What do we mean by Positive Autistic Identity?

Positive autistic identity is about being authentically and genuinely yourself while still being successful in social situations.

There is value in understanding what those around us expect in social situations, but often we don’t know what to do if you can’t meet those expectations.

When you don’t conform to what is expected in social situations, often people can become unsettled and not know what to expect. This is referred to as “going off script”. E.g., when people ask, “How are you”, and you answer factually (“I’m not so great today”) instead of politely with an expected response such as “I’m well”.

There are some social expectations that are either extraordinarily uncomfortable so we need to find another way of meeting that social expectation.

You can’t fake being social. For example, it’s usually easy to see whether someone has fake smile.

Just like a fake smile, when we imitate social expectations but don’t feel them, it can come across as inauthentic.

Knowing the rules so we can break them

Ingenuine behaviour is perceived as dishonest or untrustworthy so we need to learn what the social rules are so that we can break them.

When we speak about a ‘social rule’ we mean the way we are ‘expected to behave’ in the social situation.

Once we have identified the rule, we can recognise the effect that breaking the rule has and then prevent that negative impact by creating our own compromise.

Here’s a great example of how that may work in real life:

Keeping eye contact is important when having a conversation so that the other person knows you are listening.

Keeping eye contact can be difficult. Extremely difficult.

So, if you don’t want to(or can’t) keep eye contact, what can you do in its place that will be acceptable? What can you do that will still tell the person you are listening to them?

How about replacing eye contact with verbal confirmation like “Ah ha”, “yep”, “agreed”, “of course” – these responses will help a person know that you are listening, even if you are not looking at them. Repeated use of these comments is not usually noticeable to the person speaking.

How about something non-verbal like nodding your head? Again, this would affirm that you are taking note of what’s being said.

Our goal is to be a socially appropriate version of your authentic self.

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