Lately a friend of mine mentioned that she thinks that part of the reason I am having trouble socializing is because I am not listening. Yes, I sometimes do wander off into my own world, but I do listen to what others are talking about. In fact I try very hard to understand and track the different subjects. The problem is that I have anxiety, and I don’t know what to talk about because everyone keeps changing subjects and talking about all sorts of things.
I may look like I am not paying attention, but I am. I try to observe so that I can learn how to socialize. Another thing is that I do much better socializing when I am in alone or with only a couple of people I know. Socializing in a group is much more anxiety provoking and harder for me.
In addition to this, sensory issues can make it hard for me. Sudden loud noises or movements made by people sends me into a panic, and loud noise makes me have sensory overload. If there is too much sensory input to be filtered, I do not talk, because I am overwhelmed by sensory input. It’s not that I’m ignoring you, or not listening, sometimes I am just overwhelmed by sensory input or I am struggling with anxiety.
I want to be able to socialize but it seems like every time I try to observe socializing to learn, I cannot get it. It is like trying to learn a foreign language. Social skills are not an innate thing to me as an Autistic person, it is one of the things that I struggle with as an Autistic person. Sometimes I like to be on my own to rest and recover spoons, or to just chill. Processing sensory input from the music on the raio and multiple conversations can be tiring.
I also don’t always make eye contact with people. If I am not making eye contact with a person when I am talking, it does not mean that I am not listening. I can still hear and process what the person is saying. Eye contact can be invasive, like someone is looking into my soul. Eye contact should not be a “must” but rather an “option” for Autistic people.
People need to realize that Autistic people communicate in a different way. We do not always make eye contact, and we often struggle with communicating within a group. Some of us need down time to process things because our brains get tired from processing everything. Don’t just assume we are not listening, we may be taking in things very deeply and processing on the inside.
So, if I am not looking at you, or looking at something else, or I am quiet; it does not mean that I am not listening. I am listening, even when I am quiet.