It’s been a long while since I talked about me & my Vulcan. Autism is a topic that I like to talk about from time to time when exciting things happen. The other day we went to have a pint with an old neighbor of ours to a nearby pub. As you know, my Vulcan has High Functioning Autism, aka HFA. He went out of the autistic closet, and to our surprise, our old neighbor told us about his group at Uni where people talk about diversity of all types. One of the girls has HFA too. In trying to explain how she feels when talking to people she had a brilliant idea: let’s talk to walls.
At first sight, this might seem silly. But, we’ve tried it as soon as we came back home and it works. I’m the neurotypical illogical part of this partnership that is going to celebrate ten years of happy entanglement. For me, it’s hard to understand what happens in my Vulcan’s head. However, there’s always a new way to get to understand my sweetie. It looks like walls work miracles!
My Vulcan doesn’t understand faces. You can smile, cry, be angry or be sad. However, he’s blind to all of that. To make matters worse, gestures can distract him. You move a hand, and he might follow it and stop listening to what you’re saying. (Not always, but it happens sometimes.) For a person like me, who understands faces and gestures, it’s very hard to grasp what he’s going through.
Until you practice the wall exercise.
(I know, it’s dorky, but stay with me here.)
Get a partner, and start talking while both of you stare at walls. You have to be close to each other, but you need not to see your partner. Just the wall.
All gestures are gone. Whatever interpretation of the face is gone too. Your partner is there with you, but you’ve lost 90% of the communication. Non-verbal communication totals around a 90% of the communication. Non-verbal communication includes micro-movements on the face, gestures, the way we react (imagine sweat appearing under our bangs), etc. Even our clothing speaks volumes about us. But, now, you’re blind to all of that because you’re talking to a wall!
You might think it’s easy.
Yeah, right, mate. That’s like talking on the phone.
Or like chatting.
Dude, no memes nor emoticons! So, nope.
Not even ten minutes later of engaging into the conversation I was already anxious.
To have the person next to you and not being able to get all the information is disturbing. What’s worse, I can’t even know if I understand things correctly and I need constant checking.
When you’re talking on the phone, you see that your partner is as helpless as you are. You make simple statements, and you don’t engage in philosophical topics. However, trying to talk to your partner next to you and having zero feedback is frustrating, to say the least.
For starters: I have no idea of what he might be feeling. Granted, he has autism. But being able to check his face and movements makes me feel relaxed. The longer I talk “to the wall” the more anxious I become. Simply put: I feel silly and isolated.
Well, he’s talking to walls since he was born. He’s blind to faces, fashion, and gestures. There’s no surprise then to have him asking many questions to make sure he understood me correctly.
What might appear as annoying, is, in fact, a way to make sure you got all the information. Someone who is checking all the time and asking questions can be infuriating, but for me talking to walls is a nightmare!
So, if you know a Vulcan, know that he or she might be blind to your new haircut, new shoes, sadness or happiness. You need to be verbal and say things out loud.
[Seriously: try the wall experiment. It’s brilliant!]