Really Interested

Furthermore, unlike Kanner’s patients, they had no delays in acquiring language and did not speak in surreal aphorisms, opaque neologisms, or echolalic references to themselves in the third person. In fact, they tended to be precociously articulate—particularly when they were expounding on the subjects that fascinated them. (“One 13-year-old boy, after a brief acquaintance, wanted to talk about mortgages,” they reported.) These children only decisively withdrew from interactions with adults at the center when they figured out that they weren’t really interested in what they were saying.
-- "NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity" by Steve Silberman

“…only decisively withdrew from interactions…when they figured out that [others] weren’t really interested in what they were saying.”

Yeah, I get that.

The way I managed my parents for so many years was to stay engaged with what they were saying.

For my mother, this was easy.  You just had to feed her curiosity, give her something else to chew on, and she would know you are present for her.

For my father, it was much harder.   He was fixated on unique vibrational events in turbine operation, especially jet engines, which he designed.   He would go over the same ground again and again, never taking yes for an answer, always ready to re-litigate the point.

He wrote and submitted papers to his professional organization into his eighties, well after the review organizers had written him off as a total crackpot.   I had to help with these papers, not only rewriting them only to have him slosh them up again, but also being engaged in continuous arguments about the content and structure.

When he was last home from the hospital, I had to print out copies of his papers in large print for his review.   He was fixated.

Aspergers people who succeed in finding a place in the world have family that are interested and engaged in their own areas of focus.   When parents use and harness those interests, the child can connect and grow in using them.

When people around them aren’t interested, though, they decisively withdraw.   The choice to only engage in what other people like is not really useful.

I know how to engage other people on the subjects of their fascination.   That makes me not really Aspergers.

As someone raised by Aspergers people, though, I understand the power of fascination.   I have my own fierce areas of interest.

And I very much have the experience that people are not really interested or engaged in what I am saying.   So, obviously, I withdraw.

You can argue that I should judge my audience, focus on their interests, finding common ground, easing up and being satisfied with whatever I get.   I do scrape for feedback, of course; my writing is always informed and enlarged by scraps of information I get from others.

I really, really, really need immersion in my areas of fascination.   I really, really, really need people to engage me in those areas, not just listen, nod their heads, and not chomp down on my content.

It is hard for others to be credible when they tell me that they aren’t really interested in what I have to say, but they are sure that others will be, if I just keep talking.   My talking too much is what puts people off of what I have to say, as I have found   Too much information is daunting and kinda weird, you know?

I knew how to engage my parents, to be really interested in what they valued.  I still do that with other people, there and engaged with their struggles and concerns.

Figuring out that others aren’t really interested in what I am saying does not feel like a cue to say what others are already interested in.

Rather, that dismissal and erasure feels like a cue to withdraw in big and dramatic ways.