If you follow me on Instagram you know that I’ve taken up roller derby recently. I’ve really thrown myself into the community, helping with the club’s events as they come up.
It just so happened that we had our first home bout of the season last weekend so there was a lot to do, and I ended up spending a lot of time with my new team mates. And I found myself having two conversations about autism with two different people.
The first one was with one of my teammates who asked me if I had Aspergers as we were hanging up decorations. I said I did, and she said she recognised the signs because her ex husband had it. She went on to describe how controlling he was which made me really uncomfortable.
It often happens that if someone asks me if I’m autistic, or if I tell them, they go on to tell me about this person close to them who is on the spectrum who they don’t like for whatever reason. What’s the point of that? Are they implying that it’s up to me to reassure them that autistic people aren’t all bad? Because I don’t feel like I should have that responsibility. I’m not saying that this woman doesn’t like her ex husband as a person she just couldn’t tolerate his behaviour, but still.
The second person to ask me about Aspergers was my coach. I had been running back and forth all day between jobs asking her what needs to be done next and I was sure she was sick of my questions but she never let on. Still she waited until we were at the pub for the after party to ask me.
I had just been to the bar and took my drink to a table where she and several others were sitting. I happened to sit next to her and when I did she withdrew herself from the conversation at the table and turned to face me.
“are you having a good night?” she asked with what I thought was an unnecessary level of trepidation.
“Now look” She said, looking very concerned “I want to ask you something, I’m a bit drunk so I’m just going to lay it all out there. You have Aspergers?”
“Ok…I just want to know as your coach that we’re not doing anything that will offend you. Do you mind us giving you advice at training?”
“I like it when you give me feedback, it helps me pick things up quicker.”
She then touched me on the shoulder and apologised. I assured her that I don’t mind being touched. Except inappropriately of course. She asked me what social aspects I find difficult, I explained the problems I have with eye contact and keeping up with conversations. She then said they were very glad to have me, and that she thought I would be an asset to the team.
I always feel uncomfortable after these conversations, even when they say nice things about me like my coach did because I like to think I pass as neurotypical but clearly I don’t. I guess it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things, I can still do everything a neurotypical person does but I still never feel quite prepared for these conversations.