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N.T.'s vs N.D.'s

Growing up on the move and what it taught this N.D.

By Niecee MayPublished about a year ago 7 min read
N.T.'s vs N.D.'s
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Have you ever met someone odd in a way you couldn't place what was odd but knew something was there? Have you ever met someone who was called, "a walking encyclopedia"? Have you ever been the one who picked on this person for knowing things you did not? Have you ever wondered what made them different? Do these questions bring a specific someone to mind? As this was me growing up, I do not want this to be my sons fate, which is why I am writing this. I know in todays "Age of Information" and the World Wide Web, many questions can be answered in the blink of an eye just by saying, "Hey Google" or "Hey Siri..." But not always these questions, nor several others, I mean you can add in the oddities to a search and I'm sure it would pull up something on some site or other.

What if I told you I grew up undiagnosed Asperger's, also know as Low Severity Autism, does that potentially make the person these questions brought to mind seem less weird, or maybe your thinking they could have been too? That bit of information is usually the moment the lightbulb lights up and the connection clicks into place for most. Others will still say, "No way, that cannot be it you don't look or act autistic," but then I explain further and they go "Oh, I didn't know this, I can see what you mean. I'm sorry I thought autistics were all (insert level 3 and up information here)" Misinformation over the years is astronomical, and I am appalled by my own generation sometimes, we beg for labels and understanding, yet once we get them we seem to sometimes refuse to believe the labels WE requested. Maybe it's just my little section of my generation that does this, or is it my little section that doesn't? I'm still working on that one.

I have learned over the last roughly 30 years how to speak to people and behave around people because even the Americanized English language we learned in school, this isn't English according to the states, and apparently we can willy-nilly add and change words on the fly as we want. As each state and general area have their own subdialects, each area has their own oddities in mannerisms as well. Things like a carbonated beverage with varied flavored syrup technically called Soda-Pop can also be called Soda, Pop, or Coke for short depending on where you are located in the States. And knowing that these can all be used interchangeably depending on the area, beware because saying the wrong one in the wrong area and oh boy do people freak out, "You're not in ___, we call it ___ here!" Sorry but no you cannot force me to say something I don't find comfortable.

Moving as much as I did growing up in the military taught me a few things that messed with my autistic mentality. I learned that being uprooted was not as scarry as my need for stability made it out to be, that all the stability I needed was my 4 person family unit; which once that was destroyed things got weird but that's for later. I learned that there are a lot of people in the world and no matter how many people you encounter, ALL of them will find you weird the instant you mask incorrectly or fail to mask at all. I have learned that if they find you weird it does not always mean they do not like you. Speaking of masking, some of you may not even understand what that it, I used to call it being a chameleon; you know the little lizards that change color to match their backgrounds using camouflage to hide from predators. Only for me the predators were mean kids and it didn't always work very well at first because I didn't usually have time to fix the mask I didn't know I was using.

I thought reading body language and facial expressions meant I understood social cues, but I also knew that could not be the case because I often am reminded how socially "off" I am. I have had some very good friends teach me how to seem "normal" and explain some things to me over the years. Things like "Hi, how are you today?" isn't an invitation to spill your guts because the person asking doesn't actually care or want to hear it. But you cannot say, "you don't care to hear the answer so why ask?" that is a big no-no in society. Things like hidden agendas and how to spot them. These social cues also make taking certain tests difficult because Neurotypicals understand what I always called wonky wording. Things that technically meant two things, depending on how you interpret a specific words definition. The best (and worst) example, READ; do I mean present tense; "go read a book", or do I mean past tense; "I already read that book"? Tests tend to use wording that made it difficult because the dictionary says __ but its used like ___; and my brain naturally functions on dictionary definitions not social definitions. Like a dike is a land mass near a river, (high banks) but socially defined it's a derogatory term for lesbian, and generally used towards more masculine ones as well. Or a Faggot is a pile of sticks, but socially it's a derogatory term gay man, generally an effeminate one. Then there is Bitch, which is a female dog in heat, but socially it is both a derogatory word for a female one doesn't like, and a joking friendly term for female (and even more recently male) best friends as well; "Bitch you look amazing, please!". There are so many examples of this it makes my head spin and I can go on for hours but I will not; for the sake of the readers sanity.

Having the ability to interpret these social cues isn't something that came easy to me. It took a lot of what I called people watching. As a young child it was just being the quiet forgotten kid in the back of the room listening to and memorizing social situations amongst adults, questions vs answers, touch, when it was acceptable to eat or leave, and also scaring the adults when they would see me and had forgotten I was in there, or because I had laughed because something was funny to me yet no one else had laughed so they all look around to find me, ooopppsss. As a teenager I would hang out with a friend, (most usually at the mall) and we would get a drink and sometimes something to eat. We would then sit at the food court, walk the halls (or trails of a park), or sit on a bench, whatever tickled our fancies at the time and make up stuff that we imagined while watching how they behaved towards each other. I would generally focus my questions on what kind of relationship the two people had (see how they do this or that? They must be family/lovers [depending on which this or that it was] and why this was so) and making up stories about what they were doing that day. As an adult I use this knowledge to adjust to any situation I need to adjust for.

I have learned that caring for other human beings and wanting to help them I have to be able to make them comfortable and in order to do that I need to be able to appear as normal to them as possible, in speech and mannerisms. This is where the mask comes in. With all of my travels I have a very adjustable mask and unfortunatly this is something we each have to teach ourselves. However I wonder if knowing this as a Neurotypical will make this less of a "thing" for the future of our Neurodivergent individuals. Many of us "neuro-spicy" people (as they seem to like that term as well) have long since decided that this mask is stupid and have no need to change their face let alone their speech patterns, take us how we are, we have the same rights you do. I wish I could return to this and mayhaps with some practice I can return to my true self, the one from before I figured all of the masking out. I have always had some oddities that have never gone away no matter the amount of masking. I cannot change some things like certain words and phrases that are comfortable to me, and my specific speech patterns, because they are as much a part of me as my eye and skin color.

I will attempt to bring this back around a bit an say that I hope this may help someone, somewhere who may be struggling, maybe a Neurotypical in a family of Neurodivergent's, or a Neurodivergent in a family of Neurotypicals, as these things are genetic and often recessive genetics. I hope that it helps bring some things to the surface that I feel have been neglected over the years. I hope that it helps bring a level of understanding, Neurodivergent persons have been taught that we are unacceptable in society, but we were never designed to fit into the Neurotypical lifestyle. We know we are wired differently and that we see and feel things differently than a Neurotypical does. Yet we are the ones expected to bend to the Neurotypical will. I will note that watching my son blossom now that we have a diagnosis and his teachers and peers are asking questions to understand and want to include him in things, this is an amazing feeling. Seeing him thrive and do well with children his own age and not being ostracized for his oddities is heartwarming. I want this for more of us.

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About the Creator

Niecee May

I'm a Mom of two boys, and I have a love of literature. I'm an open book and love reading and writing. I started writing around age 10. I like the term Dragon Mom as I hoard Books.

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