Tag Archives: trying to get by without the social rules book

To Pass or Not to Pass…

This post is inspired by The Myth of Passing by Cynthia Kim, and The Lie of Social Skills Training by Jodie Van.

Because passing is a myth. So often what we’re doing when we’re passing is simply keeping a lid on our natural tendencies. And sometimes we’re not even doing it very well.

The Myth of Passing by Cynthia Kim of Musings of an Aspie

 

Cartoon blue pony with rainbow mane and tail walks a tightrope between cliffs
Image: “Tightrope Walk” by Orfearus

 
What does it mean to pass?

“Passing for normal” if you have a disability, means to mask your disability enough so that so called normal people don’t notice it. For example, if you are deaf but so skilled at lip-reading + hard working at getting by that people forget or don’t realise you are deaf, you’re passing.

They may instead think you are weird though, if they presume that you can hear what they can hear, and think you “ignore” information selectively or even worse, that you are playing social games with them.

Worst of all, if you tried to compete on equal terms in a hearing world as deaf you’d work hundred times harder than everyone else and still not or barely do as well as them on their terms. You’d be in a constant battle to try to piece together information from disorganised bits and hang on to the shared hearing-reality with your fingernails while your errors accumulated. And if you were to work that hard everyday to just try to meet basic expectations, you’d probably soon burn out.

With deafness, the problem is obvious and no one really expects a deaf person to compete with the hearing in a hearing world. No one expects a blind person to pretend to be able to see either.

With Aspergers/high functioning autism which is what Cynthia wrote about, the situation is complex, because many autistic adults are capable of appearing normal and social – to “pass as normal”, at least some of the time and in certain situations.

Jodie has in The Lie of Social Skills Trainin listed some of some key factors that make it difficult for aspies/autistics to socialise on normal terms:

  • sensory processing lag meaning you can’t process the conversation fast enough to keep up
  • trouble turning visual or abstract thoughts into words
  • literal-mindedness leading to misunderstandings
  • lack of executive function for keeping track of social engagements and who’s who
  • reduced amount of energy available for socialising, because so much is drained processing sensory input
  • not necessarily having the same pop-culture grounding as others, thanks to our often eccentric skills and areas of interest

Any one of those things could get in the way of socialising effectively, even for the most socially adept person. Most people on the spectrum have several of those things going on, and some of us have all of them.

The Lie of Social Skills Training by Jodie Van of Letters from Aspergia

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Lost in Serenity

 
Thanks to Autisticook for sharing the above video track from the movie O’Horten (2007) in response to my review of my favourite movie, Moon 2009. I haven’t seen O’Horten* (in fact I had never heard of it), but I already love it based on the video and her description:

It’s silly and touching and it has some of the same themes about hope and social transformation and things not making sense but in a way they do. And the music just beautifully enhancing all of that.

Austisticook in comment on Memories (someone we’ll never know)

The comparison / similarity to Moon (2009) seems relevant too. Just like I find the musical-visual-philosophical sequences of Moon existentially meaningful and highly addictive, I find the above short video sequence deeply touching too. It hooked me immediately, and have to restrain myself from keep hitting Play to keep experiencing it.

Musically and visually, it taps straight into the pleasure circuits of my brain; and the existential undertones talk directly into my heart; about the tragic beauty of being a live creature, and how it has a deep meaning that can not be captured in words. How the act of staying alive for a while and connecting with the surroundings in any way is a mighty achievement, and a struggle worthy of great patience and compassion.

 

ohorten
Image from Cinema Enthusiast

 
Something about it remind me of my dad too. He doesn’t look like the man in the video at all, and he doesn’t drive a train. He is a retired ship Navigator, and has been sailing container ships most of his life. But it remind me of aspects of his personality and the work life he chose to live:

The serenity. The dependency on routine and predictability; the love of repetition, of familiar rhythm (a train is a perfect symbol of rhythm and predictability). The technology operation role as a work role and a way to belong in a logical, structured, rule-based branch of the world.

The pragmatic attitude to life: like the world is an insanely strange place, but there is nowhere else to be, so act the best you can. Find a corner of it that can be controlled. The unspoken acknowledgement that a human is just a tiny creature on a big planet, that we’re just a brief moment in the passage of time; dinosaurs and all. But that, luckily, we are free to enjoy our moments as long as they last.

 
(The rest are footnotes)
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