kept grunting ansd making sounds. Now the part that got me is whe the video was over and you were no longer on the monitor he became upset. He wanted me to replay it. started screaming and pointing. As soon as I replayed the video he calmed down… You see you are the first autistic person they’ve seen besides each other. It didn’t affected my youngest much but my eldest was quite impacted. Eventually I shut off the pc and dealt with him having a “moment” as I called them and tried to comfort him however I could. As a mom I wish I could link with him as he did with you and wonder what impacted him greatly. Was it seeing you… someone he felt he understood. Amanda your opinion would mean so much to me. I want to learn and be a better mom for them. Tune myself to their world instead of vicefversa. I just wish I knew where to go to expose him to more autistic people. I live in Kentucky and wel only been here for 8 months and truly have no idea what to do. I want the best for them. I know you are bombarded by many emails and people seeking you out. But only because people who truly care for their loved ones don’t want to make the mistakes that might have been done with you. I also know other autistic people read your site and write as well. So any of you out there that wish to help a mom with two autistic boys please I’d love to hear from you for knowledge is power and As Amanda said perhaps the best people that can understand my boys is not doctors but autistic people themselves. Thank you.

  37. I don’t know what’s in his head, so I don’t know why he reacted that way, but I’ve heard of other autistic kids reacting strongly to that video. I’d imagine some combination of recognition and that the things I am doing in the video are the sort of ways I’d instinctively relate to my surroundings a lot of the time if I hadn’t learned to suppress it, and many autistic people have similar instincts.

    I’ve had autistic adults tell me they wished they still related to things that way but had suppressed it somewhere along the line permanently, and could easily recognize it but forgot how to do it. (I was somewhat lucky in that I might have at times been able to save the outward expression of that for in private but never actually grew out of it.) I also have one friend who is autistic and visits sometimes (in fact is visiting right now, his name’s Joel and he’ll be back in about 15 minutes) and we tend to involuntarily sync up in terms of movement and stuff because we really click with each other in some ways in that regard.

    The reason I emphasized exposure to a wide variety of autistic adults, by the way, is because not everyone does click with each other that well, just like with non-autistic people. But with some of us, there can be an almost instant level of understanding of each other, either of experience or body language or interests. And when that happens it’s totally amazing, although it might not amaze us so often if we lived in a world with more people like us. I suspect the level of mutual comprehension we find amazing is a level that is little more than what most people take for granted when they look at each other.

    Anyway, given that there can be some pretty wide variance among autistic people, being around a lot of autistic people is the best way to ensure someone the person might click with. (Although they might not want friends — a few of us really don’t, although many more do than others would expect from apperances — and that should also be respected.)

    One way to find a lot of autistic people is to take him to already-existing autism-related events, if he and the people at the event are willing. Be warned that not all autistic people are nice, or people you’d want your kid hanging around. When I was a kid, an adult molested me who happened to be autistic (I say happened to be autistic because it had nothing to do with why he was touching me, although it did I suspect make it easier for him to be forthright in facing the consequences for his actions, and we’re now actually on good terms). We’re not automatically saints or anything. But if there’s anything in your area where autistic people tend to go to socialize, you might think of seeing if they’d be interested in meeting your kid (with your supervision).

    There’s also autism conferences, which can be super-overloading but still tend to attract clumps of autistic people. The big ones tend to be the ASA, Autreat, and AutCom. Of those, Autreat is actually organized and run entirely by autistic people, and is mostly attended by autistic people, with a few parents (some autistic, some not) and a lot of the parents bring their kids. You can read Valerie Paradiz’s take on bringing her kid there in the book Elijah’s Cup. AutCom also seems to have a larger-than-normal amount of autistic people in attendance, although is more overstimulating than Autreat to keep costs down. It changes location every year.

    I have to go (still haven’t taken my 9 am meds, Joel should be here any second, and staff just stuck breakfast in front of me) but I hope at least some of that information has been useful.

  38. I was going to inject some comment about the glossing over of #30 and how it could have been subdivided into several steps, but since the discussion has taken a different turn, I’ll let that one pass.


    Jennifer S: Are you a member of any autism discussion groups? Try finding one that has a high percentage of autistic members, and a pro-autism slant, such as AutAdvo

  39. Jennifer S.

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record: do go to and scroll down to see comments #56, #92, #105, #133, #134, #138, #147, #158, and #161 — these comments link to many more resources, including links to past posts in this blog that might address your questions, links to blogs by other autistic adults, and also various on-line discussion groups in which both autistic adults and parents participate. These are a lot of resources so they might seem overwhelming at first glance, but you could try breaking them up into manageable chunks and tackle whatever you can manage in one sitting and leave the rest until later. Hope this helps.

  40. For that matter, by the way, I’d really prefer to live my life without having to spend the rest of my life explaining and re-explaining some of the things I did when I was a teenager.

    I tend to think these days that if I were a petty person, I personally have known quite a few people who could be made to look “insane” if I dragged out things they’d written and said in their teenage or college years and pasted them up on the Internet as representative of what they believed about themselves/others/the nature of the world/etc.

    But I’m not petty. And I’m also aware that a majority of these people also have material which they could use to do the same thing to me. (Well, pick one– crazy, vicious/meanspirited, incapable of going a day without having some kind of breakdown, etc; it would really depend on what particular material that person chose to use.) I think that the majority of “completely normal” adults would not claim their beliefs and ideas in college to be representative of their current ones. I’m actually better at owning up to the “strange” things I’ve believed in the past than most of the “normal” adults I’ve run into, actually. That’s not bragging, by the way, just an observation I’ve made– some of the people I mentioned in the above paragraph won’t even admit now to having said and done things I know perfectly well they did, and even have evidence (their own written accounts, etc) of.

    The thing is that most people who don’t have a psychiatric label can request a kind of “grace period” for having been a crazy teenager or a drug-experimenting college student or infatuated with the New Age movement or similar, some time in their life during which they weren’t thinking realistically and can’t be considered to still believe and do everything they said and did during that period, and have others pat them and say “Oh, don’t worry, lots of people have that.” And can claim all that in their own defense, state that they’ve reformed if they behaved irresponsibly, and usually be taken seriously, if someone pulls out their past words and actions in attempt to discredit them.

    If you ever had a psychiatric label attached to you on a long-term basis, however (even for a thing that *you* don’t regard as a disorder, simply as part of you), suddenly it becomes a different story: things done under the influence of drugs or religious obsessions or a general atmosphere of unusual beliefs, even things you were manipulated or forced into saying and never at any time actually believed, suddenly become either “proof” of a disorder, or “proof” that you can’t really be something else you say you are. And you’re not allowed to provide any kind of context or explanation for them, or explain what factors were influencing you, as “normal” people are allowed to do; you’re only allowed to shut up and accept someone else’s version of your life, because you are not considered able to report it reliably or interpret your own motives accurately.

    In any case, as you mentioned, it’s much more common than people think for someone to end up with “weird” beliefs, which would be regarded as crazy by many, that they later give up, particularly when they’ve had unusual experiences or perceptions that they could never explain to others, or never encountered others who had them. I was 18 when for the first time I found someone who experienced some of the same “weird perceptions” of the world that I did and could describe them clearly. I concluded from this, for a brief time, that this person and I were in some way categorically different from the rest of humanity, that we weren’t even biologically the same species as other people, and had some kind of special destiny that was unique to us. I no longer believe this (except in the sense that both of us were experiencing some degree of natural neurological variation that exists within humanity), so frankly, I don’t see what the point is in making any kind of issue about it. During that particular time in my life, a lot of the people with whom I had any kind of social contact believed more ‘far-out’ things than that. Like Amanda said, big deal. It happens to many people.

    (And yeah, I’ve been writing in singlet-mode tonight, but speaking from a group standpoint, for the record, when we took LSD we mostly sat around waiting for all the incredible hallucinations people had told us about to show up, and never actually saw anything. Or had any deep revelations, or anything of that nature. But we didn’t look any more autistic after taking it, or any more of anything, really, except uncomfortable, due to some weird physical reactions we had to it.)

  41. By the way, as a blanket notice to people, it’s been an overloading night.

    Joel has a sinus infection and coughed enough to vomit all over Laura’s floor, and wasn’t breathing well.

    At that exact moment, Laura had just had a really nasty bathroom accident (worse than usual) and was trying to clean up around a screaming parrot.

    I had prior to the adrenaline rush at that point been almost totally disoriented from overload, but snapped into overdrive mode to assess that situation and think of exactly how to get Joel to a doctor if necessary (he doesn’t even live in this state), and later to go back and disinfect Laura’s floor after I realized he hadn’t done that after cleaning up part of his vomit. These are not sustainable things and they took a giant chunk of spoons out of me, but I was still better off than Joel or Laura at that point (which is scary).

    Joel fortunately is doing better. Laura fixed everything but is exhausted (because among other things she had to dress and undress herself, which she’s usually not capable of without help, and I would’ve helped but was afraid she might find even the question too distracting, while she wanted to ask for my help but was afraid I was too overloaded). I am exhausted and overloaded and coming out of some kind of nasty emergency-generated adrenaline overdrive mode.

    In short, Murphy’s law was in full effect tonight as far as I could tell. ;-)

    Things will be okay, but don’t necessarily expect answers or coherence or anything. (This isn’t predictable, I could suddenly do a bunch of really spectacular things, or I could go into the next room and collapse, or anything in between and any combination, so this is just a general warning.)

  42. I look back at my teenage years and realize how desperate I was to appear normal and thought I was just crazy. Now that I have parented 3 kids to semi-adulthood, I realize that almost ALL teenagers have totally off the wall thoughts, feelings and ideas, with and without the help of various drugs. As they approach the age of 25 things seem to settle into place, and many [ but not all] labels and difficulties they started out with at 13 can be pretty meaningless/ or much less threatening by 25. It is certainly not smooth sailing, but definitely more livable as adulthood really begins.

  43. Yeah.

    Things actually started vastly improving for me before age 25, but there was another vast improvement right around age 25. The prior five years or so were hard work and struggle in pretty extreme ways, but things were gradually getting better for me. Around 24 or 25 my emotions started leveling off a lot more, which was really nice. I would not do adolescence again if you paid me.

    And one of the many things I did as a teenager was try to convince myself that if I was just weird enough on purpose it would conceal (from myself, and possibly from others) how weird I was without trying, like give me a sense of control over it. I’ve talked to many auties who felt the same. It doesn’t work in the long run.

  44. And one of the many things I did as a teenager was try to convince myself that if I was just weird enough on purpose it would conceal (from myself, and possibly from others) how weird I was without trying, like give me a sense of control over it. I’ve talked to many auties who felt the same.

    We had a version of that along the lines of “pretending to be crazy”– we’d purposely act in ways that appeared goofy or absurd or weird to others and then explain it away as “oh, I’m crazy.” That often got us labeled an attention-seeker, but that was certainly better than being believed to be actually “insane”; and like you said, if people notice the deliberate “weird things” they might screen out more of the non-deliberate.

    I think, partly, people can get away with doing that for brief periods (we’ve known a few other people who did it also) because of this pervasive myth that “crazy people never realize they’re crazy.” So, of course, if you can call yourself crazy, this is proof positive that you can tell the “difference” and are therefore “okay.”

    I think that… while we do still experience some of the same kinds of fits of extreme emotion that we had in adolescence, we’re better at dealing with it now. We have a better understanding of ourselves, access to skills and resources we didn’t then, we’re not involved in any abusive situations, and the help we get from friends (who actually know us and aren’t just responding to an illusion of us) doesn’t come in the form of BS such as “how do you feel about that?” or “why don’t you try calling your parts back to you,” and we understand that we’re actually having logical reactions to things in many cases rather than just having “symptoms” or “dramatics for attention.” We still get into off-the-wall paranoia sometimes, too, but again, now we have people to help us deal with it and gain an actual perspective on it rather than just having to live in a box with no input or output, psychologically speaking, so that when we do get paranoid, it tends to only last a brief time rather than months as it did in the past.

  45. Riel and Julian, your belief that if people can think they are crazy, that means they know the difference, couldn’t be more correct. I’ve had several experiences like that before.


  46. I think that’s a widespread view, but not necessarily a correct one. I have known a lot of people diagnosed with various psychoses, who know full well that they hear voices, or believe strange things, etc, and that others will view that as crazy. (Some of them even self-identify as crazy.) Then they get told that if they know they’re having these experiences, they’re not really having the experiences, or something bizarre like that.

    I’ve personally experienced, during PTSD flashbacks, hallucinating something (such as an entire room or a set of restraints etc) and knowing full well that it didn’t exist, but being unable to make it go away.

  47. I’m not likely to allow comments like that (or comments clearly headed in that direction) from here on out anyway. It just derails the conversation. Although I do think the detour the conversation took was, in spite of the intentions of the person starting that part, quite interesting in its own right. And yes, this is intended as humorous. (Said comments have now been edited out, I don’t allow gossip and libel on my blog.)

  48. Yes Amanda, the detour did lead to a very interesting discussion. It seems that many non-autistic persons are of the impression that a person with autism must surely have diminished intelligence. I personally think what bothers this —– person is that you are so intelligent – he/she probably feels threatened. One point I hope everyone gets from these discussions is that many of the so-called “legal” (prescription) drugs are as harmful (and capable of inducing bizarre behavior) as the illegal ones.

    To —–: if you are going to war with Amanda in words, better reinforce your artillery – you have been found lacking.

  49. Thank you for posting this. I have trouble making phone calls and sometimes can’t make any at all. Other times (especially for things like calling a doctor’s office, impersonal things) it’s a piece of cake. Sometimes I won’t even answer the phone if it rings.

    And I do the whole thinking about it, getting halfway, putting it off… etc etc on a regular basis. I am not autistic, but I recognize how the “one simple thing” becomes a drawn-out, energy draining ordeal.

    And by the way, I think most people, if they were to look honestly at their adolescent years, would find many embarrassing events and moments; things they did for reasons no longer comprehensible; things they did for what seemed to be good reasons… the beauty of maturing is that we can reinvent ourselves, learn new ways to cope, and move on.

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  51. Gosh. This is how I do *everything!* This is both hilarious and a bit scary. I don’t know why I am scared, but perhaps it is because I have always held onto the hope that I could just make a phone call in less than 70 (or 10, or whatever) steps, if I *really wanted to* or if I would *just* pay attention. You have a really good blog elsewhere about people assuming someone could do something if they just wanted to so I won’t go into that. It’s interesting to see the other responses that show similar ways of processing doing things, with all the extra steps.

    On boiling water: I am tempted to (but won’t) send in the photos I took of a the glowing bottom of a pot. Nothing in the pot but the glow. I guess it started out as water for coffee. The pot is almost melded to the electric burner. Actually the photos show two different pots, within a week of each other. I now have a rule that I cannot leave the kitchen if anything is cooking. I just have to remember not to wander off and forget the rule.

  52. One more comment. No wonder I don’t get anything done! Especially the part where I go to the refrigerator and then have to start all over. Refrigerators must have something in them that temporarily sucks your brain dry…. :) Oh, I know. Flourescent light.

  53. I just read this. Funny. I can relate. I have been diagnosed with inattentive ADHD and hyposensitive sensory processing disorder myself, and read your blog on when PDD-NOS applies and realized that it could apply to me, so yeah, I’m not designed for the world. I’m not exactly sure why I just had to explain my diagnosies, but there you go. I find, for myself, that a verbal prompt helps, but alas, I find that hard to find.

  54. Pingback: Sanity Score « Urocyon's Meanderings

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