Have you ever heard of “blocking”? It depends if you’ve ever been in a performance or drama class. Blocking is just a term for working out where you’re going to stand, where you’re going to walk and what actions you’re going to do. And most actors will write it on their script. Easy and simple, no? The director tells you what to do. Your lines and acting ability say the rest.
Unfortunately, for the average autist, there is no script and no director. Figuring out what to say is hard enough, but when you realize that you have to connect actions to work out if what you hear is correct, that adds another whole new layer to everything. I mean, it’s fine if the person telling you that you’re his best friend is also holding a steak knife with dried blood on it. You can figure out that what you’re hearing means something completely different, like a suicide pact you don’t remember. But when someone tells you they didn’t borrow your tent and fidget, it’s not completely clear that they are feeling guilty because they did. It doesn’t help that many of us in the autistic community fidget out of habit. I know I do. It’s all I can do to train myself out of rocking.
Blocking means body language. And so does communicating. It’s not an easy thing, to know what someone wants when they don’t tell you, but that’s why you neurotypicals notice body language. You know because you have a built-in sense. The autistic community doesn’t. Oh, we want to know what you want. We’re not selfish in that way. Many of us would dearly love to know what you want to hear and say it. But although it’s not all of us, a lot of us don’t know unless you tell us. Like, is it too early in a relationship to say “I love you?” Do you really want advice, or do you want us to tell you that you did everything right when it was all wrong? Why can’t you just say it straight out? We’re not mind readers.
And don’t get me wrong, this is a neurotypical struggle sometimes, too. It’s just an autistic struggle in much more clear-cut situations. Some forms of body language are blatant to a neurotypical, while an autist won’t catch it. What we really need is a director, so we know what body language to use and what body language tells us. But we don’t have a director. We only have experience. And so we’re going to have to get to work experiencing a lot more blocking.